Natural Estrogen Replacement for Menopause Symptoms
If you are looking for natural estrogen replacement, these substances are a great option.
Researchers are still discovering new classes of plant estrogens that have great promise for women in menopause. One example is the powerful substance 8-PN which is found in hops.
The interest in plant-estrogen as a treatment for hot flashes and menopause symptoms comes from some international studies. These studies found that Women in Asia, who eat a diet rich in isoflavones (the phyto-estrogen in soy) have much lower breast cancer rates and also suffer less in menopause.
So it was just a little jump to conclude that these plant-based hormones could be used as a safe alternative to the traditional Hormone Replacement Therapy.
A multitude of supplements hit the stores and were marketed as a safe and effective treatment for hot flashes and menopause symptoms.
A diet rich in Phyto-Estrogen is very healthy. After all what would we eat?
- Whole grain
Sounds very healthy to us!
Which Foods Contain Phyto-Estrogen?
Plant Estrogens are divided into 3 major classes and have been found in over 300 foods:
Isoflavones, which are concentrated in soybeans and soy products but are also found in other legumes.
- Lignans, which are distributed in seeds (especially flaxseed), whole grains, berries and nuts.
- Coumestans, which are found in various beans (pinto, lima etc.), broccoli and sprouts (alfalfa and clover).
New phyto-estrogens are still being discovered. Just recently, scientists in several countries found a new class of these substances called: prenylflavonoids.
The most powerful of these natural estrogens is 8-prenylnaringenin (8-PN) which is much stronger than any of the previously studied phytoestrogens.
This has caused a renewed interest in hops (Humulus lupulus) as a medicinal herb, where this substance was discovered. The Life Extension Foundation has developed a new menopause supplement called Natural Female Support, that not only contains hops but also Norway spruce extract. Norway spruce contains lignans, a different class of phyto-estrogen.
What Is Phyto-Estrogen?
Much is still unknown about how these natural plant estrogens work. One of the theories is as follows:
When there is too much estrogen in the body, plant-based estrogen competes with the estrogen in your body by binding to the same receptors. This would decrease the receptors’ ability to pick up estrogen.
Because plant-based hormones are much weaker, this would lessen the effects of the estrogens. This would also (theoretically) help to protect against hormone sensitive cancers, such as some breast cancers.
But when estrogen levels are low, and not enough hormone is available to bind to the estrogen receptors, phyto-estrogens have an estrogenic effect. So theoretically, they should help with hot flashes and the other estrogen related menopause symptoms.
Do They Help Menopause Symptoms?
With regards to the treatment for menopause symptoms, the results are not great: there is no consistent scientific evidence that plant estrogens help to alleviate menopause symptoms and hot flashes.
However, these results have to be taken with a heavy dose of skepticism.
- Most of the studies used Isoflavones, the natural estrogen found in Soy. Recently, researchers found that only 1/3 of the western population can process the Isoflavones in a way to get the estrogenic effect.
- Other studies used Black Cohosh. Recently researchers found the active substance in Black Cohosh. And to their big surprise it wasn’t phyto-estrogen. Black Cohosh works very different and does not have any estrogenic effect. (Because of this research, newer Black Cohosh supplements such as Flash Ease from Nature’s Sunshine contain a higher concentration of this active substance.)
- Studies are often very short term and natural substances may not work at the same speed as the scientists. Many herbs do not reach their maximum benefits for 6-8 weeks (the total lengths of several studies).
A diet that contain foods with these substances is very healthy and has many additional benefits for the body. Side effects should be considered when you use higher doses of supplements.
Women with hormone sensitive cancers are advised to stay away from phyto-estrogen supplements, especially soy isoflavones. But to make it really confusing, this recommendation by the medical community is contradicted by advice from the American Cancer Society which actually encourages their use.
However, phyto-estrogens in your regular diet are healthy and encouraged by all.
If you switch to a phytoestrogen rich diet, you may experience some gastro-intestinal problems like bloating and gas. Start with smaller portions and gradually increase the amounts to avoid these problems.
Phyto-estrogen is still actively studied and new discoveries are always made. Just look at the exciting new substance in hops that was recently discovered.
Blanket statements about the effectiveness of phyto-estrogens are not valid because so many different substances are involved. Some are probably more effective than others.
Soy isoflavones, the recent darling of supplements, has fallen somewhat out of favor because not everybody can benefit due to genetic differences in women.
Give the new Hops Supplement from the Life Extension Foundation a try which shows great promise.