Women start to experience the menopausal transition between the age of 40 and 58. And while this is a natural part of a woman’s aging process, the many changes the body goes through during this period can make it feel anything but. Menopause transition can be very uncomfortable, especially with the onset of symptoms.
Lignans and menopause can seem the unlikeliest combinations, but lignans may be one of the best natural menopause treatments available.
Treatment for Menopause and Perimenopause.
Lignans are naturally occurring phytoestrogens, meaning they can mimic the role of estrogen in the body. Many plants contain lignans, but this compound is particularly abundant in flaxseed.
As a phytoestrogen, they can decrease uncomfortable menopause symptoms (1). Not only are they one of the best natural remedies for hot flashes and other symptoms, but they are also effective in treating women undergoing perimenopause. This is a result of the lignan’s hormone-balancing tendencies. They can aid in treating menstrual irregularity by reducing the frequency and intensity of hot flashes.
Before the onset of menopause, women may experience perimenopause symptoms. Perimenopause, sometimes referred to as pre-menopause, is a transitioning period and can happen several years before the onset of menopause. As time passes, a woman’s ovaries will gradually produce less and less estrogen. Lignans help to restore balance as the body undergoes such changes.
Symptoms of Perimenopause and Menopause
When a woman enters the perimenopausal stage, she may experience mood changes, menstrual irregularity, hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, and decreased fertility. Perimenopause can last an average of four years. In some women, perimenopause only lasts for only a few months, while others are in this stage for up to ten years.
After the transition phase is menopause, and with menopause comes the complete cessation of menstruation. Menopausal symptoms may manifest as hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, decreased libido, dryness of the mouth, vaginal dryness, and trouble sleeping.
These perimenopause and menopause symptoms manifest as estrogen levels fluctuate and decline. As lignans can mimic the estrogen produced in the body, intake of flaxseed or lignan supplements may help balance estrogen levels and reduce menopausal symptoms. Lignans are among the best natural remedies for perimenopause and menopause (2).
Lignans and Menopause: Natural Hormone Balance
Women undergo physical, mental, emotional, and hormonal changes during menopause. But while fluctuating energy and emotional levels may be stabilized, lower estrogen levels put women at risk for heart disease or osteoporosis. In some cases, estrogen levels may also increase with menopause or postmenopause.
Lignans can help women in this stage of life balance hormones and raise natural estrogen levels by competing with progesterone. When too much estrogen is present, lignans mimic estrogen and bind to estrogen receptors to eliminate the excess estrogen, which is then excreted from the body either through the urine or the bowels. Conversely, when insufficient estrogen is present, the lignans bind to estrogen receptors and exert their weak estrogenic effects, augmenting a woman’s low estrogen level. Lignans (phytoestrogens) can be used as a natural hormone replacement treatment and are much safer than conventional ones.
Studies on the relationship between lignans and menopause have shown that lignans can be an effective natural menopause treatment. As a phytoestrogen, plant lignans can safely alleviate menopause symptoms without using chemicals (5). Of all menopause symptoms, one of the greatest changes that lignan users have reported is the reduction of hot flashes (both intensity and frequency).
It has been reported that lignans can help decrease hot flashes by over 50%. Lignans are a natural way to regulate hormone changes during menopause, and in doing so, they can lighten other menopause symptoms, such as night sweats, thus providing significant menopause relief. A recent clinical study set out to determine whether lignans can effectively treat menopause symptoms found that lignans can reduce hot flashes in as little as four weeks.
Using Lignans as Natural Menopause Relief
Lignans are a safer menopausal relief alternative because it mimics estrogen in a natural way. Three capsules of flaxseed hulls per day provide 99 mg of flaxseed lignans and can supply the body with hormone-balancing effects. This dose is enough to increase lignan levels in the body to levels equivalent to test subjects. Increasing fluid intake along with lignans is recommended to achieve maximum relief.
Studies and Research
A Mayo Clinic study concerning lignans and menopause shows that “lignans provide a more natural estrogen treatment for menopause and hot flashes than synthetic hormone therapy and therefore are a potentially healthier treatment for both.” Sandhya Pruthi, MD. Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Published February 1, 2008 (3)
An Italian study also found that lignans, as a phytoestrogen, can have a positive effect on bone loss and that a steady intake of fiber (which flaxseed lignans provide) may naturally decrease cholesterol in postmenopausal women, in addition to their many other benefits. (4)
In another Mayo Clinic study, women experiencing hot flashes took flaxseed (high in lignans) for six weeks. At the end of the study, they reported better moods, decreased sweating, and fewer joint pains. Also, the amount and severity of the hot flashes they had been experiencing were cut in half.
Another recent study on the diets of Asian populations versus those of western populations reported that the Asian population, with a diet rich in phytoestrogens, had a considerably decreased rate of menopause symptoms, osteoporosis, and hormone-dependent cancers compared to westerners.
1. Adlercreutz H, Hamalainen E, Gorbach S, Goldin B: Dietary phyto-oestrogens and the menopause in Japan. Lancet 1992;339:1233.
2. Israel D, Youngkin EQ. Herbal therapies for perimenopausal and menopausal complaints. Pharmacotherapy.1997;17:970-984.
3. Sandhya Pruthi, MD. Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Published February 1, 2008
5. Weil Valerie P, Cirigliano Michael D, Battistini Michelle. Herbal Treatments for Symptoms of Menopause. Clinical Perspectives in Complementary Medicine. 2000.