What exactly is DIM?
Diindolylmethane, or DIM for short, is a plant indole — a plant compound with health-promoting properties. DIM and other plant indoles are found in all cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. These plants have cultivated for centuries and were initially used for medicines. About twenty years ago, scientists discovered that when broccoli was added to the diets of study animals, it could prevent certain forms of cancer. In more recent scientific studies, this same cancer protection was shown to result from simply adding supplemental DIM or related plant indoles to the animals’ diets in place of the broccoli. Recently, regular use of supplementary DIM and its indole relatives has shown that many of these health-promoting effects arise from a beneficial shift in the balance of the sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone.
When you chew raw or lightly cooked cruciferous vegetables, plant enzymes — substances that start a reaction — are activated, which allows DIM to enter your body. But to get the most benefit from this indole, you would need to consume very large quantities of raw vegetables each day. To overcome this problem, absorbable forms of pure DIM have been developed as dietary supplements that use special absorption-enhancing formulas.
How Does DIM Work?
DIM stimulates more efficient estrogen metabolism. Supplementing the diet with DIM and eating cruciferous vegetables increases the specific aerobic metabolism for estrogen, multiplying the chance for estrogen to be broken down into its beneficial, or “good” estrogen metabolites. These “good”estrogen metabolites are known as the 2-hydroxy estrogens. Many of the benefits that are attributed to estrogen, which include its ability to protect the heart and brain with its antioxidant activity, are now known to come from these “good” metabolites. When DIM increases the “good” estrogen metabolites, there is a simultaneous reduction in the levels of undesirable or “bad” estrogen metabolites. These include the 16-hydroxy estrogens, which are not antioxidants and can actually cause cancer. Greater production of these “bad” estrogen metabolites is promoted by obesity and exposure to a number of manmade environmental chemicals. These “bad” estrogen metabolites are responsible for many of estrogen’s undesirable actions in women and men, including further unwanted weight gain, breast cancer, and uterine cancer.
In addition, a slow metabolism of estrogen, which leaves too much unmetabolized active estrogen known as estradiol in the body, can be a problem for both women and men. Elevated estradiol causes moodiness and breast pain in women and loss of sex drive in men. By promoting a healthy estrogen metabolism, DIM adjusts the balance of estradiol to its “good” metabolites. This also can result in a more desirable action from testosterone. Testosterone supports energy and mood and helps sustain interest in sex in both men and women. When supplemental DIM is taken along with a program of regular exercise, it can help estrogen and testosterone contribute to good physical conditioning. These are excerpts from All About DIM — written by Michael A. Zeligs, MD, and A. Scott Connelly, MD. The book can be ordered from his site if you’d like even more information on the benefits of DIM.