A Super-supplement for Hormone Balance: DIM
by Sue Hughes, MSEd, HHP, CNC
What is DIM?
DIM (diindolylmethane), is a food-based compound found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussel’s sprouts. Studies have shown that it has the ability to reduce the risk of certain cancers, especially those influenced by excessive estrogen levels, such as breast, uterine and prostate. DIM can also stimulate fat breakdown and encourage an increase in muscle mass. I can attest, through my own personal experience supplementing with DIM as well as that of quite a few clients (both male and female), that DIM effectively modulates estrogen metabolism – helping to do away with uncomfortable symptoms of PMS, perimenopause and prostate issues. So using DIM for hormone balance can be very effective.
The following excerpt comes from Dr. Scott Rollins, MD, founder and Medical Director at the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado (http://imcwc.com/news/index.php?id=3271124400587032289). This is a very well-written and comprehensive account of the effects of DIM and how to best use this supplement to make the most out of its incredible benefits:
“Lower your risk of cancer, help lose weight and build muscle – all remarkable benefits of a simple food supplement called DIM. For men or women, DIM is something to consider as part of an overall supplement program.
DIM, or diindolylmethane, is a plant based compound found in cruciferous vegetables, such as brussel sprouts,cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. DIM has been shown in studies to reduce the risk of certain cancers, especially those driven by abnormally high estrogen levels, such as breast, uterus and prostate cancer. DIM can also stimulate the breakdown of fat while encouraging muscle development.
DIM for Hormone Balance and Estrogen Overload
Estrogen hormones are naturally found in men and women and have many benefits such as preserving artery health and brain function while fighting oxidative free radical damage. Higher estrogen levels found in women cause the female body shape with breast and hip development. Many women are estrogen dominant however, meaning they have too much estrogen accumulating in the body for the complementary progesterone to balance.
Natural estrogen dominance occurs as women near menopause, starting even ten years prior to menopause, where they often don’t make as much progesterone to balance their estrogen. Symptoms such breast pain, water retention, heavy painful menstrual cycles, or irritable anxious moods are typical bothersome symptoms. Estrogen’s over-stimulation of breasts and uterus tissue can lead to breast cysts or adenomas and uterine growths – both unpleasant and potentially dangerous physical outcomes are too often accompanied by worrisome mammograms and hysterectomies.
Some women have estrogen dominance throughout their life for various reasons, such as low thyroid, high cortisol, exposure to environmental estrogen-like chemicals, or impaired detoxification pathways for estrogen.
Men often suffer from estrogen overload as well. With normal aging our testosterone levels drop as the conversion to estrogen increases, leading to a falling ratio of testosterone to estrogen. Higher estrogen levels in men lead to weight gain, loss of muscle mass, feminization of the body, further decreases in already falling testosterone levels, and increase the risk of diseases such as heart disease and prostate cancer. The enzyme that normally converts testosterone to estrogen is most abundant in fat, so as men put on weight the cycle of falling testosterone and rising estrogen simply picks up steam!
How does DIM work?
There are two main pathways in the liver for our estrogen to be normally metabolized and excreted. One pathway leads to very good metabolites called 2-hydroxy estrogens. The other pathway leads to bad metabolites called 4 or 16-hydroxy estrogens. DIM stimulates the favorable 2-hydroxy pathway for estrogen metabolism and this is how DIM works to improve our health. DIM is not a hormone, nor is it a hormone replacement. It is a plant compound that will improve our hormone balance. By improving the metabolism of our natural estrogens DIM will help lower high levels of estrogen in the body. This alone can help remedy estrogen dominant conditions and restore a healthy estrogen/testosterone ratio in men and women. The favorable 2-hydroxy metabolites promoted by DIM are potent anti-oxidants and help prevent muscle breakdown after exercise, as evidenced by female athletes having less muscle tissue breakdown after intense exercise than men. By reducing the estrogen dominance and also reducing the accumulation of cancer-promoting 4/16-hydroxy metabolites DIM can help lower the risk of cancer. The 2-hydroxy metabolites help increase the active testosterone levels in men and women by displacing inactive protein-bound testosterone to its active “free” portion. This leads to significant improvements in the ability to build muscle and enjoy the benefits of testosterone including better mood, increased stamina, endurance, sex drive and erectile function. The accumulation of fat around the belly, hips and buttocks is partly due to excess estrogen levels combined with falling testosterone levels. DIM will help lower excess estrogen and promote the fat-burning 2-hydroxy metabolites. This can help you achieve a leaner body with less body fat.
How to supplement with DIM
How do you supplement DIM and how much should you take? First of all, only the “micro-encapsulated” forms of DIM are well absorbed. For women, doses of 100-200mg daily are typical, and after menopause, whether taking hormone replacement therapy or not, doses of 50-100mg daily will improve estrogen metabolism. For men, doses of 200-400mg daily are sufficient during intense exercise or weight loss efforts. For general healthy aging a dose of 100-200mg daily is sufficient. Doses as much as a thousand times higher have been shown to be safe in animal studies and there has never been a reported complication with DIM usage in humans.
How do you know if DIM is working? Aside from the improved clinical circumstance we often measure the good and bad estrogen metabolites with a simple blood test. We routinely observe increases in the good 2-hydroxy metabolites with the use of DIM. As an aside, correction of low thyroid conditions also improves estrogen metabolism. I recommend DIM instead of its precursor compound known as I3C or indole-3-carbinol. Two I3C molecules combine in the body to make DIM. But I3C is variable in its absorption, reacts with other supplements such as vitamin C, and can convert to unhealthy compounds. As much as 10 times amount of I3C is needed to get levels comparable with straight DIM supplementation. I start many women on DIM in their early 40s when there are signs of falling progesterone levels early in the perimenopause. For many this alone can help the estrogen dominance while also increasing a low testosterone level. Sometimes we add progesterone to further balance the estrogen. We also routinely add the health-promoting adrenal hormone known as DHEA during this time which helps with weight loss, strength, sex drive and more. We strategically combine DIM with other supplements to help with athletic conditioning or with overall healthy detoxification. During weight-loss or athletic training we might add creatine and a higher-protein diet, combined with targeted workout and recovery drinks that maximize insulin and muscle building. My favorite DIM supplement also contains curcumin, green tea and wasabia for a broad detoxification effect.
DIM can be used at any age as part of a weight-loss or strength training program. DIM promotes healthy hormone balance that can help you achieve peak exercise efficiency and healthy aging. Hormone balance can help you stay healthy, resist aging and get the most from your exercise or weight-loss efforts.
The bottom line.
So there you have it. You can’t go wrong adding this supplement to your current regimen, especially if you tend toward estrogen dominance which most of us do as we approach menopause. As far as what specific DIM supplement to take, I recommend (and personally use) Douglas Laboratories DIM Enhanced (I believe this is the same one recommended above by Dr. Rollins, although he doesn’t mention the specific manufacturer). View the DOUGLAS LABS DIM ENHANCED DATA SHEET It contains 125 mg of DIM per capsule along with a host of other ingredients supportive of breast health and hormone metabolism, including my other favorite, curcumin. You can purchase this at a discount from my own online dispensary (see below).
If you liked this article, check out these related resources from Sue:
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