The majority of this article is information obtained from the book “All About DIM” by Michael A. Zeligs, MD and A. Scott Connelly, MD.
Diindolylmethane, or DIM for short, is a plant indole—a plant compound with health-promoting properties. DIM and other plant indoles are found in all cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
When Diindolylmethane DIM increases the ‘good’ estrogen metabolites, there is a simultaneous reduction in the levels of undesirable or “bad” estrogen metabolites.
Diindolylmethane DIM contributes to a better metabolism in the most natural way possible by working with your own hormones and adjusting their action to avoid hormonal imbalance. DIM produces more ‘good’ estrogen metabolites, which compete with testosterone for protein binding, helping to maintain a slightly higher ‘free’ testosterone level. Free testosterone is testosterone that is more active.
The ‘good’ estrogen metabolites along with increased free testosterone promoted by DIM increase fat mobilization and a fat-burning metabolism.
DIM has three main benefits:
Though still marketed as a dietary supplement, it turns out that I3C (Indole-3-carbinol) is not active in your body until it has converted into DIM. I3C is highly unstable and can transform into many other substances whose actions are undesirable.
DIM, is the most active dietary indole in cruciferous vegetables, is a healthy stimulus for the beneficial metabolism of estrogen in men and woman. Maintaining healthy hormonal balance no matter your age improves how you look and feel. The basic fact is that estrogen can be a tremendous support for lifelong health, but only if it is safely and efficiently metabolized.
To be modified into its final forms for passage out of the body, estrogen must be combined with oxygen as part of aerobic metabolism. Estrogen requires a metabolic pathway similar to that needed by DIM and other natural indoles.
Good metabolites are known as 2-hydroxy estrogens. Many of the benefits that are attributed to estrogen, including its ability to protect the heart and brain with its antioxidant activity, are now known to come from these good metabolites. When DIM increases the 2-hydroxy estrogens, there is a simultaneous reduction of undesirable, or bad, estrogen metabolites. These include the 16-hydroxy and 4-hydroxy estrogens which are not antioxidants and can actually cause cancer. Greater production of these bad estrogens is promoted by obesity and exposure to a number of man-made environmental chemicals.
The good estrogen metabolites are natural regulators of energy metabolism – they promote the active release of stored fat for better energy during exercise.
Another unique attribute of the good estrogen metabolites is their ability to regulate cell growth, helping to get rid of damaged cells. This occurs because good estrogen metabolites support the process of programmed cell death in which damaged cells are naturally eliminated from the body.
DIM has also been shown to help control viral infections, support immune function and reduce certain forms of inflammation.
DIM contributes to a better metabolism in the most natural way possible by working with your hormones and adjusting their action to avoid hormonal imbalance.
By supporting more efficient fat metabolism and helping testosterone to be liberated from its carrier proteins, these metabolites increase the development of stronger and more metabolically active muscles. “Free,” or non-protein-bound, testosterone and 2-hydroxy estrogen metabolites provide a hormonal signal for muscles to grow by adding more of the structural protein needed for size, strength, and movement. This metabolic state that favors muscle growth is called “anabolism.” Individuals with stronger muscles have a greater capacity to burn fat and maintain a youthful, lean body composition.
Estrogen’s healthy metabolism supports better functioning, improved mood, healthy fat metabolism, healthy heart and circulation, and better memory. Over the long term, maintaining a healthy metabolism of estrogen lowers the risk of breast cancer and uterine cancer.
A reduced metabolism of estrogen may cause problems such as trouble sleeping excessive periods, or tender breasts. Also, a sluggish estrogen metabolism can reduce the action of the small amount of testosterone present in women. This is relevant because active, or free, testosterone in women is closely linked to positive mood, interest in sex, and an active aerobic metabolism. Improved estrogen metabolism with DIM produces more good estrogen metabolites, which compete with testosterone for protein binding, helping to maintain a slightly higher free testosterone level.
In men, too much estrogen builds up in three common situations: obesity, excessive alcohol use, and smoking. This occurs because chronic inflammation, which is associated with these conditions, increases the conversion of testosterone into estrogen. Since estrogen causes the liver to produce more of the carrier protein for testosterone, which is known as sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), less free, or unbound, testosterone results. Low levels of free testosterone and higher estrogen levels in men are associated with excess body fat, reduced sex drive, depression, and erectile dysfunction.
Since only free testosterone easily crosses into the brain, muscles and fat cells, much of the desirable action of testosterone has to do with the free portion. Free testosterone represents only a tiny amount of the total testosterone, equal to only 2 percent of the total in men and even less in women.
DIM is able to support free testosterone without changing total testosterone levels; it does not raise testosterone levels but supports its activity through its effects on estrogen metabolism. This helps to maintain a healthy level of free, active testosterone.
Thusly, un-metabolized estrogen levels fall and the good, 2-hydroxy metabolites of estrogen increase. The 2-hydroxy metabolites possess the unique ability to displace testosterone from the SGHBG and set it free.
The good, 2-hydroxy estrogen metabolites also directly facilitate the release of stored fat in a number of ways: First, these metabolites assist the specific fat burning hormones, called Catecholamines. Catecholamines are produced during exercise and stimulate enzymes in fat cells to release stored fat for energy, a process known as lipolysis. Catecholamines include epinephrine and norepinephrine and are familiar to us as the “fight-or-flight” hormones.
Optimal hormonal balance reduces the risk of cancer in at least three ways: First, the levels of bad metabolites are reduced, which prevents these metabolites from directly damaging cells. The bad metabolites can damage DNA and unction as uncontrolled estrogens. They are highly active as growth-promoting estrogens because, unlike natural estrogen, they are not bound and controlled by SHBG. Second, the good estrogen metabolites act directly on cells with the unique action of reducing the cell division and hastening cell death of abnormal cells. Finally, good estrogens act as powerful antioxidants. The good estrogen metabolites with their antioxidant action serve to reduce the risk of certain cancers that are associated with increased free-radical damage.
DIM promotes a consistent rise in the levels of good estrogen metabolites, which are the only know natural metabolites of any hormone to have a greater affinity for testosterone-binding proteins than testosterone itself. These metabolites become bound in place of testosterone, so even a small increase in the concentration of good estrogen metabolites results in higher levels of free testosterone.
The same situation applies to fat cells, where free testosterone is able to induce more of a response to the signals that release stored fat.
Unlike phytoestrogens, DIM has no estrogen-like activity and does not mimic estrogen. DIM is not a plan estrogen. Instead, DIM interacts with estrogen only by promoting estrogen’s beneficial metabolism.
Serotonin is a brain hormone derived from the indole amino acid tryptophan and is responsible for positive mood.
DIM is not recommended for women who may be pregnant or who are trying to become pregnant.
One basic issue with male aging has to do with the enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen. This enzyme is called “aromatase,” and its levels and activity increase with men in age. Increased aromatase activity has been associated with abdominal obesity and generalized inflammation. These are components of the metabolic syndrome.
The phenomenon of increased aromatase activity, seen mainly in fat tissue, is the primary reason for loss of a testosterone-dominant hormonal balance with advancing age. Aromatase enzyme levels and activity are linked to chronic inflammation obesity, and diabetes. This change, together with a fall in testosterone levels, has been called “andropause.” A critical difference between andropause and menopause is that andropause is characterized by estrogen excess, rather than estrogen deficiency.
DIM helps to eliminate active estrogen by promoting its conversion to the good estrogen metabolites. Then, these estrogen metabolites, which have a great attraction to the SHBGs that bind up testosterone, help bump testosterone off those proteins, freeing it.
In addition to muscular development, enhanced free testosterone levels, along with DIM, can improve mood, fight depression, and support memory. Other benefits of free testosterone and a greater testosterone-to-estrogen ration include more interest in sex, longer-lasting erections, and improved cardiovascular health.
DIM can further help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, improve prostate health, and help guard against prostate enlargement, a condition known as benign prostatic hypertrophy. Research has shown that un-metabolized estrogen accumulates in prostate tissue in men as they get older. Exposure of human prostate tissue to un-metabolized estrogen in the laboratory did indeed result in activation and increased production of prostate-specific antigen protein (PSA).
Recent studies have also shown that estradiol, the active form of estrogen, causes the prostate to increase its production of PSA.
DIM directly slows the production of PSA by prostate cells, independent of its effects on estrogen metabolism.
The risk of early heart attack associated with higher estrogen levels has been documented in several large studies, including the famous Framingham Study in the United States. In this study, men with the highest estrogen levels had the greatest risk of heart attack at a younger age. More recently, a population study of elderly men showed that higher estradiol levels were associated with greater risks of strokes.
In recent experiments, the good estrogen metabolites promoted by DIM also have been shown to prevent the oxidation of the special proteins called lipoprotein, which are needed to carry fat in the blood. These proteins are known as the “good” and “bad” cholesterol and are commonly measured in blood tests. They must be protected from oxidation to prevent them from starting the process of atherosclerosis, leading to heart disease. Protection of lipoproteins from oxidation by the 2-hydroxy, good estrogen metabolites is an exciting discovery, since it may explain how estrogen protects against atherosclerosis.
Excess estrogen in men can lead to significant health problems, such as prostate enlargement and breast development.
An excess of estrogen can also cut into the effectiveness of a workout program by lessening the action of testosterone.
In scientific studies, high testosterone-to-estrogen ratios have been linked to lean body mass, a fat-burning metabolism, and low abdominal obesity.
The 2-hydroxy metabolites of estrogen promoted by DIM are the only hormone metabolites known to increase levels of the free form of testosterone. Higher 2-hydroxy levels provide the best balance for response to testosterone, in men or women.
DIM assists in the conversion of estrogen to good estrogen metabolites, protects stressed muscle cells and allows more efficient repair and growth. The good estrogen metabolites explain why female athletes usually experience less muscle damage than men for a given workload.
DIM may allow estrogen metabolites in bodybuilding men to protect muscles from exercise-induced damage, resulting in less inflammation, less pain, and more rapid progress.
DIM can be of great value due to its recently discovered anti-inflammatory activity. This relates to activation by DIM of a class of receptors known as the “peroxisome proliferator activated receptors” (PPARs). Activating the PPAR gamma by DIM helps reduce inflammation and maintain insulin sensitivity. Peroxisomes are specialized structures within cells that burn fat and produce heat.
The usual dose of bioavailable, microencapsulated DIM for women is 100 to 200 mg per day taken with food. Postmenopausal women sometimes take just 50 or 75 mg per day. Typical doses for premenopausal women with symptoms of estrogen dominance, which include breast pain, painful periods, excessive periods, and PMS, are from 150 to 300 mg per day.
The usual dose of bioavailable, microencapsulated DIM for men is 200 to 400 mg per day taken with food. For men involved in a plan of physical conditioning, the dose of bioavailable, microencapsulated DIM should be between 150 and 400 mg per day. Men on testosterone replacement therapy need less microencapsulated DIM, typically using only 50 to 75 mg per day.
In men, use of absorbable DIM is best combined with prostate health supplements containing saw palmetto extract, extract from the African prune (Urtica dioica), and zinc. DIM prevents unwanted estrogen stimulation, and saw palmetto limits the unwanted effects of testosterone.
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