Understanding phytohormones for menopause
When women experience menopause, there are 34 identified symptoms that they can experience in varying degrees over a 20-year period. Some women experience very few, some experience many. So, as therapists, what can we do to help?
The cause of menopause symptoms
As therapists, there are a number of ways we can support women during menopause:
We can also use and recommend products that are specifically designed to ease menopausal symptoms and address their cause. The secret is in the phytohormones - a.k.a plant hormones, including phytoestrogens.
More on that in a moment, but to begin with it’s important to know that the physical and emotional symptoms of menopause all have the same cause; declining levels of hormones; primarily oestrogen and progesterone. That decline in hormone levels isn't smooth, so people experience different things at different times and symptoms are wide ranging, unpredictable and vary in severity.
What are phytohormones?
With a greater focus on menopause, more research is beginning to be done, and there is an increased use of phytoestrogens. These are plant-based compounds that mimic oestrogen in the body.
As many women now look for alternative options to HRT (nothing wrong with that if it’s what you choose for yourself and if it works for you), phytohormones are a rapidly scaling area that’s said to be poised to be a leading choice, when compared to synthetic hormone replacement therapy.
For example, there is some evidence to suggest that they reduce the frequency of hot flushes in menopausal women, according to the National Institutes of Health. After peaking in the early noughties, this approach has rebounded strongly after falling out of popular awareness for a while.
Where do you find phytohormones?
Phytohormones can be taken as supplements, consumed in certain foods or used topically in skincare.
As a frame of reference, foods that are naturally high in phytoestrogens include:
- Soy beans
- Flax seed
- Sesame seeds
- Dried beans
- Mung beans
- Wheat germ
When it comes to skincare, there are lots of natural sources of oestrogen that we can draw on to help balance hormones during menopause. For example, some of the ingredients in our MPlus products include:
Soy is well known for its high concentration of isoflavones - a type of plant oestrogen. It’s other skincare benefits include cleansing and moisturisation.
Evening primrose oil
Evening primrose oil is one of the most important plant phytoestrogens according to the National Library of Medicine. It belongs to the Onagraceae family, which they say: “has various effects on menopausal vasomotor symptoms, symptomatic relief of psoriasis and premenstrual syndrome, and the inhibition of platelet aggregation.” As a result, studies have shown its particular effectiveness for hot flashes and night sweats during menopause. Meanwhile, its emollient properties mean it helps soften and smooth the skin, improving the skin's overall texture.
Sunflower seeds are also high in oestrogen, while their oil is a great source of vitamin E, which helps soothe the skin, easing inflammation and irritation as well as generally providing nourishment.
Aromatherapy with geranium oil has been shown to help stimulate the secretion of salivary oestrogen, and has oestrogen properties that help to balance hormones. In skincare it’s also highly soothing, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial (great for breakouts), boosting the skin's natural glow.
Evidence around the use of phytohormones
At Jennifer Young, we are big fans of evidence based wellness, and we’re certainly ones for doing our own research as well. We like to understand cause and effect, especially when we set out to create our own spa treatments and skincare products for menopause. Importantly, we’ve always been on team causation, so our focus was to address the cause of symptoms.
With that in mind, we commissioned research from a UK university, asking them to look into the evidence for (or against) the effectiveness of complementary therapies in helping with the symptoms of menopause. They did not consider anything that was not a good, solid, robust scientific study, and they found that phytoestrogens were effective across a wide spectrum of symptoms and that aromatherapy was also effective in some symptom groups.
Skincare with superpowers
As a result of that research, the superpowers of our skincare products, used in our hormonal wellness touch treatments, are fuelled by natural ingredients (phytohormones) to balance hormones. Similar substances are used in some prescription solutions for menopause. Our collections are made using natural ingredients and are applied to the skin, in the same way that some HRT solutions are applied to the skin.
The research we commissioned into the proven efficacy of complementary therapies in the reduction of symptoms of menopause supports some of the use of acupuncture theory and phytoestrogens. However, no research has been done into the efficacy of the treatments themselves (yet), although there is experience based evidence.
It’s important to remember that the treatments themselves are a spa experience, not a medical therapy. The components of them are designed with menopause in mind and using product ingredients that are known to support menopausal wellbeing. Armed with this knowledge and more, the process that therapists go through when treating menopausal women using our Hormonal Wellness Face and Body Treatments includes:
- Identification of the symptom group most significant to the client.
- An all over, body or facial treatment focusing on the areas associated with improvement in the client’s symptom groups, using techniques that research has identified as being beneficial.
- The products – skincare with superpowers, fuelled by phytohormones.
Learn more about supporting women as they go through menopause with our accredited coaching and touch treatment qualifications.