“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…”.1

Umbrella
What may the Phytoestrogens Umbrella include?

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

  • Flaxseed
  • 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

In Hot flushes, Night Sweats, Brain Fog? Here’s What We Know About Phytoestrogens for Menopausal Symptoms: What Are Phytoestrogens?, published 05 June 2023, the authors’ definition is:

“Phytoestrogens are plant-derived substances that can show oestrogen-like activity when ingested.

There are numerous types including isoflavones, coumestans and lignans. These can be consumed in the form of food (from whole soybeans, soy-based foods such as tofu and soy milk, legumes, wholegrains, flaxseeds, fruits and vegetables) and in commercially produced supplements. In the latter category, extracts from soy and red clover yield isoflavones and flaxseed gives us lignans.

Because declining oestrogen levels drive menopausal symptoms, the theory is that consuming a “natural”, plant-based substance that acts like oestrogen will provide relief”.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 may 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 Perimenopause: Diagnosis & Treatment – Treatment: Alternative Medicine, dated 23 May 2023, the (United States) Mayo Clinic explain:

  • “Phytoestrogens. These estrogens occur naturally in certain foods. Two main type of phytoestrogens are isoflavones and lignans. Isoflavones are found in soybeans and other legumes and red clover. Lignans occur in flaxseed, whole grains, and some fruits and vegetables. There are also plant-derived compounds that have estrogen-like properties. Studies on phytoestrogens — whether from food or supplements — conflict on whether they help reduce menopausal symptoms. Studies also conflict on what beneficial impact, if any, phytoestrogens may have on breast cancer risk”.5

Gut Bacteria

Is there an association between gut bacteria and phytoestrogens?

In Hot flushes, Night Sweats, Brain Fog? Here’s What We Know About Phytoestrogens for Menopausal Symptoms: What Does the Evidence Say? the authors’ elaborate on:

“However, several factors may influence the effect of dietary phytoestrogens on menopausal symptoms. This includes gut microbiota, with research showing only around 30% of women from Western populations possess the gut microbiota needed to convert isoflavones to their active form, known as equol, compared to an estimated 50–60% of menopausal women from Japanese populations”.6

Hot Flushes

Is there an association between hot flushes and phytoestrogens?

In Hot flushes, Night Sweats, Brain Fog? Here’s What We Know About Phytoestrogens for Menopausal Symptoms: What Does the Evidence Say? the authors’ also note:

“Overall, evidence regarding the benefit of phytoestrogens for hot flushes is fairly mixed. A Cochrane review synthesised study results and failed to find conclusive evidence phytoestrogens, in food or supplement form, reduced the frequency or severity of hot flushes or night sweats in perimenopausal or postmenopausal women”.7

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:

“Always talk with your doctor before taking any herb or supplement. Currently, it is unknown whether these herbs or other “natural” products are helpful or safe to treat your hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms. The benefits and risks are still being studied”.8

Health Topics A-Z

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Links

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Sources

Where may I find the Sources quoted?

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Sources

  1. Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth – What the Science Says About Complementary Health Approaches for Menopause Symptoms: Natural Products – Phytoestrogens. Last Updated: May 2017. National Institute of Complementary and Integrative Health https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/menopausal-symptoms-in-depth Accessed: 02 February 2024
  2. Menopausal Symptoms: In Depth – What the Science Says About Complementary Health Approaches for Menopause Symptoms: Natural Products – Phytoestrogens. Last Updated: May 2017. National Institute of Complementary and Integrative Health https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/menopausal-symptoms-in-depth Accessed: 02 February 2024
  3. Gurvich, C., Varney, J., and Kulkarni, J. Hot flushes, Night Sweats, Brain Fog? Here’s What We Know About Phytoestrogens for Menopausal Symptoms: What Are Phytoestrogens? Published: 05 June 2023 https://theconversation.com/hot-flushes-night-sweats-brain-fog-heres-what-we-know-about-phytoestrogens-for-menopausal-symptoms-204801 Accessed: 02 February 2024
  4. Hot Flashes: What Can I Do? Buyer Beware: Unproven, Nonscientific “Treatments” for Hot Flashes. Content Reviewed: 30 September 2021. National Institute on Aging https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hot-flashes-what-can-i-do Accessed: 02 February 2024
  5. Perimenopause: Diagnosis & Treatment – Treatment: Alternative Medicine. 25 May 2023. Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/perimenopause/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354671 Accessed: 02 February 2024
  6. Gurvich, C., Varney, J., and Kulkarni, J. Hot flushes, Night Sweats, Brain Fog? Here’s What We Know About Phytoestrogens for Menopausal Symptoms: What Does the Evidence Say? Published: 05 June 2023 https://theconversation.com/hot-flushes-night-sweats-brain-fog-heres-what-we-know-about-phytoestrogens-for-menopausal-symptoms-204801 Accessed: 02 February 2024
  7. Gurvich, C., Varney, J., and Kulkarni, J. Hot flushes, Night Sweats, Brain Fog? Here’s What We Know About Phytoestrogens for Menopausal Symptoms: What Does the Evidence Say? Published: 05 June 2023 https://theconversation.com/hot-flushes-night-sweats-brain-fog-heres-what-we-know-about-phytoestrogens-for-menopausal-symptoms-204801 Accessed: 02 February 2024
  8. Hot Flashes: What Can I Do? Buyer Beware: Unproven, Nonscientific “Treatments” for Hot Flashes. Content Reviewed: 30 September 2021. National Institute on Aging https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hot-flashes-what-can-i-do Accessed: 02 February 2024
Topic Last Updated: 02 February 2024 – Topic Last Reviewed: 02 February 2024

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