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China Report: Menopause

As every woman knows who rides the wave of shifting hormones, these small, chemical components of our blood can take us for quite a ride – from bloating to hot flashes to depression. And while we may not be able to completely smooth the hormonal journey, we can ease the way.

Menopause is, well, a hot topic. But it seems it is less “hot” for Chinese women. Researchers claim that these women report far fewer difficult symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes. While we don’t know the precise reason for this, we do know the following very provocative facts.

  • American women tend to have higher estrogen levels than Chinese women.
  • Many researchers suspect that difficulties with menopause are caused by the degree that estrogen levels fall. In other words, if estrogen levels are not so high to begin with, their fall is far shorter, leading to fewer symptoms. Meat, chicken, and dairy products contain foreign estrogens that are fed to animals to increase weight and production, but they also lead to higher estrogen levels.
  • Diets rich in vegetables, particularly whole grains and legumes, provide magnesium and vitamin B6, both of which appear to reduce symptoms of PMS, and possibly, of menopause.
  • Many plant foods, such as soy products, contain phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) such as genistein, which bind to estrogen receptors in the breast or endometrium, “locking out” the “bad” estrogens associated with cancer. In addition, these phytoestrogens provide a natural and gentle source of estrogen as women’s levels drop during menopause. Researchers hypothesize that the high intake of soy products in Asia – tofu, soybean juice, miso – may be partly responsible for easing the Asian women’s way through this mid-life passage.

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