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Good news for menopausal women: You can avoid hot flashes by changing your diet

Wednesday, June 07, 2006 by: Alexis Black
Tags: hot flashes, women's health, healing foods

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Millions of American women suffer from hot flashes during menopause, but not many realize that diet can have a lot to do with it. Fortunately, hot flashes do not have to be an inevitable part of menopause. In fact, women in some cultures -- namely in Asia -- rarely experience discomfort from hot flashes at all. What's their secret? It could very likely be what's on their dinner plate.

Research indicates that soy, a significant element in the traditional Japanese diet, may be useful in preventing hot flashes in women. Edible beans, especially soybeans, contain the compounds genistein and daidzein, which are estrogenic and help control hot flashes. That may explain why only 7 percent of menopausal Japanese women suffer from hot flashes, as compared to 55 percent of women living in the United States, according to Dr. Lindsey Berkson's estimates in "Hormone Deception." In fact, there is no Japanese word for "hot flashes."

"Healing With Vitamins" author Alice Feinstein writes, "If you're fed up with menopause, move to Japan. In the Land of the Rising Sun, hot flashes and night sweats are virtually unheard of. Researchers believe that it has more to do with their traditional diet. Besides providing more vegetable protein and less animal protein than a Western diet, it's also low in fat and high in soy products such as tofu. These foods are rich in plant compounds known as phytoestrogens, which seem to mimic some of the biological activities of female hormones."

In addition to soy and tofu products, women can help combat hot flashes by eating more calcium-rich foods, magnesium-rich foods and foods rich in vitamin E -- like cold-pressed oils, green leafy vegetables, nuts and almonds, as well as plenty of mineral- and fiber-rich foods, like whole grains and fresh vegetables. Janet Zand, Allan N. Spreen and James B. LaValle -- authors of "Smart Medicine for Healthier Living" -- suggest women who suffer from hot flashes add sea vegetables to their diets. "The minerals in these foods replenish necessary electrolytes lost through perspiration," they write.

During menopause, it is also important for women to get plenty of water. "One of the best things you can do during this time is to be sure to drink plenty of quality water -- at least 2 quarts daily," writes Phyllis A. Balch, author of "Prescription for Dietary Wellness." "Drinking water replaces fluids lost to perspiration during hot flashes and can even prevent or minimize the hot flashes themselves."

Perhaps as important as which foods women should eat to prevent hot flashes are those foods they should avoid. Many foods are thought to contribute to or worsen discomfort from hot flashes. Alcohol, caffeine, excess sugar, dairy products, meat products and spicy foods rank among the top aggravators of severe hot flashes, as well as mood swings. In Prevention Magazine's "New Choices in Natural Healing," Eve Campanelli, a holistic family practitioner in Beverly Hills, Calif., says, "Hot flashes often flare up when women drink wine or coffee, which acidifies the blood and strains the liver. One way to avoid this acidification is to cut down on these beverages and to drink more fresh vegetable juices, which counteract the effect by alkalinizing the system."

Certain lifestyle changes can also help ease hot flashes. For example, regular exercise can help alleviate some women's discomfort. Also, it pays to quit smoking. According to "Natural Cures and Gentle Medicines" by the editors of FC&A Medical Publishing, "A recent study at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center found that women who smoke have significantly more hot flashes than nonsmokers."

The good news here is that if you are a woman going through menopause, hot flashes are within your control. It may take some diet and lifestyle changes on your part, but you don't have to suffer through hot flashes and accept them as a "normal" part of that time in your life. You can fight back with food, and, best of all, the foods you eat to help curb hot flashes will benefit your overall health as well.

Note from Mike Adams, the Health Ranger: Because soy is mentioned throughout this article, I wanted to add some comments on the consumption of soy products. I currently do not recommend non-fermented soy products such as soy protein. I only recommend fermented soy, which includes genuine tofu. If you consume soy, always choose non-GMO soy, because soy is one of the most frequently consumed genetically-modified foods in America. More Amazon rainforest is lost each year to soy farming than to cattle grazing.

The experts speak on hot flashes:

Foods to eat

Almost all edible beans -- not just the highly touted soybean -- contain two important compounds: genistein and daidzein. They're best known as being estrogenic, helping to control hot flashes and other discomforts of menopause. But they're also anti-angiogenic, which means they help prevent the growth of new blood vessels to nourish developing tumors.
Anti-Aging Prescriptions by James Duke PhD, page 400

Soy beans and most other beans contain genistein, which may reduce the risk of breast cancer as well as reduce hot flashes and other types of menopausal discomfort.
Bottom Line Yearbook 2002 by Bottom Line Personnel, page 66

In Japanese, there is no word for "hot flashes," the uncomfortable feeling of heat that plagues many women during menopause. Hot flashes develop as production of hormonal estrogen declines. Dr. Aldercreutz suggests that the estrogen-like chemicals in soy replace declining hormonal estrogen and prevent hot flashes. Japanese who eat a traditional Japanese diet consume about 24 pounds of soy a year. Americans consume about 3 pounds annually, mostly because soy protein is added to many processed foods. "Eat as much soy as you can," advises Susan Potter, Ph.D., assistant professor of foocLand nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, "as long as your soy foods are low in fat."
Natures Cures by Michael Castleman, page 175

In China and Japan, few women experience hot flashes. The reason: Their traditional diet is rich in soy foods, especially tofu. Soy contains plant estrogens, which have properties similar to human estrogen.
Blended Medicine by Michael Castleman, page 19

If you like tofu and other soy foods, feel free to enjoy them. They should reduce the frequency and severity of your hot flashes.
Anti-Aging Prescriptions by James Duke PhD, page 427

Phytoestrogens from soy have been shown to reduce hot flashes and protect against age-related diseases such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer.
Disease Prevention And Treatment by Life Extension Foundation, page 761

Eat whole soy foods. They contain isoflavones, estrogen-like compounds that reduce hot flashes, bone loss and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Sources include soy nuts, soy milk and tofu. Caution: Avoid nutritional supplements and powders that claim to have the same active ingredients as soy foods. These products may contain unknown chemicals that could be harmful.
Bottom Line Yearbook 2002 by Bottom Line Personnel, page 331

In recent years, soy has gotten a lot of attention because of its many health benefits, most notably its ability to lower cholesterol and minimize menopausal hot flashes.
Anti-Aging Prescriptions by James Duke PhD, page 478

Asian women eat about one type of soy food every day and report very few hot flashes and mood swings during menopause.
Eat and Heal by the Editors of FC&A Medical Publishing, page 75

Soy foods may also protect against cancer…menopausal discomfort (such as hot flashes)…and osteoporosis. You don't have to eat a lot of soy foods to get similar benefits. One daily serving of tofu (about three ounces) or soy milk (eight ounces) may be protective.
Bottom Line Yearbook 2004 by Bottom Line Personnel, page 68

Let's suppose that you are experiencing hot flashes and night sweats as a result of menopause. You begin to include in your diet about 100 milligrams of soy isoflavones daily. You soon notice that your night sweats and hot flashes diminish in frequency and severity. You now have evidence that the phytochemicals are working. The amount of time it takes to experience relief from a certain condition will vary from person to person and disease to disease. Some women have reported almost immediate results from symptoms of menopause with the addition of soy products to their diets, but it will take longer, say, to affect cholesterol levels with the same soy intake.
Foods That Fight Disease by Laurie Deutsch Mozian MS RD, page 106

There are, however, preliminary data suggesting that soy isoflavones, including genistein, may be helpful in some problems associated with menopause, including osteoporosis and "hot flashes."
PDR For Nutritional Supplements by Sheldon Saul Hendle and David Rorvik, page 181

Some examples of new nutraceuticals include snack bars fortified with soy phytochemicals to alleviate symptoms such as hot flashes in meno-pausal women and to prevent prostate problems in men, as well as phytochemical-enriched candy for children who won't eat their vegetables.
Earl Mindell's Supplement Bible by Earl Mindell RPh PhD, page 10

"Women who are prone to hot flashes would probably find great relief from having balanced hormone levels," Dr. Moore says. One way to achieve hormone balance is to eat a lot of foods that contain soy, such as tofu, soy milk, soy cheese, miso, and foods made with soy flour, says Dr. Aesoph.
Natures Medicines by Gale Maleskey, page 544

Later in life, the phytoestrogens in soy can ease menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes by replacing the estrogen lost during this time. In fact, Asian women rarely experience hot flashes. They're also less likely than American women to have heart disease, because phytoestrogens have a protective effect. Soy foods are the major source of protein in Asian countries.
New Foods For Healing by Selene Yeager, page 42

Soybean products contain phytoestrogens -- natural plant compounds that act like estrogen. "Researchers have found that women in Japan and other Asian countries -- who eat something like 35 to 45 milligrams of plant estrogens a day in the form of tofu, soy milk and other soy products -- seem to experience fewer hot flashes," says Margo Woods, M.D., associate professor of community health in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. Researchers in Australia found that menopausal women who ate soy flour daily for 12 weeks showed a 40 percent decrease in hot flashes.
The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Women, page 294

The "hot flashes" that some menopausal women experience are significantly reduced in some who consume soy products and/or soy isoflavone supplements. These benefits have been demonstrated in randomized, double-blind studies.
PDR For Nutritional Supplements by Sheldon Saul Hendle and David Rorvik, page 432

Staple foods of Asian countries, soybeans and their products, such as tofu, rank as the most complete source of nonmeat protein. Research has associated these two foods with a reduced risk of various kinds of cancer and, in menopausal women, with fewer hot flashes.
Superfoods by Dolores Riccio, page 31

Asian women who eat soy foods for a lifetime are virtually free of breast cancer as well as the discomfort that can come from the body's estrogen reduction that occurs during menopause, such as hot flashes.
The ADD Nutrition Solution by Marcia Zimmerman CN, page 129

High in protein, soy products also reduce LDL, the "bad" cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and seem to reduce night sweats and hot flashes often associated with menopause.
The Alternative Medicine Handbook By Barrie R Cassileth PHD, page 106

Foods high in phytoestrogens (chemical compounds that the body can convert into usable estrogens) are thought to reduce the frequency of hot flashes. Japanese women have far fewer hot flashes than American women, and researchers have correlated this with the traditional Japanese diet that includes many soybean foods, which are high in natural phytoestrogens." Dr. Lark emphasizes avoiding caffeine and alcohol and taking nutritional supplements of vitamin E and bioflavonoids. "Herbs to treat hot flashes," says David Hoffmann, "include dong quai, ginseng, gotu kola, and motherwort to help with palpitations that accompany hot flashes."
Alternative Medicine by Burton Goldberg, page 962

Although research is still in preliminary stages, there is also scientific evidence that soy may ease menopause symptoms and protect against the development of osteoporosis and certain cancers. Numerous population studies confirm that Asians, who have long known the health secrets of soybeans, have much lower rates of heart disease, menopause-related hot flashes, osteoporosis, and a range of cancers.
The Encyclopedia Of Popular Herbs by Robert S McCaleb, page 350

Studies show that women who regularly eat soy foods have few hot flashes, and they have more cells in their vaginal linings.
The Green Pharmacy by James A Duke PnD, page 323

For some women, especially those who have elected to avoid estrogen therapy, adding two to three teaspoons of soy protein to their daily diet can ease the discomfort and debilitating feelings of hot flashes. Soy protein (found at the health food store) can be added to breakfast cereal or mixed with beverages. In brief, it may provide relief for those who aren't ready to start estrogen replacement therapy or replacement therapy with "natural" hormone compounds.
Uncommon Cures for Everyday Ailments by the editors of Bottom Line Health, page 159

Soybeans contain phytoestrogens that boost immunity, help keep blood vessels flexible, and block estrogen from entering cells, thus reducing the risk for hormone-related cancers such as ovarian, prostate, and breast cancers. These weak estrogen-like compounds also buffer estrogen swells, which possibly curb hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.
The Origin Diet by Elizabeth Somer, page 77

There are phytochemical-enriched foods, for example snack bars fortified with soy phytochemicals (phytoestrogens) to alleviate symptoms such as hot flashes in menopausal women.
Vitamin Bible for the 21st Century by Earl Mindell, page 22

The Japanese diet incorporates high amounts of soybean products, which may explain why Japanese women tend to suffer less from hot flashes and menopausal symptoms in general than do women in other countries.
Womans Encyclopedia Of Natural Healing by Dr Gary Null, page 245

Asians in Asia have lower rates of just about all the serious diseases Americans suffer from, and the amount of soy in the Asian diet is one of the main reasons why. Of course, soy foods in an Asian diet are part of a generally low-fat way of eating that includes lots of vegetables, all of which help keep you healthy. Heart disease and many kinds of cancer, including breast and colon cancer, occur less commonly in Asia than in the United States. Osteoporosis is rare in Asia, even though the typical Asian diet contains little calcium (though Asian women in this country are at relatively high risk of developing it). Asian women living in Asia generally don't get hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.
The Bone Density Diet by George J Kessler DO PC and Colleen Kapklein, page 125

Soy contains estrogenic isoflavones, which compete with the body's own estrogen and reduce the amount of the hormone circulating in the bloodstream. I also suggested that Kathleen take 2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil every day. Like soy, flaxseed is estrogenic. "After just 1 week, Kathleen reported that her night sweats and hot flashes had diminished. By the third week, they were completely gone. When she had the ultrasound to examine her calcifications, they were gone, too. "Kathleen's gynecologist now prescribes soy milk and flaxseed oil to women in similar situations."
Anti-Aging Prescriptions by James Duke PhD, page 428

If a woman is deficient in estrogen (if she's gone through early menopause, for example), consuming soy products can replace the missing estrogen and relieve hot flashes. If a person is exposed to an excess of estrogen, the flavonoids in soy act as estrogen blockers and lower the effects of estrogen.
Power Healing by Leo Galland MD, page 224

It's not only soybeans that can help relieve hot flashes. Black beans (which you can cook up into great-tasting soups or sprinkle into salads) contain about the same amount of phytoestrogens as soybeans. Ground flaxseed, which can be baked into bread and muffins, is also a good source. What's more, you don't have to eat a lot of phytoestrogen-rich foods to get the benefits. Getting just 2 ounces of tofu or tempeh (a cake made from soybeans) a day can help prevent hot flashes from coming back. Or you could have a bowl of miso soup, which is flavored with a salty condiment made from soybeans and salt.
New Foods For Healing by Selene Yeager, page 351

Certainly tofu is a good addition to a healthy diet. If you want to try it as a hot-flash remedy, get the real thing, rather than soy drinks, which are not as high in isoflavones. Be patient. The problem won't last forever. hot flashes are worse right at menopause. They usually subside and may go away entirely within three to five years.
Wellness Self-Care Handbook by John Edward Swartzberg MD FACP and Sheldon Margen MD, page 414

Though not as studied as genistein and daidzein, two other soy isoflavones, glycitein presumably has some of the same anticancer effects. It may also have some of the benefits observed in the use of soy isoflavones, with respect to atherogenesis and problems associated with menopause, including "hot flashes" and osteoporosis.
PDR For Nutritional Supplements by Sheldon Saul Hendle and David Rorvik, page 203

Foods high in phytoestrogens (chemical compounds that the body can convert into usable estrogens) are thought to reduce the frequency of hot flashes. Japanese women have far fewer hot flashes than American women, and researchers have correlated this with the traditional Japanese diet that includes many soybean foods, which are high in natural phytoestrogens." Dr. Lark emphasizes avoiding caffeine and alcohol and taking nutritional supplements of vitamin E and bioflavonoids. "Herbs to treat hot flashes," says David Hoffmann, "include dong quai, ginseng, gotu kola, and motherwort to help with palpitations that accompany hot flashes."
Alternative Medicine by Burton Goldberg, page 962

Foods to avoid

Foods to avoid include most dairy products because of their high protein and fat content, caffeine because it can lead to hot flashes and mood swings, and alcohol because it can also cause hot flashes.
Alternative Medicine by Burton Goldberg, page 964

Avoid dairy products -- limit your consumption to small amounts of low-fat yogurt or buttermilk. Dairy products and meat promote hot flashes. They also contribute to a loss of calcium from the bones. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, sugar, spicy foods, and hot soups and drinks; they can trigger hot flashes, aggravate urinary incontinence, and make mood swings worse.
Prescription For Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A Balch CNC and James F Balch MD, page 513

Skip the spices. Hot tamales or curried chicken may taste great, but they tend to trigger hot flashes. "They probably set off the temperature regulation mechanism that's at the genesis of a hot flash," says Veronica Ravnikar, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Unit at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Boston. If they bother you, skip them. Cut caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and can trigger hot flashes by raising your blood pressure and heart rate, says Dr. Ravnikar. You probably don't need to completely cut out caffeine, but try to go easy on coffee, tea and soft drinks containing caffeine.
The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Women, page 293

Diet Recommendations

Monitor your diet. Alcoholic beverages and highly spiced foods seem to induce hot flashes in some women. Exercise. Some women have found that regular exercise helps ease hot flashes. Exercise can also help you sleep better.
Wellness Self-Care Handbook by John Edward Swartzberg MD FACP and Sheldon Margen MD, page 414

Women who incorporate these natural estrogen-containing foods into their diets can experience remarkable relief of hot flashes. In addition, sufficient intake of magnesium, found in soy products, whole grains, and beans, is important in curbing hot flashes. Increased dietary intake of fiber and reduced quantities of animal products can limit irritability, while sunflower seeds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, oats, and barley can serve as additional combatants of menopausal symptoms.
Complete Encyclopedia Of Natural Healing by Gary Null PhD, page 257

It is noteworthy that in Japan, where soy consumption is high, only 7 percent of menopausal women experience hot flashes, compared to 55 percent of women living in the United States.
Hormone Deception by Dr Lindsey Berkson, page 321

The difference between Americans, Greeks and other Europeans on the one hand, for whom hot flashes are common, and the Mayans and Japanese on the other, for whom they are rare or unknown, appears to be diet. The Mayan diet consists of corn and corn tortillas, beans, tomatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, radishes, and other vegetables, with very little meat and no dairy products. Like the traditional Japanese diet, it is extremely low in animal products and low in fat in general. The Greek diet, while rich in vegetables and legumes, also contains meat, fish, cheese, and milk, as does the cuisine of other countries in Europe and North America.
Eat Right Live Longer by Neal Barnard MD, page 96

Black bean juice is effective for hoarseness, laryngitis, kidney stones, bed wetting, urinary difficulty, and hot flashes of menopause. Preparation and dosage are same as "aduki juice."
Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford, page 469

Watercress cooked in 2 qts. of water. The liquid is boiled down slowly to 1/3 or 1/4 of the original fluid volume and then the soup is consumed with the vegetables intact. It's also good for hot flashes when consumed cold.
Heinerman's Encyclopedia of Healing Herbs and Spicess by John Heinerman, page 466

Fennel contains a variety of substances offering natural hormone-like actions. This explains its prolonged use by societies as an aid to female health. Thus, it has been used for menstrual difficulties, bloating, ovarian disorders, and hot flashes. It is far safer as a menopausal aid than synthetic or commercial estrogens. Care must be taken in the consumption of fennel oil. It is safe, as long as it is derived from the edible seed.
Lifesaving Cures by Dr Cass Ingram, page 27

"Estrogen levels are best kept balanced by eating enough protein and estrogenic foods, keeping thyroid function relatively high, and by always using natural progesterone," Dr. Galitzer says. Estrogenic foods include animal products, apples, barley, brown rice, carrots, cherries, coconut, nightshades, olives, peanuts, plums, wheat, and yams. "These foods can be increased in quantity in women who are perimenopausal and whose estrogen levels are unstable and low, with resulting hot flashes," Dr. Galitzer says. "Such foods should be avoided in women who have symptoms of excess estrogen, however." According to Dr. Galitzer, the herbs black cohosh and licorice root can both be used to increase estrogen levels in women who are estrogen-deficient. However, licorice root should be avoided by people with a history of hypertension.
Alternative Medicine by Burton Goldberg, page 362

Oatmeal is full of minerals. Horses live on it. But a week of cooked oatmeal can slow metabolism and increase phlegm for some people. It lowers blood sugar and is an excellent food for persons with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or hot flashes. If you feel weak from too much oatmeal, change to white basmati rice and steamed vegetables. Basmati rice is both nourishing and cooling. Avoid all hot, spicy, oily, or fried foods, especially garlic, onions, and peppers. Cooling spices, such as cumin, coriander, fennel, mint, tarragon, and dill, are delicious antacid additions to grains and salads, or drunk as teas. For a healthful and slimming salad dressing, I add a handful of fresh tarragon to a bottle of balsamic vinegar and use no oil.
Asian Health Secrets by Letha Hadady DAc, page 252

To avoid hot flashes, try eating a salty snack right before going to bed. Also, a small carbohydrate snack such as fruit, fruit juice, or crackers will help keep blood sugar up and cortisol down as the night progresses.
The Enzyme Cure by Lita Lee with Lisa Turner & Burton Goldberg, page 179

Some experts see a connection between low calcium and hot flashes. So, a glass of skim milk might keep you feeling cool long after you drink it. Hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms are rare in vegetarian cultures, especially among people who consume a lot of legumes, like black beans, mung beans and soybeans. Why? Because beans and many other plants have mild estrogenic activity, thanks to phytoestrogens. These compounds include isoflavones, lignans, phy-tosterols and saponins.
The Green Pharmacy by James A Duke PnD, page 322

With the right lifestyle and balanced nutrition, it may be possible to delay menopause and alleviate its symptoms. To treat hot flashes, you need to hydrate the body well.
Water For Health Healing by F Batmanghelidj, page 210

The consumption of high-lignan fiber can help relieve constipation and menopausal hot flashes as well as exhibit anti-cancer, anti-fungal, and anti-viral activity.
The Fat Burning Diet by Jay Robb, page 223

The addition of 100 milligrams of B6 to your daily diet will prevent hot flashes and alleviate PMS.
Water For Health Healing by F Batmanghelidj, page 211

Lignans also balance hormones, so it can relieve menopausal hot flashes.
Natural Physicians Healing Therapies by Mark Stengler ND, page 184

Lignans can also modulate hormone levels and relieve some of the symptoms often associated with menopause, such as hot flashes and yeast infections due to vaginal dryness.
Earl Mindell's Supplement Bible by Earl Mindell RPh PhD, page 52

Lignans are special compounds that demonstrate some rather impressive health benefits, including positive effects in relieving menopausal hot flashes and anticancer, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral activity.
Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements by Michael T Murray ND, page 266

A high intake of phytoestrogens is thought to explain why hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms rarely occur in cultures in which people consume a predominantly plant-based diet. Increasing the intake of dietary phytoestrogens helps decrease hot flashes, increase maturation of vaginal cells, and inhibit osteoporosis.
Encyclopedia Of Natural Medicine by Michael T Murray MD Joseph L Pizzorno ND, page 637

Studies suggest that consuming foods high in phytoestrogens, plantlike estrogen compounds, helps relieve the severity of menopause symptoms, including hot flashes.
Fight Back With Food by Readers Digest, page 73

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