Part 2: Phytoestrogens

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How are you all?

First of all, a big thank you for your overwhelming response and feedback to my last post on menopause. It is indeed a difficult phase when the mood swings, headaches, anxiety and hot flashes etc kick in but with a few lifestyle changes and diet modifications, we should be able to navigate it a lot better.

The first step would be to see our gynaecologist and discuss our symptoms as well as concerns with her/him.  The doctor might suggest some tests or prescribe certain supplements/medications, if needed.

Do get the necessary blood-work/bone-density tests done, as advised by the doc or your health consultant. Start on any supplements that are prescribed. While most of us would be alright without medications, some with severe symptoms would require hormone-therapy, in form of pills or patches.

Once all that is done, it is time for us to sit down and figure out a health-oriented lifestyle for us, if we haven’t started already. No better time than now to start some strength-training with some meditation on the side. In your 40s and 50s, if you still can’t find time for your own health then you better be brave, very brave…to face it all…with a weak body (and weak bones!) and a weaker mind!

In case you missed on my last post on the basics of menopause covering various types, its symptoms and other detailed info, do read it here first.

The rest of luckier ones with mild to moderate symptoms, should benefit significantly with some regular physical activity and some diet inclusions. These diet inclusions would be helpful only if your diet is a balanced one, rich in whole-grains, whole foods and includes lot of fresh fruits/ vegetables.

With that out of the way, let’s move to phytoestrogens now.

Phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens are natural plant-compounds which have similar chemical structure to that of estrogen hormone. The good thing about these compounds is that they mimic animal estrogens and our human body responds well to them.

Estrogen is a hormone that promotes sexual and reproductive development and in women especially, this hormone plays a vital role in regulating the monthly menstrual cycles and breast-development.

These are more commonly found than we probably know. People having a balanced diet especially from plant sources easily get phytoestrogens through their diets.

However, this efficacy is limited. Someone having severe symptoms might not benefit solely from them. If your symptoms are mild-moderate, adding dietary phytoestrogens is always a good idea.

Sources

Many plant-based foods contain phytoestrogens, some more than the others. Some even have anti-estrogen effects. Anyways, significant sources of phytoestrogens for menopausal relief, are:

  • Soybeans and edamame – Tofu (highest of all soy products), tempeh (fermented soy product and a great probiotic too), miso, soymilk, whole edamame or even edamame pasta/noodles, have your fix. Edamame is green, immature soybeans, commonly sold frozen or unshelled in their pods. They are not only rich in protein but are unprocessed – full of many vitamins and minerals. They are all rich in isoflavones (a phytoestrogen)
  • Flax seeds – Rich in lignans, a chemical compound that works as phytoestrogens and plays an important role in decreasing the risks of breast cancer in postmenopausal women
  • Dried fruits – A rich source of phytoestrogens- dates, prunes and dried apricots make for easy, fibrous snacks too
  • Sesame seeds (Til seeds) – Packed with fibre and a cholesterol-improver, try 50 gms of sesame powder daily for 5 weeks and see if it helps. Don’t forget to give me your feedback if it works for you!
  • Garlic – With multiple health benefits, garlic oil supplements might also help with bone-loss related to estrogen deficiency
  • Black cohosh – A native-American plant and medicine, black cohosh is primarily used for women’s menopausal health and relieving associated symptoms. Make sure you have no liver issues before you consider black cohosh though! It is available as solo-supplements and as blends as well. Do not take it for than 6 months at one go 🙂
  • Veggies – like cauliflowers, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprout and carrots are rich in phytoestrogens
  • Peaches – rich in lignans, a phytoestrogen that decreases the risk of breast cancer, might help
  • Angelica Sinensis or Dong quai – Root from this plant has some effects on estrogen and it may affect other hormones in the body, relieving menopausal symptoms. Dong quai also contain coumarins, which give it blood thinning effects in the body – so make sure it does not contradict any medications that you take
  • Legumes – such as peas, beans and peanuts
  • Berries – loaded with vitamin, minerals, fibre and phytoestrogens, strawberries, cranberries and raspberries are rich sources of everything good
  • Wheat bran – Rich in lignans, wheat bran is a concentrated rich source
  • Other than above, evening primrose, red clover, licorice root also are said to be good sources of phytoestrogens

Benefits Of Phytoestrogens

Perimeopause/Menopause can bring on many uncomfortable symptoms, usually in late 40s. These symptoms might include hot flashes, mood-swings, decreased libido, vaginal dryness, depression, headaches etc. Many researches have suggested that phytoestrogen greatly reduce these symptoms and:

  • help prevent bone-loss in aging women, just like natural estrogen hormone in our bodies
  • relieve menstrual symptoms or irregular cycles
  • decrease cholesterol levels

In The End

Do remember that phytoestrogens can indeed provide benefits and relief but they can be as unsafe as synthetic hormones. Synthetic hormones can increase the risk for obesity, reproductive disorders, hormonal imbalance, uterine disorders, cancers and birth-disorders/miscarriage in pregnant women…and the same risks apply to phytoestrogens.

Dietary intake of phytoestrogen-rich foods is generally safe in moderation however, be careful with the high-dosage supplements. Avoid taking high doses of phytoestrogens and for long durations, to be on the safer side. Also, do let your doctor know if you want to add a high-dosage phytoestrogen supplement. Make sure your supplements are from a reputed brand/source.

As a soon-to-be health consultant myself, I would highly appreciate you giving your feedbacks to me on any supplements (for menopausal relief) that you start and benefit from (or not!). A big, warm hug to all those who already give me feedbacks 🙂

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Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Part 1: Understanding Menopause

Hi Friends

Happy Friday! How are you all?

Today’s post is something that I have recently researched a lot on. One of my close friends is undergoing a ‘surgical menopause‘ (due to ovarian cyst) and the sudden stopping of hormone supply in her body has left her very disturbed: physically and mentally. The symptoms associated with menopause is what makes the word itself scary, to me and I am sure, to everyone else.

I am a strict follower of the notion that most of our life-problems can be cured/reversed/prevented/managed/maintained through suitable nutrition combined with some lifestyle changes (which invariably includes physical fitness). This belief led me to read and research more on menopause and related things – which I now want to share with you.

I am sure it is important for women to know what to expect so as to cope better when menopause happens. And it is equally important for men too , in order to be supportive when it happens.

First, What Is Menopause?

Menopause is the final period for a woman which occurs when ovaries stop producing the governing hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. It is considered confirmed when no periods happen for 12 consecutive months.  It is not a reversible process.

I have seen many friends and family members including my mom, go through it and experiencing a lot of discomfort, due to it all.

Did You Know?

Like the start of periods, to predict someone’s menopausal age, it is often said to look at the mother. The daughter is more likely to get both – periods and menopause, at the same age as her mother. So, genetics works yes. Do you also know that ‘genetics’ can be changed by nutrition and physical fitness? But more on that, some other day!

Types/Causes of Menopause

  • Naturally Occurring – Most common form, natural menopause happens between the age of 40 to 58. It happens gradually over a period of years – ranging from 4 to 10 years
  • Premature Menopause – Happens before the age of 40, premature menopause is considered abnormal and is often associated with autoimmune disorders as well as increased risk of developing osteoporosis
  • Induced Menopause – Happens when ovaries get injured in some way or with chemotherapy, radiation or a surgery. Induced or surgical menopause is sudden and the symptoms could be intense, as you are left unprepared

Other Associated Terms

  • Perimenopause – starts happening in 40s commonly. Might induce weight gain, mood swings, irregular periods etc. Since menopause doesn’t happen overnight normally, the ovaries gradually decrease the production of hormones. This gradual process can take several years and is often referred to as menopausal transition, average being 4 years. Some months, the hormone production could be normal, in some not so normal. However, many women do not get any symptoms till actual menopause
  • Premenopause – no changes or symptoms per say, just a gradual shift in the body/hormones
  • Postmenopause – means the period after menopause

Menopausal Symptoms – Different for every woman and ranging from mild to severe, menopausal (or perimenopausal) symptoms include:

  • Lighter and irregular periods in general
  • Hot flashes/flushes – ranging from moderate to severe, these could also bring anxiety or heart palpitations/racing heart issues. Lasting for 1-5 minutes and can occur once every day….to many per day!
  • Vaginal dryness – due to a lack of oestrogen, the walls lose moisture as well as volume and become dry, getting easily irritated
  • Dry skin, mouth and eyes
  • Disturbed sleep, insomnia, night sweating etc
  • Emotional symptoms – anxiety, depression, mood swings
  • Weight gain – especially in waist region, this type of weight gain is quite unhealthy and increases the risk of heart concerns
  • Memory or concentration issues
  • Tender breasts
  • UTIs and urinary-inconsistency
  • Headaches
  • Reduced muscle mass
  • Hair thinning/loss on head
  • Joint pains

The first thing to do when one start experiencing menopausal or premenopausal symptoms, is to see a good gynaecologist. When I say good, I mean someone who would be patient enough to explain everything and answer all our queries. It is a taxing time for women – physically and mentally, both. A difficult or ‘too busy’ doctor would be the last thing we would want, right?

There are various tests to confirm the menopause process which the doctor might suggest. Also, you already might be on certain medications or might require additional investigation for let’s say, thyroid etc.

In The End

Menopause is simply a part of the process of getting older, not a disease. The good news is that in naturally occurring menopause, most women do not require any medical treatment. One can always discuss hormone-replacement therapies and other medication (for severe symptoms) as well as supplements (calcium/D3 etc) with their gynaecologist, if needed.

One would also benefit greatly with certain lifestyle changes such as a good, balanced diet, meditation and some sort of physical activities. Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol-intake helps too. Some strength-training would be great as we start losing muscles as well as have weaker bones now. Make sure to talk to a mental health expert in case you face any sort of stress that you feel unable to cope with, on your own.

This was all for today’s post on the basics of menopause. In the next post, let’s discuss various things/changes and foods (including phytoestrogens) that might help with the menopausal/perimenopausal symptoms once you are through with your preliminary visit to the gynaecologist in this regard.

Meanwhile if you are interested in understanding olive oil and various facts/myths associated with it, do keep checking my Instagram stories.

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Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace