When your female hormones are not in balance, you may gain weight. Many women find they store fat around their belly as they approach the menopause. This is because oestrogen levels decline in the years leading up to menopause and belly fat can produce oestrogen. You still need oestrogen to protect your bones and heart. Oestrogen also plays an important role in the regulation of your immune system.
Oestrogens promote both innate and adaptive immune responses, which result in faster clearance of pathogens. (The male hormone testosterone has suppressive effects on immunity). This may be why women are less susceptible to infectious diseases than men – Women have better chances of survival from COVID-19 than men.
To balance your female hormones, it can be helpful to include plant substances known as phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens help bring your oestrogen levels back into balance, whether they are high or low. So if your oestrogen levels are declining because of perimenopause, they help boost your oestrogen.
Soy is one of the best forms of phytoestrogen but it needs to be fermented to have an oestrogenic effect. Fermented soy includes tempeh, miso, soy sauce and Tamari, a type of soy sauce. (Choose organic soy sauce and check the ingredients to avoid preservatives, additives and sugar).
Tofu is an unfermented soy product. However, it can be fermented by gut bacteria, providing your gut bacteria are working well.
A note on soy products: If you use soya milk, choose one that is organic and made from the whole bean. It is best to avoid soya milk that may be made from soya protein isolates.
You should also avoid raw soya and soya in processed foods. Raw soya contains trypsin inhibitors which may inhibit protein digestion. Soya in processed foods is highly processed and been treated with chemicals.
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Trenti A, Tedesco S, Boscaro C, Trevisi L, Bolego C, Cignarella A (2018) Estrogen, Angiogenesis, Immunity and Cell Metabolism: Solving the Puzzle. Int J Mol Sci. 19(3):859. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29543707/
Spagnolo PA, Manson JE, Joffe H, MD (2020) Sex and Gender Differences in Health: What the COVID-19 Pandemic Can Teach Us Ann Intern Med. M20-1941 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7249504/