Natural estrogens (or phytoestrogens) help calm the symptoms of menopause and in case of acne, osteoporosis, or a painful cycle. Let’s find out what plant estrogens are, where they are found, how to take them, and the contraindications. Let’s start with their name: estrogens are common hormones produced mainly by the female sex and to a lesser extent by men that regulate the functionality of some specific systems, first of all, the reproductive one; the term natural, it comes by itself, indicates that they are found in nature, particularly in certain foods, such as legumes.
Plant estrogens are also called ” phytoestrogens,” Their molecular structure, although not identical, is very similar to that of the hormones secreted by the body, such as estradiol. What does this mean? It means that when we introduce them through food, our body absorbs them and reacts as if it were faced with human estrogen.
How? For example, by reducing the effects of imbalances related to premenopause or menopause itself: hot flashes, breast pain, fatigue, also acting positively on osteoporosis and consequently improving the condition of nails and hair. Incorporating natural phytoestrogens into your diet is simple as they are found in a wide variety of vegetables and legumes: soy, peas, beans, lentils, flax seeds, cereals, etc.
Natural Estrogens: What Are They?
Let’s now proceed to a brief classification of phytoestrogens that will better understand which foods it is possible to identify and what functions they perform within the body.
- Isoflavones This class of plant phytoestrogens is found mainly in the legumes mentioned above. Their main activity is to promote an appropriate hormonal structure in women in more or more minor advanced age or in the period in which they are about to enter menopause when there is a drop in estrogen production. Another feature of isoflavones is to keep bad cholesterol and triglycerides at bay, thus protecting the cardiovascular system.
- Lactones This is a group of naturally occurring phytoestrogens that are poorly studied and mentioned for completeness purposes. Lactones do not exhibit estrogenic activity, such as to be compared to isoflavones or lignans, and are produced by the contamination of Fusarium fungi to plants and cereals.
- Cumestans are found mainly in plant shoots, clover, and Brussels sprouts. They, too, have a milder action than isoflavones but still support promoting hormonal stimulation and preventing osteoporosis.
- Lignans are present in most cereals, mainly defined as the cuticle, and take on an estrogenic-like activity when fermented by the intestinal flora. They help reduce menopausal disorders, increase bone density, keep cholesterol levels low, and ultimately antithrombotic action.
Benefits Of Natural Estrogen
The intake of natural female hormones can be a therapy associated with a drug treatment (think, for example, of HRT or hormone replacement therapy). It can be prescribed as the only remedy, given its beneficial benefits to our body. So let’s see how the consumption of these substances can act in certain situations:
Osteoporosis is linked to the loss of bone density and is usually counteracted with calcium intake. However, it should be borne in mind that female hormones also contribute to bone health; it follows that when these hormones decrease during menopause, the risk of developing this condition increases. A diet or taking supplements containing phytoestrogens can prevent osteoporosis and preserve bone density.
One of the causes of acne is the excessive production of androgens, another type of hormone secreted by both the male and female sex, responsible for the enlargement of the sebaceous glands and, consequently, for the increased production of sebum. Counteracting androgens with natural female hormones could considerably improve the situation.
Menopause And Associated Symptoms
As already mentioned, menopause and premenopause are characterized by a hormonal imbalance that causes a whole series of physical discomfort: sudden excessive sweating, fatigue, mastodynia (breast pain), vaginal dryness, etc. Combating these disorders with phytoestrogens is possible and indeed highly recommended, especially for women living in the West, where this symptomatology occurs frequently compared to Asian women.
The intake of natural hormones can alleviate even those painful menstrual cycles caused, for example, by oligomenorrhea (processes very distant from each other), both as regards the purely physical aspects, and therefore, the reduction of pain, and for the parts psychological, such as anxiety and depression. Other possible benefits of natural estrogen include:
- Antioxidant action against free radicals
- Reduction of cholesterol levels
- Prevention of heart disease
- Anti-aging action
- Strengthening of nails and hair
Natural Estrogen: How Is It Taken?
The intake of phytoestrogens in menopause and other specific moments of our life can be constituted by a simple introduction of more foods in our diet. Through a targeted diet in which the foods we usually consume, we also add those foods known to contain high amounts of phytoestrogens.
Alternatively, suppose the diet is not sufficient or, for whatever reason, we could not consume some of these foods. In that case, there are supplements on the market, primarily tablets, created ad hoc to meet everyone’s needs. However, remember that both in the case of nutrition and (especially) in the case of the use of supplements, it is necessary to contact a professional, such as a nutritionist, who indicates the doses to be taken daily and for how long.
Foods Rich In Phytoestrogens
At this point, we list some of the foods that contain the most significant amounts of natural estrogen. As you can see, these are readily available foods and can be eaten at any time of the day. Foods rich in natural estrogen are:
- Soy and derivatives (milk, tofu, tempeh, miso)
- Sunflower seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sprouts of alpha alpha
- Mung bean sprouts
- Dates and plums
- Chickpeas and legumes in general
- Walnuts, almonds, and dried fruit
Natural Estrogen: Side Effects
Although these are substances present in nature, their effect on the body may not necessarily be without consequences. Taking estrogen in menopause could increase the risk of weight gain and obesity since these hormones are usually involved in the distribution of fat and its storage in the lower part of the body. Attention should also be paid to the massive intake of isoflavones, lignans, etc.
If you suffer from some pathologies related to the reproductive system, there are no imbalances, and the organs can work correctly. Phytoestrogens could also cause breastfeeding difficulties and are not recommended during pregnancy. Finally, their role in preventing breast or ovarian cancer is still too much debated and uncertain. Therefore, if there is a history of cancer in these parts of the body, the doctor must always approve the consumption of natural estrogen.
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