Estrogen is one of the most powerful of female hormones. It binds to tissue in the uterus and breasts by attaching to estrogen receptor sites. It is then transported into the cytoplasm of the cell and on to genetic material to work its estrogenic effect by stimulating specific protein syntheses.
Compounds in plants that mimic estrogen are called phytoestrogens and can competitively bind to estrogen receptor sites. By usurping the estrogen receptor cite they exclude the more powerful estrogen produced by the body. But once attached they exert a more mild estrogenic effect. Phytoestrogens are normally 40 times weaker than estrogens. They can also lower luteinizing hormone levels, which tend to rise at menopause causing symptoms such as hot flashes.
Phytoestrogens include triterpines (actein, cimici-fugicide, 27-desoxyacetylacteol), isoflavones (daidzein, genestein, biochanin, formononetin), aromatic acids (isoferulic acid, ferulic acid, salicylic acid) and others. They are found naturally in seeds, nuts, legumes (such as soy) and vegetables.
The oral use of phytoestrogens as isolated nutrients or as a part of natural foods has been shown in scientific studies to decrease hormone-related problems associated with menstruation, menopause and oncogene (tumor) expression.
Clinical studies have demonstrated the following impressive effects with these plant based nutrients:
1. In a study of 625 menopausal female patients, results from 131 doctors showed 80% measured improvements in associated ailments;
2. Comparisons to estrogen therapy and Valium in 60 patients showed a superior response to the Kupperman Menopausal Index;
3. Compared to estrogen and placebo, better results were obtained on the Kupperman Index, the Hamilton anxiety test and vaginal lining testing;
4. A double-blind study of 110 females showed improvement in blood hormone levels;
5. In 60 women who had partial hysterectomies and were experiencing surgical menopause, symptoms were relieved;
6. Epidemiological studies of Eastern societies that consume much higher levels of natural dietary phytoestrogens show them to be far more free of menopausal or menstrual problems and to have a much lower incidence of estrogen sensitive cancers.
Estrolog-type phytoestrogens have been used since the 1950?s in Europe and are highly successful and safe. The only possible contraindications would be in the presence of pregnancy, lactation, estrogen-dependent tumors and heart disease.
Phytoestrogens will not result in the more immediate and more powerful effects characteristic of pharmaceuticals? nor do they have the attendant dangerous side effects. On the other hand, problems that may have developed in the body over decades cannot be expected to be resolved in a day or two. Restoring healthy balances takes time and usually several weeks must pass before results can be seen. Patience and commitment to an ideal of safe, natural nutrition and supplementation combined with a healthy life-style is critical to long-term results.