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What should I include in my diet to help treat symptoms of menopause?

Symptoms of menopause may be alleviated with a diet low in fat and high in soy. Soy products contain phytoestrogens, which are plant compounds that have estrogen-like biological activity. The active phytoestrogen in soy is s-equol, a metabolite of the daidzen and genisten. But s-equol is only produced from soy through bacteria in the gastrointestinal system, and only 30 percent of western population women have the right bacteria for production of s-equol, so many women will not benefit from soy in the diet. For those who do, phytoestrogens are found in soy products (e.g., tofu, tempeh, miso, soybean milk, and meat substitutes and soy powders for adding to foods or to smoothies), in linseed (flaxseed) products, and to a lesser extent, in fruits, vegetables, cereals and seeds. Concentrated plant estrogens in tablet form have not been shown to be effective. Studies show that the optimal amount of soy is about 40 grams per day to alleviate hot flashes.

Patricia Geraghty, NP
Women's Health

Typically women have sought to increase plant products that have weak estrogen-like activity. These are called phytoestrogens. The most well known source is soy, such as tofu, tempeh, miso and soy "milk." A diet with 40 grams of soy is usually recommended. Phytoestrogens are also found in the cell walls of linseed and can be made available by grinding or milling the seeds. However, in reviewing many studies, soy and isoflavones are not shown to be effective in reducing hot flashes and night sweats. This is possibly due to the population or the women in the studies. The actual effective ingredient in isoflavones is S-equol. Gut micro-biota change the isoflavone to S-equol. Only about 30 percent of the USA population metabolizes isoflavone to S-equol, compated to 80 percent of the Japanese population. No studies have been done on a select population of isoflavone metabolizers.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.