DIM (3,3′-Diindolylmethane) is one of several by-products produced during the digestion of indole-3-carbinol (I3C). I3C in turn is a by-product of glucosinolate glucobrassicin, a compound found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts and cabbage.
Over the last 15 years, DIM and I3C have become well known for their ability to detoxify high estrogen levels. DIM supplements can supposedly cure endless hormonal problems ranging from depression to breast cancer.
They can also supposedly cure acne. Hence, DIM supplements have spread like wildfire in the acne community. The most famous brand is Estroblock, a patented formula that combines both I3C-derived DIM and I3C itself. There’s one group of acne patients which particularly adores Estroblock – women with hormonal acne. Women everywhere are saying that Estroblock cleared their skin totally within weeks.
But there are naysayers too. There are no scientific studies at all analysing DIM’s effect on acne. There’s also furious disagreement over whether controlling estrogen improves acne at all.
DIM is a supplement that’s shrouded in mystery. That’s why in this article, we will finally confirm whether it’s good for your acne or not.
The testimonials are excellent
First of all, we might not have any clinical trials on DIM, but we do have endless testimonials spread far and wide on the internet.
The good news? The testimonials are some of the most ecstatic I’ve seen. I’ve seen tons of promising stories; one woman said “my skin is the clearest it’s been since ten years old”. Another enjoyed “skin 100 times calmer”. Lots of these women are recommending DIM/I3C to each other on acne communities and internet forums.
There’s a general theme: patients taking Estroblock notice relatively little benefit for a month, probably because estrogen detoxification is a lengthy process, but after two months, there’s a big reduction in every form of acne.
Even so, one woman enjoyed “rapid, dramatic clearing” and those stories are not uncommon. The biggest benefits from DIM are noted for classic female hormonal acne; red and painful pimples and often cysts on the jawline, neck, and mouth area.
Of course, there are negative testimonials as well. One user called DIM/I3C “pure crap; made me break out way worse”. There are also tales of side effects, particularly those associated the hormonal changes like mood swings, headaches, and fatigue.
One study observed a woman who took Estroblock for two months and suddenly developed blurry eyes and a headache. She stopped taking the supplement and is if by magic, her symptoms faded and disappeared totally after eight weeks. Clearly DIM isn’t the automatic magical saviour of any acne patient worldwide.
Overall though, the balance of DIM stories tilt well towards the positive. There’s a ton of former acne-prone women who believe this is a miracle product and recommend it to everyone.
Does the scientific reasoning behind DIM bear scrutiny?
Here’s where things got complicated. DIM’s main claim to fame is lowering your estrogen levels and that’s how it is theorised to help acne patients too. Estrogen is a non-androgenic sex hormone. It’s a woman’s main sex hormone but while a man’s lifeblood is testosterone, he also has lower levels of estrogen for certain important aspects of health.
Everyone needs some estrogen. However today there’s a new and deadly disease called estrogen dominance – estrogen levels so high that they overpower your other hormones. Dietary factors are involved (sugar, wheat consumption) but the biggest problem is xenoestrogens.
Xenoestrogens are chemicals lurking in our environment which mimic and bind to estrogen receptors in our body. Whether it be from shampoo, BPA, deodorants, vinyl shower curtains or tap water, these xenoestrogens explain why so many women (and men too) have sky high estrogen…
…and it’s because of this modern environment of estrogen overload that DIM is theorised to be helping such a vast swathe of people.
DIM/I3C is not a hormone itself but it assists your liver in metabolising them efficiently by upregulating the CYP1A2 enzyme. Like all environmental toxins, estrogen is metabolised in three phases. DIM assists in phase 1, which is when excessive estrogen is broken down by the liver into either three metabolites: 2, 4, or 16-hydroxy estrogen.
2-hydroxy estrogen is a beneficial by-product responsible for healthy benefits of estrogen like improved heart health and brain functioning. But the other two cause all the unhealthy symptoms; this study found that 4-hydroxyestrogen accelerates cancer cell growth. 16-hydroxy estrogen does the same along with causing zinc deficiency, depression, cysts, magnesium deficiency, infertility, and osteoporosis.
DIM encourages your liver to metabolise excessive estrogen into the healthy 2-hydroxy estrogen form, and it assists with an overall lowering of blood estrogen levels.
The whole I3C craze began with this 1997 study which studied its effects on 7 men and 10 women. 6-7mg of indole-3-carbinol per KG of bodyweight was enough to increase the clearance of estrogen through urine in both sexes substantially. Since then, this study, this study and this study have solidified I3C’s reputation.
But there’s a big question that few are asking…
Do lower estrogen levels even help acne at all?
Well according to this review on the relationship between hormones and acne, it’s actually estrogen deficiencies that cause acne. The authors referenced a study performed on 1000 North Indian acne patients. Apparently, they had substantially lower estrogen than average. The authors of this study also commented that “when a woman’s estrogen levels decline, as they do just before the beginning of a menstrual cycle, acne may worsen”.
That’s not the death knell for DIM though. This is just one study and other research into the estrogen acne connection is severely limited.
Moreover, there’s a clear scientific theory which could explain it. Women with elevated estrogen levels or estrogen dominance are well known to also have suppressed levels of another hormone called progesterone. Progesterone is required to inhibit the action of the 5-alpha reductase enzyme.
What does that do? It facilitates the creation of DHT in your body. 5-alpha reductase is what converts the building blocks of testosterone into DHT. Suppressed progesterone is well known to increase DHT.
Hence it’s highly likely that estrogen dominance will lead to the ratio between the two androgens, testosterone and DHT, becoming skewed far too much in favour of DHT. Why’s that bad? DHT is by far the most potent androgen when it comes to stimulating your sebaceous glands and making your skin oily.
What’s more important is that women’s androgen receptors (the DHT receptors in the sebaceous glands) are ten times more receptive to DHT than men’s are. A slight budging up of your DHT levels could cause monstrous acne in women but barely a single pimple in men.
If elevated estrogen levels lead to even a slight shift towards DHT at the expense of testosterone, it could easily explain why women notice miracles when inhibiting them with Estroblock.
That theory is unproven as of now, but it’s a very probable mechanism in my book.
Additionally, we discussed earlier that both 4 and 16-hydroxy estrogen (the dangerous metabolites) are strong carcinogens. Well, one of the top five factors behind cancer is free radical overload in the body, and that’s also one of the top five factors behind acne.
Look at this study. The blood activities after formation of the healthy 2-hydroxy estrogens were compared to those of 4-hydroxy estrogen. The scientists found that 4-hydroxy estrogen spawned large amounts of free radicals whereas 2-hydroxyvitamins didn’t do so at all. Free radicals cause acne by depleting your antioxidant stores and preventing them from protecting your skin.
It doesn’t end there; 16-hydroxy estrogen was linked to increased production of inflammatory chemicals like TNF-a in this study. Chronic inflammation is the number one cause of acne worldwide. This study found that in healthy people, the amount of 2-hydroxy estrogen in urine was ten times higher compared to patients with rheumatoid arthritis, one of the classic inflammatory diseases. The scientists even concluded that in the arthritis patients, the production of 16-hydroxy estrogen was massively higher.
This large review on the connection of estrogen with inflammation also concluded that 16-hydroxy estrogen was one of the villains. Finally, the friendly 2-hydroxy estrogen has many preventive effects on acne; it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers.
The miracle could be improved estrogen metabolites
What does all this mean? While the effect of lowering blood estrogen levels remains cloudy, it’s definitely possible that Estroblock can reduce acne by improving the metabolization of estrogen.
There’s still a lack of rock solid evidence but this fits in well with the reduction in hormonal acne that women experience. Additionally indole-3-carbinol is well known to lower bodily inflammation through other means; it can inhibit NFKappaB according to this study.
NfKappaB is a master transcriptor of inflammatory chemicals; it controls the release of some of the most damaging immune agents for acne, whether it be TNF-a, interleukin-6 or other cytokines. A similar master molecule called cyclogenase-2 (COX-2) was also inhibited by I3C.
There’s also preliminary evidence that DIM can lower activity of the mTor pathway. That’s a system which controls many aspects of acne including sebum production, skin cell differentiation, and keratin production. We can’t say for sure whether it does do that…
…but what we can say for sure is that there are plenty of plausible mechanisms by which DIM can cure acne.
Should you be taking the supplement then? We can’t say for sure, but it clearly has potent powers. It’s most likely to work if you’re a woman with rampaging hormones; if you get acne during periods, if you’re suffering from crazy mood swings, or fatigued for no apparent reason and can’t fix it with the healthiest diet. Look for cystic acne around the mouth, chin and jawline too.
Also, I’ve mostly been talking about the effect on women in this article, but estrogen dominance is a big problem for men too. We are all exposed to too many toxic xenoestrogens. Estroblock might be especially useful if you’re a man in a city since that’s where estrogenic chemicals are most abundant. If you want to become an expert on all the science related to estrogen and acne, then check out this article.
The optimal DIM/I3C source
Estroblock is the number 1 DIM/13C supplement among acne patients and that’s well deserved. You’ll see a claim on their website that DIM supplements from their competitors are poorly absorbed and that Estroblock is 500% stronger.
We can’t verify that claim but there is a patented form of DIM called Bio-response DIM (BR DIM). It was found to have a 150% superior absorption rate in humans compared with other forms of DIM, and according to announcements at science conferences there are human studies lurking out there showing similar superiority.
Estroblock most likely uses that. Moreover, it is Estroblock that all the women are noticing benefits with so it clearly does something. On their website, the Estroblock company has this to say: “Most other brands use what is called crystalline DIM which has almost no absorption into the body.”
That sounds like the tale of a ludicrous hype machine, but one animal study found even at the highest doses, basic DIM had no effect on urinary estrogen metabolites. Almost all indole-3-carbinol supplements work well as they simply digest into DIM when exposed to acidic conditions, like your stomach, but if you want DIM then Estroblock is probably your best bet.
Finally, there’s a point which many prospective DIM users miss: indole-3-carbinol and DIM are naturally sourced from green vegetables. You don’t necessarily have to supplement at all, because broccoli and brussel sprouts both have tons of the vital glucosinolate glucobrassicin precursor compounds.
Broccoli has been shown in studies to lower estrogen levels moderately, in fact it’s favoured by male athletes and bodybuilders for removing estrogen and thus preventing it from competing with testosterone. So unless there’s another hidden molecule we’re unaware of then its clear that indole-3-carbinol in those lower quantities still works well.
If Estroblock is out of your price range but you really think you need to regulate you estrogen metabolism, then simply rearrange your existing healthy diet to fit in broccoli or kale or cabbage instead.
Additionally, cruciferous vegetables have tons of other healthy compounds like antioxidants, sulforaphane, vitamin C, and vitamin A, the greatest vitamin for oily skin. They’re a no-brainer to eat anyway and you’ll get extra health benefits compared to Estroblock.
Calcium d-glucarate isn’t well covered by studies, but there is this one on rats which found a 23% reduction in estrogen compared to placebo. Like cruciferous vegetables, oranges and berries are also foods that are widely favoured in hormone optimisation circles.
Here’s the truth: you should NOT fall for the supplement companies hyping DIM to religious levels. They pretend to be in awe of DIM but really, they’re desperate for your money. A common claim is that indole-3-carbinol is behind nearly all of broccoli’s health benefits. That’s absolutely false, because sulforaphane is behind many of broccoli’s benefits on cancer.
The claims about superior absorption are correct, but the Estroblock website contains a ton of invalidated information that it prevents cancer. That’s specifically how it’s marketed. Yes, high levels of the unhealthy estrogen metabolites do cause cancer cell proliferation, but that doesn’t mean that consumption of Estroblock will be enough to make a large scale difference.
We’ve witnessed plenty of women talking of acne-clearing miracles, but there’s no similar way to judge for this. So don’t blindly fall for the cancer curing hype. If your goal is to prevent cancer you’d be far better off eating broccoli because it combines both I3C and sulforaphane and many antioxidants.
However, what I do believe is that Estroblock’s ingredients have acne-clearing powers. Out of all the many herbal and plant derived supplements I’ve researched on the internet, Estroblock’s ingredients easily rank among those with the most stellar user reviews. There are bad ones too but the goods ones are truly great. Moreover, there’s a plausible mechanism in the production of healthy estrogen metabolites rather than toxic ones.
I’m not going to make an official Supernatural Acne Treatment endorsement. The science remains murky. If you had to take one supplement you’d be much better off with zinc or vitamin E.
But my hunch after sifting through every piece of evidence available is that if you’re a woman with out of control hormones, Estroblock might cure your acne.
Follow the guidelines on liver support
At the beginning of this article we discussed how many woman complain of side effects, ranging from headaches, mood swings, or even more acne.
Well, the true cause of them is not DIM itself but rather that your liver isn’t equipped to use it properly. Phase 1 detoxification is when DIM helps to break down the estrogen metabolites, but after that phase 2 kicks in. This is when antioxidants further reduce all three hydroxyl estrogens into less harmful states.
The problem is that if you lack enough glutathione to process those metabolites, phase 2 fails and all three metabolites get converted into highly reactive molecules. They don’t get excreted and instead cause bigger problems.
How do you eliminate a vast swathe of Estroblock’s side effects then? It’s simple – boost your production of glutathione.
The best way to do that is increasing your selenium intake by eating two Brazil nuts a day. A generally nutritious diet will also work wonders. Numerous other amino acids, antioxidants and enzymes are involved with estrogen metabolization.
The key point is this – NEVER treat Estroblock as a single magic pill. That applies to all supplements but I want to particularly emphasise it here. With DIM or indole-3-carbinol, it is critical to support the general strength of your detoxification systems through all the other dietary and lifestyle advice on this website.
Thanks for reading!