Menopause is a natural life transition for women and usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. Hormonal changes result in a decline of estrogen and some women experience symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness. These changes may begin 4 to 6 years before the cessation of menstruation.
Certain foods contain plant estrogens that are helpful in balancing hormone levels in the body. Phytoestrogens are similar in structure to estrogen and can alleviate and prevent menopausal symptoms. Soybeans, for example, contain natural estrogens called isoflavones that help prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, and estrogen-related cancers such as breast cancer. In a study, soybeans and flaxseed were tested and found to increase estrogenic activity in postmenopausal women; when they stopped eating the foods, estrogen cell activity also dropped. One cup of soybeans contains 300 mg isoflavones which equals the estrogenic effect in one Premarin (a synthetic hormone) tablet.
For those taking hormone replacements, natural forms are available. It is recommended that the hormone progesterone accompany estrogen.
Low-dose estrogen creams are effective for vaginal dryness. Antihistamines, diuretics, caffeine, and alcohol have a tendency to dry mucous membranes including those in the vagina. Regular exercise reduces hot flashes and other meno-pausal symptoms.
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