A small exploratory investigation revealed that following a low-fat, vegan diet with added soybeans reduced the overall number of hot flashes in postmenopausal participants.
Even though menopause is a natural transition, the hot flashes that sometimes accompany it can impact a woman's quality of life. Hot flashes, AKA vasomotor symptoms or hot flushes, result from hormone disruptions interrupting the body's process of conserving and dissipating heat. They can come on suddenly and overwhelm a person with an intense, inescapable heating sensation.
Treating hot flashes primarily involves menopause hormone therapy (MHT) or an antidepressant called paroxetine. Recently, the FDA also approved Veozah (fezolinetant) — a new drug for vasomotor symptoms associated with menopause.
However, some women find holistic relief with herbs like black cohosh, evening primrose, and other non-hormone menopause treatments. While diet and lifestyle changes might help lessen the impact of hot flashes, it's unclear what type of dietary regimen is the most effective.
Now, new research published in the December issue of Complementary Therapies in Medicine looked at how diet can influence the frequency and severity of hot flashes. The researchers found that one specific diet significantly impacted hot flashes and reduced their frequency and severity by up to 96%.
Reducing hot flashes with a vegan diet
Scientists assigned 84 postmenopausal women with moderate to severe hot flashes into two groups. One group followed their usual diet, and the second consumed a low-fat, vegan diet, including one-half cup of cooked soybeans daily.
The participants followed the diets for 12 weeks and recorded the frequency and severity of their hot flashes using a mobile app. In addition, the scientists selected a subset of 11 women following the low-fat, vegan diet and assessed differences in their gut microbiomes at the study's start and again at 12 weeks.
The researchers found that among women in the dietary intervention group, hot flashes decreased by 95% overall, and severe hot flashes disappeared completely. In addition, the frequency of moderate-to-severe and daytime hot flashes decreased by 96%, and the number of nighttime hot flashes fell by 94%.
The participants also lost an average of 6.4 pounds while on the vegan, soy-enriched diet.
However, the team found no significant differences in gut bacteria diversity between the two groups.
Still, they did find decreases in Porphyromonas and Prevotella corporis among those in the dietary intervention group, which the scientists linked to the reduction in severe daytime hot flashes.
In addition, the number of Clostridium asparagiforme also fell, which the team associated with the reduction in total severe and severe night hot flashes.
The study's authors say that the added soybeans may have stabilized estrogen levels because they provide isoflavones, which can influence estrogen receptors. They speculate that this may have helped reduce the participants' hot flashes. In addition, changes in the abundance of specific gut bacteria may also play a role by stabilizing estrogen levels and lowering inflammation.
- Archives of Women's Mental Health. Understanding the pathophysiology of vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes and night sweats) that occur in perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause life stages.
- Complementary Therapies in Medicine. A dietary intervention for postmenopausal hot flashes: A potential role of gut microbiome. An exploratory analysis.