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Men – lower your estrogen levels to prevent painful hernias
The inguinal hernia is a very common condition.
When the abdominal cavity becomes weak, the contents can burst through.
This can cause pain and bulging.
The risk of hernia is higher in men and increases rapidly with age.
Until very recently, experts recommended repairing hernias with surgery.
However, in the last few years, we have seen a lot of uncertainty about the correct course of treatment.
Hernias tend to recur and doctors had no idea why.
But recent research identifies estrogen as a major cause of hernias.
So it’s looking like estrogen-lowering medications could prevent recurrent hernias.
These animal experiments, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), took place at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
“Inguinal hernia is one of the most common disorders that affect elderly men.”
This fact has been known for decades.
Hormones tend to change with age and so researchers became interested in their influence on the development of hernias.
Testosterone plays a large role in the amount of muscle we carry around. And young men have the highest levels of testosterone.
“It is known that testosterone and estradiol can regulate skeletal muscle mass.”
Estradiol is a type of estrogen. It acts against testosterone, so it weakens and destroys muscle.
Our bodies can turn testosterone into estradiol.
This happens through the action of an enzyme called aromatase.
The researchers created mice that produced the human version of aromatase.
And they found that aromatase in the abdominal muscle could create a lot of estradiol.
Estradiol weakened the lower abdominal muscles of the mice.
That’s the exact same thing that happens with hernias.
“Conversion of testosterone to estradiol by the aromatase enzyme in lower abdominal muscle tissue causes intense fibrosis and muscle atrophy.”
The weakening of the abdominal muscle, caused by estradiol, eventually caused hernias in the mice.
“Estradiol in the lower abdominal muscle tissue causes fibrosis, muscle atrophy, and inguinal hernia.”
Fibrosis is scar tissue and atrophy is the loss of muscle.
Now, the lower abdominal muscle is very sensitive to estrogen…
This region of the body has a lot of estrogen receptors that amplify the effects of estrogen.
“Lower abdominal muscle tissue is uniquely sensitive to estradiol because it expresses very high levels of estrogen receptors.”
The researchers conducted further experiments on mice.
They used a medication called an aromatase inhibitor.
Aromatase inhibitors block the enzyme that turns testosterone into estradiol (estrogen).
The theory is that by lowering estrogen they could prevent hernias.
The aromatase inhibitor prevented hernias in the experimental animals.
“An aromatase inhibitor entirely prevents this phenotype.”
The conversion of testosterone to estradiol also leads to lower testosterone – a well-known factor in many chronic diseases.
“This conversion is accompanied by decreased testosterone and decreased expression of the androgen receptor target genes.”
The research explains how the abdominal wall becomes weakened, leading to hernia.
“These findings provide a mechanism for lower abdominal muscle tissue fibrosis and atrophy.”
Aromatase inhibitors could be hugely effective in preventing hernias in older men.
But medical-grade aromatase inhibitors can affect other hormones too.
So these meds need to be used with caution.
It seems likely that these medications will only be prescribed for people at high risk of hernia – possibly guys who have already had a hernia.
“These findings suggest future nonsurgical and preventive approaches in a subset of elderly men with a predisposition for hernia development.”
But there are also natural aromatase inhibitors.
Zinc is a mineral found in many foods. It is an effective aromatase inhibitor.
Oysters are a very good source of dietary zinc… 4 to 6 ounces of oysters per week could cover the zinc requirements for most people.
This amount of zinc will lower aromatase and estrogen – but not so much that it’s likely to cause problems.
Aging means that more testosterone will be converted to estradiol.
Body fat is also another factor that affects this ratio.
A higher level of body fat means more aromatase – less testosterone and more estrogen.
So losing body fat should lower hernia risk too.
You should always consult a healthcare professional about treating and diagnosing health problems.
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- Shift from androgen to estrogen action causes abdominal muscle fibrosis, atrophy, and inguinal hernia in a transgenic male mouse model http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/10/15/1807765115
- Hernia | MedlinePlus https://medlineplus.gov/hernia.html
- Hernias: New options for management - Harvard Health https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/hernias-new-options-for-management