Over the years, soy’s reputation, like the wind, has changed directions. With an abundance of conflicting views on its benefits versus risks, it’s no wonder menopausal women seeking natural alternatives to hormone therapy are confused about soy’s efficacy and safety.
Soy’s beneficial role in menopause
Epidemiological studies have linked Asiatic women’s diets, which are high in soy, to a significant reduction in the frequency and severity of hot flashes compared to Western women.
A significant component of soy, isoflavones, which are a common class of phytoestrogens, act like a weak form of estrogen and have been shown to help alleviate symptoms caused by reduced levels of estrogen, such as hot flashes. And studies indicate no significant side effects when used to treat these symptoms.
A large systematic review and meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trials showed that women who took a median dose of 54 mg of soy isoflavones a day for six to 12 months had significantly fewer hot flashes and experienced substantial decreases in symptom severity compared with placebo.
Soy isoflavones are also rich in antioxidants, which, combined with calcium supplements and exercise, may help reduce stress, elevate mood, and enhance energy.
Soy isoflavones and breast cancer risk
Since soy contains isoflavones, which act like a weak form of estrogen in the body, and most breast cancers require estrogen to grow, it’s understandable where the correlation between soy and increased breast cancer risk comes from.
But many studies have pointed to the difference in breast cancer occurrence in Asian countries, where soy consumption is high, versus Western countries, where soy consumption is relatively low.
More recent studies are now finding that differences in when soy consumption begins may hold clues to its effectiveness in prevention of breast cancer or its efficacy in aiding treatment and recurrence of breast cancer.
Women who currently are undergoing treatment for breast cancer should always consult with their health care providers before taking supplements.
Supplementing with soy
For menopause symptom regulation, consider soy supplements. While soy can be added to your diet through food, if you’re looking to regulate your consumption and test its effects on your menopause symptoms, supplementation might be your best option.
Always ensure that your soy source is GMO free. If your goal is hormone regulation, it would be counterintuitive to consume soy or soy supplements that may have been sprayed with a glyphosate-based herbicide as this chemical is a known hormone disruptor.
If bone health is also a concern for you, try a combination product made with both GMO-free whole soybeans and magnesium for optimal benefits.
Krista Halton has worked in the health industry for more than 12 years. Her wealth of knowledge and passion for the industry are what drive her to educate Canadians on natural alternatives for healing.