Menopause is a natural part of every woman's journey, yet it often brings along its fair share of discomforts.
Among the most notorious? Hot flashes.
If you're a woman of a certain age, you know what we're talking about. Those sudden waves of heat leave you flushed, sweaty, and searching for the nearest fan.
It's no surprise that you might be seeking strategies to combat hot flashes. The key to managing, even alleviating, these unwelcome episodes may not reside only in traditional medicine, but rather in the everyday choices we make about our diet. The foods we choose to indulge or avoid can significantly influence the severity and frequency of these episodes.
A new study has been released that reveals the powerful benefits of increasing plant foods to alleviate these menopausal discomforts.
Plus, we'll dive into other ways your diet can boost your health and happiness, backed by solid research, during menopause and beyond.
The Connection Between Hot Flashes and Diet
Hot flashes during menopause can be triggered by various factors, including certain foods.
Spicy meals, caffeine, alcohol, and sugar can all set off these uncomfortable episodes 1 2. But it's not just about what to avoid. Recent research suggests there are foods that fight hot flashes, helping to minimize their frequency and intensity.
A New Insight: The AGEs Study
A groundbreaking study titled "Dietary advanced glycation end-products and postmenopausal hot flashes: A post-hoc analysis of a 12-week randomized clinical trial" has shed light on the potential benefits of a plant-based diet in managing menopausal hot flashes.
The study, published in the Journal Maturitas, explored the relationship between dietary advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) and the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
The study found that women who adopted a low-fat, plant-based diet rich in soy foods saw a significant decrease in their intake of dietary AGEs. Remarkably, in the intervention group, severe hot flashes decreased by 92%, and moderate-to-severe hot flashes decreased by 88%. This decrease in hot flashes correlated with the reduction in dietary AGEs, suggesting a clear link between diet and menopausal symptoms.
The new AGE research is an analysis of data from a Physicians Committee study published in the journal Menopause earlier this year.
Understanding AGEs: A Backstory
AGEs are hormone-disrupting compounds formed when protein or fat combine with sugar in our bloodstream. They can also be ingested through our diet.
Animal products, especially when cooked under high heat and dry conditions like grilling, tend to be higher in AGEs than plant foods. The AGEs circulating in the body can cause inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which contribute to hot flashes 3. Moreover, AGEs can act as endocrine disruptors, interfering with our hormones such as estrogen, which plays a crucial role during menopause 4.
As Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, explains, “Eating meat increases the amount of hormone-disrupting advanced glycation end-products circulating in the body, which contributes to hot flashes. A low-fat vegan diet reduces intake of AGEs, improving hormonal balance and significantly decreasing hot flashes.”
A Repeated Finding
This isn’t the first study to show that what you eat can affect your risk of experiencing postmenopausal symptoms.
In a 2015 study, scientists found that a whole-food plant-based diet in postmenopausal Chinese women was associated with fewer menopausal symptoms compared to animal and processed food diets. The more whole plant-foods in the diet, the fewer menopausal symptoms were experienced 5.
A recent study published by the North American Menopause Society found that women following a low fat, plant-based diet rich in soy had a significant decrease in hot flashes compared to the control group. The participants saw an 84% drop in menopausal symptoms, just by switching to a plant-based diet, going from nearly five per day to fewer than one per day. Just 12 weeks after the plant-based diet intervention, the participants reported no moderate-to-severe hot flashes at all. The participants also reported improvements in quality of life 6.
Intervention study participant Margo LaMarsh described the changes she experienced during the trial, "The hot flashes were less frequent, and they were also less intense. I no longer had to change pajamas in the middle of the night due to sweating. The diet made me feel so much better. I have so much more energy, my skin is clearer, and I lost 20 pounds in 12 weeks."
Another participant of the study said ‘This was basically a lifesaver for me, I’ve got my quality of life back’ Said one participant, ‘I’m not dealing with the hot flashes that were really debilitating at one point’.
A plant-based diet changed the outcome of menopause for these women, and has the power to do the same for so many more.
Additional Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet for Menopause
Aside from reducing hot flashes, a plant-based diet offers other benefits for women going through menopause.
For instance, it can help address menopausal weight gain, a common concern during this stage of life 7 8. Plant-based diets are generally lower in saturated fats and higher in fiber, helping you feel full and satisfied while maintaining a healthy weight.
Postmenopausal women may have a weaker antioxidant defense due to their loss of estrogens 11. For this reason, postmenopausal women can benefit from increasing their antioxidant uptake. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, plant flavonoids, and soy isoflavones are found in abundance in plant-based diets, mostly in fruits and vegetables.
The nutrient-dense nature of plant foods provides essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which support overall health and well-being.
The conclusion is clear: a plant-based diet could be a powerful tool not only to alleviate hot flashes but also to improve overall health in postmenopausal women. By embracing a diet rich in plant foods and low in AGEs, we can potentially navigate menopause with more comfort.
The key takeaway? Our bodies are beautifully responsive to the foods we consume. So, let's fuel them wisely and lovingly, especially during significant transitions like menopause. After all, when we feel our best, we can truly shine, at any age.
Always remember to consult with a healthcare professional before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle. Together, you can create a plan that's best for your unique needs and health goals. Here's to health, wellness, and embracing the power of plant-based nutrition!
Our board-certified lifestyle medicine physicians at Mora are ready to guide you through menopause and beyond, helping you in tailoring a diet and lifestyle that boosts your health. Why not chat with one of our medical experts today? They're ready to support you on your journey to a healthier, happier you.
Note: This article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
2. Herber-Gast, G.-C. M. & Mishra, G. D. Fruit, Mediterranean-style, and high-fat and -sugar diets are associated with the risk of night sweats and hot flushes in midlife: results from a prospective cohort study,,. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 97, 1092–1099 (2013).
5. Liu, Z., Ho, S. C., Xie, Y. J. & Woo, J. Whole plant foods intake is associated with fewer menopausal symptoms in Chinese postmenopausal women with prehypertension or untreated hypertension. Menopause 22, 496–504 (2015).
6. Barnard, N. D. et al. The Women’s Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms (WAVS): a randomized, controlled trial of a plant-based diet and whole soybeans for postmenopausal women. Menopause 28, 1150–1156 (2021).