Phytoestrogen is one of the natural compounds found in plants and plant foods. This substance can act on a person like an estrogen produced by the body. In this article, in addition to the properties and potential risks of using phytoestrogens, you will learn about foods that are high in phytoestrogens. Stay with us. What is phytoestrogen?
The Greek words “Phyto” meaning plant and “estrogen” are a type of female hormone that is involved in regulating a set of activities in both men and women. This hormone is released by the endocrine system and regulates a woman’s menstrual cycle until menopause. Estrogen promotes the growth of breasts, underarm hair, and genital hair during puberty. Estrogen supplements are also available on the market, But it is better to get this substance from natural food sources.
How does Phytoestrogen work?
Because phytoestrogen is structurally very similar to the body’s estrogen, it acts like estrogen; That is why it is called dietary estrogen. When phytoestrogens enter the body, estrogen receptors think of them as estrogen. Phytoestrogen disrupts the endocrine system; Because its chemical structure disrupts the normal hormonal function; However, phytoestrogens do not bind to estrogen receptors as long as estrogen is produced in the body; As a result, they are more likely to perform poorly.
Benefits of Phytoestrogens
Phytoestrogens can be good for women who are looking for hormonal balance as menopause approaches. During premenopause (around menopause), hormone levels fluctuate in women. Premenopause usually begins in women in their 40s and continues until menopause. Symptoms of premenopause include:
- Hot flashes
- Sensitive breasts
- Low libido
- Irregular menstruation
- Mood swings
These symptoms may be unpleasant and continue even after menopause. Some women use hormone replacement therapy to control these symptoms. Phytoestrogen is a natural alternative to synthetic estrogens used in hormone replacement therapy. In the following, we will explain the benefits of phytoestrogens.
1. Get rid of hot flashes
Phytoestrogens can help get rid of annoying hot flashes. A 2014 study showed that phytoestrogens can reduce the frequency of hot flashes in postmenopausal women without any serious side effects.
2. Prevent osteoporosis
Estrogen deficiency after menopause can affect bone health and cause conditions such as osteoporosis. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help treat the disease and strengthen bones, But it can have annoying side effects. Phytoestrogen can be a natural alternative. A 2011 study found that phytoestrogens help fight postmenopausal osteoporosis; However, it may have some side effects. Because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not recently monitored phytoestrogens, this study does not recommend the use of phytoestrogens for osteoporosis.
3. Relieve menstrual pain
Estrogen levels may drop at certain times during the menstrual cycle. When a woman’s estrogen levels drop, this may affect her mood and energy levels and cause unpleasant symptoms. Some women try to eat foods rich in phytoestrogens during this period to balance hormone levels and get rid of menstrual symptoms. They use phytoestrogens as a natural and herbal remedy to relieve menstrual problems or irregularities. If estrogen is replaced (by taking phytoestrogens or by pill), the symptoms may go away. Further research is needed to confirm the use of phytoestrogens in these cases.
4. Acne treatment
Acne in women may be due to an increase in male hormones (androgens) in the body. Phytoestrogens can help fight acne by balancing hormone levels. A 2017 study confirmed this hypothesis to some extent, But more research is needed to prove the effect of phytoestrogens on acne treatment.
5. Fighting breast cancer
There are claims that phytoestrogens are good for fighting hormonal cancers such as breast cancer. A 2009 study found that eating soy-containing foods reduced the risk of death and recurrence in women with breast cancer.
Another study in 2015 showed that phytoestrogens inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells; However, other studies have emphasized that the role of phytoestrogens in rescuing a person with breast cancer is complex and depends on the stage of the menopause.
Further studies are needed to prove whether phytoestrogens can play a beneficial role in cancer prevention and treatment. Phytoestrogens are not suitable for all types of cancer. Anyone who wants to use phytoestrogens should consult a doctor first.
6. Strengthen heart health
Phytoestrogens may affect heart health. A 2016 study found that phytoestrogens help treat a condition that affects the arteries and improve heart health in postmenopausal women.
Side effects of phytoestrogens
Studies show phytoestrogens may provide similar benefits to the synthetic estrogen used in hormone replacement therapy.
However, this does not mean that they are safer than synthetic estrogen. They act similarly and may carry the same risks. These may include increased risk of:
- Reproductive disorders;
- Birth defects in pregnant women;
- Changes in the hormonal cycle;
- Breastfeeding problems;
- Increased risk of breast cancer;
- Increased risk of endometriosis;
- Increased risk of uterine endometrial cancer;
- Increased risk of non-viral toxic hepatitis;
- Increased risk of uterine fibroids.
More research is needed to fully understand how phytoestrogens work, as it is not clear whether consuming them at high levels carries any health risks. Unless a person is taking phytoestrogen supplements, it is unlikely they could consume a harmful level, however.
A person should always speak to a doctor before starting to take any new supplements, including phytoestrogen.
The following foods groups are rich in phytoestrogens:
Nuts and seeds
- Sunflower seed;
- Sesame Seed;
- Flax seeds;
- alfalfa sprouts
- mung beans
- miso soup
- miso paste
- red clover
- licorice root
- red wine
- olive oil
- jasmine oil
- wheat germ
Phytoestrogens are plant compounds similar to natural estrogens in the body and can counteract the symptoms of estrogen deficiency; Therefore, they may be suitable for postmenopausal women or at the onset of menopause. Phytoestrogens are also said to play a role in the fight against cancer; Of course, more studies are needed to prove this. Try to get phytoestrogens through food instead of herbal remedies or supplements. The risk of overuse of phytoestrogens is not yet fully understood, and its side effects may be similar to those of synthetic estrogens. To be on the safe side, avoid high doses and long periods of phytoestrogen supplements, and be sure to consult your doctor before taking such substances.