Soy Foods & Menopause

Soy Foods & Menopause
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Does eating soy foods help with hot flashes?

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All right, back to foods. Does soy consumption help ameliorate symptoms of menopause? Now, as with nearly everything in the field of human nutrition, the evidence is mixed. So the question is always what does the balance of the evidence show? To bean, or not to bean?

Here’s what the science shows. There have been a dozen studies on soy consumption and hot flashes, and one showed an increase in hot flashes (the one at the bottom). Three didn’t show soy did much of anything, but the remaining eight studies showed a significant reduction in hot flashes.

You can imagine what the headlines were like after the publication of that last study. “Soy doesn’t work!” But you have to take the totality of evidence, and overall, soy really does seem to help.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Katy.Tresedder via Flickr.

All right, back to foods. Does soy consumption help ameliorate symptoms of menopause? Now, as with nearly everything in the field of human nutrition, the evidence is mixed. So the question is always what does the balance of the evidence show? To bean, or not to bean?

Here’s what the science shows. There have been a dozen studies on soy consumption and hot flashes, and one showed an increase in hot flashes (the one at the bottom). Three didn’t show soy did much of anything, but the remaining eight studies showed a significant reduction in hot flashes.

You can imagine what the headlines were like after the publication of that last study. “Soy doesn’t work!” But you have to take the totality of evidence, and overall, soy really does seem to help.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Katy.Tresedder via Flickr.

Doctor's Note

For more videos on women’s health and soy, check out:
Breast Cancer Survival and Soy
BRCA Breast Cancer Genes and Soy
How Much Soy Is Too Much?
Why Do Asian Women Have Less Breast Cancer?
GMO Soy and Breast Cancer
Animalistic Plant Proteins

Also see my other videos on soy and women’s health

For more context, see my associated blog post: How Much Soy Is Too Much?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

30 responses to “Soy Foods & Menopause

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    1. Soy causes kidney stones for me… off limits. I am whole foods plant based but hitting 65 this year. Has anyone had any good results with something besides SOY for improving estrogen? I have lactose issues, soy, issues, nut issues, kidney stone issues (Which blocks some of my favorite foods like spinach, chard, strawberries etc) I would appreciate some response or ideas. Menopause was a breeze with a clean diet… and life has been extraordinary as we have continued to keep a clean diet with very very limited meat exposure when eating out at holiday parties… whole foods plant based, no dairy, no meats, no processed foods. I am close to my wedding weight at age 65 and feeling great but the lack of estrogen has created a slowdown sexually with pain. I have found nothing in your videos addressing this. I did just view the video on men and heart attacks and sex… and I can confirm without a doubt that a clean whole foods plant based diet made a HUGE difference for my husband.

      1. Congratulations on maintaining your weight and keeping to your healthy diet. You asked about other foods that might help with estrogen balance besides soy. I believe these other articles will help:
        Evaluation of the Estrogenic Effects of Legume Extracts Containing Phytoestrogens
        http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/jf021114s This study found some common and not so common foods you could try:
        Kudzu root, red clover blossom and sprout, mung bean sprout, and alfalfa sprout all of which showed estrogen effects.

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074428/
        This study defines phytoestrogens are naturally-occurring plant compounds that are structurally and/or functionally similar to mammalian estrogens and their active metabolites including One major class is the lignans, which are components of plant cell walls and found in many fiber-rich foods such as berries, seeds (particularly flaxseeds), grains, nuts and fruits. Berries, wine grains and nuts are also cited as having good potential to act as estrogens in the body. Think legumes also!

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074428/

  1. Hello, Michael!

    Question: A coworker takes an estrogen patch and in her efforts to make the switch to a vegan diet, is concerned that soy will cause some problems since she cannot control the amount of estrogen she receives from this patch. What advice would you give someone in this situation in regards to Soy consumption?

    Regards,
    Scott

    1.  

      Hi Scott,

       

      If there is one thing that holds true, nutrients in its
      original source are healthier than other types of (artificial) supplementation.  Your coworker may find her menopausal symptoms
      (assuming this is why she has the patch) have lessened the more whole foods she
      is consuming (and the bad stuff she’s ditching) in general.  With the consult of her doctor, she may want
      to ditch her artificial supplementing for a whole-foods, plant-based diet to
      help her menopause. 

       

      Regardless, every day more and more evidence comes out about
      the benefits of soy and not just with menopause!  Here you can see how the forms of soy compare
      to each other health wise.  http://nutritionfacts.org/video/tofu-vs-tempeh-2/

      Many of the studies support a daily consumption of soy (1-2
      servings), which is how the Asians typically eat.  Here are two great but short reads on current
      research of soy and Breast Cancer.  In
      addition it explains why previous studies using lab animals misguided us on how
      soy is processed in the human body. 

       

      http://nutritionfacts.org/blog/2012/04/26/breast-cancer-survival-and-soy/

      http://nutritionfacts.org/blog/2011/08/29/soy-and-breast-cancer-an-update/

       

      Here is a great video on the subject also!

      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/breast-cancer-survival-and-soy/

       

      Here is also a video on the benefits of soy beans in
      general.

      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/soy-worth-a-hill-of-beans/

       

      Just on a side note, here is a video providing evidence of
      the negative health consequences of taking supplements.

      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/multivitamin-supplements-and-breast-cancer/

       

      I wish your coworker great luck with her healthier life
      changes.

    2. You have to watch soy if you are kidney stone prone. Soy is one of the big causes. There is a higher rate of kidney stones in younger women suddenly because of the addition of not only soy to the diet and ALL the processed foods which now contain it, but all the green drinks they consume with chard, spinach and kale. Soy is not necessarily a healthy alternative. Just speaking from experience and a whole foods plant based diet with Forks over Knives for the past 6 years.

  2. A larger question would be why humans experience menopause much earlier than other primates. For instance, one study I’ve found says chimps don’t experience it until 90% life span.

    1. It’s because our offspring take so long to mature. We need to live longer (and have more infertile years) in order to ensure their survival and the survival of our grandchildren–our gene pool :)
      There are studies showing that having the grandmother around increases the survival rates for the grandchildren–especially in less industrialized cultures.

  3. My wife and I eat the same vegan meals. But where my LDL cholesterol is 50, hers is 104. The HDL numbers are closer with mine at 50 and hers at 66.She is 59 years old and started menopause 2-4 years ago. Could the menopause have any affect on raising her LDL cholesterol? And If not, what else could raise a vegan woman’s LDL cholesterol.

    1. Since soy is a xenoestrogen (plant estrogen) and your wife’s bodily make up is estrogen, perhaps that along with menopause is the difference between her cholesterol levels are you own. This is a guesstimate. I’m no expert.

    2. Have her thyroid checked (T3, T4, TSH and antibodies). Cholesterol is used to make thyroid hormone and sometimes there is correlation between low thyroid function and higher cholesterol.

  4. Is there a difference between using soy beans in their whole form (I/E – edamame, or mature soy beans to make soy milk) and soy protein isolate, in their effects of hormones? Thank you so much for all of the great information!

  5. Soy does affect hormones in my experience, but depending on one’s needs it can be for the good or bad. I need my estrogen and progesterone balanced or I get depression. Soy puts off the balance so I must stay away from it and balance my hormones with an HRT patch.

    1. Not much hope here… I just basically posted the same question and it is 2017. You have no answers here. Hubby and I are whole foods plant based, but before he was, I was still good with estrogen…then in the change over in his body, he is ready and my levels have dropped off the charts. I still have the appetite for it but vaginal dryness is not fun. Would like to know what Dr. recommends for women…and NOT SOY.

  6. ”Eating soy foods appears to help with hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.” If you have a thyroid problem you’re not supposed to eat soy… What would you recommend a menopausal woman with a thyroid problem to take? Hope you’re able to answer. Can’t get a good enough answer from my doctor.

  7. 56 yr old post menopausal woman plagued by hot flashes for 3 years –I need Dr G’s help! Rapidly cycling hot flashes at night wake me up, not drenched but actually wet, 12-20 times nightly. I have been doing whole food plant based diet for years, am healthy, roughly correct weight, exercise daily…. I keep thinking surely these pesky hot flashes will go away but so far they have changed (used to be more heat, less often, now more surges, but to lesser peak heat) but are persistant. I am worried that chronic sleep deprivation is really going to hurt me. I have family history for breast cancer so am wary of estrogen. Suggestions?

  8. Need help with pms and peri menopause mood swings. What should i add to my already WFPBD? Thank you
    Michelle Ottawa, Ont, Canada

  9. Need help with pms/peri menopausal mood swings. What else can i eat besides what i already do in my WFPBD? Thank you
    Michelle

    1. Hi Michelle: I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble with mood swings. Sounds like you’re off to a great start by following a WFPB diet. Have you considered other lifestyle changes? Regular exercise, cutting back on caffeine, avoiding alcohol, and stopping smoking (if you’re a smoker) may ease symptoms. Getting enough sleep and using relaxation/stress management techniques (mindfulness/meditation/yoga) may help as well. You can find more information on mood here.

  10. Hi, I love this website and Dr. Greger’s Book. It has changed my life!
    I have a question.
    Since going WFPB I’ve realized the hot flashes are gone and I can give up my HRT patch for which I’m very grateful. However, at the same time, I noticed facial hair, upper lip, chin. and even cheeks. Could this be related to my increased soy consumption? I also consume flax daily.

  11. First off, thank you for making such valuable information publicly available!

    I am wondering if soy is likely to affect the amount of bleeding one experiences during menstruation? Specifically, if it is likely to decrease menstrual bleeding? Also, will it worsen estrogen dominance during perimenopause?

    I have very heavy periods, and have been trying to reduce the bleeding (and frequency) by adding 1/4tsp of bladderwrack powder to my daily regimen. It has helped – after 4 months of this, my cycle has gone from every 24 days to 28, and though the bleeding is still very heavy, it is less than it was 4 months ago (less clotting, fewer pads). I have just increased the bladderwrack to 1/2tsp daily, hoping to further decrease bleeding.

    I have iron deficiency and am taking iron supplements. The supplements have helped to some degree – numbers are slightly better and, more importantly, I have more energy for about 1/2 of my cycle – but I continue to lose too much iron because of menses every month. What would help the most is decreasing the blood loss. I would very much like to stop taking the supplements!

    I would appreciate any information you have that might help this situation. :)

    1. Hi, Skip! Be careful with bladderwrack, also known as kelp, as it can lead to excessive iodine intake. It is possible that it helped because you were iodine deficient before using it, but doubling the dose could result in iodine toxicity, which is just as dangerous as iodine deficiency. More on that here: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/which-seaweed-is-most-protective-against-breast-cancer/ Soy phytoestrogens are not estrogens. They have both pro-estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects in the human body, and should not worsen estrogen dominance. More on soy here: https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/soy/ If you are overweight, exercise and weight loss should improve your hormone balance, as fat cells produce estrogen. Ginger may be useful to you. More on that here: https://nutritionfacts.org/2019/07/09/a-highly-effective-cheap-easy-to-use-safer-treatment-for-heavy-periods/ I hope that helps!

    2. Hello Skip,

      I have had the same issues most of my life with heavy menstrual bleeding but it wasn’t until I was in my mid forties that a new gynecologist actually fully explored all the issues and possible remedies for me. If you have not already explored the heavy menstrual bleeding as a health condition rather than as just “how you are” please do so. Fibroids in particular need to be addressed. There are options for treatment and of course there is always a partial hysterectomy which would remove the uterus but leave your ovaries for their hormone functions. A lot depends on your reproduction status and wishes, and perhaps on how close you are to a natural menopause anyway. But the absolutely most effective way to reduce your excessive bleeding is to get rid of the root cause.

      I found that the toll of long term low iron and anemia was subtle but significant on my overall health and well being. Until it gets really low, then the affects are obvious and can get really dangerous really quickly.

      In the meantime here are two things I found made a noticeable difference in how I felt day to day: “Proferrin” heme iron supplements and grass fed organic liver.

      That particular brand of iron supplement is animal derived heme iron, it is proven to be better absorbed and tolerated than the more traditional forms of iron. See the “PubMed” site and search “Proferrin”, the studies will come up. It is more expensive too, but worth it if it works for you. I found it was the only supplement that did not give me either a stomach ache or constipation, and I tried several before finding this one. And the best supplement for you will be whichever one you can consistently tolerate.

      The liver thing was sort of lark to see if the “high energy” claims I was seeing on the internet were legit or not. I found a spot in Wisconsin that offered grass fed organic bison liver and the idea of eating it wasn’t an issue for me. My mother liked liver and actually prepared it really well so I grew up eating it about once a month anyway.

      I would prep a pound of it in the traditional way – dipped in seasoned flour and sautéed in butter, cooked to medium. At the same time I sautéed up a large yellow onion and large red bell pepper in olive oil. Mixed it all up and divided it into 4 servings, ate one a day in the week before I expected my period, took a couple of days off and then did it again the week I was actually bleeding. Usually had a green salad with it too. So basically about 4 oz a day about 8 days out of the month. In addition to a good percentage of the daily iron requirement , it has the added benefit of the B vitamins and I think it’s a good source of one of the types of A vitamins that you can’t get from plant sources too.

      It had noticeable effect on my energy level. I lift weights with a trainer a couple of times a week and we document my results every workout, the changes in performance were remarkable. I could see it on paper as well as feel it.

      And I realize that neither of these suggestions are in alignment with the plant based principles outlined on this site, but when you are dealing with low hemoglobin you can’t make the perfect the enemy of the good! And there are real risks and complications with blood transfusions and IV iron treatments too, which are very real possible outcomes for anyone with this condition – especially if the iron supplements are not tolerating or absorbed well. Good luck, I feel for you, it’s a crappy thing to deal with month in and month out, but hopefully you can find a way to make it a temporary condition and enjoy otherwise good health!

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