Medicine for Menopause
Certain foods or nutrient deficiencies are known to trigger or exacerbate symptoms of
menopause. Food also may boost the body's tolerance for fluctuating hormone levels. The
root of a wild Mexican yam has been used as a progesterone source for the birth control
Foods Containing Natural Estrogens
Estrogen Inhibiting Foods
Eating soy and its isoflavones are the most popular natural way to increase estrogen.
Soybean products such as tofu contain natural plant estrogens (called
may reduce menopausal symptoms. Soybean is the main active ingredient in Provera, the
top-selling HRT progestin in the USA. Soy, like hormone replacement, appears to lower
cholesterol and reduce bone loss in postmenopausal women. Phytoestrogens are also found in
lima beans, berries, and several other foods.
It's been scientifically proven that women can minimize, and perhaps eliminate,
menopausal hot flashes and mood swings by incorporating soy foods into their diets.
Italian researchers found that isolated soy protein can be used in place of hormone
replacement therapy. Investigators at the University of Bologna found that women receiving
a soy supplement realized a reduction of 45 percent in hot flashes. Other women in the
study, who were given a placebo, reported a 30 percent reduction. It was suggested that
the reduction in the incidence of hot flashes by soy group was due to the phytoestrogens
found naturally in soy.
All women in the study were aged 45 to 62. Those receiving the soy supplement took 60
grams each day over a 12-week period.
Research shows that Japanese women, who regularly consume soy products rather than
animal protein, report markedly fewer menopausal symptoms than American women. Japanese
women also have only one-fourth as much breast cancer as American women.
Substituting soy protein for animal protein can help slash breast cancer risk at any
age because of its genistein content. Genistein is a chemical that blocks an enzyme that
turns on cancer genes and inhibits the growth of new blood vessels needed to feed growing
cancers. The average Asian woman eats about 50 to 75 milligrams of genistein a day -- the
amount in about one serving of four ounces of firm or soft tofu.
Studies also show that eating a soy-rich diet can help build bone mass. This is because
eating animal protein washes away much more calcium out of the body through the urine than
consuming soy protein.
One study showed that women eating meat lost 50 milligrams more calcium per day than
when they ate the same amount of protein in soy milk. This is very significant. Difference
of 50 mg calcium loss a day can translate to substantial loss of bone mass when we spread
it over a 20 year period.
Common menopause symptoms such as mood swings and hot flashes, insomnia, depression,
diminished sexual vitality and decreased bone mass may be effectively managed by drinking
a cup of soy milk and eating four ounces of firm or soft low-fat tofu each day. (Tofu is
soybean curd and an excellent substitute for animal protein. Use it in salads, vegetable
stir fries, soups, or braise it with vegetables and serve over rice.)
There is some conflicts in the laboratory and animal studies regarding effectiveness of
soy supplements in reducing breast cancer. Some studies found that soy isoflavones act as
anticancer agents and others reported that the isoflavones may promote some breast tumors.
It is possible that isoflavones do both. Some scientists theorize that when eaten early in
life, as in Japan, foods with soy in them may help prevent cancer. However, the benefits
may not be there when they are eaten later in life.
Scientists from Tufts University School of Medicine suggested that the phytoestrogens
hasten the maturation of breast cells in young women, and once they're mature, they're
less susceptible to the effects of carcinogens. Soy, when added to the estrogen that is
normally present in young women, may make breast cells mature at a much faster rate and
protect against cancer. However, girls who do not consume soy are not similarly
protected, because without soy, levels of estrogen are too low to help mature breast
Many American women are introducing soy into the diet late in life, or are bypassing
the tofu and going directly to supplements that contain concentrated doses of soy protein
or isoflavones. This high-level, late-in-life consumption, these scientists say, may
It's wise to use soy foods, like soy milk and tofu, in moderate amounts in your diet.
But it may not be a good idea to use soy supplements or soy proteins or the isolated
isoflavone pills before we know their effects conclusively.
Isoflavones are a hundred to a thousand times less potent than the estrogen used in
hormone replacement therapy. However, some capsules contain as much as 500 milligrams of
isoflavones, while the average daily intake in Japan is 25 to 50 milligrams. Thus one can
easily consume hundreds of times the ideal amount from the supplements on the market far
more than what Japanese women consume
A good preventive measure is drinking at least eight glasses of purified water per day
for hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
Certain foods may trigger hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal discomforts, and other
menopausal symptoms. These culprits include sugar, caffeine, alcohol, refined foods, and
spicy foods. Keeping a diary that notes symptoms and food intake can be helpful in
pinpointing which foods may be provoking which symptoms.
Foods to Eat
A low-fat, high-fiber diet will help the body to adjust more easily to changing
Tofu and tempeh
Seeds and nuts (especially sunflower seeds)
According to Chinese medicine, the following foods will build the yin:
Wheat germ and wheat germ oil|
Mung beans and sprouts|
Black sesame seeds|
Royal jelly tonifies the female hormonal system. A normal dose is just 100-400
Foods that contain phytoestrogens help prevent hot flashes and other symptoms of
|Tofu and other soy products |
Foods rich in calcium help prevent osteoporosis:
|Dark, leafy greens, such as kale, collards, and broccoli|
See also: Foods Containing Natural Estrogens
Foods to Avoid
|Fat found in fried foods, dairy products, nut butters, etc.|
|Sugar and refined carbohydrates contribute to mood swings.|
|Caffeine can cause hot flashes.|
|Alcohol can cause hot flashes.|
See also: Estrogen Inhibiting
Generally speaking, for healthy bones, women require 800 to 1,000 milligrams of calcium
daily. During pregnancy, lactation, and menopause, calcium needs increase to 1,000 to
1,500 milligrams daily. To absorb calcium, your body needs Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the
small intestine absorb calcium and paves the way for calcium's uptake by bone.
Good food sources of calcium include dairy products, salmon, tuna, sardines (with the
bones), green leafy vegetables, and tofu. One of the best food sources of calcium is milk.
A cup of milk daily will give you a good start to meeting your calcium requirements. If
you are on a dairy-free diet, you may choose calcium-enriched soy milk instead. Some soy
milks are calcium enriched, while others are low in calcium, so read labels to be sure the
product you choose is a good source of calcium.
Avoid eating food that can steal minerals from your bones. Keep your consumption of
protein from animal sources (meat, fish, dairy products) to no more than 50 grams daily.
Avoid foods that contain phosphorus or phosphate additives. These include many processed
foods and fizzy soft drinks. If you consume beverages containing alcohol or caffeine,
either eliminate these items from your diet or keep your consumption to a moderate or low
Many substances from land and sea can help nourish bone. Among those recommended by
naturalists are various seaweeds (hijiki and kombu, for example), land weeds (dandelion
and nettles), the herb horsetail, microcrystalline hydroxyapatite (a whole-bone extract),
and calcium-rich oatstraw. Kelp is one of the most calcium-rich plants in nature.
Anecdotal reports also suggest that progesterone cream derived from wild yams can slow
bone loss and reduce fractures.
Diet for Urogenital Conditions
A report published in 1994 revived interest in cranberry juice to prevent urinary tract
In the first large-scale controlled study of its kind, researchers from the Harvard
Medical School studied 153 women over age 65. One randomly assigned group drank ten ounces
a day of a low-cal cranberry juice cocktail. A second randomly-assigned group drank the
same quantity of a drink that was not a juice, but tasted like a juice. After six months, the cranberry juice drinkers
had a 58 percent reduction in their risk of having bacteria and white blood cells (a sign
of infection) in their urine compared to the placebo group.
The juice drinkers' urine was no more acidic than the non-juice drinkers', suggesting
that cranberry juice's acidity is not what it controls harmful bacteria as some had
previously suggested. Cranberry juice may make it harder for bacteria to stick to the
bladder's inner wall and helps flush out bacteria in the urine. Therefore, while cranberry
juice can help prevent infections, it shouldn't be used as a substitute for antibiotics
with a urinary tract infection that is producing symptoms. Along with cranberry, other
members of the vaccinium family-for example, blueberry and bilberry-may also cut down on
urinary tract infections.
It has also been suggested that cranberry juice can reduce incontinence. We cannot find
any evidence supporting this. However, other foods are thought to influence incontinence.
Spices and spicy foods can irritate urgency problems, as can caffeine, alcohol, and acidic
foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits. Smoking is thought to substantially raise the risk
of developing incontinence by decreasing a woman's total circulating estrogens, which can
worsen urogenital atrophy. The coughing associated with smoking also can weaken pelvic
muscles that support bladder function.
See Also: Nutrition
Food and Estrogen
Next Topic: Herbal medicine
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