Sometime between the ages of 40 and 60, a woman experiences a drop in her estrogen levels and she stops having periods and may gain weight. The drastic change causes problems that range from annoying to serious, but treatment comes with its own set of risks. Many women want to know how to treat it without synthetic hormones.
If you are going through menopause, you may be experiencing a variety of unpleasant side effects, including night sweats and hot flashes. The drop in estrogen also causes health concerns that could affect you permanently, however. Your bones become more fragile as they lose bone mass making you susceptible to osteoporosis. You also face an increased risk of heart disease. With a lower supply of estrogen, your organs shrink and become weaker, possibly causing bladder control problems, as well. During and after the menopause stage, many women also gain weight.
To address all of the problems women have when they begin menopause, many doctors prescribe hormone replacement therapy. It keeps your body's estrogen levels at optimal levels, but many women are not comfortable with this treatment because of its potential risks. Women on hormone replacement therapy are at an increased risk for developing blood clots, heart disease and some forms of cancer. For this reason, you may benefit from learning about more natural alternatives.
Soy contains phytoestrogens, which are found in plants and have properties similar to those of estrogen, prompting researchers to study soy as a natural estrogen alternative. Greg Burke, M.D., leader of a study mentioned by Lynne L. Hall of the Federal Citizen Information Center, says that he and his fellow researchers believe that soy could offer the benefits of synthetic estrogen therapy without the associated health risks. A study at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC, found that women who increased their daily intake of soy-based products by 20 grams per day noted a decrease in the severity of their menopausal symptoms.
In Asia, soy is a larger part of the diet in Western countries. The FCIC points to some comparisons. Women in the United States are four times as likely to develop breast cancer or heart disease than are women in Asia. Women in Asia, who typically consume 30 to 50 grams of soy-based products a day, also report fewer and less severe menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats.
Soy-Based Products and Weight Loss
In addition to the other benefits that soy can offer for your menopausal symptoms, it may also help you prevent gaining weight in the midsection, another common side effect of low estrogen. In 2003, the National Center for Biotechnology Information conducted a study of 100 obese adults, half of whom were given a soy-based diet for 12 weeks. At the study's conclusion, they found that the participants on the soy-based nutritional plan lost more than twice as much weight as the control group. In addition, they lowered their total and LDL cholesterol levels far more drastically. No significant side effects were noted, leading the researchers to believe that replacing other foods with soy-based products can be effective for weight loss.
- Lynne L. Hall, Federal Citizen Information Center: Taking Charge of Menopause
- State University of New York at Fredonia: Menopause and Andropause
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine: A Novel Soy-Based Meal Replacement Formula For Weight Loss Among Obese Individuals: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial