Phytoestrogens and Hot Flashes

Hot flashes, or vasomotor flushes, affect 50-85% of menopausal women (Northrup, 2006).  The exact cause is unknown however it is thought to be related to neurotransmitter changes.

Phytoestrogens (naturally occurring estrogens in plants) can play an important part in a menopausal diet.  These plant derived estrogens weakly bind to hormone receptors in our bodies, causing a weak estrogen response in some tissues OR an anti estrogen response in other tissues (Hudson, 2006).  Significant amount of phytoestrogens are found in soybeans and flaxseeds.  It has been found that in populations that eat a high amount of foods containing phytoestrogens, hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms occur less frequently (ie. it is hypothesized that Japanese women have a lower incidence of hot flashes because of the consumption of high amounts of soy).  A randomized, double blind placebo controlled trial showed that women consuming soy protein had a decreased incidence of hot flashes, an increase in vaginal moisture and an improved quality of life (Dupree et al., 2005).

If you have a problem digesting Soy, ground flax seeds offer a high amount of phytoestrogens and can be added to cereals, oatmeal or smoothies.

Figure 34-17 Physiology of estrogen and the estrogen receptor. Estrogen binds to estrogen receptors in the cytoplasm or in the nucleus In:Townsend: Sabiston Textbook of Surgery, 18th ed. 2007 Elseiver

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