PHYTOESTROGENS & HERBAL SUPPLEMENTS

Understanding Phytoestrogens

Women in Surgical Menopause who are not a candidate to take hormones and HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) due to cancer diagnosis, endometriosis, or other health concerns frequently turn to alternative methods to relieve their symptoms. One tool for relief are herbal supplements but it is important to note that in many cases, herbal supplements marketed to relieve menopausal symptoms and towards women in menopause contain Phytoestrogens. In the majority of cases Phytoestrogens cannot be taken by women who are unable to take HRT for medical reasons. The justification for this is that Phytoestrogens, or plant-based estrogens, produce an estrogenic effect within the body that is similar to that of hormones. Therefore consuming foods and herbs that contain Phytoestrogens can put women at risk of further health problems, or recurrence of those problems, if they fall into the aforementioned group.

 

The term Phytoestrogen is derived from the Greek word “phyto,” or plant, and “estrogen”, being the primary hormone produced by a woman’s ovaries. Phytoestrogens are defined as dietary estrogens because they are not created by the human body, therefore they have to be consumed through herbs, plants, and food.

 

Phytoestrogens have the ability to both mimic estrogen as well as to act as an estrogen antagonist. To be an estrogen antagonist means to respond in an opposite way than natural estrogen does in the body. Phytoestrogens work by attaching themselves to estrogen receptors in the human body the same way estrogen produced by the ovaries does.  Because they possess a  weaker form of estrogen, they provide less stimulation of cell receptor sites. 

 

Phytoestrogens have garnered a mixed reputation because in young woman and in men, their consumption results in extra estrogen in the body when it is not needed. This can lead to a variety of hormone and fertility problems in both parties. However, in the case of older women in natural menopause or women in Surgical Menopause, who opt to go the natural route but are not forbidden from taking HRT for medical reasons, Phytoestrogens can prove beneficial in treating decreased estrogen levels. Some Bioidentical HRT's, such as Bioidentical estrogen patches, even utilize common Phytoestrogens such as Wild Yam and Soy as their estrogen source.

 

Herbal supplements that contain Phytoestrogen

For women in Surgical Menopause who are unable to take HRT due to cancer, endometriosis or other health issues triggered by hormones, it is essential that you research herbal products as well as their ingredients and run them by your doctor before you take them in case they contain Phytoestrogens. The following is a list of some of the more common Phytoestrogens and Phytoestrogen containing products on the market today:

 

  • Estrovera by Metagenics

  • Siberian Rhubarb

  • Black Cohosh

  • Horny Goat Weed

  • Maca Root and Maca 

  • Soy

  • Flax

  • Red clover

  • Evening primrose

  • Dong quai

  • Ginkgo

  • Ginseng

  • Wild yam

  • Chasteberry

  • Valerian root

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