Diindolylmethane, more commonly referred to as DIM, is a supplement you might not have heard of.

Despite its lack of popularity, it is one of my favorite supplements due to its positive effects on hormones.

How does DIM work?

The body makes DIM from a substance called indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which is found in vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. Once the body has converted I3C into DIM, the body has a very powerful anti-cancer substance at its disposal.

One of DIM’s primary effects involves the hormone estrogen. As we know, estrogen is important for both men and women, but too much of it can predispose to various cancers. For women, too much estrogen increases the risk for breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancers. For men, too much estrogen is believed to contribute to prostate cancer. And in both men and women, too much estrogen can cause moodiness, weight gain, fatigue, and a host of other undesirable symptoms.

Let’s look more closely at how the body handles estrogen. When estrogen is metabolized (broken down) by the body, it goes down one of two pathways. One pathway results in the formation of 2-hydroxyestrone (2-OHE1), and the other pathway results in the formation of 16 alpha-hydroxyestrone (16 alpha-OHE1). The ratio of these two is very important, because too much of the 16 alpha-hydroxyestrone has been shown to increase the risk of the aforementioned cancers. DIM promotes estrogen being converted into 2-hydroxyestrone, rather than 16 alpha-hydroxyestrone, and thus lowers cancer risk.

Is DIM for cancer prevention or cancer treatment?
DIM is for both! In hormone-related cancers such as breast, ovaries, uterus, and prostate, I always include DIM in my protocols. I also include it in the protocols of those patients who have hormonal imbalance on lab testing, who have symptoms of hormonal imbalance, or who are interested in cancer prevention. Basically, I recommend that virtually all adults take DIM.

Can’t I just get a healthy, balanced diet and get enough DIM?
The days of simply eating a good diet for optimal health are long gone. While an organic, minimally processed diet is essential, we cannot possibly get enough vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from diet alone. In the case of DIM, it would require eating about two and a half pounds of cruciferous vegetables to get just 25 mg of DIM. In contrast, a good DIM supplement will contain about 100 mg of DIM and this amount is necessary to achieve the hormonal health we are after.

Do I need to worry about taking too much DIM?
Studies on mice have shown no observable toxicity in mice, even at very high doses. In contrast, toxic doses of I3C have been identified and resulted in findings such as liver inflammation, decreased glutathione levels (glutathione is the most powerful antioxidant inside the cell), and severe neurological symptoms.

Should I take I3C or DIM?
Many patients have asked me if it is better to take indole-3-carbinol instead of DIM, since I3C is what is naturally found in nature. I feel strongly that DIM is the better supplement, because it has been shown to be more potent in protecting against cancers such as breast cancer. DIM is also a stronger antioxidant than I3C, to the point that it even has greater antioxidant activity than vitamin E. In addition, by taking DIM, we are eliminating the body having to convert I3C into DIM and freeing up the body to use that energy for other things. And as mentioned above, DIM has a much better side effect profile than I3C.