Dealing with menopause can understandably drive most women to look for whatever solution they can find to ease the uncomfortable symptoms. Depending on how cruel or kind the hormones decide to be, hot flashes and vaginal dryness are just the tip of the iceberg — especially if they decide to stick around even longer than you imagined. Thankfully, plenty of research has been done to help curb the pains of menopause before, after, and during the time it takes for everything to settle down.
Apparently, even what you eat can be a huge factor in how your body reacts to “the change.” For instance, studies have shown that a diet rich in fatty fish and leafy greens can potentially postpone menopause. For those already in the throes of the condition, however, food can still play a role in alleviating the more unfortunate symptoms. The key is to look for food that contains phytoestrogens, a naturally occurring estrogen in certain plants that can turn up in some surprising places.
What are phytoestrogens?
Technically speaking, phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds found in certain types of food that can mimic the estrogen we produce in our bodies. Obviously, this can be incredibly beneficial when a woman gets to that age where her body decides to produce significantly less estrogen. Luckily, the phytoestrogens can help fill in the blanks where estrogen has gone missing and hopefully ward off the more annoying side-effects.
Of course, you should consult your doctor before dramatically changing your diet during menopause, especially if you’re already taking a prescribed supplement. University Health News also warns against eating phytoestrogen-rich foods if you have a family history of breast cancer, endometriosis, or polycystic ovarian syndrome. That said, if your doctor gives you the okay to consume more phytoestrogenic foods, studies have found the compound hiding in some pretty unexpected (and delicious) items you might already enjoy eating on a regular basis.
Donuts: In what is perhaps the most surprising discovery from a study published in Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, researchers discovered that many of the yummy donuts we love to nom on also contain soy protein isolate. Soy is arguably the most well-known phytoestrogen-rich food source. It's also found in other commercial products like ice cream, cheeses, and cereal.
Blueberries: Like other berries, grapes, and wine, blueberries contain resveratrol and can activate estrogen receptors. According to a 2017 study, that function can be help keep your brain sharp and maintain overall cognitive performance in post-menopausal women.
Hummus: Chickpeas, the main ingredient in most hummus recipes, and other legumes are full of isoflavones, which are the same phytoestrogenic elements found in soy products. Lima beans are another option from this category, but who doesn't love a good pita chip dipped in hummus?
Rye Bread: Good news for fans of a classic Reuben sandwich! The lignans in rye have both estrogenic or anti-estrogenic activity, which means they can help replace lost estrogen during menopause while also helping to ward off breast cancer, according to a study published in Food & Nutrition Research.
Cabbage: Paleo-friendly brassica vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprout are high in coumestans, another type of phytoestrogen. You could potentially give your estrogen levels a good boost by tossing together a salad of several coumestan-rich veggies.
Again, always make sure to discuss any drastic changes in your diet with your doctor before stocking up at the grocery store. Estrogen isn't something you should go messing with willy-nilly. If you do get the okay from your physician, though, go ahead and savor a daily donut — you've earned it!