Let a Plant-Based Diet Cool You Down
A Vegan Health Article from All-Creatures.org

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From Dr. Mary (Clifton) Wendt, Get Waisted
April 2014

Diet controls estrogen levels too. National Cancer Institute data shows that when a woman begins a high-fiber, low-fat diet, estrogen levels can drop by 15 to 50 percent. A woman following a plant-based diet will still have plenty of estrogen to support necessary functions at the molecular level, but there will be far less estrogen available to stimulate tumor growth. That sounds like a good thing for cancer prevention.

After withdrawing from animal products abruptly and completely six years ago, I developed drenching night sweats. I woke up wet and slimy like a fish, and often switched to the guest bedroom to finish my nightís sleep, since my bed was rendered uninhabitable. I thought my metabolism had gotten completely boggled, and the next step would be an early and untimely death after a hip fracture or some other horrible outcome reserved for the very sick and very old. I wondered what kind of witchcraft was leading a gal in her late 30s to be drenched in sweat in the middle of the night.
But after just a few short weeks, my body balanced out beautifully. I experienced less backache and cramping with menses, clearer thinking and a higher level of energy. I chalked up the night sweats to bad dreams. It was years later before I made the connection.
Your Hot Flash
Eighty percent of women experiencing their transition to menopause are symptomatic in one way or another. These symptoms, fortunately, decrease as we get older. By the age of 55, only 6.6 percent of women will still suffer persistent hot flashes and night sweats. By the age of 65, only 3.4 percent of women are still having vasomotor instability, the medical term for hot flashes and night sweats. These are the women who may benefit from the addition of hormone replacement therapy to control their symptoms if they are perceived as life-altering or intolerable.
Hot flashes and night sweats are increasingly well-studied, but poorly understood. Sensors applied to womenís chests failed to identify actual temperature differences in women suffering from hot flashes, thus failing to prove that temperature dysregulation is the cause. The bottom line is, after years of study in multiple universities, we still donít know exactly what causes a hot
But we do have some clues as to whatís happening. The hypothalamus is responsible for temperature regulation, and, as you might have guessed, it has plenty of estrogen receptors on it. Interestingly, the hypothalamus also has plenty of testosterone receptors. Our ovaries make estrogen, but they also make testosterone. Lower levels of both testosterone and estrogen after menopause may contribute to temperature dysregulation. Both of these sex hormones occur naturally in women, but at declining levels as women age. A woman can expect a decline of about 50 percent in the levels of her hormones from the age of 20 until 40. From age 40 to the average menopausal age of 50, women see further reductions in estrogen. Before the actual onset of menopause, itís not uncommon for women to suffer hot flashes prior to their periods, when estrogen levels are at their lowest in their menstrual cycle.
Estrogen is naturally present in every womanís body. The term ďestrogenĒ really refers to a group of hormones, including estrone, estradiol, and others. We will refer to this group of hormones as estrogens. Studies have identified different physiological characteristics with different estrogens, but that is a subject for a different book. Before menopause, ovaries make estrogen, but many other cells are also capable of manufacturing estrogen. In fact, you can think of fat cells as little estrogen factories, efficiently converting hormones produced in the adrenal glands into estrogens.
While women have estrogen receptors in their breast tissue, they also have estrogen receptors in many other cells of the body, including the skeleton, brain and even the kidneys and adrenal glands. The effects of estrogen on many of the organs is still not clearly defined, and I donít know if scientists will ever determine the function of some estrogen receptors. We do know that estrogen is, at different times of the life cycle and at different concentrations, both valuable to some organs and problematic for others. While estrogen is valuable in growing breast tissue in the adolescent female, it is detrimental to many women recovering from breast cancer. When researchers add a little bit of estrogen to cancer cells in the laboratory, cancer cells grow much faster. In fact, many modern pharmaceuticals used for treating breast cancer work to reduce the ability of available estrogen to stimulate cancer cells by blocking the receptor or by limiting the bodyís ability to synthesize estrogen at all.
Your News Flash
Diet controls estrogen levels too. National Cancer Institute data shows that when a woman begins a high-fiber, low-fat diet, estrogen levels can drop by 15 to 50 percent. A woman following a plant-based diet will still have plenty of estrogen to support necessary functions at the molecular level, but there will be far less estrogen available to stimulate tumor growth. That sounds like a good thing for cancer prevention.
A study published in 2003 by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that when girls, ages eight to ten, reduced the amount of fat in their diet, their estrogen levels decreased to lower and safer levels. By increasing the consumption of whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, these girls dropped their estrogen levels by 30 percent compared to the girls who changed nothing. Cancer scientists believe that most cancers start small and grow over many years until they develop into a problematic tumor, and many cancer scientists think that most breast cancers originate in the adolescent breast. This is the time of life when the breast tissue is dividing most rapidly. It is in the times of rapid cellular division that DNA is most likely to divide in an irregular way. Statistically, a higher number of divisions result in a higher number of errors. When these abnormal divisions are stimulated by higher levels of estrogen, it is like fertilizing the lawn. The aberrant cell is more inclined to grow and get a good foothold with estrogen stimulation. This is why itís so vitally important to your daughterís lifelong health to consume plant foods during her adolescence. You may literally be saving her life by protecting her from the initiation of a breast cancer in her adolescence that will eventually threaten her adult life.
Overdoing Your Estrogen
In certain Asian countries, there are no words in the language to describe hot flashes or night sweats. Iíve always thought this was because women were undervalued in some countries, and, therefore, their concerns trivialized. If people didnít listen to women value value what women said, why would there be a broad vocabulary to describe signs and symptoms of diseases that are limited to women?
It is possible, and more likely, however, that their healthy plant-based diets attenuate the estrogen withdrawal symptoms of menopause and lead to far fewer signs and symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats.
Journal of National Cancer Institute data shows that girls who remove animal products from their diet experience a 30 percent decline in serum estrogen levels. I think I personally experienced relative estrogen withdrawal when I awoke as a slimy wet fish six years ago. Reducing the animal content of my diet from 40 percent of my daily calories to less than 5 percent virtually overnight resulted in a relative estrogen deficiency, and undoubtedly, my body was aware of the change. That 40 percent reduction in estrogen in my bloodstream led to vasomotor instability and left me standing, shivering and boggled, next to my cold wet bed in the middle of the night. Iím so thankful I learned the truth about animal foods and changed my diet before that excess estrogen caused a lot more trouble. Now, I have enough estrogen to live as a healthy woman, but not so much that Iím undoing my health.
This Too Will End
The majority of women experience the menopausal transition at 50 years old. By the age of 54, virtually every woman will have completed her menopausal transition. Twenty percent of women have no signs or symptoms associated with their menopause, except cessation of the menstrual period. The other 80 percent of women are symptomatic in one way or another. The conglomeration of symptoms experienced by each individual woman seems to be related to a mixture of genetics and lifestyle.
Often, in the midst of acute symptomatic estrogen withdrawal, women can experience difficulty concentrating or increased anxiety or depression. This leads many women to arrive at my office with a request for hormonal supplementation for their perceived cognitive impairments.
While I have plenty of sympathy for someone who is feeling frustrated by depression or anxiety limiting their level of function, I can also offer plenty of reassurance. Many studies have reviewed the data on mood disorder surrounding menopause, and the results are very comforting. It turns out that when you awaken a woman several times a night with sweats and give her hot flashes all day, sheís not going to be at the top of her game. Scientists have studied this problem by comparing the level of function of 60-year-old women with their fourth grade report cards. Scientists wanted to determine if a womanís mental capacities and mood were impacted by estrogen withdrawal. It turns out that the level of productivity and basic personality of the 60-year-old women studied was surprisingly consistent with the behaviors documented in the fourth grade report cards. That is, the womenís personalities were quite similar to the way they had been in their childhoods, regardless of the intensity of the mood disorders surrounding their menopausal transitions.
You can learn a lot about a person by reviewing their fourth grade report card, since personality traits are well-established by that time. Conversely, you donít learn anything by watching a woman suffer through a particularly symptomatic menopausal transition, except perhaps how she will respond to stress and acute illness. If there is some difficulty concentrating or a mood disorder like depression or anxiety, it will go away once the transition is completed and the woman adjusts to her new hormonal environment.
Estrogen and Your Brain
The literature is divided on the effect of estrogen on the aging brain. While the North American Menopause Society thinks that estrogen offers minimal protection of healthy brain function, there is still considerable debate on the topic. There is not enough evidence to suggest that women supplementing with estrogen in her post-menopausal years are protecting their brains. Any small effect of estrogen withdrawal seen at the time of menopause on cognitive function is largely mitigated with the passage of time and distancing oneself from the acute situation. 

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We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.