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A Natural Approach to Hormone Shifts

by Neal Barnard, M.D.

Many physicians now treat menopause like a disease and prescribe hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women.

There is a better approach. Hormonal shifts at any life stage, including menopause, are much less intense on a low fat, high fiber diet. High fat diets increase estrogen production before menopause, and the shift at menopause is a rolelr coaster ride. This is aggravated by the lack of fiber in most high fat diets. The body gets rid of excess estrogens, pulling them out of the blood and sending them into the digestive tract, where fiber carries them away with wastes. Since animal products contain no fiber at all, a meat eaters digestive tract does not contain enough fiber to carry waste hormones away effectively. They end up reabsorbing their own waste hormones.

Low fat, high fiber diets decrease estrogen production, both before and after menopause, and the net effect appears to be a much smoother change. The key, though, is not just to eliminate animal products, but also to keep vegetable oils to an absolute minimum.

Osteoporosis is one of the main reasons doctors prescribe estrogen replacement, but it now appears that the principle contributors to osteoporosis are animal proteins - which leach calcium from the bones - sedentary lifestyles with a lack of weight-bearing exercise, alcohol, and tobacco.

A low-fat, vegan diet is ideal: high in fiber, low in fat, and no animal protein. It provides calcium in the form of green vegetables, beans, peas, and lentils, or, if you prefer, fortified orange juice. Add daily exercise, and you've filled your own prescription for a healthful lifestyle.

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