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Soy is the Secret to Hot Flash Reduction in Menopause

Monday, February 4th, 2013

There’s no sugar coating it – menopause is the pits. We become more and more irritable until our family members can’t take it, we wake up drenched in sweat in the middle of the night, and we can’t even sit through a movie without taking a few bathroom breaks. Many women would gladly take their periods back to avoid these uncomfortable menopause symptoms. While menopause is largely out of our control, a recent study shows that there is one symptom we can actually reduce by altering out diet.

Hot flashes and night sweats are both considered vasomotor symptoms. They’re caused by the reduction of hormones that are meant to regulate the dilation of your blood vessels. Menopause greatly decreases the levels of estrogen in your body, and your blood vessels will expand quickly for reasons unbeknownst to you in that moment. When the blood rushes through your body, you’ll feel as though you are suddenly sitting inside an oven, which is a hot flash. Night sweats occur for the same reason.

How can your diet control these symptoms? An adjustment in your dietary intake which includes decrease in caffeine intake and avoidance of hot, spicy spicy foods is an excellent start. Research shows that women who eat more soy in their diets experience fewer hot flashes and night sweats. Soy is one of the single best sources of phytoestrogens, which have been shown to have a modest effect on hot flashes, but there are no conclusive evidence-based or long-term studies. For that reason, younger women are advised against eating too much, as the human body can only take so much at a time. However, for women who are going through menopause and have less estrogen than ever before, soy may be the perfect solution. This could easily be the reason only 7% of Japanese women experience hot flashes during their menopause. Their diets are rich in tofu and natural bean ingredients. Considering 55% of American women suffer from vasomotor symptoms, it might be time to take the hint.

As if this news wasn’t good enough, adding more soy to your diet isn’t hard at all. Many of the foods that are rich in soy are also delicious and offer fun alternatives to the usual American diet. To get more soy, consider adding tofu, miso, soymilk, soy nuts, and soy sauce. However, I must admit that soy in these forms is an acquired taste.  I don’t want to be hypocritical, but my palate wasn’t too thrilled with soy intake.  Though it might take time to get used to these new tastes, if you’re not already used to them, they’ll all taste delicious when you consider the alternative.

 – Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.