Everything You Wanted to Know About the Menopause But Felt too Poorly to Ask!
It’s no big secret to most women that they will some day have to face the effects of menopause. This may not be a big deal to some, but to others it can be a devastating change in life that takes its toll in many different ways. Common symptoms include a decreased or absent libido, night sweats, and hot flashes. They may not sound all that bad, but to any woman who has gone through them, they can put a lot of extra stress on the body throughout the course of the day.
Normally, women experience the first symptoms of menopause during their late thirties and early forties. Menopause is a natural occurrence and a gradual transition occurring in every woman. Menopause is not any disease or illness but a total cessation of menstrual cycles for twelve months or more. Some women experience first symptoms of menopause earlier than other women do.
Early development of first symptoms of menopause could be due to higher stress levels, unhealthy lifestyle, lack of regular exercise, irregular eating patterns, insufficient consumption of healthy foods, etc. The most prominent first symptoms of menopause are irregular menstrual cycles. Menstrual flow during such period could be very high or extremely low.
While you experience the first symptoms of menopause, your menstrual cycles could occur frequently within a fortnight or sometimes, you miss your periods for over a full month too. There could be widening gap between menstrual periods overtime.
There is also no set limit over the menstrual flow, sometimes it could be for three to five days while sometimes it could continue for more than a week. The first symptoms of menopause could lead to total disruption in your regular and systematic menstrual cycles.
Other common first symptoms of menopause include tenderness in breasts, inability to handle stress, lapse of memory and other nervous problems like depression, anxiety, confusing thoughts, mood swings, etc. It is common to note the setting in of the first symptoms of menopause with a gain in your body weight. Your body tends to retain more water and you seem to bloat.
Changes in hormone levels in your body indicate the first symptoms of menopause. Such hormonal changes are often the cause for your low energy levels and a lower drive to face the challenges in life. In other words, you seem to lack sufficient interest in life. These hormonal changes are also the cause behind your sudden hot flashes, which are the most common first symptoms of menopause.
You experience such sudden hot flashes at any time, more often at night. There is no method to predict occurrence of these first symptoms of menopause. More than forty percent of women having regular menstrual cycles also experience such hot flashes in their forties. These are therefore a prelude to the first symptoms of menopause.
There is no particular time limit for occurrence of such hot flashes. Around eighty percent of women experience hot flashes for around five years while around ten percent of women experience it for ten years too. Although there is nothing to predict their occurrence or lapse, these first symptoms of menopause definitely decrease overtime.
Not being able to sleep well at night, as the result of the symptoms of menopause, and being expected to live your life normally can have a cumulative negative effect on your health; physically and mentally. While it may not always be easy to find relief from the symptoms of menopause, it’s possible. The key is to take the right steps to reduce the harmful effects and pain that menopause can have on your system. It comes down to finding the remedies that work best for you. Not all methods will work the same for everybody, so you may need to try several things before finding something that works for you.
Keep in mind that there are many choices out there to ease the effects of menopause, and there are even certain vitamins that may help. A lot of doctors simply will not prescribe hormone replacements to patients who could potentially benefit from them, due to the risk of dangerous side effects. While hormone replacement therapy has been shown to dramatically improve the symptoms of menopause, it has also been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer, and this has been shown in more than one study. That’s one reason why a lot of doctors will suggest alternatives such as natural menopause remedies for some of their patients. Again, how effective they are will vary from woman to woman, but they are definitely worth trying if they will bring relief.
To be fair, anybody experiencing constant irritability, mood swings and hot flashes would be willing to try just about anything to ease their symptoms. One herbal remedy that a lot of women have found success with is black cohosh. While a common vitamin cure for hot flashes is vitamin E, which you can take in supplement form, or try to increase in your diet.
Another thing that helps to ease menopause symptoms is to have good overall health. In fact, before taking anything else, you should take a look at how healthy you are. While it may not be much of a consolation, women have handled menopause forever, without the need for prescriptions or special remedies. Either way, you should know that it may take some trial and error to find the best solution for you, but that relief is entirely possible if you stick with it.
All women eventually experience the ending of their reproductive years as their menstrual cycle ceases. The hormonal changes that occur at this time can cause many different types of discomfort when our bodies are not in balance. Some problems women deal with at this time include hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, vaginal dryness, headaches, and stress. There has been much discussion lately about the use of soy products to ease the symptoms related to menopause. Soy contains phytoestrogens that are help to alleviate symptoms related to the drop in oestrogen that a woman’s body experiences at this time.
In addition to supplementation with soy, there are many ways to balance the body and reduce discomfort during this natural change. In Chinese Medicine, the symptoms associated with menopause are considered to be a result of a decline in the yin energy of the body. Yin is the feminine, nourishing, fluidic, structural energy of the body. In this way, it is closely related to the feminine hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone. The bone loss that some women experience at this time would also be related to yin deficiency and to deficiency of the Kidney in Chinese Medicine. The Kidney in Chinese Medicine relates to the health of the bones.
While many women seek out hormone supplementation, use of acupuncture and herbs along with lifestyle and dietary changes can alleviate menopausal symptoms naturally. One herbal remedy that Chinese Medicine practitioners often use for symptoms such as night sweats, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness is called “Liu Wei Di Huang Wan”, or “Six Flavour Tea”, which contains rehmannia, cornus, Chinese wild yam, mouton bark, Peoria, and alisma. These herbs are not commonly known here in the West, but this formula’s function is to moisten the body and nourish yin. These herbs may also have phytoestrogen properties. The herb, vertex Agnus castes, or chaste berry can also be useful for reducing discomfort. Acupuncture is also used to treat the symptoms associated with menopause. Two commonly used points are Spleen 6, which is three finger lengths above the inside of the ankle, and Kidney 6, which is directly below the bump on the interior side of the ankle.
In addition to acupuncture and herbs, certain nutritional and lifestyle changes are very useful. Certain healthy oils, such as evening primrose oil and flaxseed oil, which contain essential fatty acids can help to alleviate the symptoms of menopause. It is also crucial to eat healthy food and reduce stress during this time in a woman’s life, and if possible, in the years leading up to this change. All of these natural remedies may help ease the symptoms of menopause naturally without the side effects of hormone supplementation.
Menopause refers to a stage in woman’s life characterized by a permanent cessation of her menstrual activities. It implies that a woman stops having her monthly menstrual periods for the rest of her life, after she achieves the menopause. A normal healthy woman reaches the menopause between the ages of 40-50. Menopause marks the end of a woman’s fertility and reproductive years. During the menopause, production of the oestrogen hormone reduces drastically in a woman and her ovaries stop producing eggs.
It can take 5 years for a woman to achieve the final menopause stage. If a woman has not experienced any menstrual periods for a year, the condition is known as menopause. When a woman is in her puberty stage or childbearing years, her ovaries release an egg every month. This release is known as ovulation. Ovaries also produce the hormone oestrogen. This hormone instructs the uterus to build up a lining. This lining allows the implant and growth of the fertilized egg.
As the women nears her menopause years, the production of oestrogen decreases. As a result, she will experience irregular menstrual cycles. The irregularities include skipped periods, light or heavy menstrual flow. A woman could also experience random bleeding as well.
The Natural Process Effecting You
Menopause is a natural and biological process. It is not a disease. It is just a transition period of a woman’s life. 75% of women experience some or all of the troublesome symptoms during the menopause. There are no common symptoms as every woman’s body would react in a unique way towards the menopause. Here are some of the common symptoms that women show during the phase of menopause.
Hot flashes are landmark signs of menopause. As the level of oestrogen drops in a woman, her blood vessels expand rapidly. This causes her skin temperature to rise. This can further cause hot flashes or a sudden spread of warmth to her shoulders, head and neck, starting from her chest. This sudden gush of warmth causes a woman to sweat, and when the sweat evaporates from her skin, she feels chilled, and slightly faint. Women also experience raid heart beating and a feeling of anxiety. The face of a woman looks flushed. She might experience red blotches on her neck, arms and chest area.
These hot flashes usually last up to 30 seconds and in some cases up to several minutes. There is no common frequency or duration of hot flashes as they vary from a woman to woman. Women often experience hot flashes during the initial years after their menopause.
Hot flashes affect the life of a woman directly. If they happen during night, they can disrupt the sleep. They cause night sweats. A woman can often wake up and have trouble getting back to sleep again. This results in lack of restful and refreshing sleep, which can have a knock on effect in the morning.
As a woman approaches her menopause stage, she experiences irregularity in the menstrual periods. Periods become either long or short. Menstrual bleeding becomes heavier or lighter. A woman might experience skipping of periods. These symptoms mark the onset of menopause.
As a result of menopause the production of estrogen decreases. As a result of it the organs such as urinary bladder, vagina, uterus, and urethra become weak and shrink. When bladder and urethra become weak and shrink, they can lead to infection, leakage of urine and painful urination.
As the tissue lining of vagina shrinks a woman experiences pain during intercourse. A woman might also suffer from vaginal dryness, irritation and itching.
Changes in appearance
During the menopause transition, a woman on an average gains 5 pounds of weight. Initially this weight was believed to get concentrated on hips and thighs of a woman. New researches have shown that the weight might settle in a woman’s abdomen too.
A woman might experience wrinkling of the skin, fullness in breasts, and thinning hair.
Behavioural and emotional changes
A woman might experience fatigue, irritability and frustration during menopause. She might experience decreased concentration and memory loss. These changes are a direct result of hormonal fluctuations in her body during menopause.
As a result of menopause the density of bones in a woman’s body tends to decrease. She starts losing calcium from her bones following the drop in oestrogen levels. This can lead to a condition of weak bones known as osteoporosis. A woman also becomes susceptible to fractures.
Menopause can go one of two ways. It can be a miserable experience characterized by aggravating menopause symptoms. Or, it can be a pain-free transition that’s barely noticeable. In fact, choosing the right menopause supplement can make all the difference. nutraOrigin, makers of high quality vitamins for women, shares the secrets of natural treatment for menopause.
Menopause symptoms: Common but avoidable
Every woman experiences her own unique set of menopausal symptoms, which can include hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, heart palpitations, vaginal and urinary changes, and decreased memory and concentration. Most experts agree these symptoms are caused by low or fluctuating estrogen levels, which throw everything off kilter. But that doesn’t mean a difficult menopause is unavoidable.
Between 75-85% of American women going through “the change of life” report experiencing menopausal hot flashes. Yet only about 10% of Japanese women do. Why the discrepancy? It’s all in the diet. Japanese women eat several servings of soy a day, which naturally contain anti-hot-flash substances called isoflavones. American women don’t.
Natural Hot Flash Remedies and Menopause Treatments from nutraOrigin
Isoflavones help you get control of hot flashes – but they also provide relief for a whole range of symptoms. How? These phyto-nutrients have the remarkable ability to imitate the biological activities of female hormones. That means that even if your own natural levels of estrogen are plummeting, isoflavones can trick your body into thinking it has enough.
Soy is well-known for its natural content of isoflavones, but most of the research studying isoflavones for menopause relief has been performed on red clover. nutraOrigin formulated MenoBalance with a high-potency blend of isoflavones from red clover and kudzu. The formula additionally protects cardiovascular health, with patented Actifolate folic acid and resveratrol; supports bone integrity, due to the synergistic activity of isoflavones and vitamin D; and provides protection to hormone-sensitive tissues, with rosemary and turmeric.
Black Cohosh Essentials Supplement
Scientists have conducted numerous studies demonstrating the efficacy of black cohosh for relieving the discomforts of menopause, with minimal or no side effects. In fact, one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found the herb was 47% more effective than conjugated estrogen at beating menopause hot flashes! Cohosh has also been shown to help alleviate headaches, heart palpitations, and nervousness and irritability associated with menopause. The evidence is so strong that the German Commission E (similar to our FDA) has approved black cohosh as a treatment for menopause.
nutraOrigin’s Black Cohosh Essentials features 80 mg of standardized black cohosh – four times the amount seen in weaker extracts – for maximum effect. It also includes lemon balm and motherwort, which help reduce stress and anxiety.
Nutra Multi Iron-Free Multivitamin
Studies show older women are more likely to be deficient in key vitamins like B1, B2, B5, folic acid and D than younger women. That’s why a multivitamin like nutraOrigin’s Nutra Multi Iron-Free is so important. It delivers all the necessary vitamins and minerals needed to create a foundation of health – including 500 mg of calcium – but leaves out the iron, since too much can be harmful to menopausal women.
The experts at Nutra-Origin recommend taking all three formulas together for maximum synergistic effect.
The Menopause and a Great Opportunity Every day to Listen to Your Own Body and Your Own ‘Smooth’ Journey to Transition & Self Management
Are you having menopause mood swings? If you are interested in finding out what to do to control them then stick around. I have some suggestions and advice for you.
Menopause can be a very trying time for those of us lucky enough to be in the middle of it. The hot flashes are bad enough but add in all the other symptoms and menopause can make your life downright miserable. Mood swings are a fun one to experience, aren’t they?
One minute you are feeling and acting normal and in the next instant, for no apparent reason, you have turned into Medusa and your family has gone running for cover. What the heck happened?
Hormones, that’s what happened. During perimenopause and menopause, it’s like the hormones in your body are confused and in chaos. They really do not know which end is up so they cause these menopause mood swings and give you the power to clear a room with just one look.
There are ways to control your moods so your family will enjoy being around you again. You may have to make some small changes but it will be worth it if you can mellow out.
To increase the amount of estrogen in your system, without having to go on hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, try eating foods made from soy. Soy milk and other soy products are available at your local grocery store. Soy is rich in some things called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens mimic the effects of your body’s own estrogen and can help level out your mood and may even help decrease your hot flashes.
If you continue to experience severe mood swings, you could try an herbal supplement. There are several available that help with menopausal symptoms and can help with your mood also. Specifically, St. John’s Wort. St John’s Wort helps level out the chemical serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is commonly referred to as the “feel good” chemical and when it is not to the level it needs to be, you have mood swings and even depression symptoms.
Always talk to your doctor before you start taking any herbal supplement, especially if you are taking other medications. Your doctor can tell you if it is safe to take the supplement or if you will cause a drug interaction by taking it. Better to be safe than sorry.
The most effective way to elevate your mood, though, is regular exercise. Exercise has so many benefits and improving your mood is one of them. Even if you are convinced that nothing could possibly make you feel better and you are determined to not even try. Force yourself if you have to and get outside and take a walk. You will soon see that your mood has improved and you can even start liking yourself again.
The exercise you do doesn’t have to be so intense that you can’t walk the next day. As long as you do something to make your body move for 20-30 minutes every day. Don’t let menopause mood swings control your life any longer.
Herbal Remedies – Menopause Symptoms – Buy Over The Counter
Several herbal remedies menopause symptoms respond to and get alleviated by have been used by the Chinese for centuries. Menopausal symptoms include hot flashes, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, vaginal dryness, night sweats, weight gain, mood swings, headaches and possibly decreased sex drive. Now, listen, every woman is different and every woman may not experience all of these symptoms all at once.
Some symptoms may be more prevalent than others, my personal experience has been mostly having hot flashes and feeling nauseous. The occasional night or two of insomnia and night sweats and anxiety with the unbelievable number of hot flashes I was having.
Not to scare anyone but when the hot flashes started for me they came every twenty minutes and didn’t let up for months, maybe even the better part of a year. Now I just have several a day and pretty much have gotten used to them. They still are a bother but not nearly as bad and my mood is much better even when I do have one.
Most herbal remedies menopause can be bought over the counter and you may have to try several before you find one that works for you. The ingredients come in different combinations and strengths so finding the right combination may take a while. So try to deal with the symptoms the best you can until you find the right one.
Black Cohosh is the main ingredient in all menopause herbal remedies and is an effective treatment for hot flashes, insomnia and increased anxiety. If you take this on it’s own though it may not work for you. Keep trying.
Red clover is used in combinations with Black Cohosh and contains phytoestrogens, or plant estrogens. Plant estrogens work like estrogen found in a woman’s body and are taken to regulate that specific hormone. Red clover may also help alleviate hot flashes.
Dong Quai has been found effective as a treatment for night sweats and anxiety related to menopause.
Ginseng Root is used for a variety of reasons but in the treatment of menopausal symptoms you may find it useful for relieving headaches and aiding in sleep.
Agnus Castus, also referred to as Chaste Berry, assists the pituitary gland in balancing the hormones of your body.
St. John’s Wort has antidepressant qualities and can help regulate your mood swings. Trust me on this one, everyone in your family will be glad for this herbal remedy! Menopause is not only difficult for you to handle but you need to understand it is just as hard on the people who are important to you. Mood swings can be kinda scary sometimes and your family may just run away screaming.
I, for one, can tell you that menopause is no picnic and the sooner it is over the better, although, symptoms may last up to ten years. I am not kidding. Ten years! I figure I have got four down and six to go. I have used most of these herbal remedies menopause and I am still looking for the combination that will work for me to relieve my symptoms.
Yoga Exercise & Diet?
Kundalini is the root (of) all spiritual experiences … Kundalini is a special kind of energy known in many cultures, including Tibetan, Indian, Sumerian, Chinese, Irish, Aztec, and Greek. Kundalini is said to be hot, fast, powerful, and large. It exists within the earth, within all life, and within each person. Psychoanalyst Carl G. Jung called kundalini anima. Kundalini is usually represented as a serpent coiled at the base of the spine, but women’s mystery stories locate it in the uterus – or the area where the uterus was, if a hysterectomy has occurred. During both puberty and menopause, a woman’s kundalini is difficult to control and may cause a great number of symptoms.
East Indian yogis spend lifetimes learning to activate, or wake up, their kundalini. This is also called “achieving enlightenment”. When they succeed, a surge of super-heated energy goes up the spine, throughout the nerves, dilating blood vessels, and fueling itself with hormones. As kundalini continues to travel up the spine, it changes the functioning of the endocrine, cardiovascular, and nervous systems. Not just in yogis, but in any woman who allows herself to become aware of it. Menopause is a kind of enlightenment. Hot flashes are kundalini training sessions.
TAKING HORMONES? THESE HERBS ARE FOR YOU
More and more American women are using herbal remedies to help them with menopausal problems. Those who do take ERT (oestrogen replacement) or HRT (hormone replacement) may be surprised to discover that herbal medicine has a lot to offer them as well.
Herbs for women on ERT/HRT include those that alleviate side-effects as well as those that counter problems caused by the hormones.
Herbal Helpers Counter Side-Effects
Water retention is the symptom most often cited for dissatisfaction with hormone replacement. Herbal tinctures and tea, such as dandelion or cleavers, and ordinary foods can not only relieve the distress, they will go to the root of the problem and help prevent recurrences.
Dandelion root tincture (Taraxacum officinale) strengthens the liver and helps it process out the excess hormones you are taking. When the liver works well, the kidneys work better, and tissues no longer bloat. A dose is 10-20 drops in several ounces of water or juice 2-3 three times a day. If you have any digestion problems, take your dandelion before meals; otherwise, anytime is fine. You can safely take dandelion daily for months or years if you need or want to.
Cleavers herb tincture (Galium molluga) tells the lymphatic tissues to get moving. Relief from oedema is usually rapid when 20-30 drops are taken in several ounces of water or juice. Repeat up to six times at hourly intervals if needed. Cleavers is especially helpful for easing swollen, sore breasts.
Foods that relieve water retention include (in order of effectiveness): asparagus, nettles, corn (and corn silk tea), grapes, cucumbers, watermelon (and watermelon seed tea), parsley, celery, black tea, and green tea.
Headaches are the second most common side-effect of hormone use. Unfortunately, they are common among menopausal women not taking hormones, too. Herbs that help relieve headache without a drug-like action – such as dandelion, yellow dock, milk thistle, burdock, garden sage, skullcap, and St. John’s/Joan’s wort – are generally considered safe to take with hormones.
Chinese herbalists say headaches are caused by liver stress. My favourite liver-strengthening herbs are dandelion, yellow dock, milk thistle seed, and burdock. I use one at a time, a 15-25 drops of the tincture several times a day, for two weeks. If symptoms continue, I switch to a different herb.
A strong tea of garden sage leaves (Salvia officinalis) offers immediate relief from headaches and helps prevent future ones. It also reduces night sweats. Tinctures of skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) and St. Joan’s/John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) ease pain and relieve muscle spasms. Use 5-20 drops of skullcap and a dropperful of St.J’s at the very first sign – no, the very first thought – of a headache. Repeat the doses every five minutes until pain free. Skullcap can be quite sedative, especially in large doses.
Herbal Allies to Prevent Problems Caused by Taking Hormones
Breast cancer risk is increased 20% in women who use ERT for five or more years. Use of HRT for five or more years increases breast cancer risk by 40%. Each five years of continued use increases the risk. In addition, women who take ERT are far more likely to get uterine or endometrial cancers. All women on hormones increase their risks of lung and ovarian cancer, too. Nourishing herbs such as red clover, and foods such as beans and yogurt, offer easy ways to stay cancer-free.
Red clover blossoms (Trifolium pratense), when dried and brewed into a strong infusion (one ounce herb steeped in a quart of boiling water for at least four hours) prevent cancer by providing phytoestrogens that counter the cancer-promoting effects of oral hormones. Usual dose is 2-4 cups a day. The infusion tastes like black tea and can be flavoured with mint if you like.
Since uncooked beans and unfermented soy contain anti-nutritional factors that may promote bone loss and dementia, soy “milk” and tofu are not recommended. Miso and tamari definitely help to prevent breast cancer but soy isoflavones may promote it.
Yogurt helps build powerful immunity. Women who eat a quart of yogurt a week have 700% less cancer than women who eat no yogurt.
Dry eyes afflict more than 9% of women using ERT and over 7% of those on HRT. Risk increases by 70% for every year of continued use. And the longer a woman uses hormones, the greater her risk. Herbs such as oatstraw, chamomile, and chickweed can help relieve and prevent this problem.
Oatstraw infusion (Avena sativa) cools and moistens your eyes from the inside out, builds strong bones too. Use one ounce of dried herb in a quart jar; fill to the top with boiling water and cap tightly. Let steep four or more hours. Dose is 2-4 cups a day. Refrigerate after straining.
Cucumber slices ease dry eyes; so do chamomile tea bags.
The ultimate ally for women with dry eyes is fresh chickweed (Stellaria media), applied as a poultice to the closed eyes. Leave on for five minutes, or until the plant material feels warm (it will heat up). Repeat as needed.
Stroke and heart attack are actually increased by use of ERT/HRT, though modern medicine has long proclaimed the opposite. Every major double-blind study done to date has created a larger and larger gap between ERT/HRT’s supposed ability to help cardiovascular health and its actual results. Protect your heart with nourishing and tonifying herbs and foods such as motherwort, hawthorn, and cherries.
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) tincture helps the heart. The Japanese claim it is their secret of longevity. A dose is 5-15 drops, twice a day. Motherwort also relieves hot flashes, calms tachycardia, and eases anxiety. It’s an all-in-one remedy for menopausal women.
Hawthorn (Crataegus oxycantha) flowers, leaves, and fruits are all used to maintain heart health and control fluid build-up in heart tissues. A dose is 20- 30 drops of tincture 2-4 times a day, or a cup of tea with meals. This widespread shrub is considered one of the finest heart tonics in the world.
Cherries are even better than apples at keeping the doctor away. Dried cherries and cherry juice, even tincture of cherries.
More than three-quarters of the women in America over the age of fifty have refused ERT/HRT. If you want to join them, taper off your dosage slowly, while continuing to use nourishing and tonifying herbs such as dandelion, motherwort, red clover, oatstraw, and seaweed.
THERE ARE MANY TYPES OF OESTROGENS
Women make oestrogens
Plants make oestrogens and oestrogen-like compounds.
Chemicals, especially organochlorines, act like estrogens (xenoestrogens)
Pharmaceutical companies make oestrogens from substances such as horse urine, wild yam roots, and petrochemicals. Tamoxifen, used to treat and prevent breast cancer, is a type of pharmaceutical estrogen.
Women make at least thirty types of oestrogen, including estradiol, estrone, and estrace. Estradiol is the strongest; it is turned on at puberty and turned off at menopause. Estradiol is positively linked with breast cancer; other human estrogens are not. Anything that reduces the amount of estradiol a woman produces (such as pregnancy, lactation, early menopause, and late puberty) also decreases her risk of a breast cancer diagnosis.
Phytoestrogens counter the detrimental effects of estradiol by competing for the same receptor sites.
Estradiol is a strong oestrogen and is metabolized by the long path. The other estrogens our bodies make are weak oestrogens and are metabolized by the short path. Alcohol turns off the short path. Phytoestrogens are weak hormones and hormonal precursors. Phytoestrogens in foods are metabolized by the short path. Phytoestrogens appear to protect tissues from the cancer-causing effects of estradiol, xenoestrogens and pharmaceutical hormones. Phytoestrogens in foods prevent cancer and promote health; phytoestrogen supplements and processed soy fake-foods may do the opposite. Breast cancer occurs four times more often in women whose urinary output of phytoestrogen by-products is low compared to women whose urinary output is high.
Phytoestrogens are common in food. They are concentrated in seeds (grains, beans, nuts, berries) and roots. The exceptions to the rule that plants don’t contain human hormones: French beans, rice, apple seeds, liquorice, and pomegranate seeds contain the “weak” oestrogen oestrone.
To get the greatest benefit from phytoestrogen foods and herbs remember:
1. Isolated phytoestrogens are not as safe as those “in matrix.”
2. To make use of plant hormones, you need active, healthy gut flora.
3. Herbs and foods rich in phytoestrogens need to be used in different ways.
4. Phytoestrogens may have different effects on women who do not have their ovaries.
1. Plants contain many types of phytoestrogens; additionally, they contain minerals and other constituents which help our bodies modify the phytoestrogens and so we can use them safely. Red clover is mineral-rich and contains all four of the major types of phytoestrogens: lignans, coumestans, isoflavones, and resorcylic acid lactones. It is the world’s best-known anti-cancer herb. In general, foods and herbs rich in phytoestrogens, with the possible exception of licorice, show anti-cancer abilities. Isoflavone, however, when isolated (usually from soy) has the opposite effect: in the lab it encourages the growth of breast cancer cells.
2. Plant hormones, including most phytoestrogens, can’t be used by humans. But we can convert them into ones we can use – with the help of our gut bacteria. When women take antibiotics, their excretion of phytoestrogens plummets. Get your gut flora going by eating more yogurt, miso, unpasteurized sauerkraut, homemade beers and wines, picked-by-your-own-hands-and-unwashed fruits and salads, sourdough bread, and whey-fermented vegetables. (See <I>Nourishing Traditions</I> by Sally Fallon for whey-fermented vegetable recipes.)
3. Plants which are exceptionally rich in phytoestrogens are regarded as powerful herbal medicines. Plants which are good sources of phytoestrogens are regarded as foods. While food can certainly be our medicine – a practice I advocate – it is also true that medicines are more dangerous than foods. Foods rich in phytoestrogens are different than medicinal herbs rich in phytoestrogens. They have different places in my life.
I eat phytoestrogen foods daily in quantity.
I use phytoestrogen food-like herbs regularly (not daily), in moderate quantity.
I take phytoestrogen herbs rarely, in small amounts, for a limited time.
Phytoestrogenic foods are the basis for a healthy diet and a long life. The first food listed is the highest in phytoestrogens. The best diet contains not just one but many choices from each list:
Whole grains (rye, oats, barley, millet, rice, wheat, corn)
Edible seeds (buckwheat, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, amaranth, quinoa)
Beans (yellow split peas, black turtle beans, baby limas, Anasazi beans, red kidney beans, red lentils, soy beans)
Leafy greens and seaweed (parsley, nettle, kelp, cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards, lamb’s quarter)
Fruits (olives, cherries, grapes, apples, pears, peaches, plums, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, salmon berries, apricots, crab apples, quinces, rosehips, blueberries)
Olive oil and seed oils. Garlic, onions and their relatives leeks, chives, scallions, ramps, shallot
Phytoestrogen food-like herbs are generally considered longevity tonics. For optimum effect, use only one from the list below and to stick with it for at least three months.
Citrus peel, dandelion leaves and/or roots, fenugreek seeds, flax seeds, green tea, hops, red clover, red wine.
Phytoestrogen herbs are usually too powerful for long- term use. From the list below (which is in alphabetical order), it is safest to use only one herb at a time, and use it only when needed, although that may mean daily use for several months. More information about these herbs, including specific dosages and cautions, is in New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way
Agave root, black cohosh root, black currant, black haw, chaste berries, cramp bark, dong quai root, devil’s club root, false unicorn root, ginseng root, groundsel herb, liquorice, life root herb, motherwort herb, peony root, raspberry leaves, rose family plants (most parts), sage leaves, sarsaparilla root, saw palmetto berried, wild yam root, yarrow blossoms.
4. Most of the warnings about phytoestrogen herbs centre on their proven ability to thicken the uterine wall in animals who have had their ovaries removed. This could encourage cancer, just as taking ERT encourages cancer of the uterus by stimulating cell growth. Women without ovaries are probably safe eating phytoestrogen foods, but may want to use phytoestrogen herbs – especially ginseng, dong quai, licorice, red clover, and wild yam – in small amounts and only for short periods.
NEWS NOTES ON PHYTOESTROGENIC PLANTS
Recent studies indicate black cohosh does not suppress luteinizing hormone, has no estrogenic effect, and contains no compounds related to estrogen. Red clover flower heads contain many hormone-like flavonoids, including isoflavone, daidzein, genistein, formononetin, biochanin, sitosterol, and coumestrol, a particularly strong phytoestrogen (six times more active than the one in soy). Red clover contains all four major estrogenic isoflavones; soy has only two of them. A cup of red clover infusion (not tea) contains ten times more phytoestrogens than a cup of soy beverage, is richer in calcium, has less calories, and contains no added sugars.</LI>
Researchers in Australia report a million lambs a year are aborted after sheep eat clover on pasture. Yet red clover is renowned as a fertility enhancer. What’s up? Stephen Buhner, author of The Secret Language of Plants, says clover plants make blood-thinning compounds (which cause abortion) when overgrazed, but don’t otherwise. Plants, it turns out, can fight back.
When unfermented soy takes the place of animal protein (meat and milk), its anti-nutritional factors can create brittle bones, thyroid problems, memory loss, vision impairment, irregular heartbeat, depression, and vulnerability to infections. Unfermented soy is high in hemagglutinin, which causes clumping of red blood cells and may increase risk of stroke. It is also impressively rich in aluminium (up to 100 times more than is found in the same amount of real milk). Eating tofu more than once a week doubled the risk of Alzheimer’s in a small group of Japanese men studied for thirty years.
Human gut bacteria can cleave a sugar molecule from wild yam’s steroidal saponin, producing diosgenin. Labs make progesterone from diosgenin, but our bodies can’t. Dysgenic itself has a weak estrogenic effect. According to Australian herbalist Ruth Trickey: “A more probable explanation (for the observed effects of wild yam) … is that (diosgenin) interacts with hypothalamic and pituitary hormones and … initiates ovulation.”
The menopause is completely a natural phenomenon marking the end of a woman’s reproductive term, but not the end of her life. It is a transition time, the symptoms of which can be effectively managed.