In the past, when a woman was going through menopause, her doctor often advised her to undergo hormone replacement therapy, or HRT. However, the medical community realized after the fact that giving estrogen to pre-menopausal and menopausal women increased their chances of developing breast cancer. These women still need estrogen, as they no longer produce enough of it naturally, but more and more physicians are recommending getting estrogen through natural sources.
Synthetic vs. Natural
A woman's body reacts differently to synthetic estrogen than it does to the real McCoy. Harmful side effects often result when women take synthetic estrogen. Many women are now turning to natural estrogen creams that do not have the same side effects as the synthetic version. Estrogen derived from a plant is very similar to the estrogen that women naturally produce. The most frequently prescribed form of estrogen is derived from the urine of pregnant mares. Despite being animal-based, this estrogen is not as similar to human estrogen as are plant-based forms.
Phytoestrogens are natural estrogen products that come from plant extracts, which can be incorporated into your diet or taken in supplement form. Phytoestrogens are present in soybeans, tofu and soy milk. Many common grains and produce foods contain natural estrogen compounds. These include lignans (in cereals and flaxseed); flavonals (in yellow and red fruits and vegetables); flavones (in yellow and red vegetables and fruits); flavanones (in citrus fruits) and isoflavones (in chickpeas, clover, beans, lentils and soy).
Ginseng, dong quai, licorice and alfalfa also have estrogenic effects. Soybeans are rich in natural estriol, another form of estrogen. Japanese women frequently eat plant-derived estrogens, especially soy, and as a result have fewer menopausal symptoms. However, soy may alter a woman’s menstrual cycle and impact ovulation, which is a disadvantage, but it also builds bone density.
Maca comes from the root of a plant mainly grown in Peru. When a woman takes a maca supplement, it is considered a hormone replacement therapy. It can help balance her mood, increase her libido, lessen the incidence of hot flashes, regulate hormones, increase energy and stamina and nourish the glandular system. In addition, this root can help ward off osteoporosis and prevent vaginal dryness, which comes with menopause. It's even reported to help lessen everyday aches and pains.