Most guys find a pair of voluptuous breasts very attractive and in fact spend a lot of their spare time looking at them. But you take those same breasts and put them on their own chest and suddenly they become a lot less desirable.
Unfortunately though, it’s not completely unheard of for men to develop breasts. In fact, it’s a lot more common than you would probably think. The condition is known as ‘gynecomastia’ and while it’s highly embarrassing, there are things you can do about it. Read on and we’ll take a look at what gynecomastia is, how to treat it and how to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
Gynecomastia vs Man Boobs
Gynecomastia is a medical condition that creates the appearance of male breasts, or ‘man boobs’. However, it’s important to understand that not every case of man boobs is actually caused by gynecomastia.
In genuine cases of gynecomastia, men develop extra breast tissue and this can then lead to the formation of breasts as well as feelings of sensitivity in the area and enlargement of the areola. In other words, the chest doesn’t just get larger, it also becomes more ‘breast like’.
On the other hand, ‘man boobs’ without gynecomastia, can be the result of excess fat collecting around the chest area, or excess skin.
What Causes Gynecomastia?
In the case of real gynecomastia, the development of breasts is likely to be the result of a hormone imbalance. Here, the man has too much oestrogen and potentially too little testosterone, which leads to the formation of additional breast tissue.
Men actually have the innate ability to develop breasts, which is a side effect of our time in the womb. When we start life, our gender hasn’t been determined and this is what leads to the formation of nipples on men, even though they don’t need them.
So give a man enough of the female hormone – oestrogen – and he will eventually develop woman-like breasts.
What leads to this imbalance? Actually, there are a number of potential causes.
Birth – Interestingly, newborn children will often exhibit signs of gynecomastia. This is because they still have excess oestrogen that came from their mothers in the womb.
Steroid Abuse – Gynecomastia is fairly common among athletes and especially bodybuilders. This is because steroid abuse can cause the problem. Steroids elevate testosterone, usually by binding to the androgen receptors. This results in additional masculine traits to begin with. However, over time this extra testosterone can actually be metabolized by the body to form oestrogen. What’s more, men will often produce less testosterone following a steroid cycle.
Aging – As men age, their testosterone production naturally declines.
Obesity – Obesity presents something of a one-two punch for man boobs. Firstly, additional fat can gather around the chest area which leads to the appearance of boobs. Secondly, excess body fat also reduces testosterone, causing the formation of extra breast tissue.
Medication – A number of forms of medication can increase the risk for gynecomastia. Testosterone boosting medications do this for instance as can heart drugs, HIV medication, tricyclic antidepressants and a number of others. If you suspect this to be the cause, then speak with your GP.
Kidney Failure – Kidney failure leads to gynecomastia and roughly 50% of men subjected to hemodialysis experience the effects.
Alcohol Abuse – By damaging the liver, lowering T and increasing weight gain, alcohol abuse can lead to man boobs.
So if you’re a guy and you have breasts, what can you do about it?
The answer will depend on the nature of your problem and whether it is caused by hormone shifts. Here are some of the common treatments available:
Surgery is most likely to be effective if the problem is only caused by fat. In this case, fatty tissue can be removed using liposuction which uses ultrasound or vibrations to break up fat cells and then sucks them away using a vacuum.
Alternatively, if there is excess breast tissue, it is possible to use an excision to cut this away, flattening out the chest again. In other scenarios, excess skin might also be contributing to their appearance. In this case, a small patch of skin can be removed in order to tighten what remains in a manner similar to a facelift.
Either way, you should always consider surgery to be a last option. While these procedures are relatively routine, they will nevertheless involve anaesthetic and can place a strain on the body. Even liposuction can be quite a shock to the system, can be uncomfortable and will likely require multiple visits.
What’s more, where gynecomastia is present, removing tissue does not address the root cause of the problem. It will still be necessary to fix the hormone imbalance.
There are a number of supplements on the market that are aimed specifically at those struggling with gynecomastia. One of the best known and most widely marketed is Gynexin.
However, it is important to recognize that these supplements are only mildly effective at best and are scams at worst. The claim is that they can elevate testosterone to fix the hormonal imbalance, while at the same time increasing the metabolism to burn excess fat.
Unfortunately, neither of these effects is particularly strong. The metabolism is raised through ingredients like caffeine, green tea and l-carnitine. These are cheap supplements you can get elsewhere and which will have a minor effect on your weight loss at best.
Likewise, the testosterone boosting components in supplements like Gynexin have been demonstrated as potentially effective in animal studies. These results cannot be extrapolated and applied to adult users and nor are they powerful enough to help combat gynecomastia significantly.
Testosterone supplements are also commonly sold to bodybuilders but there is no strong evidence that they provide noticeable benefits.
The far better way to repair your hormone levels is by seeing a doctor and receiving HRT – Hormone Replacement Therapy. This process will help to increase your testosterone levels and decrease oestrogen by using injections of pure testosterone. It’s much more effective than using weak supplements and should be done under the guidance of your GP only.
Note that HRT can come with its own side effects. By introducing exogenous testosterone into your system, you can unintentionally teach your body to stop producing it endogenously. As a result, you can end up requiring testosterone injections on a permanent basis following treatment. This is another option that should be considered a last resort.
The closest thing to HRT for those who don’t want to see a doctor or use injections is PCT. PCT stands for ‘post cycle therapy’ and is mainly used for athletes and bodybuilders who have experimented with steroids.
The idea of PCT is to help the body adjust to the disappearance of steroids so that there are no or limited side effects. The two main components of a PCT stack are aromatase inhibitors and hCG (human Chorionic Gonadotropin). Aromatase inhibitors block the enzyme responsible for breaking testosterone down into oestrogen and thereby help to both increase free testosterone and decrease oestrogen. Meanwhile, hCG works by enhancing the natural production of testosterone in the testes and prevents the shrinkage associated with steroid use. Even if you haven’t used steroids, using a PCT stack like this may prove useful in combating gynecomastia. Try a product like Clomid which is useful for protecting breast tissue in particular.
Whichever solution you choose, you should definitely combine this with exercise. Exercise will help to address man boobs through a variety of different means.
For starters, working out will burn calories and burn fat, helping to reduce the appearance of fatty deposits around the chest that look like breasts. At the same time, exercise will help to strengthen the pectoral muscles. This will cause them to appear flatter. If you notice female bodybuilders who look flat chested, this is one of the primary reasons. Note though that pecs themselves can sometimes have the appearance of breasts if they are larger at the bottom than at the top. Try using exercises that focus on the top of the pecs, such as incline bench press, in order to keep them looking flat and to avoid a round appearance.
Finally, exercising is another great way to reduce oestrogen and increase testosterone. Combine this with a healthy, testosterone boosting diet and you can slowly turn your boobs back into pecs.