PCOS Review Newsletter #18

Which Is Better for Balancing Estrogen - Soy or Flax?

Phytoestrogens are plant substances that have biologic actions in your body similar to estrogen, although much weaker. They are abundant in flax seed and soy.

You've probably heard that eating soy may reduce or "balance" your estrogen. If you are consuming soy foods for this reason, you may want to consider flax seeds.

A study conducted at the Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto compared the effects of consuming flax seed versus soy on estrogen metabolism in 46 postmenopausal women.

In the flax seed group, urinary concentrations of the 2-OHE1 estrogen metabolite, but not 16alpha-OHE1, increased significantly, suggesting that 2-OHE1 levels increased relative to 16alpha-OHE1. In the group who ate soy, there was no change.

As we said in the previous article, an optimal balance between 2-OHE1 and 16alpha-OHE1 is a key to good health and may reduce your risk of cancer. A substantial proportion of women have too much 16alpha-OHE1, which leads to problems such as breast cancer.

If you have a high level of total estrogen, it's possible that you are also producing too much of the 16alpha-OHE1 estrogen metabolite. So adding flax seeds to your diet may be a good idea.

Flax seed provides significant fiber and mucilage for proper bowel function. This fiber helps to reduce cholesterol by holding it in your bowel to be eliminated regularly. Flax is also quite high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial to women with PCOS.

We suggest you buy fresh flax seeds and grind them up in a coffee bean grinder. Put the ground-up seeds on your cereal, salads, and other foods. Or add them to soups, casseroles, etc. Try 1-3 tablespoons of freshly ground up flax seeds daily. It is important to drink 8 ounces of water for every tablespoon of flax seed you take each day.

Source: Brooks, JD et al, Supplementation with flaxseed alters estrogen metabolism in postmenopausal women to a greater extent than does supplementation with an equal amount of soy, Am J Clin Nutr, 2004, 79(2):318-25.

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