Contrary to previous findings, a new study suggests that phytoestrogen and fiber consumption may not affect menopausal symptoms.
The word "phytoestrogen" is derived from phyto, meaning "plant" and estrogen, because of the ability of these compounds to affect estrogenic activity in the body. Phytoestrogens are a diverse group of polyphenolic, nonsteroidal plant compounds that may cause both estrogenic and antiestrogenic effects.
The three major classes of phytoestrogens are isoflavones, lignans and coumestans. Isoflavones are prominent in soy-based foods. Lignans are minor components of cell walls and fibers of seeds, fruits, berries, vegetables, grains and nuts. Linseed (flaxseed) is a rich source of lignans. The primary coumestan is coumestrol. It is found in alfalfa and clovers, and in low levels in soybeans and peas.
In a new study, researchers analyzed data on 3,302 premenopausal and early perimenopausal women from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation to evaluate the effects of phytoestrogen and fiber consumption on menopausal symptoms. Dietary consumption of phytoestrogens and fiber were evaluated through questionnaires at the beginning of the study and at annual visits throughout a 10 year period. The frequency of menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, was self-reported.
Through data analyses, the researchers found that while there were some significant links individually, a consistent relationship between phytoestrogen and fiber intake with menopausal symptoms was lacking.
The authors concluded that a based on their findings, phytoestrogens and fiber may not affect menopausal symptoms; however, well-designed clinical trials are needed before firm conclusions can be made.
In addition to phytoestrogens, sage may contain compounds that act like the hormone estrogen. In theory, these compounds may decrease symptoms of menopause. Sage has been tested against menopausal symptoms with promising results. More study is needed in this area. Additionally, there has been limited research on acupuncture for menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and menopause-related high blood pressure. However, because results are mixed, further research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
For more information about integrative therapies for menopausal symptoms, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.
For more information about phytoestrogens, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.