Phytoestrogens - Can Plant Hormones Help Women In Menopause?
by Susun S. Weed
Author and voice of the Wise Woman Way
Phytoestrogens are weak hormones found in many plants. They are currently being promoted, sometimes in highly refined forms, for relief of the symptoms of menopause. Are they safe? Can they promote breast cancer?
Author and voice of the Wise Woman Way
We know that increased exposure to hormones - such as those used in the cattle industry, those given to women during menopause, those taken by women engaged in hi-tech pregnancy efforts, and even those naturally produced by our own bodies - increases our risk of being diagnosed with cancer, especially breast cancer. And many believe that hormone-like chemicals - xenoestrogens - increasingly found in our food and water, contribute to cancer as well. Doesn't that imply that phytoestrogens will increase cancer risk too?
Virtually everything we eat - grains, beans, nuts, seeds, seed oils, berries, fruits, vegetables, and roots - contains phytoestrogens. Scientists measuring the amount of phytoestrogen break-down by-products in the urine of healthy women found that those with the least were four times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than with the most. Phytoestrogens actually appear to protect tissues from the cancer-causing effects of xenoestrogens and other hormonal pollutants.
This seems simple - eat more phytoestrogens, be healthier - and it is, so long as we restrict ourselves to eating plants. But when the difference between food and medicine is disregarded, when phytoestrogens are isolated and concentrated, sold to us in pills and candy bars, then the equation changes: phytoestrogens become dangerous hormones, quite capable of promoting cancer.
To get the greatest benefit from phytoestrogenic foods and herbs remember:
- Isolated phytoestrogens are not as safe as those "in matrix."
- To make use of plant hormones, you need active, healthy gut flora.
- Herbs and foods rich in phytoestrogens need to be used in different ways.
- Phytoestrogens may have different effects on women who do not have their ovaries.
1.Plants contain many types of phytoestrogens; additionally, they contain minerals and other constituents which help our bodies modify the phytoestrogens and so we can use them safely. Red clover, for instance, is mineral-rich and contains all four of the major types of phytoestrogens: lignans, coumestans, isoflavones, and resorcylic acid lactones. It is the world's best-known anti-cancer herb. In general, foods and herbs rich in phytoestrogens, with the possible exception of licorice, show anti-cancer abilities. Isoflavone, however, when isolated (usually from soy) has the opposite effect: in the lab it encourages the growth of breast cancer cells (endnote 32 in New Menopausal Years).
2.Plant hormones, including most phytoestrogens, can't be used by humans. But we can convert them into ones we can use - with the help of our gut bacteria. When women take antibiotics, their excretion of phytoestrogens plummets. Get your gut flora going by eating more yogurt, miso, unpasteurized sauerkraut, homemade beers and wines, picked-by-your-own-hands-and-unwashed fruits and salads, sourdough bread, and whey-fermented vegetables (see Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon for whey-fermented vegetable recipes).
3.Plants which are exceptionally rich in phytoestrogens are regarded as powerful herbal medicines. Plants which are good sources of phytoestrogens are regarded as foods. While food can certainly be our medicine - a practice I advocate - it is also true that medicines are more dangerous than foods. Foods rich in phytoestrogens are different than medicinal herbs rich in phytoestrogens. They have different places in my life.
- I eat phytoestrogenic foods daily in quantity.
- I use phytoestrogenic food-like herbs regularly but not daily and in moderate quantity.
- I take phytoestrogenic herbs rarely, usually in small amounts and for a limited time.
Phytoestrogenic foods are the basis for a healthy diet and a long life. The first food listed is the highest in phytoestrogens. The best diet contains not just one but many choices from each list:
- Whole grains (rye, oats, barley, millet, rice, wheat, corn)
- Edible seeds (buckwheat, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, amaranth, quinoa)
- Beans (yellow split peas, black turtle beans, baby limas, Anasazi beans, red kidney beans, red lentils, soy beans)
- Leafy greens and seaweed (parsley, nettle, kelp, cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards, lamb's quarter)
- Fruits (olives, cherries, grapes, apples, pears, peaches, plums, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, salmon berries, apricots, crab apples, quinces, rosehips, blueberries)
- Olive oil and seed oils
- Garlic, onions and their relatives leeks, chives, scallions, ramps, shallot
The exceptions to the rule that plants don't contain human hormones:
- French beans, rice, apple seeds, licorice, and pomegranate seeds contain the "weak" estrogen estrone.
Phytoestrogenic food-like herbs are generally considered longevity tonics. For optimum effect, use only one from the list below and to stick with it for at least three months:
- Citrus peel, dandelion leaves and/or roots, fenugreek seeds, flax seeds, green tea, hops, red clover, red wine.
Phytoestrogenic herbs are usually too powerful for long-term use. From the list below (which is in alphabetical order), it is safest to use only one herb at a time, and use it only when needed, although that may mean daily use for several months. More information about these herbs, including specific dosages and cautions, is in 'New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way'.
- Agave root, black cohosh root, black currant, black haw, chasteberries, cramp bark, dong quai root, devil's club root, false unicorn root, ginseng root, groundsel herb, licorice, liferoot herb, motherwort herb, peony root, raspberry leaves, rose family plants (most parts), sage leaves, sarsaparilla root, saw palmetto berries, wild yam root, yarrow blossoms.
4.Most of the warnings about phytoestrogenic herbs center on their proven ability to thicken the uterine wall in animals who have had their ovaries removed. This could encourage cancer, just as taking ERT encourages cancer of the uterus by stimulating cell growth. Women without ovaries are probably safe eating phytoestrogenic foods, but may want to use phytoestrogenic herbs - especially ginseng, dong quai, licorice, red clover, and wild yam - in small amounts and only for short periods.
Phytoestrogens can be our friends. In a world that seems increasingly hostile and threatening, green allies offer us ways to stay safe and healthy, so long as we use them with wisdom and honor.
(This article is based on information in New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way, available from ashtreepublishing.com.)
Vibrant, passionate, and involved, Susun Weed has garnered an international reputation for her groundbreaking lectures, teachings, and writings on health and nutrition. She challenges conventional medical approaches with humor, insight, and her vast encyclopedic knowledge of herbal medicine. Unabashedly pro-woman, her animated and enthusiastic lectures are engaging and often profoundly provocative. Susun is one of America's best-known authorities on herbal medicine and natural approaches to women's health. Her four best-selling books are recommended by expert herbalists and well-known physicians and are used and cherished by millions of women around the world.
Visit her site susunweed.com for information on her workshops, apprenticeships, correspondence courses and more! Browse the publishing site ashtreepublishing.com to learn more about her alternative health books. Venture into the NEW Menopause site menopause-metamorphosis.com to learn all about the Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way. Email Susun Weed at firstname.lastname@example.org, write to PO Box 64, Woodstock, NY 12498 or call 845-246-8081.
Susun Weed's books include:
Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year
Author: Susun S. Weed. Simple, safe remedies for pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and newborns. Includes herbs for fertility and birth control. Foreword by Jeannine Parvati Baker. 196 pages, index, illustrations. Retails for $9.95 Get 20% off at: ash-tree-publishing.com
Author: Susun S. Weed. Superb herbal in the feminine-intuitive mode. Complete instructions for using common plants for food, beauty, medicine, and longevity. Introduction by Jean Houston. 312 pages, index, illustrations. Retails for $12.95 Get 20% off at: ash-tree-publishing.com
NEW Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way
Author: Susun S. Weed. The best book on menopause is now better. Completely revised with 100 new pages. All the remedies women know and trust plus hundreds of new ones. New sections on thyroid health, fibromyalgia, hairy problems, male menopause, and herbs for women taking hormones. Recommended by Susan Love MD and Christiane Northrup MD. Foreword by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. 304 pages, index, illustrations. Retails for $12.95 order at: ash-tree-publishing.com. For more great info on menopause, visit: menopause-metamorphosis.com
Breast Cancer? Breast Health!
Author: Susun S. Weed. Foods, exercises, and attitudes to keep your breasts healthy. Supportive complimentary medicines to ease side-effects of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or tamoxifen. Foreword by Christiane Northrup, M.D. 380 pages, index, illustrations. Retails for $14.95 Get 20% off at: ash-tree-publishing.com
Further Informative Articles
Healthy Sleep: A Guide to Natural Sleep Remedies
Repeated loss of sleep affects all areas of your life: The physical, the mental, and the emotional. Sleep deprivation can affect your overall daily performance and may even have an effect on your personality. If your sleeplessness is due to a pattern of not sleeping, or because your body and mind find it difficult to settle into a state of relaxation necessary for sleep, this book offers you alternative choices for achieving healthy sleep without the use of prescription drugs. With a free PDF to download.
Baby's First Year: What Every New Parent Needs to Know
Learn what you can expect in the first year of your baby's life. We offer tips and advice on everything from sleep to baby's first cold. This page will help you to make the most out of your baby's first year by giving you some basic guidelines and milestones to measure against. With a free PDF to download.
Creating Confident Kids
Although nobody gets a parenting manual in the delivery room, it is our duty as parents to try to make our kids as well rounded, happy and confident as possible.
Raising Children Who Succeed
It is one of the most powerful things any person alive can do, to choose to raise a child. To have a successful child we need to create a childhood that breeds success. Here's how...
Eating for Success
It might feel like we know a lot about food, but are we using that knowledge? And how can we be sure that what we are putting into our bodies is health, strength and energy?
Free Yourself from Panic Attacks
With all the stresses and strains of modern living, panic attacks are become a common problem for many people. Panic attacks occur when the pressure we are living under starts to creep up and overwhelm us. Thankfully panic attacks are very treatable.
Making Time Work For You
Of course we all have the same amount of time in the day. But some people struggle to get even the simplest of tasks completed while others can work a weeks worth of jobs into one single day. Time can be our worst enemy or our closest friend.
The Power of Gratitude
Having gratitude helps us to enjoy life more. It can break through huge barriers and reduce our stress loads, give us more confidence and help us to meet our goals. But how is it possible to be grateful in times of stress or when suffering from disappointment or sadness?
Reaching Your Full Potential
No matter what innate talents you were born with, what family you were born into, the money you have made or lost, or the times of difficulty or lucky breaks, nothing will get you to where you want to be better than understanding your full potential.
Exploring EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)
EFT works to free the user of both physical and emotional pain and relieve chronic conditions by healing the physical responses our bodies make after we've been hurt or experienced pain.
101 'Everyday' Tips for Losing 10 Pounds
This page is dedicated solely to the cause of losing weight - sometimes in the most surprising ways you ever heard of. There is only one thing that you have to bear in mind. Weight loss does not happen by itself. There are only two ways to accomplish it... The first is by watching what you eat and the second is by seeing to it that your body gets the exercise that it needs. As you go through the following topics, you'll be amazed by all the 'everyday' things you can be doing to lose 10 pounds... or more.
Transform Yourself at Home
One thing which has always put me off transforming myself is the thought of doing it in front of other people. It does not matter if they are male or female, I want to step out into the world as a transformed person and not let them see the me which existed beforehand. Life’s not that perfect, but over the last year I have decided to turn my home into a gym. That does not mean buying a lot of expensive equipment, it just means learning how to use the home to my advantage. Here’s why I’ve found working out at home to be really good for me...
- Don’t have to feel self-conscious
- Play whatever music you want
- You can make whatever noise you want too
- You can make mistakes without being judged
- Wear whatever you want
- Use the equipment you do have for as long as you want without feeling guilty
- You can superset everything
- No travel time to get to the gym and back
- No one to distract you
- You don’t have to look good to work out
- You don’t have to share facilities like water
- Long term it’s cheaper to work out at home
- No one asking for spots
- No need to talk to people
- People won’t ask you to train them
- Personalize your gym toward your needs
- Do it your style
- It can become a family gym
101 Ways to Get in Better Shape and Stay That Way!
Here are some tips for both health and fitness that will help you lose weight, discover ways to maintain a better healthy lifestyle, and be in the best shape of your life.
Food is Medicine
In the UK, 10,000 people are killed every year by adverse drug reactions, which happen when the prescription drug that is supposed to be curing them kills or harms them instead. Patrick Holford and Jerome Burne explain why food may be better medicine for your health than the drugs your doctor is likely to prescribe.
Nutrition and Cancer
Inadequate nutrition is one of the root causes of cancer, and although under-used by medical doctors, nutritional therapy can play an important part in recovery from cancer. This article gives more details. Recently updated with many links for further information about alternative cancer treatments and prevention.
Guided Imagery and Eating Disorders
This article by Joanna Poppink discusses how guided imagery and other methods that reach under the conscious thinking mind can be useful in helping people recover from eating disorders. People with eating disorders often have secrets from themselves. These are secrets about which they have little or no awareness.
Is there a Cure for Arthritis?
An informative report on the latest osteoarthritis breakthroughs and a dramatic true life story of how one person halted his osteoarthritis pain and reversed the progression of his disease.
Arthritis in Family Pets
Is your beloved pet not as active as before? Important information for anyone who owns a pet including the latest breakthroughs in fighting arthritis in pets, a debilitating disease for 30% of all dogs and cats.
Supplements: Are They Necessary & Are They Safe?
The argument goes that eating a varied diet rich in fruit and vegetables delivers the right amount of vitamins and minerals to the body and that high doses of synthetic supplements are unsafe. So don't bother with supplements. But this is a misleading distortion of the truth - read this article for the real picture.
Mental and physical exhaustion are very common symptoms, linked to the stressful lifestyle, poor diet and lack of exercise that so many people suffer. This article describes just what is going on and what you can do about it, describing the symptoms of stress and touching on the related topics of hypoglycemia, hypertension and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
What does it take to be happy?
Feeling good is not just a luxury, it is a vital necessity for good health and long life. This article tells you how.
5 Effective Tips To Kill Depression
Here are some superb tips to conquer the melancholy mood and get more happiness out of your daily activities.
Nutrition in the Treatment of Depression
This article (extracted from "Alcoholism--The Biochemical Connection" by Joan Larson) was written especially to help alcoholics, who are particularly prone to suffer from depression, but the information it contains will be valuable for every person who frequently feels depressed or unable to sleep through anxiety. Until these nutritional factors are handled no amount of positive thinking or psychotherapy can make much headway. This is the reason that I, as a psychologist, initially became interested in the subject of nutrition.
CFS or Low Level Mercury Poisoning?
We would like to draw your attention to an individual case of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS, also known as ME) which was not resolvable by nutritional means alone. This was because the real cause was Mercury poisoning, a form of toxicity which has very similar symptoms to CFS. If you have had a lot of dental fillings with silver/mercury amalgam, and you suffer from chronic fatigue, you may have the answer right there in your mouth!
The Dangers of Glyphosate Farming
Eliminating genetically modified foods from your diet and glyphosate from your garden or farm operations, may be the most important decisions you will ever make. You will never know the lives you’ll touch with it. It is not an economic decision at all, it is a moral one.