DIM — Can This Cruciferous Veggie Compound Balance Estrogen?
If you’re a frequent reader of health and wellness content, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the words “hormone imbalance” about a million times. But what does that term really mean? Hormones are all over the body; they control our sleep (melatonin), stress levels (cortisol), and blood sugar (insulin). Hormones like estrogen are also key components of the monthly female hormone cycle — and that’s the type of hormone imbalance we’re talking about today.
Unfortunately, imbalances in estrogen are all too common. Why? Because the body tries its best to maintain a delicate balance of this hormone but it can be disrupted by things like stress, illness, medications, and underlying health imbalances. The good news is that there are certain lifestyle changes that can restore balance to estrogen, including one superstar supplement, called DIM or diindolylmethane.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about this hormone-balancing nutrient.
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What is DIM and how does it impact hormones?
Diindolylmethane might sound like an intimidating ingredient, but it’s actually produced in the body after eating some very recognizable foods like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel’s sprouts. Over the years, DIM has been used for any number of hormone issues, including acne, uterine fibroids, estrogen dominance, PMS symptoms, and menopause because of its ability to balance estrogen.
DIM’s estrogen-balancing properties are worth knowing about because our world is currently facing a major estrogen problem. Factors like stress, endocrine-disrupting chemicals (1) in our cleaning and beauty products, and medications can mimic estrogen, leading to an overload of unhealthy estrogens in the body. Research has shown that unhealthy changes in estrogen can be linked to heart disease (2) and even the progression of certain cancers (3), including breast cancer. Estrogen imbalances can cause symptoms in women like night sweats, depression, bloating, weight gain, breast tenderness, mood swings, heavy menstrual bleeding, and insomnia. You might not suspect it, but estrogen dominance is also an issue in men, especially as they age, and has been linked to insomnia, erectile dysfunction, infertility, and the enlargement of male breast tissue.
What are the benefits of DIM?
DIM is often referred to as an “estrogen blocker” but that’s not entirely accurate. What it actually does is help convert “bad” estrogens to “good” estrogens and inhibit an enzyme called aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen in the body. (4) DIM has also demonstrated an ability to block the effects of androgen hormones, which can contribute to hormone imbalances and symptoms like acne, thinning hair, and mood swings. (5)
Researchers are investigating DIM for a wide range of estrogen-related health issues, including:
- Breast cancer (6)
- Weight loss and fat loss (7)
- Prostate issues (8)
- Thyroid disease (9)
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (10)
There aren’t very many studies that test the effects of DIM in humans, but more and more research is being done and soon we’ll know more about all the benefits of this plant compound. Until then, experimenting with DIM is considered safe (for example, doses more than 10x what you’d find in a supplement have been tested and shown no adverse effects). (11)
How do you take a DIM supplement?
If you’ve never heard of DIM, it can feel overwhelming to know how to take it, when, and how much. I recommend taking 200 mg of DIM each day with food, since occasionally people report nausea when it’s taken on an empty stomach. (12) Other than that, my biggest advice on DIM supplements is that they shouldn’t be taken in isolation. By that, I mean that if you’re dealing with a hormone imbalance, DIM alone isn’t going to get your health back on track.
When I’m helping clients with estrogen imbalances, PCOS, low testosterone, or any other hormone issue, there are a whole series of lifestyle changes that I suggest in addition to DIM, including:
- Manage stress: Hormones are extremely sensitive to stress. I recommend finding a way to decrease stress each day, whether it be 20 minutes of meditation or a no-phone walk in nature.
- Cut down on sugar: Too much sugar, especially from refined and added sugar instead of natural, whole-foods sugar, can leave you with blood sugar issues, which can affect the whole hormonal system. If you’re dealing with hormone issues, try to reduce soda, candy, and any other sugar bombs you might be consistently consuming. (Here’s exactly how to cut sugar out of your diet.)
- Exercise (but not too much or too intensely!): Exercise is a great way to sweat out toxins and destress the body, which is why I recommend moving every day to people with a hormone imbalance. That said, too much high-intensity exercise can backfire and actually cause hormonal problems. Because of this, I often recommend gentler forms of exercise like walking, yoga, or pilates if you have a hormone imbalance.
- Reduce hormone-disrupting chemicals: These are hiding in your beauty products, cleaning supplies, and cosmetics. I recommend reading up on these household chemicals and finding healthier alternatives.
When I work with people to reverse their hormone imbalance, DIM is often a part of the overall puzzle; that said, it’s not the only piece! I say it all the time but it’s always worth repeating: You can’t supplement your way out of an unhealthy diet and lifestyle. Supplements like DIM can be really helpful, but make sure you’re also covering the basics.
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- Morgan M, Deoraj A, Felty Q, Roy D. Environmental estrogen-like endocrine disrupting chemicals and breast cancer. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2017 Dec 5;457:89-102. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2016.10.003. Epub 2016 Oct 4. PMID: 27717745.
- Jankowska EA, Rozentryt P, Ponikowska B, Hartmann O, Kustrzycka-Kratochwil D, Reczuch K, Nowak J, Borodulin-Nadzieja L, Polonski L, Banasiak W, Poole-Wilson PA, Anker SD, Ponikowski P. Circulating estradiol and mortality in men with systolic chronic heart failure. JAMA. 2009 May 13;301(18):1892-901. doi: 10.1001/jama.2009.639. PMID: 19436016.
- Giton F, de la Taille A, Allory Y, Galons H, Vacherot F, Soyeux P, Abbou CC, Loric S, Cussenot O, Raynaud JP, Fiet J. Estrone sulfate (E1S), a prognosis marker for tumor aggressiveness in prostate cancer (PCa). J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2008 Mar;109(1-2):158-67. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2007.10.005. Epub 2008 Feb 8. PMID: 18337090.
- Thomson CA, Ho E, Strom MB. Chemopreventive properties of 3,3'-diindolylmethane in breast cancer: evidence from experimental and human studies. Nutr Rev. 2016;74(7):432-443. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuw010
- Hwang C, Sethi S, Heilbrun LK, et al. Anti-androgenic activity of absorption-enhanced 3, 3'-diindolylmethane in prostatectomy patients. Am J Transl Res. 2016;8(1):166-176. Published 2016 Jan 15.
- Marques M, Laflamme L, Benassou I, Cissokho C, Guillemette B, Gaudreau L. Low levels of 3,3'-diindolylmethane activate estrogen receptor α and induce proliferation of breast cancer cells in the absence of estradiol. BMC Cancer. 2014 Jul 21;14:524. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-14-524. PMID: 25048790; PMCID: PMC4223525.
- Yang H, Seo SG, Shin SH, Min S, Kang MJ, Yoo R, Kwon JY, Yue S, Kim KH, Cheng JX, Kim JR, Park JS, Kim JH, Park JHY, Lee HJ, Lee KW. 3,3'-Diindolylmethane suppresses high-fat diet-induced obesity through inhibiting adipogenesis of pre-adipocytes by targeting USP2 activity. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2017 Oct;61(10). doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201700119. Epub 2017 Jul 18. PMID: 28586165.
- Paltsev M, Kiselev V, Drukh V, et al. First results of the double-blind randomized placebo-controlled multicenter clinical trial of DIM-based therapy designed as personalized approach to reverse prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN). EPMA J. 2016;7(1):5. Published 2016 Apr 2. doi:10.1186/s13167-016-0057-3
- Rajoria S, Suriano R, Parmar PS, et al. 3,3'-diindolylmethane modulates estrogen metabolism in patients with thyroid proliferative disease: a pilot study. Thyroid. 2011;21(3):299-304. doi:10.1089/thy.2010.0245
- Alois M, Estores IM. Hormonal Regulation In Pcos Using Acupuncture And Herbal Supplements: A Case Report And Review Of The Literature. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2019;18(5):36-39.
- Elackattu AP, Feng L, Wang Z. A controlled safety study of diindolylmethane in the immature rat model. Laryngoscope. 2009;119(9):1803-1808. doi:10.1002/lary.20526
- Reed GA, Sunega JM, Sullivan DK, et al. Single-dose pharmacokinetics and tolerability of absorption-enhanced 3,3'-diindolylmethane in healthy subjects. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008;17(10):2619-2624. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-08-
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.
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