What Is Gynecomastia (Enlarged male breast)?
When the gland tissue of the male breast enlarges, it causes a condition known as gynecomastia. Gynecomastia is a common condition in males during infancy, boys during puberty and also in middle aged and older men.
Both women and men have breast glands, but in men, the glands are not developed and so they remain unnoticed. Gynecomastia occurs when the breast or the glandular tissue grows and becomes enlarged. Gynecomastia is very different from fat deposits in the breast area of men, which is caused due to obesity; this condition is known as lipomastia or pseudo gynecomastia. So, gynecomastia is essentially due to the enlargement of the glandular tissue rather than the fatty tissue.
Gynecomastia usually occurs due to the imbalance of the testosterone or estrogen hormones and this condition can affect one breast or both of them. It can even affect them unevenly. Gynecomastia is not a serious condition; however, it may cause pain sometimes, but mostly it is a cause of embarrassment for both boys, as well as, men. Gynecomastia often disappears on its own, but if it remains for a very long time, then it can be treated with medication or surgery.
What Are The Symptoms Of Gynecomastia (Enlarged male breast)?
- The main symptom of gynecomastia is the enlargement of breasts in males. Usually, the glandular tissue of both the breasts enlarge; however, in some cases, it can be just on one side.
- The growth of both breasts may be uniform or they can be uneven and the nipples may have a firm or rubbery feel. The growth may appear behind the nipple.
- It may be tender and painful when you touch the breast or the nipple.
- In young boys, during puberty, a breast bud may develop in one or both the breasts and can remain for around 2 years.
- Swelling in the male breast can also occur due to male breast cancer or breast abscess and the symptoms of these conditions are very different from gynecomastia and must not be confused with gynecomastia.
What Are The Causes Of Gynecomastia (Enlarged male breast)?
- Gynecomastia can be caused when the amount of testosterone hormone reduces in comparison to estrogen. In men, gynecomastia can occur in the ages between 50-58.
- In infants, gynecomastia can be caused due to the effect of the mother’s estrogen and the condition usually disappears after 2-3 weeks.
- During puberty, gynecomastia can occur due to hormonal changes and without treatment, it can disappear within 6 months to 2 years.
- Anti-androgens like flutamide, spironolactone, and finasteride used to treat prostate cancer, prostate enlargement, and other medical conditions.
- Androgens and anabolic steroids.
- ACE inhibitor drugs (for hypertension).
- Medication for AIDS such as HAART (highly active retroviral therapy) and Efavirenz.
- Anti-anxiety medications like diazepam.
- Medicines for ulcers like cimetidine.
- Tricyclic antidepressants.
- Chemotherapy for cancer.
- Heart medications like digoxin and calcium channel blockers (used to treat hypertension).
- Medications for gastric motility like metoclopramide.
Alcohol and street drugs
- Hypogonadism such as pituitary insufficiency or Klinefelter’s syndrome
- Hyperthyroidism (too much thyroxine production)
- Kidney failure
- Liver failure and cirrhosis
- Starving and malnutrition
Use of herbal products
Plant oils like lavender or tea tree oils in soaps, shampoos, lotions
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Gynecomastia (Enlarged male breast)?
- If the gynecomastia is caused due to poor diet and excess weight, change your lifestyle and diet and exercise regularly.
- If the condition is due to medication, then stop taking the drug, your breasts will go back to the normal size.
- Lose fat and build muscle mass.
- Consult your doctor and determine the cause of the gynecomastia. It may be an indication of a more serious medical problem.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Gynecomastia (Enlarged male breast)?
- Don't be stressed.
- Avoid taking drugs or any medications without consulting your doctor.
- Don’t assume that the condition will go away on its own without medical treatment.
- Don’t be embarrassed to seek help medical or otherwise.
What Are The Best Foods For Gynecomastia (Enlarged male breast)?
- Foods rich in zinc are a wonderful source for the production of testosterone like milk, yogurt, cheese, lean beef, wheat germ, oysters, cashew nuts, spinach, chocolate, cocoa, chicken, pork, mushrooms, beans and pumpkin seeds.
- Vitamin D is important for the development of sperm cells and also helps to increase the levels of testosterone. Foods like oily fish, mushrooms, caviar, tofu, eggs, soy milk, and pork are rich in vitamin D and help to fight gynecomastia.
- Foods with healthy fats such as olives and olive oil, avocados, nuts and nut oils, grass-fed meat, coconut and coconut oil, butter and egg yolks can help to increase testosterone level and prevent gynecomastia.
- Foods like ginger, pomegranates, potatoes, coffee, macadamia nuts, raisins, garlic, and onions can help to raise the testosterone levels.
- Gynecomastia can cause the breasts to be tender and painful and eating foods like fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, etc., whole grains and green leafy vegetables, which are anti-inflammatory foods can help to reduce the swelling and pain.
- Whole grains such as whole wheat, brown rice, oats, quinoa, etc. are a wonderful source of complex carbohydrates that add fiber to your diet, help you lose weight and fight gynecomastia.
- Fresh fruits like apples, berries, peaches, bananas, etc. contain antioxidants, fiber, and minerals that help to boost the testosterone production and fight gynecomastia.
- Include foods that are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as these fats help to increase testosterone production. Foods like flaxseeds, avocados, fatty fish, olive oil are a good source of these “healthy” fats.
What Are The Worst Foods For Gynecomastia (Enlarged male breast)?
- Reduce or completely eliminate sugar from your diet, as sugar causes the release of excessive insulin that lowers testosterone levels in the body that is a major cause of gynecomastia.
- Avoid fatty and sugary foods and drinks like French fries, burgers, bagels, pretzels, candy, cakes, pastries, cola, etc., as these foods are high in sugar and saturated fats that affect testosterone levels in the body.
- Avoid soy and soy-based products like soy milk, tofu, tempeh, soybean oil, etc., as soy products increase the estrogen levels in the body and cause hormonal imbalance and prevent the treatment of gynecomastia.
- Avoid milk as it causes spikes in sugar levels that are not good for the gynecomastia condition. For your calcium requirement, choose leafy green vegetables instead.
- Avoid meat that is treated with hormones or chemicals, as this affects testosterone levels in the body. Go organic instead.
What Are The Medicines For Gynecomastia (Enlarged male breast)?
What Are The Tips To Manage Gynecomastia (Enlarged male breast)?
For boys and men, enlarged breasts can be embarrassing, cause stress and make life traumatic. To cope with these stressful situations, you can speak to your family or friends who can give you support, get professional counselling to avoid depression and anxiety or connect with other people who suffer from the same condition to share your problems.
You can take up relaxing activities like yoga, meditation and do breathing exercises to reduce your stress.
To prevent gynecomastia, you can reduce the risk by avoiding drinking alcohol and not using illegal drugs.
If you are on any medications that can cause gynecomastia, then check if the doctor can change the medications.