Natural Sources of Estrogen

by Jan Millehan

About Jan Millehan

Jan Millehan has published articles relating to health, fitness and disease on various websites. Her publishing history includes health-related articles on blogs and online directories, as well as an essay published in the Bridgewater College journal, "Philomathean." Millehan received a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from Bridgewater College.



Phytoestrogens, or plant estrogens, occur in whole grains, herbs, fruits, seeds and beans and are thought to mimic estrogen in the body, reports the consumer health information website NetWellness. Some natural plant estrogens may help address menopausal symptoms and help treat breast cancer. However, insufficient evidence exists to support phytoestrogens in the treatment of hormone-related conditions.


Ground flaxseed is a weak estrogen that may benefit breast cancer patients. Research conducted at the University of Toronto Department of Nutritional Sciences demonstrated flaxseed’s ability to help reduce the spread of breast tumors. Mice, injected with human breast cancer cells, were fed a diet of 10 percent flaxseed alone, or a combination of the seeds and flaxseed oil, for seven weeks. The study concluded that flaxseed components inhibited tumor metastasis. Although this study seems positive, more research is needed to prove flaxseed's effectiveness in breast cancer treatment.


Soy is the most common phytoestrogen. Choose from many soy products, including soy milk, soy nuts, tofu, soy-nut butter and soy yogurt. In order to obtain soy's health benefits, you need a serving of 25 grams daily, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The health benefit of soy for menopausal symptoms has become a common topic of inquiry in the medical community. University of Cincinnati nursing professor Bonnie J. Brehm, for example, notes growing interest in soy's ability to alleviate night sweats. Although believed beneficial, soy is not scientifically proven to treat menopausal symptoms.

Red Clover

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that red clover’s estrogenic properties may relieve menopausal symptoms; however, it is uncertain which red clover factor -- phytoestrogens or other plant components -- provides relief. Women taking red clover have reported few side effects, but red clover's estrogenic effect on hormone-sensitive tissues like in the breast and uterus may be harmful. Red clover, while believed beneficial, has not been sufficiently proven to treat menopause symptoms.


Did you know your morning cup of coffee contains phytoestrogens? notes that coffee has strong estrogenic effects. More than 2 cups of coffee a day may increase estrogen levels and exacerbate conditions like breast pain and endometriosis, says osteopathic physician Joseph Mercola. Researchers found that women drinking greater amounts of coffee had the highest levels of estradiol, a natural insulin. Mercola cautions women who have endometriosis, breast pain or a family history of breast or ovarian cancer to avoid coffee. More research is needed to confirm the estrogenic effects of coffee.

Photo Credits:

  • coffee in coffee image by Maria Brzostowska from

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or