If you’re suffering from menopausal symptoms, try adding foods with phytoestrogens to your diet.
Menopause is a natural biological transition that occurs when the ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone hormones. Menopause often begins between ages 45 and 55, sometimes earlier. It usually lasts about 7 years, but may last up to 14.
Once the ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone, a variety of biological processes can be affected. Estrogen maintains vaginal wall thickness, lubrication and breast tissue. Estrogen not only affects the reproductive system, but also contributes to cognitive, bone and cardiovascular health.
Women who are perimenopausal, menopausal and post-menopausal may experience symptoms caused by the change in hormone levels.
Menopausal Symptoms Caused by Low Estrogen Levels
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes and/or night sweats
- Vaginal dryness and thinning
- Low sexual desire
- Mood swings, anxiety, depression
- Dry skin
- Migraine headaches
- Brittle bones and joint pain
How Dietary Estrogen Can Reduce Menopausal Symptoms
Phytoestrogen, or dietary estrogen, is a type of estrogen that is found naturally in a variety of foods. Phytoestrogen has a chemical structure similar to estrogen and attaches to estrogen receptors. The plant-based nutrient can enhance estrogen’s health benefits by improving bone, heart, and brain health.
A 1998 Endocrinology study reported that, “The estrogenic potency of phytoestrogens is significant and may trigger many of the biological responses that are evoked by the physiological estrogens.”
And a 2011 study published by the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine reported that, “Phytoestrogens (isoflavones, lignans, coumestanes, stilbenes, flavonoids) and many estrogen-like compounds in plants, have been immensely used to prevent menopause-related depletion in bone mineral density (BMD).”
Try adding the following foods to your diet as a natural solution to reduce menopausal symptoms.
1. Flax Seeds
Flax seeds are incredibly rich in lignans which are a type of phytoestrogen. Flax seeds contain up to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods. Studies have shown flax seeds can decrease the risk of breast cancer, especially in postmenopausal women.
Most nutrition experts recommend eating ground flax seeds instead of whole flax seeds, because the ground form is easier to digest. Flax seeds are also high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, can improve digestive health, relieve constipation, and lower cholesterol.
Tips for including flaxseed in your diet:
- Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to breakfast cereal or yogurt
- Mix a tablespoon of ground flaxseed in a smoothie
- Bake ground flaxseed into muffins
Soybeans are a versatile food that can be absorbed in a variety of forms such as tofu, tempeh and edamame. Soybeans are rich in a type of phytoestrogens known as isoflavones. Isoflavones can produce estrogen-like activity and mimic the effects of estrogen.
Soybeans have been linked to many additional health benefits such as decreasing risk for breast cancer and bone loss. They are also high in protein and minerals such as Vitamin K and folate.
Unlike other beans, edamame doesn’t require a long time to cook and is served more like a vegetable. Tofu can be used as a meat substitute for a plant-based diet.
Tips for including edamame in your diet:
- Steam and add a pinch of salt or garlic as a snack
- Pan-fry and add to stir fry or rice noodle dish
- Microwave and add to a salad or soup
Cruciferous vegetables are a large group of plants with diverse flavors, textures, and nutrients. Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and cabbage are all cruciferous vegetables with high levels of phytoestrogens. Broccoli is rich in secoisolariciresinol, a type of lignan phytoestrogen. Additionally, brussels sprouts and cabbage are rich in coumestrol, another type of phytonutrient that has been shown to exhibit estrogenic activity.
Tips for including broccoli and cruciferous veggies in your diet:
- Steam or roast as a side to chicken or fish dish
- Pan-fry and add to stir fry or rice noodle dish
- Add raw to a salad
How to Reduce Menopausal Symptoms with BioIdentical Hormone Therapy
If you aren’t a fan of flax seeds, soy, or broccoli, and would still like to relieve menopause symptoms, bioidentical hormone therapy can provide an alternative to dietary estrogen.
Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) is a natural solution to restore hormone balance. The Endocrine Society has defined bioidentical hormones as “compounds that have exactly the same chemical and molecular structure as hormones that are produced in the human body.”
BHRT Can Be Absorbed in Variety of Methods
Bioidentical hormones are made from plants such as yams. Bioidentical estrogen derived from plant sources (17β-estradiol) is available in pellets, pills, patches, sprays, creams, gels, and vaginal tablets. Micronized progesterone is available in a capsule or as a vaginal gel.
BHRT Can Be Absorbed Faster
According to Harvard Health, when estrogen is taken as a pill or absorbed in diet, it’s first processed through the liver. This stimulates proteins associated with reducing heart disease and stroke. When delivered by transdermal (skin) patch, estrogen isn’t first processed by the liver and — at the same level of blood concentration — doesn’t have these effects.
BHRT Can Be Customized
Women who cannot tolerate the nonhormonal ingredients contained in synthetic hormone therapy can have compounded bioidentical hormones (CBHT) speciality formulated to their unique body type. Practitioners can prescribe custom dosages based on individual biochemistry and health history.
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