Study Looks at Relationship of Eating Soy, Other Phytoestrogens on Hot Flashes

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • So can eating certain foods help with hot flashes and night sweats?  Maybe yes, maybe no. A new study out of the University of California, Davis that will be published in the 2013 issue of Menopause suggests that eating phytoestrogens will not prevent hot flashes or night flashes in most women.

    Before we go any further, let’s define “phytoestrogens.” These are estrogen-like chemicals that can be found in specific plant foods, including beans, seeds and grains, according to Cornell University’s Sprecher Institute for Comparative Cancer Research. “Foods made from soybeans have some of the highest levels of phytoestrogens and have been studied the most,” the institute’s website states.

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    So let’s go back to the research study. Researchers reviewed data that had been collected from 3,000 women who had participated in a nationwide longitudinal study. These participants were between the ages of 42 and 52 when the study started and were just beginning to experience menopausal changes or had not yet started going through menopause.  Furthermore, this study, unlike previous studies, included a broader representation of racial and ethnic groups, including black, Hispanic, Chinese and Japanese women.

    During the study, participants completed extensive surveys about their dietary habits as well as their fiber intake. These surveys were initially completed before the participants started the study and then again at the five-year mark and the nine-year mark. The participants also were asked annually about the menopausal symptoms they were experiencing, which included night sweats and hot flashes.
    The researchers’ analysis found there wasn’t a significant correlation between the intake of dietary phytoestrogens or fiber with the beginning of menopausal symptoms in participants who hadn’t yet begun the menopausal transition.

    Lead research Dr. Ellen Gold, the professor and chair of the department of public health sciences at the University of California, told HealthDay that a randomized clinical trial involving a diverse range of women, some of whom would take a placebo, would be needed to prove whether dietary soy or fiber can prevent hot flashes and night sweats. However, she believes there is a possibility that specific populations of women who may benefit from phytoestrogens due to their individual genetic and metabolic factors.

    So if you suffer from hot flashes or night sweats, feel free to try foods with phytoestrogens. However, you also may want to take some other steps. For instance, as I mentioned in a sharepost earlier this year, another study out of Penn State found that physical activity may actually help lower hot flashes for a 24-hour period.  

    What else can you do? The Mayo Clinic offers the following options:

    • Lifestyle changes.  Some foods as well as caffeinated and alcoholic beverages can trigger hot flashes so identifying those and removing them from your diet can help.  Smoking also can trigger hot flashes, so stopping can help as well. Maintaining a cool body temperature either through dressing in layers, using a fan or air conditioning, lowering the room temperature or drinking a cold beverage can help.
    • Hormone therapy. The clinic’s website points out that estrogen and progesterone help to reduce websites. Women who have gone through a hysterectomy can take estrogen specifically. However, women who still have their uterus should take both progesterone and estrogen in order to avoid endometrial cancer. However, no matter
    • Antidepressants – Low doses of certain antidepressants have been found to decrease hot flashes. However, they aren’t as effective as hormone therapy in dealing with hot flashes.
    • Other prescription medications that are for anti-seizure (Gabapentin) or high blood pressure (Clonidine) have been found to be effective in some cases to ease hot flash symptoms.

    Obviously, talk to your doctor about these options. Personally, I tend to try the lifestyle changes first for a period of time to see if they’ll work before seeking out medications. Again, work with your doctor to do what’s best for you.

  • Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

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    Gold, E. B., et al. (2012). Phytoestrogen and fiber intake in relation to incident vasomotor symptoms: results from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation. Menopause journal.

    HealthDay. (2012). Soy-rich diets may not prevent hot flashes in most menopausal women.

    Mayo Clinic. (2011). Hot flashes.

    Sprecher Institute for Comparative Cancer Research. (2011). Phytoestrogens and breast cancer. Cornell University.

Published On: November 29, 2012