Phytoestrogens & Hormones

Anne Harrison
Anne Harrison
Phytoestrogens & Hormones

Nutritional therapy in Exeter, with a qualified Exeter based Nutritional Therapist & Nutritionist. Book an appointments in Topsham, Exminster or online here

What Are Phytoestrogens?

Phytoestrogens are a category of phytonutrients, naturally occurring compounds found in plants. These substances, while not essential nutrients like vitamins or minerals, can offer significant health benefits. Phytonutrients include carotenoids, flavonoids, glucosinolates, phenolic acids, saponins, lignans, and phytoestrogens.

Phytoestrogens can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body due to their structural similarity to the estrogen hormone. This allows them to bind to estrogen receptors, exhibiting either estrogenic or anti-estrogenic effects.

Estrogenic Effects

When phytoestrogens mimic the body's natural estrogen (estradiol) by binding to estrogen receptors (ERα and ERβ), they can activate these receptors, leading to several potential benefits:

  1. Mimicking Natural Estrogen: Phytoestrogens can produce similar effects to endogenous estrogen, which can be beneficial in conditions where estrogen levels are low, such as during menopause. This can help alleviate symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats.
  2. Bone Health: By activating estrogen receptors in bone tissue, phytoestrogens can help maintain bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
  3. Cardiovascular Benefits: Estrogenic activity can improve lipid profiles by increasing HDL (good cholesterol) and reducing LDL (bad cholesterol). They also exert vasodilatory effects on blood vessels, which helps lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health.

Anti-Estrogenic Effects

Phytoestrogens can also block the action of natural estrogens by binding to estrogen receptors without activating them, effectively preventing endogenous estrogen from binding and exerting its effects. This can be particularly important in tissues where excess estrogen could promote disease.

  1. Breast Cancer Prevention: In breast tissue, phytoestrogens can act as antagonists to estrogen, potentially reducing the risk of estrogen-driven cancers by blocking the more potent natural estrogen from stimulating cell proliferation.
  2. Prostate Health: Similar anti-estrogenic effects in prostate tissue can help reduce the risk of prostate cancer, as certain prostate cancers are driven by hormones.
  3. Regulation of Hormone Levels: By occupying estrogen receptors, phytoestrogens can help modulate overall hormone activity, potentially balancing hormone levels in various tissues.

Factors Influencing Effects

The effects of phytoestrogens depend on several factors:

  • Concentration: At low concentrations, phytoestrogens may act primarily as estrogen agonists (estrogenic), while at higher concentrations, they might block estrogen receptors more effectively (anti-estrogenic).
  • Endogenous Estrogen Levels: In premenopausal women with higher levels of natural estrogen, phytoestrogens are more likely to exhibit anti-estrogenic effects. In contrast, in postmenopausal women with lower estrogen levels, phytoestrogens can have more pronounced estrogenic effects.
  • Tissue Type: Different tissues express varying ratios of ERα and ERβ receptors. Phytoestrogens may bind more strongly to ERβ, prevalent in bones and the cardiovascular system, leading to beneficial estrogenic effects in these tissues while exerting anti-estrogenic effects in breast tissue dominated by ERα.

Sources of Phytoestrogens

  • Soy Products: Tofu, tempeh, soy milk, edamame, miso
  • Flaxseeds: Ground flaxseeds are particularly rich in lignans
  • Whole Grains: Wheat, oats, barley, and rye
  • Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, beans
  • Fruits and Vegetables: Berries, apples, carrots, yams, and pomegranates
  • Nuts and Seeds: Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and almonds

Phytoestrogens and PMT

Hormonal Balance:

  • Estrogen Modulation: Phytoestrogens can exert mild estrogenic effects, helping balance the hormonal environment and potentially reducing PMT symptoms.
  • Regulation of Estrogen Levels: They can maintain more consistent estrogen levels throughout the menstrual cycle, reducing hormonal fluctuations that contribute to PMT symptoms.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects:

  • Reduction of Inflammation: Phytoestrogens have anti-inflammatory properties that can alleviate PMT symptoms such as bloating and breast tenderness.

Mood Regulation:

  • Serotonin Modulation: By mimicking estrogen, phytoestrogens might improve serotonin levels, reducing mood swings, irritability, and depression associated with PMT.
  • Stress Reduction: Some studies suggest phytoestrogens can reduce stress and anxiety levels, leading to an overall improvement in mood.

Reduction of Physical Symptoms:

  • Bloating and Water Retention: Phytoestrogens can have a diuretic effect, reducing water retention and bloating.
  • Breast Tenderness: By balancing estrogen levels, phytoestrogens may reduce breast tenderness and swelling.

Phytoestrogens and Endometriosis

Hormonal Modulation:

  • Estrogen Regulation: By competing with endogenous estrogen for receptor sites, phytoestrogens can reduce estrogenic stimulation of endometrial tissue, mitigating endometrial lesion growth.
  • Hormonal Balance: Phytoestrogens help balance hormone levels, reducing symptoms such as pain and menstrual irregularities.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects:

  • Reducing Inflammation: Anti-inflammatory properties of phytoestrogens can alleviate pain and discomfort associated with endometriosis.
  • Antioxidant Activity: Phytoestrogens act as antioxidants, reducing oxidative stress linked to inflammation and tissue damage in endometriosis.

Pain Management:

  • Analgesic Properties: Phytoestrogens' mild analgesic properties can help manage chronic pelvic pain.
  • Reduction of Menstrual Pain: By modulating hormonal balance and reducing inflammation, phytoestrogens can lessen dysmenorrhea severity.

Immune System Modulation:

  • Immune Regulation: Phytoestrogens may promote a balanced immune response, reducing aberrant immune activity associated with endometriosis.
  • Cytokine Regulation: By modulating cytokine levels, phytoestrogens can help reduce inflammation in endometriosis.

Phytoestrogens and PCOS

Hormonal Regulation:

  • Estrogenic Activity: Phytoestrogens' mild estrogenic effects can modulate hormonal imbalances, promoting regular menstrual cycles and reducing androgen dominance.
  • Androgen Reduction: Phytoestrogens can help lower androgen levels, reducing symptoms like hirsutism, acne, and scalp hair thinning.

Insulin Sensitivity:

  • Improved Insulin Sensitivity: Phytoestrogens, especially in soy, improve insulin sensitivity, helping regulate blood sugar levels and contributing to weight management.
  • Metabolic Health: Better insulin sensitivity reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects:

  • Reducing Inflammation: Phytoestrogens' anti-inflammatory properties can alleviate PCOS symptoms.
  • Oxidative Stress Reduction: Antioxidant properties support metabolic health and reduce inflammation.

Weight Management:

  • Appetite Regulation: Phytoestrogens may help regulate appetite and food intake, crucial for weight management in PCOS.
  • Fat Metabolism: Improved estrogenic activity positively affects fat metabolism, reducing abdominal fat.

Menstrual Cycle Regulation:

  • Cycle Regularity: Phytoestrogens' mild estrogenic effects help regulate menstrual cycles, reducing anovulatory cycles.
  • Endometrial Health: Balanced estrogen levels contribute to healthier endometrial development, important for regular menstruation and fertility.

Phytoestrogens and Menopause

Hormonal Modulation:

  • Mimicking Estrogen: Phytoestrogens can alleviate menopause symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats by mimicking estrogen.
  • Balancing Hormones: Phytoestrogens help balance hormones, reducing symptoms caused by hormonal fluctuations.

Symptom Relief:

  • Hot Flashes and Night Sweats: Isoflavones from soy reduce hot flashes and night sweats.
  • Mood Swings and Depression: By mimicking estrogen, phytoestrogens may improve mood and reduce mood swings and depression.

Bone Health:

  • Maintaining Bone Density: Phytoestrogens maintain bone density, reducing osteoporosis risk.
  • Bone Metabolism: Phytoestrogens promote bone formation and reduce bone resorption.

Cardiovascular Health:

  • Lipid Profile Improvement: Phytoestrogens improve lipid profiles, reducing cardiovascular disease risk.
  • Vascular Health: They promote better blood flow and reduce blood pressure.


Incorporating phytoestrogens into your diet can offer numerous benefits for hormone balance and overall health. Whether you're dealing with PMT, endometriosis, PCOS, or menopause, phytoestrogens can help mitigate symptoms and promote well-being. Include sources like soy products, flaxseeds, whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds in your diet to harness these benefits.

About me:

I specialise in Yoga, Wellbeing Coaching & Nutritional Therapy in the Exeter area, with bases in Exminster and Topsham. My approach is personalised, aimed at supporting individuals in achieving sustainable and healthy lifestyle changes.

Yoga Classes:

Join me for Hatha yoga classes suitable for most levels of yogis. All equipment is provided. Classes are available at Kiva & Zen Studios in Topsham, Exeter, Victory Hall in Exminster, Exeter, and Exeter Golf & Country Club. Immerse yourself in the tranquil atmosphere of Exeter while rejuvenating your mind and body through the practice of yoga. Each session is designed to help you connect with your inner self, cultivate mindfulness, and improve flexibility, strength, and balance. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced practitioner, there's a class for you in my Exeter venues.

Nutritional Therapy:

Nutritional Therapy is a holistic approach to health and well-being that focuses on using food and nutrients to support the body's natural healing processes. As a registered Nutritional Therapist with both the Federation of Nutritional Therapy Practitioners and the Society of Naturopaths, I provide personalised nutrition plans tailored to individual needs. Whether you're looking to improve digestion, boost energy levels, manage weight, or address specific health concerns, Nutritional Therapy can offer valuable insights and support on your journey to optimal health, right here in Exeter.

Wellbeing Coaching:

As a certified Wellbeing Coach, I offer personalised coaching sessions aimed at helping you achieve your wellness goals. Whether you're seeking support in managing stress, improving work-life balance, enhancing self-care practices, or navigating life transitions, I provide guidance, accountability, and strategies to empower you on your path to greater well-being. Together, we'll explore your values, strengths, and aspirations, and develop actionable steps to create positive and lasting change in your life.

Useful links:

  • Contact me here
  • View my price list here
  • Book a wellbeing session here
  • Book a yoga class here (For Exeter Golf and Country Club use their membership system)


As a Yoga Teacher, I underwent training in India and am both qualified and registered with the Yoga Alliance. My Nutritional Therapy diploma is held with the School of Health, and I am a registered Nutritional Therapist with both the Federation of Nutritional Therapy Practitioners and the Society of Naturopaths. I obtained my coaching qualifications through the Institute of Leadership and Management, with specialised training in Wellbeing from the British Coaching Association.

You can view my online brochure, of the wellbeing services I offer in Exeter, here.

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