If you have health problems associated with estrogen production you may have heard of DIM.
This compound is being researched for its potential benefits for a range of estrogen related disorders. But what is a DIM supplement?
We will look at where DIM is found naturally in food and what it does. Then we will examine the benefits of taking it as a supplement and the effect it has on hormones, particularly estrogen.
What Is DIM?
DIM stands for diindolylmethane. This is a metabolite of indole-3-carbinol and a compound that is made from digesting cruciferous vegetables.
These vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale.
It is the interaction between these types of vegetables and stomach acid that creates indole-3-carbinol and this is then converted to DIM.
Although you can get DIM from eating certain types of vegetables, it would take a lot to provide you with the same amount that you can get from DIM supplements.
These provide a concentrated amount of diindolylmethane.
When you take DIM supplements your body gets the nutrient without having to go through the process of converting it to its active form through digestion.
What Does DIM Do?
So what benefit does taking DIM supplements have and what does it do? Taking DIM is thought to support the production of the favorable estrogen metabolite, specifically 2 hydroxy estrone.
It may also impede the conversion of testosterone to estrogen which can help to balance these hormones.
DIM has particular benefits for those who suffer from an excess of estrogen causing conditions such as PMS, menopause or fibroids.
However, DIM is not just for women despite estrogen being a predominantly female hormone. As we have noted, testosterone can change into estrogen and be metabolized by the liver.
Levels of certain types of estrogen can cause cancer in men.
How Does DIM Affect Hormones?
It is important to understand the way that estrogen is metabolized in order to see how DIM supplements may affect it.
Estrogen that is not needed in the body is metabolized in the liver and then excreted in the urine and stools. There are two stages of detoxification of estrogen within the liver, commonly known as Phase 1 and Phase 2.
In Phase 1 the liver converts estrogen into three different metabolites, 2 hydroxy estrone, 4 hydroxy estrone, and 16 hydroxy estrone.
The latter two metabolites are associated with growths of breast and uterine tissues including cancer.
During Phase 2 these three metabolites are methylated. This means that a molecule called a methyl group is added to the molecules which can affect how they behave in the body.
Once methylated the metabolites are excreted through the bladder and bowels.
DIM affects the production of the most favorable estrogen metabolite 2 hydroxy estrone, during Phase 1 and reduces the production of potentially more harmful metabolites, 4 hydroxy estrone, and 16 hydroxy estrone.
Uses Of DIM Supplements
One of the most important roles of DIM is in improving the metabolism of estrogen. Excess estrogen or an imbalance in this hormone, sometimes called estrogen dominance can create a myriad of unpleasant and painful conditions.
Breast tenderness, hormonal headaches, heavy periods and bloating are conditions that affect millions of women.
This can be caused by the ovaries producing too much estrogen, testosterone being converted to estrogen or the hormone being poorly metabolized.
Under testing the estrogen levels may look normal, but it can be the metabolites, 2 hydroxy estrone, 4 hydroxy estrone, and 16 hydroxy estrone produced by the liver that may cause problems.
There is still much research to be done on the benefits of using DIM supplements for the healthy metabolism of estrogen.
However, it is showing promise in the treatment of PMS, breast health and hormone related acne.
Some data also indicates it is beneficial for some types of cancers. The reason it can be of benefit is that DIM supports the production of the more favorable metabolite, 2 hydroxy estrone.
Conditions That May Benefit From DIM Supplement
There are certain conditions that DIM supplements may benefit.
DIM supports liver enzymes that help in the first phase of metabolizing estrogen. In this way it promotes the metabolite 2 hydroxy estrone over the less favorable 16 hydroxy estrone which can cause breast pain, known as mastalgia.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Although everyone is different, it is accepted that an excess of estrogen can cause PMS. Symptoms include hot flashes, irritability and tender breasts.
As DIM supplements can aid the regulation of estrogen this can reduce the symptoms experienced by PMS sufferers.
Heavy Periods & Cramping
Estrogen prompts tissue growth and this includes the lining of the womb, the endometrium. When there is an excess of estrogen it can overstimulate the endometrium and this may result in heavier periods and cramps.
Eating cruciferous vegetables which contain natural diindolylmethane may help to reduce the effects.
Although there is no definitive data on the benefits and more research is needed, many women have had a positive response.
DIM supplements come in capsules of varying strength, from 50 mg up to 300 mg. It is advisable if you intend to start taking DIM supplements that you begin on the lowest dose.
This will help to minimize the possibility of headaches which can occur when taking DIM.
Of course, you should always consult your physician before taking any supplements or medication that has not been prescribed.
There is the possibility of contraindications with any medication that you take on a regular basis so check with your doctor beforehand.
There is still a lot of research to be done on the potential benefits of DIM supplements and the long term effects of taking them.
While there is some data on its efficacy in treating PMS, hormonal headaches and breast tenderness it should not be assumed that it will work for everyone.
It is always advisable to consult with your doctor before embarking on any regimen of supplements or alternative treatments for any health concerns.
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