If you’re reading this and you’re a woman 40 or above, you’ve probably heard at least a bit about the benefits of phytoestrogens. If you’re reading this and you’re a man, don’t ignore this article as it can be useful for a woman in your life. And if you’re a woman under the age of 40, read ahead as every piece of advice I give works best if started early, so the earlier you give these things a go, the better you’ll fare as you age.
So what are phytoestrogens and why are they a big deal?
Well first of all, let’s consider why women began looking for phytoestrogens in the first place. These days with all of us, particularly women, living longer, while not necessarily changing how long our reproductive cycle is (more on this later), it means that we spend much more time living through and after menopause: which is a somewhat uncomfortable thought for many women. While changes in diet and lifestyle can make a significant difference in how we live, how long we have to reproduce is dependant primarily on our genetics and when we first started menstruating as it is highly reliant on our quantity of eggs. So if you look at your mother and your mother’s mother and consider when they went into menopause, most likely yours will be at around the same time, give or take. There are lifestyle and diet changes, however, that can not only shorten how long we have until menopause, but can also prolong it. If you wish to postpone your menopause as much as you can given your genetics and youth, book a free call with me here to find out more. For instance, women who smoke tend to reach menopause earlier than women who don’t, with average age of menopause in general around 51.4 years old. Chemotherapy, radiation and physical removal of the ovaries will also accelerate menopause, as can higher BMI.
For women who have already began menopause, particularly when that menopause is uncomfortable and causing issues, the medical world has developed HRT. HRT can help to reduce such issues as fractures and bone loss, as well as cardiovascular issues and even dementia. However, unfortunately, HRT has had some very bad press due to some rather nasty side effects, such as breast and ovarian cancers being more likely, along with DVTs, strokes and other issues. To avoid serious side-effects as much as possible, women are told not to use HRT for longer than necessary, so that they have a time limit on how long they should be on the hormones. Some time later, the medical community came up with a more natural approach using bio-identical hormones, which is a safer alternative, although the long-term effects of this are still being researched, with the research so far looking rather promising with much fewer consequences over HRT and similar benefits.
So what if you don’t wish to use hormones at all and want a more natural approach? Well that’s where phytoestrogens come in. In a review conducted by Moreira et al., 2014, phytoestrogens are described as compounds in various foods that resemble estradiol. The foods that contain the most phytoestrogens are soy-based products, such as soybeans, tofu, tempeh… In the countries where these are eaten the most, women suffer fewer menopause-related issues and easier transitions, as well as later menopause.
Moreira et al., 2014, goes on to categorise phytoestrogens into 4 categories: isoflavones, lignans, coumestans and stilbenes. While isoflavones are based mainly on soy and soy derivatives, they are also present in clover and alfalfa. Lignans, another category, are the most prevalent in nature, and are present in many plants: including flaxseed, oat and berries. Coumestans and stilbenes are less prevalent in the diet and are less well-studied. While Coumestrol is found in clover and alfalfa sprouts and lima bean and sunflower seeds, among other sources, Resveratrol is the most studied stilbene, present in grapes, peanuts and cranberries, as well as in wine (and could be the secret to the health benefits of red wine — in moderation of course).
Although more research is needed on just how many phytoestrogen-based foods one needs to consume to make a significant difference in menopause symptoms and to prevent serious post-menopause related issues, the current research coming out has been very positive in the effect of phytoestrogens as a natural alternative to hormone therapies. Obviously, each woman must choose what’s right for her on an individual basis. If you’d like help with this process, book your free call with me here: https://healthyageing.as.me/schedule.php