Bee pollen can mimic estrogen in the body, but experts say there are some risks, including allergic reactions, digestive issues and abnormal tissue growth.
Labeled as the next “superfood,” bee pollen is a dietary supplement known for its vitamins and anti-inflammatory elements. Originally used for allergy prevention, people are now using bee pollen in hopes of adjusting their hormone levels and, as a result, potentially increasing breast size.
The use of the supplement as a way to treat hormone issues is all over social media. TikToker Taylor Reynolds made a video in which she asked hormone doctors to explain the phenomenon after it caused breast growth for her, her sister and her roommate. The video reached 2.5 million views.
In another viral videoTikToker Ivey Cross discussed the use of bee pollen in her drinks, which she claims contributed to breast growth.
“It dawned on me that I have been using this consistently for like, two or three weeks, and two nights ago, I went to put on my Skims bra, and I always keep it at the same adjustment, and I was like, ‘oh, my gosh, this is kind of tight.’ So, I had to loosen it up a little bit.”
Although there are no large clinical studies that support the use of bee pollen for breast growth, a diet containing phytoestrogens ― a compound derived from plants that can be foundin bee pollen ― can mimic estrogen.
Since bee pollen is rich in phytoestrogen, taking the supplement may weakly bind to estrogen receptors and potentially suppress production, Lisa Jung, a licensed naturopathic doctor at Jung Naturopathic Wellness in California, told HuffPost. In theory, a suppression of estrogen could lead to physical changes.
“One example of the body areas that have these estrogen receptors are the breast tissues, and that may be why some women have been noticing their breast growth with bee pollen consumption,” Jung said.
That said, this isn’t a guarantee ― nor is it the only thing at play when it comes to breast size.
“Breast size and development is dependent on multiple factors, including genetics, hormones and fat distribution,” Dr. Sydne Ford, a board-certified family medicine physician at Spark Performance and Wellnessa holistic primary care center, told HuffPost. “There are no guaranteed methods for increasing breast size naturally. However, exercise and a balanced diet rich in phytoestrogens can help maintain optimal hormone levels.”
A small 1990 study by the Monash University Department of Medicine at Prince Henry’s Hospital in Australia also found that phytoestrogens may mitigate perimenopausal symptoms. Jung said the phytoestrogen in bee pollen may also be “beneficial for PMS, hormonal migraines and acne, excess estrogen in the body and menopausal symptoms like hot flashes.”
According to a 2010 study by the Department of Biology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, other uses of phytoestrogens include the prevention of osteoporosisor progressive loss of bone-mineral density, and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
“There are mixed human and animal studies that show bee pollen can also be beneficial for liver, prostate conditions as well as metabolic conditions like high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and more,” Jung said.
Bee pollen has also been used as a form of allergy treatment. “Some people report a reduction of environmental allergy symptoms when consuming bee pollen. However, there is limited scientific evidence to support these claims,” Ford said.
Risks Of Using Bee Pollen As A Supplement
Like any supplement, there are potential risks to using bee pollen, Ford said. It has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for medical use.
Bee pollen can cause new allergic reactionsincluding hives, light-headedness, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat. For people who are taking the supplement in hopes of breast growth, side effects may also occur as a result of increased estrogen.
“With breast tissue growth, there can be concerns of cancer, as too much tissue growth can lead to atypical cellular changes,” Jung said. “For some women, they can experience mild vaginal spotting or bleeding, as the uterine lining also has estrogen receptors that can be stimulated.”
Additionally, digestive side effects, such as stomach pain, nausea or diarrhea, and interactions with medications are all risks associated with taking natural products like bee pollen. It’s especially important to not take bee pollen supplements if you have a bee pollen allergy.
Generally, it’s not certain if bee pollen is effective in treating medical conditions like menopause or hormone issues. As a result, you should ask a doctor if bee pollen is safe for you, especially if taking any additional medications and supplements.
“It’s important to work with a provider who can guide in the benefits and risks of natural foods and supplements, even if they are natural,” Jung said. “It’s also important to work with a provider who can counsel on the importance of checking breast tissue or getting diagnostic imaging like mammograms or ultrasound as well.”