Hot flashes help is available without hormones or drugs. Hot flashes and sweats are one of the earliest, most bothersome and common complaint of menopause. Hot flashes and sweats affect 80% of Western women as they transition beyond their childbearing years. But not all women in the world experience hot flashes and sweats the way women in Western cultures do. For instance Japanese women are reported to experience far fewer hot flashes. Only 10 to 15 percent of Japanese women are reported to experience hot flashes, night sweats and other symptoms of menopause such as mood swings, dry skin, vaginal dryness, irritability, depression, anxiety, fatigue, sexual problems and urinary tract problems. Japanese women also suffer far less breast cancer than their Western counterparts. A bulletin of the American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts and Figures states that women in the US are 4.5 X more likely to die of breast cancer than Japanese.
Why do Western women suffer while Japanese women do not? Much of the difference between Japanese women and their Western counterparts with regard to menopausal complaints, including hot flashes and sweats, is attributed to our different diets. The Japanese consume lots of soy in the form of tofu, fermented soy products and soy milk. Soy contains phytoestrogens, or plant derived hormones that have an estrogenic effect in the human body. This effect is mild compared to the human estrogens (estrone, estradiol and estriol), but can be significant and therapeutic. Consumption of foods containing phytoestrogens replaces the estrogens lost with decreased secretion of estrogens from the ovaries during perimenopause and menopause. The net effect is an easier transition through menopause with fewer and less severe symptoms of menopause-just as Japanese women experience.
Eat key foods that contain phytoestrogens. Soy beans and flax seed are two foods that contain phytoestrogens that are particularly helpful with regard to the symptoms of menopause. A study published in the British Journal of Medicine in 1990 documents the benefits of soy and flaxseed. Women suffering the typical symptoms of perimenopause and menopause (average age 59) added soy (6 tablespoons of soy flour) or flaxseed (2 tablespoons) each day. A major complaint of perimenopause and menopause is vaginal dryness. This occurs when decreased estrogen levels result in lessened secretion of vaginal mucus. As a measure of the benefit of the soy and/or flaxseed, each woman’s vaginal mucous secretion was evaluated before and six weeks of the changed diet. In just six weeks the women experienced renewed lubrication of the vaginal tissues, to their premenopausal status. A study in Maturitas: Journal of Climacteric and Postmenopause reported a 40% decrease in hot flashes, sweats, palpitations, headaches, depression, fatigue, irritability and nervousness, sleep disturbances, depression, and loss of sexual desire with soy. The diets of 58 women were supplemented with 6 tablespoons of soy flour per day. Improvement was experienced in six weeks. Phytoestrogens are found naturally in many of the foods that we eat. Soy and flaxseed are two foods with higher concentrations and high quality phytoestrogens. Other common foods that contain phytoestrogens are apples, carrots, oats, plums, olives, potatoes, tea, coffee, and sunflower seeds.
Herbal remedies for hot flashes. Plant herbs also contain phytoestrogens that are shown to help relieve menopausal complaints such as hot flashes and sweats. While many of these herbs have been in use for some time, documentation of their benefits is not well established. Herbs like dong quai (Angelica sinensis), chasteberry (Vitex Agnus-castus) have been shown to relieve menopausal complaints up to 45%. Black cohosh is another herb that has commonly been used for menopausal complaints. It is available in a product called Remifemin. Clinical studies of the benefits of black cohosh for menopausal symptoms yield varied results. Some studies document definite improvements, others seem not to. In a recent study researchers postulated that the mechanism of black cohosh’s benefits for menopausal complaints is through its influence of opiate receptors in the brain. Clinical studies document the benefits of Siberian rhubarb root extract (ERr 731) for relief of menopausal complaints. One herb that is not well known in the United States, but which has been in use in Germany for hot flashes and sweats since 1993, is Siberian rhubarb root extract. Known as ERr 731 to researchers, it has been shown to reduce hot flashes and sweats by 72% in just 12 weeks.