Diindolylmethane, or DIM, is a compound that is formed in your body during the digestion of foods that contain the nutrient indole-3-carbinol. Indole-3-carbinol is found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Eating these foods, therefore, provides your body with DIM. Diindolylmethane is also sold in supplemental form and is thought to provide a variety of health-promoting benefits.
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Diindolylmethane and Estrogen
The exact mechanism of action is unknown, but doctors Michael Zeligs and Scott Connelly state in their book, “All About DIM,” that some of the benefits are likely derived from the fact that DIM helps to balance the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. They explain that when estrogen is broken down in your body, it can either form beneficial or harmful estrogen metabolites, and DIM helps your body to break down estrogen into the beneficial type. The beneficial estrogen metabolites have antioxidant properties and help to protect the heart and brain from free-radical damage. Diindolylmethane also simultaneously reduces the levels of harmful estrogen metabolites, which is beneficial because they are associated with an increased risk for obesity, breast cancer and uterine cancer. Additional problems associated with too many harmful estrogen metabolites include moodiness and breast pain in women and loss of sex drive in men.
Diindolylmethane also appears to promote a healthy balance of testosterone in the body. Testosterone supports energy, promotes a happy mood and helps to maintain a healthy sex drive. In addition, Zeligs states that DIM may have an anti-aging effect and may help encourage lean body mass. When combined with exercise, it can increase muscle mass. These benefits are speculative, however, and more research needs to be done to confirm the efficacy of these claims.
According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, DIM has been found to help prevent and treat breast and prostate cancers. Studies done on animals also found DIM to prevent the replication and spreading of cancer cells. Exactly how DIM helps to prevent and treat cancer is unknown; however, DIM inhibits angiogenesis, which is the formation of new blood vessels. Tumors require the growth of new blood vessels to supply the nourishment that is necessary for tumors to thrive. By preventing the growth of new blood vessels, DIM may therefore help to abolish tumors. Unfortunately, only a few small studies have been done on DIM so far, and more research needs to be done to confirm the usefulness of DIM as an anticancer supplement.
Although DIM is produced in your body when you consume cruciferous vegetables, you would have to eat a very large amount of raw vegetables every day to get the purported benefits of DIM. As such, absorbable forms of pure DIM have been developed and are sold as dietary supplements. No adverse effects have been reported from DIM supplements at doses up to 200 mg; however, mild nausea and headache have been reported with doses of 300 mg, according to Zeligs. Diindolylmethane may also interact with certain medications. You should talk to your healthcare practitioner before supplementing with DIM.