Hormones & Plant Estrogens

Kelly Anne Spratt, D.O., Director of Women's Cardiovascular Health at the University of Pennsylvania Presbyterian Medical Center, answers your questions.
Estrogen and Food

Q. What foods naturally contain estrogen? I cannot take hormone replacement medication, so my doctor says I should eat a lot of estrogen-rich foods, such as yams. What other foods would be good for my diet?

A. Yams and soy are the two best sources of estrogen-like substances called phytoestrogens. These are literally "plant estrogens," which have been found to have benefits for hot flashes and some other uncomfortable effects of menopause. Large amounts need to be ingested, however (over 60 grams!), to get rid of these symptoms.

These foods are great options for women who cannot take hormone replacement therapy. On the other hand, the amount needed to prevent osteoporosis or to change cholesterol levels is unknown. If you cannot take HRT, and are at risk for osteoporosis, you may need to take a medication specifically for prevention or treatment of this disease, such as Fosamax. Since HRT lowers cholesterol, if you have high cholesterol you may need a medication specific for that condition such as Lipitor or Zocor.

Continued on page 2:  Hot Flash Relief