Women going through menopause often experience problems with hot flashes (flushing), vaginal dryness, and irritability or depression related to low estrogen levels. Natural compounds have been shown to be helpful for reducing these symptoms and many women are looking for relief in over-the-counter (OTC) supplements to lessen their symptoms.
Estrogen-like Compounds in Food
There are a number of natural compounds in foods that have been studied and are found to be helpful for reducing these symptoms because of their estrogen-like effect in the body.
Soy and red clover (Trifolium pretense) contain isoflavones, which have a mild estrogenic effect in the body.
Research shows that it may take 3 to 6 months for soy isoflavone extracts to have a significant effect.-5-
Some women may not be able to absorb the isoflavones they consume. About 95% of isoflavones are bound to sugar, forming glycosides. These glycosides need to be broken down by microbes in the gut before the isoflavone can be absorbed. -2-
Black cohash has also been found to reduce menopausal symptoms although it is not well understood what compounds are responsible for its effectiveness. -2- Supplements are made from the roots and rhizomes of a plant in the buttercup family, Cimicifugia racemosa.
As with all supplements, it’s important to know that there is very little independent oversight in the supplement industry to make sure that supplements are free of contaminants and that ingredients and amounts are correct.
Breast Cancer Risk
There may also be concern for women with breast cancer. The American Cancer Society advises women with estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer to avoid supplements containing isoflavones, although foods containing soy have been found to be safe. -8-
Isoflavones in Soy Foods
Soy based foods also contain biologically active isoflavones. Studies have shown that consuming 20g to 60 g per day of soy protein can decrease hot flashes -9- 9. Natural medicines in the clinical management of menopausal symptoms. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database website. Tempeh, miso, and tofu, soy flour, soy protein and edemame (soy beans). However, soy oil and soy sauce do not contain these isoflavones.