Menopause

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Menopause begins about 12 months after the final menstrual cycle and is characterized by hot flashes, vaginal dryness, weight gain, bloating, mood changes, headaches and insomnia. One of the simplest ways to reduce menopausal symptoms is to consume a diet of foods rich in phytoestrogens .

Isoflavones, also can be called “phytoestrogen”, are plant-derived compounds that has a biological activity similar to estrogen. Isoflavones have been proven by many studies to provide important benefits regarding vasomotor symptoms, the breast and uterus, cardiovascular system, bone, and cognition of which are related to women health as they are entering and experiencing menopause.Soy
Soy is the most widely used isoflavone-containing food. Its protein contains a rich amount of isoflavones. (NAMS 733) Soy foods, in populations that typically consume them, appear to be breast cancer protective. (739) In an article published by The North American Menopause Society, “soy-based isoflavones are proven to be modestly effective in relieving menopausal symptoms which include controlling hot flashes.” (732) Soy and soy isofavones have also shown benefits on cognitive function in women younger than age 65. (746) “The consumption is associated with lower risk of breast and endometrial cancer in other observational studies.” (732) There are two sources for peri- and postmenopausal women to meet their soy and soy isoflavones intake: through their diet, and by taking dietary soy and isoflavone dietary supplements. An isoflavone-rich diet can be supported by soy-containing foods such as tofu and bean curds, soy milk, soy flour and soy oil. Other non food sources such as red clover (EstroFactors) also contain a significant amounts. (735) Two subgroups of isoflavones: genistein and daidzein exist in a high amount in non-soy products, red clover and kudzu. (733) In order to achieve effectiveness, the dose should be started at 50mg/d or higher for least 12 month. (736)Kudzu
“A more recent study, published in 2007, found taking kudzu extract in capsule form daily for 24 weeks helped alleviate vaginal dryness in postmenopausal women. Kudzu root extract is also a good source of isoflavones.” (Wong)Kudzu
“A more recent study, published in 2007, found taking kudzu extract in capsule form daily for 24 weeks helped alleviate vaginal dryness in postmenopausal women. Kudzu root extract is also a good source of isoflavones.” (Wong)Black Cohosh

The primary clinical applications of black cohosh include neurovegetative complaints associated with menopause, which include hot flashes, sleep disturbances, night sweats, irritability, nervousness, heart palpitations, vaginal atrophy, and depression. (Ross 59)
In a study design published in Holistic Nursing Practice it states:

“The standardized isopropanolic extract of black cohosh was significantly more effective than placebo in decreasing the Menopausal Rating Scale score (an assessment tool consisting of 10 items that are each evaluated from 0 to 1 in increments of 0.1) with the greatest effect on early menopausal women. Four of 10 MRS subscores significantly decreased in the black cohosh group when compared to the placebo group: P = .007 (hot flashes), P = .012 (atrophy), P = .019 (psyche). The hot flash subscore demonstrated the most effective measure for the isopropanolic black cohosh extract’s efficacy.” (Ross 60)

Research on black cohosh and its benefits in relieving menopausal symptoms have been most conducted in Germany since the 1940s. “Overall, these studies show very promising results for relief of menopausal symptoms, primarily hot flashes and mood swings.” “The German health authorities (Commission E) have approved the use of 40 mg/day of black cohosh for 6 months for relief of menopausal symptoms.” Recent data, in fact, has demonstrated that black cohosh acts on serotonin receptors which may be the mechanism for relief of hot flashes and improvement in mood. (Geller and Studee S6)

Research on laboratory animals suggests that black cohosh has a suppressive effect on Luteinizing Hormone. High levels of LH are associated with some menopausal symptoms, particularly hot flashes.Therefore, the suppression of LH is important for symptom reduction. In addition, phytoestrogens in black cohosh bind to estrogen receptors, producing a weak estrogenic effect, while other constituents promote mild relaxation. (Mayo 2)Other botanicals are commonly used for menopause and menopause-related complaints include motherwort, evening primrose, chastetree. 
In the journal article Contemporary Alternatives to Plant Estrogens for Menopause, it mentions, “Chastener and evening primrose are more commonly used for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and early menopausal symptoms. Motherwort is used primarily for sleep disturbances, nervous-ness, depression, mood swings, and memory loss. “(Geller and Studee S7)Curcumin
Curcumin, a polyphenolic derivative of turmeric, is widely cultivated in Asia and is commonly used as a spice to add flavor and yellow coloring to food. Curcumin is known to anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects in addition to acting as an anti-carciogenic and neuropro-tective agent. (Akazawa et al 798)

The present study showed that “regular ingestion of curcumin or regular aerobic exercise training significantly improved endothelial function.” The magnitude of improvement in endothelial function to the same extent, suggesting that curcumin may prevent the age-associated decline in endothelial function in postmenopausal women. (797)

In a study conducted by Akazawa et al, after 8 weeks of the curcumin ingestion, an improvement in endothelial function was shown in postmenopausal women. The magnitude of the improvment achieved by curcumin treatment was comparable to that obtained with exercise. Fur-thermore, the results suggest that curcumin may be a potential alternative treatment for patients who are unable to exercise. (798)Red Clover 
Several studies clearly showed the superiority of red clover supplementation over placebo supplementation for treating vasomotor and menopausal symptoms and for reducing the severity of mood disorders, especially anxiety and depressive symptoms. (Shakeri et al 570) Red clover also showed remarkable effects on vaginal dryness, dyspareunia, and diminished libido in a study by Hidalgo. (571)Rhapontic Rhubarb ERr731
The special extract ERr 731 from the roots of rhapontic rhubarb has been widely used in Germany since 1993. ERr 731 is a safe medication and an effective treatment of peri- and postmenopausal symptoms.
According to an article that was published on Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine, “After 6 months of treatment with ERr 731 in 252 women, there was a significant decrease of the MRS total score from 14.5 points at baseline to 6.5 points (P<.0001 ). The reduction of the MRS score was more pronounced in women with a score of ≥ 18 points at baseline. One tablet per day was sufficient to reduce the symptoms significantly in the majority of women.” The MRS score mentioned is a subjective evaluation of the intensity and duration of symptoms. (Kaszkin-Bettag et al 32)Chasteberry
“Clinical benefits of chasteberry were demonstrated in a 3-month randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 37 women with menstrual disturbances and latent prolactinemia. Women receiving the chasteberry extract (20 mg/day) had a significant average increase in the luteal phase of 5 days, an increase to normal levels of progesterone during the mid-luteal phase, and a decrease in PMS symptoms.” Chasteberry plays a stimulatory role in normalizing the balance between estrogen and progesterone, which is beneficial for woman health. Improving the levels of progesterone may be especially useful during peri-menopause when menstrual irregularities are common. Another study also has proven the efficacy of chasteberry in improving PMS symptoms. (Mayo 1) Two groups of women with PMS, in a total number of 175, were given chasteberry extract and vitamin B6 respectively for the trail. Over taking two kinds of supplements for 3 menstrual cycles, “36.1% of the participants in the chasteberry group were symptom free, versus 21.3% of the paients in the vitamin B6 group.” (Mayo 2)Products to support menopause :

  • Estrium & Estrium Whey: 31.5mg kudzu root extract which contains 12.5mg of isoflavones;
  • 105 mg turmeric rhizome extract that standardized to 95% curcuma
  • UltraMeal 360 Plus: Soy protein isolate which provides 8.5 AIE total soy isoflavones;
  • EstroFactors: 208mg red clover extract;
  • 70mg turmeric rhizome (curcuma) extract;
  • 41mg kudzu root extract
  • Black Cohosh Plus: 80mg black cohosh root extract;
  • 100mg motherwort extract
  • Chasteberry Plus: 100mg chasteberry extract;
  • 40mg black cohosh extract
  • Primrose Oil: 1300mg evening primrose seed oil
  • Estrovera: 4mg rhapontic rhubarb ERr731

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Featured Products

Metagenics Estrium® Whey
Estrium Whey provide 31.5mg Kudzu root extract & 12.5mg of isoflavones

UltraMeal® UltraMeal 360°™
Soy protein isolate which provides 8.5 AIE total soy isoflavones

Metagenics EstroFactors®
208mg red clover extract

Black Cohosh Plus®
80mg black cohosh root extract

Chasteberry Plus
100mg chasteberry extract

OmegaGenics® Evening Primrose Oil
1300mg evening primrose seed oil

Metagenics Estrovera®
4mg rhapontic rhubarb ERr731

Author Bio

My name is Xiaoqin Feng. I am a third year undergrad student studying Nutrition and Food Science at University of Alberta. My interest in health and wellness had driven me to choose the Nutrition and Food Major and Physical Activity Minor. I believe these two aspects, nutrition and physical activity, play an important role in promoting a healthy life. From living 18 years in Shanghai, China, I have personally experienced multiple times the wonder that alternative medicine can bring to healing our bodies. A rising numbers of literature as well as research studies have been focusing on the efficacy of phytochemicals, functional foods, and herbal medicines which are drawing important conclusions for providing natural therapeutic benefits in comparison to western medicine. I believe that as more attention and investment are being put into the study of alternative medicine, the more comprehensive and convincible conclusions will be made. Systematic methodologies and precise study designs will be the key to discover their true values.

Xiaoqin works at Firstline Nutrition as a Junior Nutritionist on the weekends from Friday to Sunday.

Works Cited

1. Akazawa, Nobuhiko, Youngju Choi, Asako Miyaki, Yoko Tanabe, Jun Sugawara, Ryuichi Ajisaka, and Seiji Maeda. "Curcumin ingestion and exercise training improve vascular endothelial function in postmenopausal women." Nutrition Research 32.10 (2012): 795-99. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

2. Geller, Stacie E., and Laura Studee. "Contemporary alternatives to plant estrogens for menopause." Maturitas 55 (2006): S3-S13. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

3. Kaszkin-Bettag, Marietta, Sabine Beck, Andy Richardson, Peter W. Heger, and Andre-Michael Beer. "EFFICACY OF THF SPFCIAL FXTRACT ERr 731 FROM RHAPONTIC RHUBARB FOR MENOPAUSAL COMPLAINTS: A 6-MONTH OPEN OBSERVA-TIONAL STUDY." Alternative Theropies 14.6 (2008): 32-38. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

4. Mayo, Joseph L. "Black Cohosh and Chasteberry: Herbs Valued by Women for Centuries." Clinical Nutrition Insights 6.15 (1998): 1-4. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

5. Ross, Stephanie Maxine. "A Standardized Isopropanolic Black Cohosh Extract (Remifemin) Is Found to Be Safe and Effective for Menopausal Symptoms." Holistic Nursing Practice 26.1 (2012): 58-61. Web. 17 Feb. 2017

6. Shakeri, F., S. Taavoni, A. Goushegir, and H. Haghani. "Effectiveness of red clover in alleviating menopausal symptoms: a 12-week randomized, controlled trial." Climacteric 18.4 (2015): 568-73. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

7. The North American Menopause Society. "The role of soy isoflavones in menopausal health." Menopause 18.7 (2011): 732-53. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

8. Wong, Cathy. "The Benefits of Kudzu." Verywell. N.p., 7 Jan. 2015. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
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