“Phytoestrogens (plant oestrogens) are substances that occur naturally in plants. They have a similar chemical structure to our own body’s oestrogen…”.1

Umbrella
What may the Phytoestrogens Umbrella include?

Depending on the Source (DotS) this Umbrella may include:

  • Isoflavones
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Plant Estrogens
  • Red Clover
  • Soy Isoflavones

Definition

What are phytoestrogens?

DotS the definition of phytoestrogens may vary. The (United States) National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s (NCCIH) definition is:

  • “Phytoestrogens are substances from plants that have chemical structures similar to those of the female hormone estrogen. The isoflavones found in soy and red clover are examples of phytoestrogens. Flaxseed is another phytoestrogen source”.2

The (Australian) Jean Hailes for Women’s Health’s (JH) definition is:

“Phytoestrogens (plant oestrogens) are substances that occur naturally in plants. They have a similar chemical structure to our own body’s oestrogen (one of the main female hormones), and are able to bind to the same receptors that our own oestrogen does”.3

Menopause Symptoms

Is there an association between menopause symptoms and phytoestrogens?

In Hot Flashes: What Can I Do? Buyer Beware: Unproven, Nonscientific “Treatments” for Hot Flashes according to the (United States) National Institute on Aging (NIA):

Phytoestrogens “Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like substances found in some cereals, vegetables, and legumes (like soy), and herbs. They might work in the body like a weak form of estrogen, but they have not been consistently shown to be effective in research studies, and their long-term safety is unclear”.4

In Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth – What’s the Bottom Line? the NCCIH note:

  • “Phytoestrogens, herbs, and other natural products haven’t been clearly shown to relieve menopause symptoms”.5

Soy or Red Clover

Is there an association between soy or red clover and menopause symptoms?

In Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth – What the Science Says About Complementary Approaches for Menopause Symptoms: Natural Products – Phytoestrogens the NCCIH explain:

  • “Studies that tested isoflavones from soy or red clover for their ability to relieve menopause symptoms have had inconsistent results. Studies of flaxseed products found them to be no more effective than a placebo (an inactive substance) in reducing hot flashes”.6

Gut Bacteria

Is there an association between gut bacteria and phytoestrogens?

In Phytoestrogens: Why Phytoestrogens May Be Beneficial for Women the JH elaborate on:

“Some studies have shown potential benefits of phytoestrogens in regard to cardiovascular risk, bone density and menopausal symptoms. About a third of women who eat a diet that delivers amounts of phytoestrogens typical of an Asian diet (particularly from soy foods) find that their menopausal symptoms improve. This is because only about one third (and possibly up to a half) of all people have the specific gut bacteria that converts soy isoflavone (phytoestrogen) diadzien, to the more potent form, equol”.7

Hot Flushes

Is there an association between hot flushes and phytoestrogens?

In Phytoestrogens: Key Points the JH explain:

  • “The effect of phytoestrogens on menopausal hot flushes varies between individuals, as only a third to a half of ondividuals have the gut bacteria that convert the phytoestrogens to a more potent form”.8

Safety

Are phytoestrogens safe?

In Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth – What the Science Says About Complementary Approaches for Menopause Symptoms: Natural Products – Phytoestrogens the NCCIH note:

  • “Phytoestrogens appear to be safe for short-term use, but their long-term safety hasn’t been established. Because phytoestrogen supplements may have effects like those of the hormone estrogen, they may not be safe for women who shouldn’t take estrogen”.9

In Phytoestrogens: Key Points the JH also note:

  • “It is not recommended that woman at high risk of breast cancer, or who have had breast cancer, take soy supplements”.10

Health Care Provider

What if I increase phytoestrogens in my diet?

If you increase phytoestrogens in your diet, it may be in your best interest to choose to talk to your health care provider about this.

In Hot Flashes: What Can I Do? Buyer Beware: Unproven, Nonscientific “Treatments” for Hot Flashes the NIA caution:

“At this time, it is unknown whether herbs or other “natural” products are helpful or safe. The benefits and risks are still being studied. Always talk with your doctor before taking any herb or supplement to treat your hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms”.11

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Sources

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Sources

  1. Phytoestrogens. Last Updated: 16 January 2020 | Last Reviewed: 17 February 2014. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health http://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/natural-therapies-supplements/phytoestrogens Accessed: 25 October 2020
  2. Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth – What the Science Says About Complementary Approaches for Menopause Symptoms: Natural Products – Phytoestrogens. Last Updated: May 2017. National Institute of Complementary and Integrative Health https://nccih.nih.gov/health/menopause/menopausesymptoms Accessed: 25 October 2020
  3. Phytoestrogens. Last Updated: 16 January 2020 | Last Reviewed: 17 February 2014. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health http://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/natural-therapies-supplements/phytoestrogens Accessed: 25 October 2020
  4. Hot Flashes: What Can I Do? Buyer Beware: Unproven, Nonscientific “Treatments” for Hot Flashes. Content Reviewed: 26 June 2017. National Institute on Aging https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hot-flashes-what-can-i-do Accessed: 25 October 2020
  5. Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth – What’s the Bottom Line? Last Updated: May 2017. National Institute of Complementary and Integrative Health https://nccih.nih.gov/health/menopause/menopausesymptoms Accessed: 25 October 2020
  6. Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth – What the Science Says About Complementary Approaches for Menopause Symptoms: Natural Products – Phytoestrogens. Last Updated: May 2017. National Institute of Complementary and Integrative Health https://nccih.nih.gov/health/menopause/menopausesymptoms Accessed: 25 October 2020
  7. Phytoestrogens: Why Phytoestrogens May Be Beneficial for Women. Last Updated: 16 January 2020 | Last Reviewed: 17 February 2014. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health https://www.jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/natural-therapies-supplements/phytoestrogens Accessed: 25 October 2020
  8. Phytoestrogens: Key Points. Last Updated: 16 January 2020 | Last Reviewed: 17 February 2014. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health https://www.jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/natural-therapies-supplements/phytoestrogens Accessed: 25 October 2020
  9. Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth – What the Science Says About Complementary Approaches for Menopause Symptoms: Natural Products – Phytoestrogens. Last Updated: May 2017. National Institute of Complementary and Integrative Health https://nccih.nih.gov/health/menopause/menopausesymptoms Accessed: 25 October 2020
  10. Phytoestrogens: Key Points. Last Updated: 16 January 2020 | Last Reviewed: 17 February 2014. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health https://www.jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/natural-therapies-supplements/phytoestrogens Accessed: 25 October 2020
  11. Hot Flashes: What Can I Do? Buyer Beware: Unproven, Nonscientific “Treatments” for Hot Flashes. Content Reviewed: 26 June 2017. National Institute on Aging https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hot-flashes-what-can-i-do Accessed: 25 October 2020

Topic Last Updated: 25 October 2020 – Topic Last Reviewed: 25 October 2020
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