- Women's Health
Soy Isoflavones for Menopause, Especially Vaginal Dryness
Soy isoflavones (plant version of the female hormone estrogen) have been suggested to help. Research evidence for isoflavone effectiveness has been mixed. Effectiveness may be linked to an individual woman's ability to convert isoflavones to equol (which can be tested for in urine). Isoflavones seem better able to prevent vaginal dryness and resulting painful intercourse than other menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes.
Some specific isoflavones are daidzin, daidzein, glycitin, glycitein, genistin, and genistein.
Women who make equol out of isoflavones are subject to isoflavone side effects of a slightly increased risk of breast cancer and endometrial hyperplasia (a thickening of the lining of the uterus which can lead to cancer).
I have used soy isflavones from Pilgrim's Pride in an amount equal to 69 mg. isoflavones per day with excellent results in helping vaginal dryness. As expected, I still had the occasional hot flash. There is no need to test your urine for equol. If isoflavones work for you, you know you produce equol and therefore also run the risk of serious side effects.
Less serious possible side effects include nausea, bloating, and constipation. Allergic reactions with rash and/or breathing problems may also occur.
Other methods to try for vaginal dryness include K-Y Jelly and its generics or prescription vaginal estrogen, which is available as a cream, tablet, or ring. Vaginal estrogen is thought to have fewer side effects than oral estrogen, as less gets into the blood stream.
I currently use a vaginal estrogen ring called Estring, which only needs to be changed once every three months. The soy isoflavones were more economical, but I am betting on less systemic side effects with topical estrogen.
If we lived in a perfect world, there would be a study comparing the side effects of vaginal estrogen to side effects of soy isoflavones in women who produce equol.
Check with your doctor about all supplements you take.