One of the many benefits of consuming a Starch-Smart® diet is its ability to reduce and even prevent many menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, food cravings, depression, irritability and anxiety without the use of hormone replacement therapy. Dr. Neal Barnard explains that, "Many women in other parts of the world who grow up eating vegetarian diets pass through menopause with hardly a hot flash. The reason is, high-fat animal products (meat, cheese, dairy products, and eggs) can artificially increase the body's circulating estrogen throughout life, making the hormone shift at menopause feel much worse."
Dr. Barnard expands this concept by stating: "It has long been known that menopause is much easier for Asian women than it is for most Westerners. Hot flashes have been reported by only about 10 percent of women in China, 17.6 percent of women in Singapore, and 22.1 percent of women in Japan. In contrast, it is estimated that hot flashes are experienced by 75 percent of women over the age of 50 in the United States. The most likely explanation is this: Throughout their lives, Western women consume much more meat, and about four times as much fat, as women on Asian rice-based diets, and only one-quarter to one-half the fiber. A high-fat, low-fiber diet causes a rise in estrogen levels. Women on higher-fat diets have measurably more estrogen activity than do those on low-fat diets. At menopause, the ovaries' production of estrogen comes to a halt. Those women who have been on high-fat diets then have a violent drop in estrogen levels. The drop appears to be less dramatic for Asian women who have lower levels of estrogen both before and after menopause. The resulting symptoms are much milder or even nonexistent."
Does Fiber in the Diet Reduce Menopause Symptoms?
Unlike animal products that contain no fiber and processed-refined foods that have had most of its fiber removed, a plant-based diet is loaded with fiber. A high-fat, low-fiber diet not only leads to excess body fat, but also exposes a woman to higher levels of estrogen throughout her adulthood. Conversely, a plant-based, fiber-rich diet removes excess estrogen. PCRM says that this allows a woman's body to "adapt to lower levels throughout life and skipping the symptoms of plummeting hormone levels at menopause. Studies show, in fact, that women can avoid the issue of estrogen use entirely by boosting fiber-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, peas, lentils, and whole grains, for example. These foods are nature's way of balancing hormones. Soy foods such as tempeh, tofu, and soy milk contain phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) that attach to estrogen receptors on cells that would otherwise be occupied by the body's own estrogen, therefore lowering cancer risk. A low-fat diet free of animal products also protects against heart disease and osteoporosis."
Dr. John McDougall also explains in his July/August 1999 Newsletter how a high-fat, low-fiber diet increases a woman's circulating hormones: "A high-fat, low-fiber diet, causes overgrowth of bacteria in the gut microflora that have the ability to convert bile acids into sex hormones, which are then absorbed through the gut wall and into the bloodstream (Lancet 2:472, 1971). Bile acids are produced by the liver for the purpose of digesting fats. The more fat consumed, the more bile acids flow into the intestine to be converted to sex hormones. The intestinal microflora play a key role in circulating estrogens in a woman's body by freeing up bound estrogens that appear in the bile, thereby permitting the free hormones to be reabsorbed by the intestine, back into the woman's body, causing elevated hormone levels."
How Does Food Influence Menopause Symptoms?
"Food also raises estrogen levels in a person's body—and dairy foods account for about 60 to 70% of the estrogen that comes from food." Dr. McDougall adds, "The main source of this estrogen is the modern factory farming practice of continuously milking cows throughout pregnancy. As gestation progresses the estrogen content of milk increases from 15 pg/ml to 1000 pg/ml. Well-recognized consequences of excess estrogen are cancers of the breast, uterus and prostate. A low-fat, vegetarian diet will reduce sex hormones."
In conclusion, Dr. Joel Fuhrman addresses menopausal health in his Spring 2009 #40 Healthy Times Newsletter available in his member center. He encourages women to eat a diet rich in dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables. These greens contain compounds that aid a woman's body to excrete excess hormones into the urine. This can relieve many of the symptoms associated with menopause. Of course, eating a healthy diet prior to menopause Dr. Fuhrman says offers the best protection against suffering from the discomforts of menopause later.
For more details, clink on the following links:
(3) Healthy Eating for Life for Women by Kristine Kieswer available through the PCRM website
(4) The McDougall Program for Women by Dr. John A. Mcdougall
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