Safely Manage Menopausal SymptomsAugust 2014
By Alicia Nadil
How To Measure Breast Cancer Risk
Of special importance, a recent study demonstrated that when HMR lignan is combined with indole-3-carbinol, a beneficial compound in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables,41 it produces a vital shift in the ways that natural estrogen is metabolized in a woman’s body.42
Although estrogen is a natural hormone produced by both women and men, it undergoes chemical changes through the actions of enzymes in the liver. One of those enzyme systems produces so-called 2-hydroxy estrogen breakdown products, while the other produces 16-hydroxy versions of the molecule.43 The 2-hydroxy version appears to offer protection against breast cancer,44 while the 16-hydroxy version remains powerful enough to raise a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer.45 The ratio of 2-hydroxy to 16-hydroxy molecules is therefore a good measure of a woman’s breast cancer risk, with the higher the ratio (meaning more beneficial 2-hydroxy and less dangerous 16-hydroxy), the lower her risk.43,46 In the recent study, a breast health nutritional formula containing HMR lignan plus indole-3-carbinol was shown to be capable of shifting estrogen metabolism toward the 2-hydroxy version and raising the 2:16-hydroxy ratio; an important step in minimizing the risk of breast (and possibly other) cancers.42 This is in line with other studies demonstrating that consumption of cruciferous vegetables nudges the 2:16-hydroxy ratio in a direction that favors protection from breast cancers.45,47
Replacing estrogen lost to menopause was once relegated to taking unnatural-to-the-body estrogen drugs and dangerous synthetic progestins (which is not the same as progesterone). These pharmaceutical approaches are declining as maturing women insist on natural hormone replacement protocols.
Treatment with plant-derived, estrogen-like molecules called phytoestrogens and natural progesterone are showing great promise in relieving symptoms of the menopausal transition and at restoring some of the protection enjoyed by premenopausal women against cancer and other chronic conditions.55
Extracts of hops and Norway spruce are rich in such phytoestrogens, as well as in other molecules that protect women against low-estrogen-induced conditions. These molecules have now been studied and appear to lead the field in the combination of symptom relief and protective effects.
Additional plant extracts, many of them in use for centuries in traditional medical systems, can add further symptomatic relief and disease-preventive effects. These natural plant derivatives are increasingly being made available in convenient combination formulations.54
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