What is DIM and how does it work with hormones? Diindolylmethane (or DIM) is both an antioxidant and phytonutrient. It is a naturally occurring substance generated when acids in the stomach break down indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts. In order to get the recommended daily amount of DIM however, one would have to eat more than two pounds of these vegetables a day. This is why supplementation is so beneficial.
Recently, DIM has received a lot of positive attention in health publications for its benefits in the healing of hormonal acne. Below, we offer some scientific background info on how DIM works in your body, to better understand how DIM may support clear, healthy skin. Your skin, however, is not the only part of the body that benefits from the action of this natural compound. Please read on to learn about different ways in which adding DIM to your supplemental regimen may support your overall health.
Whether you are male or female, DIM may help to balance your hormones.
DIM is a regulator of estrogen metabolism, as it promotes both breakdown and synthesis of estrogen in the body. Up until the 1990s, it was commonly believed that estrogen was just a female hormone, and played little to no role in male hormonal balance. Since then, research has shown that estrogen is utilized by every organ in the body, in humans of all genders.
It should be noted, however, that there are different types of estrogen. Some estrogens, such as those more commonly associated with breast cancer, can cause inflammation, uncontrolled cellular mutation, and over-proliferation of cells. Other types do not. The estrogen metabolites produced through DIM pathways are known as 2-OH estrogens and have a severely less-pronounced estrogenic effect than the 16-OH estrogens and 4-OH estrogens. DIM has been shown to reduce estrogen receptor activity, promote healthy estrogen metabolite production, and support selective apoptosis, which helps to get rid of damaged cells from the body .
Most male estrogen is made by the conversion of the androgenic hormone, testosterone, to estradiol. As men age, their levels of testosterone naturally decline, while the activity of the enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen, called “aromatase”, increases. The overall effect is an increase in estrogenic influence. DIM suppresses the ability of aromatase to convert testosterone to estradiol, thereby increasing the availability of free testosterone in men .
All of this really boils down to DIM supporting healthier hormone ratios in men and women. It is likely through these channels that DIM has a hormone-balancing effect on the body, no matter your sex.
How does DIM supplementation promote clear skin?
DIM supports clear skin through its hormone-balancing effect.
Sebum is the oil that your skin makes to stop it from drying out. Acne appears when the skin produces excess sebum, trapping dead skin cells inside pores. This warm, moist environment is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. As bacteria multiply, the pores become inflamed creating cysts or pimples. The term “hormonal acne” is actually not recognized by the medical community. However, it is clear that hormones play a role in acne breakouts for many of those who suffer.
Changes or imbalances in estrogen and testosterone levels can trigger an acne breakout. This is why puberty (a time when testosterone levels skyrocket) is such a common time for acne to develop. Many women also see recurring breakouts at a similar time in their monthly menstrual cycle aligning with changing estrogen levels. Typically, these breakouts are seen along the jawline and chin, where facial hair follicles are located. Testosterone, especially, is known to stimulate sebum production in hair follicles . Therefore, a hormone imbalance is a likely trigger for the overproduction of sebum that results in the development of acne.
DIM provides natural support for healthy hormonal balance. By keeping your hormones in balance, you are less likely to trigger excess sebum production and the development of hormone-associated acne.
What else can DIM do for the body?
In addition to supporting healthy hormone balance, DIM has known activities that support healthy inflammation. DIM supplementation has been shown to upregulate an enzyme called AMPK, which in turn increases insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a known inflammatory chemical. Greater insulin sensitivity leads to less of the hormone being released, which should, therefore, result in less inflammation. Research suggests that DIM may support a reduction in chronic inflammation, and associated inflammatory diseases, especially in aging bodies .
Hot flashes and painful menstrual cramps are hormonally triggered and made worse by inflammation. Unfavorable estrogen metabolites can contribute to this inflammation. Because DIM promotes an increase in beneficial metabolites for healthy levels of inflammation during estrogen breakdown, it may also aid in reducing the severity of, or preventing cramps and hot flashes naturally .
Some estrogen-like chemicals found in herbicides, pesticides, or emitted from plastics (such as phthalates and phenols like Bisphenol A) can have an estrogen-like or “xenoestrogenic” effect in the body. In some cases these compounds are carcinogenic. Such chemicals bind to estrogen receptors and wreak havoc on hormonal balance in both men and women. The estrogen metabolites produced by DIM may support the body’s return to hormonal balance .
Not only is DIM an intrinsic antioxidant, but the estrogen metabolites produced by its action also exhibit antioxidant effects protecting the heart and brain from free-radical damage [6,7]. Additionally, efficient cholesterol synthesis in the liver is known to be mediated in part by balanced estrogen levels . Hormonal balance also helps to maintain healthful levels of catecholamine hormones that target the release of energy stored in fat cells.