Can Soy Help Menopause Symptoms?

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Take the Menopause Quiz

Ask the experts

I read that soy isoflavones help ease menopause symptoms, is this true?

Doctor's response

Isoflavones are chemical compounds found in soy and other plants that are phytoestrogens, or plant-derived estrogens. They have a chemical structure that is similar to the estrogens naturally produced by the body, but their effectiveness as an estrogen has been estimated to be much lower than true estrogens. Two types of isoflavones, genistein and daidzein, are found in soy beans, chick peas, and lentils, and are considered to be the most potent estrogens of the phytoestrogens. Still, the estrogen potency of phytoestrogens is estimated to be only 1/1000 to 1/100,000 of that of estradiol, natural estrogen.

Some studies have shown that these compounds can help relieve the symptoms of menopause, and many women do use soy products to help control the symptoms of menopause. In particular, women who have had breast cancer and do not want to take hormone therapy (HT) with estrogen sometimes use soy products for relief of menopausal symptoms. However, some phytoestrogens can actually have anti-estrogenic properties in certain situations, and the overall risks of these preparations have not yet been determined. For example, researchers have shown that long-term use of phytoestrogens in postmenopausal women led to an increase in endometrial hyperplasia (overgrowth of the tissues lining the uterus) which can be a precursor to cancer. Further research is needed to fully characterize the safety and potential risks of phytoestrogens.

There is also a perception among many women that these products are "natural" and therefore safer than HT, but this has never been proven scientifically. If you are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, your doctor can help you decide what type of treatment is appropriate for your individual situation.

Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care

REFERENCE:

"Patient education: Nonhormonal treatments for menopausal symptoms (Beyond the Basics)"
UpToDate.com


Quick GuideMenopause & Perimenopause: Symptoms, Signs

Menopause & Perimenopause: Symptoms, Signs

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Women's Health Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Reviewed on 8/2/2017

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors