DIM: What is it, the benefits and how to take it?

Eu Natural
October 19, 2020
Fact checked
Dr. Stephanie Nichols, ND

Looking for a natural, healthy supplement that can help you to balance your hormones, lose weight, fight acne, and more?

If so, it could be time to get familiar with diindolylmethane. That name is quite a mouthful, so most people refer to it simply as “DIM.”

DIM is a natural compound within the body that forms after the digestion of cruciferous vegetables.

Cruciferous refers to a variety of vegetables that include:

  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Bok choy
  • Collard greens

In this article, we’ll look at how DIM works, the benefits, what Science has to say, and how you can include it into your diet.

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But first, what is DIM?

When you eat cruciferous vegetables, you are consuming a compound in the plants called indole-3-carbinol.

Indole-3-carbinol then gets broken down in your digestive tract, producing diindolylmethane, otherwise known as ‘DIM.’

How does DIM work?

DIM hormones

DIM is best known for its cancer prevention properties and balancing both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ estrogen levels to ensure a healthy hormone balance. 

Maintaining a healthy hormone balance has a significant impact on not just your insides but your outside too. 

Estrogen is a sex hormone present in both sexes, although levels are much higher in women. The hormone is responsible for the physical changes when a girl becomes a woman, known as puberty, including:

  • Breast development
  • Armpit and pubic hair growth
  • The start of menstrual cycles

However, it doesn’t start and end there. A healthy balance of estrogen is integral for both sexes as it helps to:

  • Regulate weight 
  • Protect bone health
  • Manage cholesterol levels
  • Keep skin clear
  • Prevent mood swings
  • Maintain a healthy brain
  • Ensure a healthy urinary tract

That’s quite a list!

Balancing estrogen levels is vital because side effects occur when levels become too low or too high.

What are the benefits of DIM?

DIM cauliflower

There’s a reason we’re told to eat their vegetables. We know they’re healthy, but how are they benefiting our bodies? 

DIM plays a critical role in maintaining the bodies’ estrogen levels, but it’s also well known for its possible anti-cancer effects.

The compound is specifically associated with preventing breast, prostate, uterine, and colorectal cancers - and this is just one of DIM’s many benefits. 

Other possible benefits of DIM include:

  • Preventing hormonal acne
  • Supporting weight loss
  • Helping with thyroid diseases
  • Menopause symptom relief

Now we know about all the potential benefits of DIM, let’s see what science has to say! 

DIM and Cancer

DIM cancer

Many studies on DIM focus on its cancer preventative abilities. 

One study analyzes the effect of DIM on 130 women with breast cancer over 12 months. The study divided the women into two groups; the first group was to take a 150g DIM supplement twice daily, and the second group was to take a placebo. At the end of the study, the women that had taken the DIM supplement had positive changes in estrogen metabolism and SHBG (Sex hormone-binding globulin) levels.

Another study found positive effects of DIM on menopausal women’s estrogen metabolism in those with a history of early-stage breast cancer. The patients took a daily DIM supplement of 108mg over 30 days, and the results found a significant increase in 2-hydroxylation of estrogen urinary metabolites. This estrogen metabolite indicates a healthy breakdown product of estrogen, compared to the 16-hydroxy or 4-hydroxy estrogen metabolites which have a higher association with cancer proliferation.

DIM is also said to be beneficial in treating prostate cancer as it can induce apoptosis in prostate cancer cell lines. Apoptosis refers to the death of cancer cells.

The positive effect DIM could have on prostate cancer is found in several studies. One study used mice injected with prostate cancer cells. Over the course of the study, in comparison to the placebo group, DIM reduced tumor development by 50%. The study suggests that DIM could be an ideal supplement for prostate cancer.

A positive outcome after analyzing the effect DIM had on 12 patients with prostate cancer was the results of another study. Following the use of DIM, there was a 50% decrease in Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in each of the 12 patients. An increase in PSA usually occurs when there is a disease present.

While these studies each have a positive outcome and suggest that DIM could help prevent breast and prostate, more research is needed to determine the exact effects. 

Studies suggest that DIM could have anti-cancer activity through supporting healthy estrogen metabolism. If considering to take DIM for this reason, speak with a healthcare professional first to discuss how it could work alongside current treatment. 

DIM and Thyroid Proliferative Diseases

DIM thyroid

DIM has an antiproliferative effect on thyroid cells; in other words, DIM helps to suppress cell growth. Therefore, it’s believed DIM can have a positive impact on preventing thyroid diseases.

One study analyzed the effect of DIM on seven patients with proliferative thyroid disease (TPD). A 75mg dose of DIM was given to the patients, four times a day, over 14 days. 

The study took urine samples of the patients both before and after the 14 days. The results suggest that DIM enhances estrogen metabolism in patients with TPD. It concluded:

DIM can potentially serve as an antiestrogenic dietary supplement to help reduce the risk of developing TPD.”

Evidence of DIM having a positive effect on the thyroid is visible in another study that set out to analyze the impact of DIM on the invasion of thyroid cells. The study concludes that their findings mean not only that DIM could potentially be used for therapeutic and preventive purposes of thyroid diseases, but also help prevent the spreading of cancer cells.

Current research strongly suggests that DIM could potentially help treat thyroid diseases. Speak with a medical healthcare professional before replacing any prescribed treatment with DIM. 

DIM and Weight Loss

DIM weight loss

Weight gain doesn’t only go hand in hand with a poor diet; sometimes, there are other contributing factors.

A hormone imbalance can affect everyday body functions and, as a result, can lead to weight gain or, if trying, the inability to lose weight. 

Some research identifies a link between weight gain and too low or too high estrogen levels. 

While there is not enough evidence to support that DIM directly affects weight loss, it’s a common ingredient in many weight loss supplements because of its hormonal balancing activity.

A DIM supplement could help you shed those pesky pounds!

DIM and Hormonal Acne

DIM acne

Hormonal acne occurs when there is an unbalance of estrogen levels and an increase in the male hormone, testosterone. 

While testosterone is known as a male hormone, it is also produced in a woman’s body, but instead, it converts into estrogen. If the body is making too much testosterone, 

One study found that the male hormone levels of 72% of 207 women with acne were higher than the average woman.

As DIM balances estrogen levels, this helps to prevent the formation of excess testosterone and, as a result, helps fight hormonal acne from recurring.  

If you have acne as a result of hormonal issues, consider trying DIM as a treatment. 

DIM and the Menopause

DIM menopause

DIM is key in helping with the management of hormone levels, so it’s no wonder it’s claimed to have a remarkable effect on relieving the symptoms of menopause. 

In the years leading up to menopause (perimenopause), estrogen levels can become imbalanced.. In menopause, estrogen levels are very low, however, in perimenopause, they tend to be higher compared to progesterone as ovulation becomes erratic. When a woman does not ovulate, she produces estrogen, but not progesterone - this sets her up for estrogen dominance. DIM (along with other herbs such as Vitex) may be able to support estrogen balance during this time.

The loss of estrogen is why the ovaries stop producing eggs, resulting in a woman no longer getting her period. Alongside this comes a whole host of other side effects including hot flushes, chills, mood swings, but also, weight gain is a common theme that many women experience when going through menopause.

Just keep in mind that experiences of perimenopause can differ greatly from one woman to the next. Hormones are highly individualized things, and there are numerous variations in the ways in which they fluctuate during this change of life.

So with this use for DIM too, you should proceed carefully. Take notes on your perimenopause symptoms and on how DIM seems to affect you.

Perimenopause is a time of change during which hormonal imbalances are common. Some women use DIM to help improve estrogen metabolism during the transition.

How do I take DIM?

It will take several servings of cruciferous vegetables for your body to create enough DIM to notice the benefits. However, if you don’t care for the taste of broccoli, there’s good news! DIM is available as a capsule supplement. 

What dosage of DIM should I take?

Taking too much DIM can reverse the desired effects, increasing estrogen synthesis and inducing the aromatase enzyme.

There is not one single recommended dose, but it’s considered safe for a woman to take between 100-200mg a day with food. For a man, a typical daily dose of 200-400mg with food is considered safe.

There is not enough sufficient evidence to understand the impact of taking DIM supplements over the longer term.

If you are currently taking medication or have any concerns, it’s always best to first speak with a medical healthcare professional. 

Are there any side effects of DIM?

DIM is considered to be relatively safe in the appropriate dosages with minimal side effects.

Some side effects may include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea 

It’s recommended to take a DIM supplement alongside food to slow down the absorption process,  reducing the potential of side effects.

Wrapping up

DIM can significantly impact hormone balance, a crucial part of ensuring that the body is functioning as it should. If you think DIM could be beneficial to you, consider adding a supplement to your diet or start boiling that cabbage! 

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