Hot flashes and night sweats are two of the hallmark symptoms of perimenopause, the time of hormonal transition prior to actual menopause. During perimenopause, most women will experience hot flashes and night sweats to some degree or another.
While medical professionals do not know exactly what causes the hot flashes and night sweats, the general consensus is that they occur from an estrogen imbalance during perimenopause. Some physicians contend the imbalance is due to low levels of estrogen, while others believe it is an excess of estrogen, otherwise known as estrogen dominance, which is the real culprit.
Until recently, many women resorted to traditional hormone replacement therapy to help with the hot flashes and night sweats. But with the health risks now known to be associated with HRT, many women have begun to seek healthier, less risky, alternatives, such as soy.
Medical researchers have known for quite some time that Asian women, whose diet is high in soy, suffer considerably less hot flashes and night sweats during perimenopause than Western women, whose diet is not. In fact, so intriguing is the apparent correlation that many studies have been conducted in an effort to confirm the possible link.
In a small, double-blind study conducted by the Swiss, for example, some of the participants were given a soybean based fruit drink which contained 60 milligrams of soy, while others were given a placebo, daily for 3 months.
The participants who received the soy drink reported a 57% reduction in hot flashes and night sweats, while those who received the placebo reported a 43% reduction.
In a similar study done in 2008, participants who had taken soy reported a 52% reduction in hot flashes and night sweats, while those who took a placebo reported a 39% reduction.
While the findings in these studies and others have not been 100% conclusive, many researchers have found there to be enough evidence to suggest that soy is helpful for treating hot flashes and night sweats.
Why Soy Works
Soy contains isoflavones which are a type of phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogens, as the name suggests, are a plant based estrogen which have a similar chemical structure to the estrogen produced by our bodies.
The chemical similarity enables the phytoestrogen not only to interact with the estrogen in our bodies but to mimic it as well.
For example, in the case of an estrogen dominant environment, the phytoestrogens are able to compete with the excess estrogen by binding to the estrogen receptor sites in the cells, therefore reducing the impact the excess estrogen has in our body. If there are low levels of estrogen in the body, the ability of the phytoestrogens to bind to the estrogen receptor sites can then increase estrogen activity in the body. In either scenario, it is a win-win situation
Is Soy Safe?
Because phytoestrogens found in soy, can potentially mimic estrogen activity, there are some concerns it could potentially interfere with regular menstrual activity. If you are not certain you are in perimenopause, it would be wise to consult with your physician before increasing or adding soy to your diet.
If you are already menopausal or in perimenopause, there is no evidence that adding soy to your diet in moderation will do anything but help you. In fact, not only will you potentially benefit from less hot flashes and night sweats, but you will be doing your heart and brain a favor as well.
In the late 1990’s the FDA put forth some data that said 25 mg of soy protein per day was enough to promote cardiovascular health in women. In addition to promoting a healthy heart, soy is a low-glycemic index food, which not only helps main a healthy weight, but also helps to maintain balanced blood sugar and insulin levels. Two issues that many women in perimenopause and menopause deal with frequently.
Sources of Soy
One of the most convenient sources of soy is milk. The plain soy milk is rather mild in flavor and some would even say bland. If that is the case for you, it can also be found in vanilla, chocolate and strawberry flavor. You can drink it straight up, in a glass or if you prefer, you can pour it over your morning cereal or oatmeal.
Tofu is another excellent source of soy which can be added to other foods, fried or even baked. Tofu can also be quite bland by itself, but, because it tends to absorb the flavor of foods it is mixed with, it makes it very easy to add to a meal. If you enjoy nutty snacks throughout the day, soy nuts are becoming quite popular and can make an excellent choice or you can even opt for a soy protein bar.
With all of the different options and sources of soy, it’s rather easy to incorporate into your diet, making it a smart and healthy alternative to help combat hot flashes and night sweats.
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