DIM for Hormone Balance and Vibrant Health

Cancer is on the rise, particularly sex hormone related varieties, such as breast and prostate. Most of us have been touched in some way by cancer and it is safe to say we all have a desire to avoid developing this devastating disease. Research is surfacing about the power of a natural substance in vegetables that may help lower your sex hormone related cancer risk. Vegetables you ask? YES – vegetables, but not just any kind of vegetable. The key compound I am talking about is called diindolylmethane (DIM for short) and is found in cruciferous vegetables. Besides helping balance hormones and reducing your risk of various types of cancer, DIM also provides antioxidant activity to prevent damage from free radicals in the body, supports weight loss, enhances energy, boosts mood, improves memory, supports strong bones and healthy joints, reduces PMS symptoms, helps balance estrogen dominance, improves cardiovascular health, increases healthy muscle development, and improves prostate health in men.1 2 Unfortunately, to get the maximum benefit from DIM you would have to eat close to 2 pounds of cruciferous vegetables a day. Luckily, you can get this powerhouse nutrient in a dietary supplement form.

What is DIM Exactly?

Study upon study has proven that more vegetables in our diets reduce our risk of heart disease, strokes, cancer, and many other ailments. Many of these plant’s medicinal advantages can be attributed to phytonutrients (plant nutrients with health-promoting properties). Although DIM is just one of these phytonutrients, its functions are very specific and special. This compound supports a beneficial shift in the balance of the sex-hormones estrogen and testosterone, which is strongly associated with a lower cancer risk.These unique cancer-fighting benefits were first discovered about 20 years ago when broccoli was added to the diets of study animals. Broccoli was found to prevent certain forms of cancer, which established the “cruciferous connection.” To understand this action, one must understand estrogen, its role in the male and female body, how it is involved in cancer, and its metabolism.

Hormones Explained

Hormones are chemical messengers that communicate with your body and tell it to perform various functions. Estrogen and testosterone are called sex hormones because they facilitate the functions of the reproductive system. Although estrogen is identified with women and testosterone with men, both sexes have both hormones present in their bodies. Both hormones play a significant role in both sexes and serve a number of functions aside from their reproductive roles, which makes their balance critical to health.As the body ages, hormone production and balance changes, which contributes to multiple symptoms (such as weight gain, muscle loss, brittle bones, etc) as well as that “getting older” feeling.

There are presently 300 known functions for estrogen in the body and we are only beginning to understand all its interactions. For example, estrogen impacts the brain, heart, and liver.Therefore, healthy estrogen metabolism is of great importance. In the body, estrogen is metabolized into either 2- hydroxy, the “good” estrogen, or 16-hydroxy, the “bad” estrogen. The “good” estrogen are involved in beneficial functions throughout the body, such as protecting the heart and brain. The “bad” estrogen is responsible for many of estrogen’s undesirable actions, including weight gain and cancer in estrogenresponsive tissue.1 3 The “bad” estrogen act as an unregulated form of “super estrogen,” and often result in estrogen dominance and its related health problems.For example, it is known that women with breast and uterine cancer make too little of the “good” estrogen and too much of the “bad” variety.5

DIM & “Good” Estrogen

The connection between DIM and estrogen is due to their molecular similarities.6 In order for estrogen to be utilized in the body it must be metabolized. As noted above, estrogen can follow one of two metabolic pathways, creating either good or bad estrogen. Since DIM requires a metabolic pathway similar to that of good estrogen, supplementing the diet with DIM or eating cruciferous vegetables multiplies the chance for estrogen to be broken down into its beneficial form. Simply put, DIM stimulates the pathway that leads to “good” estrogen production and healthy hormone balance. An active metabolism of estrogen in the “good” direction automatically pulls unmetabolized estrogen away from the “bad” pathway, actually lowering the production and levels of these harmful estrogens.1 2

DIM also impacts testosterone, which is an important contributor to healthy hormone balance in both men and women. This hormone is classified as an anabolic hormone due to its ability to promote protein synthesis. Active protein synthesis produces bigger muscles and stronger bones, especially in response to exercise, as well as increases metabolic rate and fat utilization. Testosterone also supports libido, interest in sex, and mood. However, testosterone exerts its actions differently depending on whether it is free or bound to carrier proteins in the blood. It is the free form that possesses all these desirable actions. DIM, through its effects on estrogen metabolism, supports testosterone by helping to maintain the level of free, or active, testosterone.1

DIM, Hormones, & Health

Here are many of the ways that healthy estrogen metabolism can impact your life.

  • Cancer prevention, particularly sex hormone related (e.g. breast, prostate, uterus, and ovary). First, stimulating “good” estrogen production causes a simultaneous reduction of the “bad” estrogen, which prevents them from damaging cells and potentially causing cancer. Second, the “good” estrogen reduces cell division of abnormal cells and eliminates precancerous cells.Lastly, “good” estrogen acts as an antioxidant, protecting the body from the damage of free radicals, which also helps prevent cancer.1
  • Regulation of energy metabolism by promoting the active release of stored fat for better energy, especially during exercise.1
  • Encourage balance from acquired estrogen imbalance in men and women. This has to do with inherited problems in estrogen metabolism, as seen with a family history of breast cancer, and influences of diet and chemicals on beneficial estrogen metabolism.For example, overproduction of the “bad” estrogen, is seen in obesity and the exposure to a host of “estrogenic” environmental chemicals.8
  • Cell growth regulation, which helps get rid of damaged cells throughout the body.1
  • Prostate protection in men by reducing estrogen dominance. Rising estrogen becomes a problem in middle-aged men. Testosterone is increasingly converted into estrogen, particularly in overweight men. Estrogen accumulates in the prostate gland, which is believed to contribute to BPH (benign prostatic hypertrophy),and possibly cancer.3
  • Enhanced muscle growth and adaptation with exercise. By supporting more efficient fat metabolism and helping testosterone to be liberated from its carrier proteins, the “good” estrogen increases one’s development of stronger and more metabolically active muscles.1
  • Promote weight loss. The balance of “good” estrogen and free testosterone helps first release stored fat then assists fat-burning hormones to support weight loss.DIM’s use has been associated with easier weight loss in both men and women.2
  • PMS support. Healthy levels of testosterone and estrogen balance in women may help to reduce the symptoms of PMS.1 2
  • Slow age related diseases. The “good” estrogens have an important antioxidant activity. This action may explain why estrogen in women can slow some age-related disease, such as heart disease and arthritis.2
  • Support perimenopause. Slower hormone metabolism in midlife can mean higher-than-normal levels of estrogen and a deficiency of “good” estrogen. Faltering estrogen metabolism often occurs in women during perimenopause. This can be aided by DIM’s actions of hormone balance and metabolism.1 2
  • Reduced risk of a heart attack. Men with the highest estrogen level have the highest risk of early heart attack.10 DIM may help normalize the cardiac risk in both men and women related to unhealthy or underactive estrogen metabolism.2
  • Improve safety of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Long-term use of HRT has been shown to increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Most recently, a nationwide study reported that women with a history of heart disease had an increased risk of heart attacks in the first year after starting HRT.Many of estrogen’s risks are related to a lack of its healthy metabolism. It is known that higher levels of “good” estrogen are related to a lower risk of breast cancer, and possibly heart disease. Therefore, since DIM supplementation increases “good” estrogen, it may reduce the risk of HRT-related side effects.2

To Sum DIM Up

As Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said so long ago, “let food be thy medicine and thy medicine food.” And to improve on the benefits of these powerful cruciferous foods, DIM supplementation is a natural approach to achieving a safer and healthier estrogen metabolism – along with all of its health benefits. Many of the benefits traditionally associated with estrogen are due to its healthy metabolism into 2-hydroxy. Since DIM is a natural promoter of this pathway, it is a natural way to get all the benefits out of “good” estrogen and reduce the negative side effects of the “bad.”