Plant Oestrogens

Article by Angela Haldane

Q. What are plant oestrogens and are they a good thing or not?

A. There are certain plant compounds that have the ability to lock onto the oestrogen receptor and mimic an oestrogen response. These plant oestrogens are eighty times weaker than the oestrogen your body produces. They are present in commonly eaten foods such as legumes (beans and peas) linseed, and wholegrains – soya bean has the highest concentration of plant oestrogens.

Conditions that benefit from plant oestrogens in therapeutic dosages include menopause – where the levels of circulating oestrogen is low. Plant oestrogens can help with elasticity and dryness of the skin, and reducing hot flushes.

Or in conditions where a woman is experiencing symptoms of relative oestrogen excess (her own oestrogen) giving rise to heavy periods, pre-menstrual syndrome, and fibroids. Ways to reduce these high oestrogen levels is to compete for the oestrogen receptors with the weaker plant oestrogens. In this way the surplus oestrogen is excreted via the liver.

Your naturopath/medical herbalist (such as Natural Ange Ltd) may prescribe herbs which also contain plant oestrogens, and herbs to help with liver function to facilitate breakdown of hormones, encourage exercise and aim to achieve the ideal weight.

Excessive plant oestrogen intake should not be taken during childhood as the impact of fertility later is not known. Read packet labels and avoid products containing a lot of soy. Soy is cheap to produce and you may be having more than you think.

The research with breast cancer and soy supplementation is divided and should be avoided at this stage