Everyone, including males, has some breast tissue. For many males, the breast tissue never enlarges. For some, however, it expands due to hormonal changes, certain medications, or an underlying medical condition.
Some people call this condition "man boobs," which may feel like an uncomfortable or bothersome term. Some males may also feel embarrassed to seek a doctor's advice about enlarged breast tissue.
However, it is important to note that enlarged breast tissue is a common concern. As such, there are many possible treatments available for those who wish to change the look of their chest.
Keep reading for more information about the causes of male breast expansion and possible exercises, dietary changes, and treatments to reduce their appearance.
Testosterone in the male body usually prevents the breast tissue from expanding.
However, some males develop enlarged breasts due to hormonal changes or fluctuations. When this occurs, doctors call it gynecomastia.
Gynecomastia is more common in certain groups, including:
- infants, due to their mother's estrogen
- teenagers, due to changing hormone levels
- those over the age of 50
There are several potential causes of gynecomastia, including:
- hormone changes
- taking certain antibiotics
- taking medications that block the action of testosterone
- excessive alcohol consumption
- taking certain psychiatric medications
- taking anti-ulcer medications
- taking herbal supplements that contain phytoestrogens
- using tea tree oil or lavender lotions
- using illicit drugs, such as anabolic steroids or androgens
- excessive body fat
- liver or kidney disease
- certain types of tumor
- overactive thyroid
- other conditions that cause lower testosterone levels
However, for many males, excess breast tissue is not the cause of "man boobs."
Like the abdomen, the chest can accumulate fat. In these cases, exercise and dietary changes can reduce their appearance.
When excess fat stores are the cause of male breast expansion, one of the best remedies is a combination of diet and exercise.
When exercising, people can focus on both cardiovascular workouts to reduce weight overall and chest exercises that focus on developing the pectoral and other chest muscles.
Before starting a new exercise routine, it is best to speak to a doctor to determine what is safe and appropriate for a person's individual needs and abilities.
Some cardiovascular workouts and activities for weight loss include:
According to the United States Department of Health & Human Services, an adult should perform 150–300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75–150 minutes of high intensity exercise per week.
Although it is impossible for a person to lose weight in a specific place on the body, targeted chest exercises can help them gain more muscle in the chest, which may help reduce the appearance of breast tissue.
Chest exercises to build muscle include:
If a person has a gym membership, they can take advantage of a number of different machines that target the chest muscles. It is always best to talk to a trainer about how to use each machine for maximum benefit and to reduce the risk of injury.
If excess weight is causing or contributing to enlarged male breasts, a person can focus on changing their eating habits.
In general, the best dietary changes to make are ones that are small and sustainable. Significantly overhauling the diet is often very difficult to maintain and can lead to regaining lost weight.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend losing weight at a rate of around 1–2 pounds per week. Gradual weight loss is more sustainable and can lead to overall health improvements.
Before making changes to the diet, it can be helpful to keep a food journal. A food journal can give a person insight into what they can cut out and what nutrients are lacking.
The CDC also put together some recommendations for reducing caloric intake. These include:
- eating whole, raw fruits and vegetables whenever possible
- avoiding fruit juices, as they do not contain fiber
- using no or low fat cooking techniques, such as steaming, boiling, or baking
- choosing whole fruit over dried fruit
- substituting unhealthful snacks with fruits or vegetables
Treatment options vary based on what is causing the enlarged appearance of male breasts.
If it is a matter of extra weight, a doctor may recommend that a person makes changes to their diet and exercise routines.
If medications are responsible, a doctor may be able to prescribe alternatives. Sometimes, however, the benefits of a current medication outweigh the side effects.
If a medical issue is causing the breast tissue to enlarge, treating the underlying condition can help.
Some people may choose to undergo surgery to remove the excess breast tissue. However, unless it is for the treatment of breast cancer, insurance companies tend to consider the removal of male breast tissue a cosmetic issue and will not cover the costs.
All males have some breast tissue. However, some medical conditions, medications, and hormonal changes can cause male breasts to grow larger than usual.
In other cases, excess weight in the area may make the breast tissue look as though it has grown. People put on weight in different places, and some people first put on weight in their breast area.
If enlarged male breasts do not reduce with dietary changes, exercise, or other treatments, a person may consider surgery to reduce the appearance.