NYS Certified Nutritionist

Reducing Menopausal Hot Flashes with Diet

The October 2021 issue of the journal Menopause reported menopausal hot flashes could be reduced by more than 80% by implementing a plant-based diet, including one or two servings of soy products daily. The study, conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, randomly assigned postmenopausal women, with two or more hot flashes per day, to a low-fat, vegan [no animal protein] diet including a half-cup of cooked soybeans daily. Some of the women were told to make no dietary changes from their usual pattern of eating. The trial lasted 12 weeks.

The women on the vegan diet reduced their moderate to severe hot flashes by nearly 84%. The frequency of these hot flashes was reduced from about five per day to less than one. In addition, 59% became free of hot flashes. More than half of the women who had had mild hot flashes, reported even those decreased in frequency. No hormone medications or herbal preparations were used in conducting this study.

It has been widely reported for years that Japanese women do not suffer from menopausal symptoms, as American women do. Some of the literature indicates only about 12% of Japanese women notice uncomfortable symptoms during the change of life, with the vast majority of post-menopausal Japanese women only noticing their monthly periods have stopped…nothing more. American women, as many as 85%, experience many menopausal symptoms…some interfering with their quality of life. It is worth noting that there is no expression in Japanese for hot flash.

This information highlights the striking differences between the traditional Japanese diet, and the American diet, and how they affect overall health. More than 67% of American adults are over weight, while among Japanese adults only about 27% are overweight. The traditional Japanese diet is relatively low in animal protein, and low in fat, consisting in large part of plant foods, rice, soy products, fish, birds, and lean mammals. The Japanese eat small portions, served in small dishes, with rice or rice noodles as a foundation for the other components of the meal. In addition, they eat until they are 80% full. The average Japanese adult walks more on the average day than the typical American.

We would all do well to learn from the Japanese about how to eat to promote leaner, healthier, more comfortable bodies as we go through life’s changes. Simple adjustments in portion size would be the place to start. Remember the advice of Michael Pollan, “Eat real food, not too much…mostly plants.”

Dateline: Latham, Albany County, New York