Eat or Avoid to Help Control Hot Flashes

Middle-aged and older women experiencing menopausal symptoms, which can include hot flashes, sleep disruption, brain fog, mood problems or weight gain, often have a difficult time finding treatment options that don’t raise concerns over other health issues.  Only one non-hormonal drug for menopausal symptoms has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.  But recently, researchers are looking deeper into how diet may help alleviate some of the more troublesome symptoms of menopause like hot flashes and night sweats. 

Most of the research into the relationship between diet and menopausal symptoms has focused on soybeans and soybean products.  Studies have found an association between soy consumption and fewer hot flashes, but newer research questions if soy is solely responsible for the change or if a whole foods, plant-based diet is the key to managing menopausal symptoms.  

According to a recent New York Times report, about 75 percent of menopausal American women experience hot flashes while women in other cultures report significantly fewer symptoms.  Studies on the role of diet are not conclusive, but researchers have found that eating a low-fat vegan diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables with a daily half-cup of cooked soybeans decreased hot flashes in postmenopausal women by about 80 percent.  The women studied also lost weight which is associated with a decrease in hot flashes.  Omega-3 fatty acids, found in flaxseeds, walnuts and fatty fish like salmon are also linked with fewer hot flashes in menopausal symptoms.  A Mediterranean-style diet naturally contains these beneficial foods. 

Foods to Avoid

Avoiding certain foods and beverages is also important to help control bothersome menopausal symptoms.  Spicy food, alcohol, caffeine, and sugary and processed food are all associated with worse hot flashes.  Tracking symptoms and any links with certain foods can help women narrow down potential triggers for hot flashes.  Eating a healthy diet also supports cardiovascular health, weight management, muscle mass, and bone strength for greater well-being in older age.