Edible Hormones: Health Support for Women
May 03, 2013 01:09PM
● By Sayer Ji and Tania Melkonian
In addition to relieving symptoms of menopause and andropause and helping maintain a normal, balanced hormone system, healthy eating can yield many other benefits. According to U.S. National Library of Medicine research reports, these include weight management, bone health and fertility and natural defenses against breast and prostate cancers and osteoarthritis symptoms.
Despite drug-free approaches to hormone health that predate synthesized 20th-century hormone replacement therapy, the pharmaceutical industry has all but vanquished eating appropriately nutritious foods as a means to balancing hormones. Why do people embrace external sourcing when natural internal functioning is the better, less costly and more permanent solution? Even the current bio-identical upgrade of hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) may lead to some biological dependency on these substances. Appropriate BHRT should include an analysis of how the individual uniquely metabolizes hormones and functional foods that can help.
An edible approach to hormone health provides deep nourishment for glands, enabling increased production of what they lack due to changes associated with age or illness. Healthy eating likewise reduces the activity of excess hormones already in the body, beneficially mimicking their previous function without the unwanted side effects. Here are some leading food aids to get us there.
The resemblance of the inner topography of a pomegranate to an ovary is more than poetic homage. Pre-Renaissance Western herbalists commonly held that a plant food’s visual similarity to a human organ indicated a positive health correlation. Research published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology on pomegranates by Japanese scientists revealed that the seeds and fleshy capsules within which they are suspended, called arils, contain estrogens structurally similar to those found in mammals.
Preclinical results published in Phytochemistry may explain why extracts of these plant-derived bio-identical hormones mimicking estradiol, estriol and estrone are capable of replacing the function of an ovary. A Japanese study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reported that female mice whose ovaries had been removed and were later fed pomegranate juice and pomegranate seed extract for two weeks showed reversals in bone loss, uterine weight loss and anxiety.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, collard and mustard greens and the root vegetables kohlrabi and rutabaga contain glucosinolates, which help protect DNA from damage, according to a study published in Current Science. Also, ever-increasing preclinical and clinical evidence shows that consuming cruciferous vegetables reduces the risk of more than 100 health problems, including a wide range of cancers, like those affecting the bladder and breasts.
Unwelcome symptoms of perimenopause (which can last years before the completion of menopause) can be offset through daily ingestion of ground flax, which can be added to cereals, salads and other foods. Ground flaxseed mixed with dried berries is particularly palatable.
As the ovarian reserve of naturally manufactured hormones exhausts itself and prompts an imbalance, flaxseed is particularly effective in rebalancing levels of desirable estrogen metabolites, such as breast-friendly 2-hydroxyestrone. It contains a fiber, lignan, that upon digestion produces two important phytoestrogens capable of stimulating the body’s natural estrogen receptors in cases of estrogen deficiency and blocking both synthetic and natural estrogen when there is excess (as with estrogen-dominant conditions from puberty to menopause).
These properties have been confirmed in human clinical studies performed at the University of Toronto’s Department of Nutritional Sciences and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Thus, flaxseed may be considered a source of plant “estrogen” capable of prompting regression of estrogen-sensitive cancers, including those of the breast and prostate.
Extremely versatile in culinary applications, combining flaxseed with ground cumin provides a medicinally potent homemade seasoning supporting women’s hormonal health.
Cumin—actually a fruit disguised as a spice—has tremendous hormone-modulating properties recently confirmed by findings in Experimental Biology and Medicine. Japanese scientists demonstrated that cumin seeds can inhibit loss of bone density and strength as effectively as estrogen in a female rat model of age-associated osteoporosis. They further found that the cumin seeds did not have estrogen’s weight-promoting and possible carcinogenic effects on the uterus.
Imagine the potent hormonebalancing properties of a dinner of steamed rutabaga dressed with ground flaxseeds and cumin with a side of mustard greens with olive oil and pomegranate dressing. It beats a serving of Premarin with a serving of unwanted side effects any day.
Sayer Ji is the founder of GreenMedInfo.com and advisory board member of the National Health Federation. Tania Melkonian is a certified nutritionist and healthy culinary arts educator. Learn more at GreenMedInfo.com.