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This one’s for all the women out there going through menopause … and for those living with them.
As a teenager, I remember riding in the car with my parents in the dead of winter, and my mother rolling down the window and lifting her face to the frigid breeze (and freezing me out in the back seat as well!).
Only as a middle-aged woman myself did I understand this seemingly bizarre behavior. Mom was having hot flashes!
I’m well past that now, but I remember how disruptive those sudden sweats were to my daily life (not to mention waking up to soaked bedsheets).
Many women turn to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as a solution. But this treatment comes with risks, including breast cancer, heart disease and stroke.
A recent series of studies has shown that there’s a safer intervention that’s exactly as effective as HRT… and it’s right on your dinner plate.
The WAVS study: Dietary changes slash hot flashes
A new study published by the North American Menopause Society has described a dietary intervention for menopausal hot flashes that is virtually as effective as hormone replacement therapy (88 percent vs. 90 percent) but without the health risks associated with HRT.
The subjects of this study were 84 post-menopausal women who reported two or more hot flashes per day. The women were randomly assigned to either an intervention group or a control group for twelve weeks.
During that time, those in the intervention group ate a low-fat, vegan diet which included half a cup of cooked soybeans daily, while those in the control group made no changes to their normal diet.
Not only did a plant-based diet rich in soy reduce moderate to severe hot flashes by 88 percent, but it also helped women lose an average of eight pounds in twelve weeks.
This was actually the second phase of a two-part trial.
The first phase happened during the fall of 2021, which made researchers wonder whether the cooler weather might be part of the explanation for the women’s relief from hot flashes.
But in this most recent phase, women began the study during the spring and summer, so the researchers could only conclude that the dietary intervention was the deciding factor.
“These new results suggest that a diet change should be considered as a first-line treatment for troublesome vasomotor symptoms, including night sweats and hot flashes,” says lead researcher Dr. Neal Barnard, adjunct professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine.
This diet is good for women in other ways, too
“This study demonstrates the effectiveness of a dietary intervention for menopausal symptoms,” Dr. Barnard explains. “As well, it is precisely the diet that would be expected to reduce the health concerns of many women reaching menopause: an increasing risk of heart disease, breast cancer, and memory problems.”
So, how do you begin making changes to your diet?
You don’t need to become a vegan overnight, or at all, for that matter. But you can make your diet more plant-based and healthy in other ways.
Here are some tips on how your food choices can make your menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, better (or worse!).
One word of advice: if you haven’t yet hit menopause or had symptoms like hot flashes, try eating less fat and more veggies NOW. When you do hit menopause and those estrogen levels drop, research shows that you’ll have a much easier time of it!
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