Are Phytoestrogens "Phine" for Your Menopausal Symptoms?

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( [email protected] ) Jan 17, 2006 03:42 PM EST

While many women pass through menopause with the termination of menses and no side effects, other women experience symptoms lasting months to years. Hot flashes, night sweats, urinary urgency and frequency, insomnia, depression, failing memory, hair texture changes, skin elasticity changes, thickening waistlines, vaginal dryness and a low sex drive are common menopausal concerns, although this list is by no means complete. Many hormones change occur during this phase of life, each change accompanied by its own signs and symptoms. The conditions listed above are attributed mainly to estrogen decline.

If any of these conditions describe symptoms you are experiencing during menopause, successful, treatment may be achieved with certain foods and herbal medicines that contain phytoestrogens. These chemical constituents found in plants are structurally similar to estrogen, although they are weaker in action and have been used historically for their hormone-like effects.

"Phinding" the Right Phytoestrogen

Initially, it is best to address menopausal concerns with a diet high in phytoestrogenic foods such as soy products (not more than one serving per day), flaxseeds, alfalfa, beans and lentils, apples, carrots, wheat germ, pomegranates, rice bran, berries, oats and barley . Plain organic yogurt or acidophilus supplements should be consumed daily to provide the beneficial bacteria essential for healthy estrogen metabolism in the digestive tract.

If symptoms are not resolved, herbal medicines containing phytoestrogens, used alone or in combination and with the guidance of a health care provider, are your next option. These products are available at most health food stores and should be purchased in standardized form and taken on an empty stomach for maximum effectiveness.

A 0„3¡ãPhew0„3¡À Phytoestrogenic Herbs

Red Clover: Clover extracts taken at a dose of 160 mg isoflavones/day produce significant beneficial effects and offer cancer protection.

Licorice: In addition to its phytoestrogenic properties, licorice also supports the immune system and is particularly useful in menopause if chronic stress is an issue. Licorice has the ability to influence adrenal gland function and cortisol levels. Licorice may be taken alone at a dose of 200 mg two to three times per day or in combination with adrenal extracts or herbal medicines. Individuals with high blood pressure should not take supplements containing licorice.

Dong quai: Dong quai may be of assistance with hot flashes and vaginal dryness especially when used in combination with the herbs black cohosh and chasteberry. A typical dose is 400 to 800 mg/day in capsule form or 1/4 to 1/2 tsp liquid extract three times a day.

Hops: This herb possesses phytoestrogenic properties and has sleep-enhancing effects. It has been found to improve hot flashes, anxiety and sleep problems associated with menopause.

Black Cohosh: Although heavily marketed as an herb for menopause, black cohosh does not actually contain phytoestrogens. However, several studies, including one recently presented in The Journal of Women's Health in September 2005 have reported that it provides safe and effective relief of hot flashes and possible mood disorders associated with menopause. Take 200mg twice per day.

Phytoestrogens can provide relief from symptoms of changing estrogen levels at menopause. Other hormones, including progesterone and testosterone, also change during menopause. Depending on your experiences during menopause, additional herbal medicines with hormone-influencing qualities can be used in conjunction with phytoestrogens to allow safe and effective menopausal support with minimal risk of future health concerns.

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