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Menopause blues? Go the soya way

Increased intake of soya foods is found to lower menopausal symptoms, says a study.

india Updated: Jun 20, 2006 18:10 IST

If you experience a decrease in sexual desire, have irregular menstruation, vaginal dryness, adult acne, thinning of hair, chronic fatigue, hair growth on the face, especially on the chin and upper lip, mood swings, dry skin, sleep disturbances and joint pains, you are heading for menopause.

The average menopause age is between 50 and 53.

But these symptoms can begin anytime after 40 and go on for sometime, unless you do something about it.

Some women may experience all the symptoms; others may sail through it with no significant symptoms.

Why do some women experience more menopausal discomfort than others? Symptoms depend on hormone levels and genetics, but it has been seen that women who are vegetarian experience fewer menopausal symptoms - this could be because vegetarians consume more grains, pulses and legumes which contain compounds called phytoestrogens.

These phytoestrogens help reduce menopausal symptoms. Japanese women consume a lot of soya products.

Soyabean is the richest food source of phytoestrogen.

It has been observed by Herman Aldercreutz, a famous researcher in soya, that menopausal symptoms are less in Japanese and Indonesia women compared to Western women.

There are many other clinical studies that show lower incidence of menopausal symptoms due to increased intake of soya foods.

How does soyabean help? Soyabean works like an anti-ageing pill.

It contains isoflavones like genistein, daidzein that have a positive effect on bone health, sex drive, heart disease, vaginal dryness, depression, sleep disturbances etc.

Genistein in soya is a potent antioxidant with anti-cancer activity. Soya helps lower cholesterol, triglycerides and regulates blood sugar levels.

Therefore, it plays a definite role in heart disease prevention in post-menopausal women. The soyabean magic seems to even work on preventing fragile bones or osteoporosis.

Consuming soya in the form of soya milk or as soya flour helps to build strong bones.

The phytoestrogens in soyabean have a direct benefit on bone health. Women nearing menopause should consume at least 100-150 gm of soyabean every day in one form or the other.

You could consume it in the form of soya flour mixed with wheat flour to make chappatis.

You could drink soya milk regularly or consume tofu. Soya biscuits and soya nuts are available in the market and act as a healthy in-between meals snack.

Soyabeans can be cooked as dal and consumed regularly.

very gram of soya protein contains at least 1-2 mg of isoflavone -- its miracle component that appears to have a beneficial effect on menopausal symptoms.

It is important to note that soyabean need not be consumed only by menopausal women.

The earlier you start consuming soya, the more benefits you can derive from it. Soya is almost a miracle food for women as it seems to address most pre- and post-menopausal problems.

Along with consuming soyabean, a low-fat diet, rich in natural foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and pulses helps prevent most hormone-related problems.

If you have been consuming soyabean, keep doing so; if not, then start now.

Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total.

She can be contacted query@health total.com