Article by Dr Marilyn Glenville
Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritonist, who specialises in women’s health author of Natural Solutions to Menopause answers another reader’s question as part of our #MenopauseMonday series.
Isabella: I am going through the menopause. Are there any foods that can help ease the symptoms?
To balance your hormones you should include phytoestrogens in your diet. Phytoestrogens are plant foods that can have an oestrogen-like activity and a hormone-balancing effect on your body. They include pulses such as lentils, chickpeas and soya products. Over 300 foods including fruits, vegetables, seeds, legumes and grains have been found to have this oestrogenic effect but there differences in the type and strength of the phytoestrogens in these different foods.
Phytoestrogens became of interest to scientists when they realised that women in certain traditional cultures like Japan, who eat a diet rich in these plant foods, have fewer menopausal symptoms than Western women, and also a lower incidence of breast cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis.
Plant foods that help to balance your hormones
Phytoestrogens are really important in helping combat the effects of the perimenopause and the menopause. Put simply, these plant foods help to balance your hormones. They supply you with on oestrogenic ‘activity’ (where needed), which will help with the symptoms of the menopause such as hot flushes, night sweats and memory changes, but without risking a serious illness such as cancer. It is helpful to know how they do this – there are three kinds of phytoestrogens:
– Isoflavones: Found in high concentrations in legumes such as soya, chickpeas and lentils.
– Lignans: The highest amounts are found in flaxseeds (linseeds) but also in other oil seeds (such as sesame and sunflower seeds), cereals (such as rice, oats and wheat) and vegetables (such as broccoli and carrots).
– Coumestans: Found in sprouted mung and alfalfa beans
Isoflavones are particuarly important when you are going through the menopause. There are four different types of isoflavones, and different legumes contain different ratios of them. Each of these isoflavones will have different benefits, so variety is the key.