It is almost a certainty that all women will experience hot flashes as a symptom of menopause and it can be more than just a little bit uncomfortable. Fortunately, it may be possible to treat this common symptom in natural ways that do not involve hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or medications.
These natural remedies include supplements, herbs that can be consumed in a variety of ways such as a tea or pill form, different types of food that you may not be eating enough of, and also simple changes you can make to your lifestyle.
If one remedy does not work for you, then move on to the next. You may also want to ask your friends and family if they know anything from personal experience which has shown a benefit, or asks your doctor if you feel like nothing is working for you and the hot flashes have become debilitating.
1. Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)
Evening primrose oil is made from a species of plant called Oenothera Biennis which is native to North America. It can be taken either in supplement form or as a topical oil – in the case of hot flashes, in particular, it is almost always taken as a supplement.
The benefits of evening primrose oil (EPO) have been shown to be real, but it is not quite clear how or why it works. It is thought that it may have something to do with the omega-6 fatty acid which is found in the oil of many plants including this one which contains gamma-linolenic acid.
In one fairly recent study, it was shown that women received great benefits from taking 500mg of EPO every day for six weeks, which lowered the severity and frequency of the hot flashes they experienced due to menopause. EPO can be found in capsule form at most health stores and supermarkets.
2. Vitamin B Complex
There is a total of eight B vitamins which are collectively known as vitamin B complex – these are B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12. They are all essential to the human body as they allow food to be more easily used as fuel to keep you energized. You may already be getting the required amount of B vitamins from your regular diet, but if you are not then it could cause an increase in the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
There are supplements available in capsule form which contain B vitamins, but as with any other supplements, you should talk to your doctor before you start taking them. In terms of real food, you can start eating more vegetables, whole grains, fruit, eggs, meat and fish, along with cheese, and some types of nuts such as peanut. Raising your intake of B vitamins should also help alleviate some of the other symptoms associated with menopause.
3. Vitamin E
When combined with vitamin B complex, as mentioned above, vitamin E can alleviate more menopause symptoms than just the hot flashes. During menopause, free radicals increase and vitamin E can fight back to alleviate their harmful effects. As an antioxidant, vitamin E can aid with other symptoms of menopause including fatigue, sleeping problems, dizzy spells, feeling short of breath, and heart palpitations.
Eating more broccoli and avocado will increase your vitamin E intake, as well as eating more of certain nuts such as almonds and hazelnuts. Vegetable oils are good sources as well, and they also provide healthy fats. If you can’t get enough from eating real food for whatever reason, supplements are also available at most supermarkets and health food stores. However, you should talk to your doctor before you start taking any supplements just to make sure that it will be appropriate for you as there can be side effects.
4. Soy Products
The use of soy, and soy isoflavones, in particular, is still a topic of study in terms of whether it is more or less effective than manufactured medications you could take in an attempt to relieve the symptoms of menopause. However, it is a fact that soy products have high amounts of phytoestrogens. Basically, this is a chemical that acts in a similar way to the naturally occurring estrogen that is on the decline in menopausal women.
In this case, eating real food containing soy is recommended instead of taking it in supplement form. This is great news if you enjoy eating food from Asian countries, such as tempeh from Indonesia, or edamame which is popular in Japan – the latter being a good and healthy snack food to keep around the house. Other sources include tofu which can be prepared in many different ways, and of course soy milk which can be used in just about the same ways as the milk you may be drinking now.
Alternative medicine in all of its forms is the subject of much debate, but now there are real studies coming out which have shown real benefits from some of these practices. For example, there was a fairly recent study on acupuncture as it relates to menopause, and hot flashes in particular, which covered over 200 women between 45 and 60 years old. Before it began, all of the women included in this study experienced four or more hot flashes every day.
About half of the women in this study reported that they experienced half as many hot flashes, and 12% of the women reported having 85% fewer hot flashes. About a third of the women reported that they only had 10% fewer hot flashes, while 4% of the women said they actually had more occurrences. In any case, this is a promising sign as most women received a benefit from acupuncture, and for some, it was a huge benefit, so you should consider this option for yourself.
6. Cut Out Some Food and Drinks
You could call this a remedy, or you could just call it a recommendation, but in any event, it has been shown through various studies that there are certain foods that can inflame your hot flashes during menopause. On the other hand, there are also foods that can reduce the number or severity of these uncomfortable experiences that you have.
If you can’t get by without your coffee, try switching to iced coffee instead of hot. However, any source of caffeine is likely to provoke hot flashes so you should try to find out whether this is the case for you. Alcohol has also been shown to bring on another heatwave.
It should come as no surprise that spicy foods will make it worse, but there is also a connection between foods that are high in sugar or saturated fat and the intensity of hot flashes. You may want to consider a more vegetarian diet for a while to see if that helps as well.
7. Dong Quai (Angelica Sinensis)
The root of this plant, which is related to carrots, has been used for thousands of years as a herbal remedy in China and elsewhere to treat many kinds of medical issues. It has been called “female ginseng” because it is said to have many benefits for women particularly related to premenstrual syndrome and menopause.
Many people believe that the root of this plant helps deal with their hot flashes experienced during menopause. However, it does tend to make you feel a bit sedated or sleepy and it is not recommended for use by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
As with most alternative or home remedy treatments such as this, more studies are needed to really prove how effective it is in treating the many conditions it claims to target. In the few western studies performed to evaluate Dong Quai, there were no drastic improvements reported in the women who participated.
8. Black Cohosh
As with many other herbs and natural supplements made from them that you will read about here and elsewhere, there have not been many major studies done to show how or why they work. Nevertheless, black cohosh has become very well-liked among women who are seeking a natural treatment for the symptoms of menopause, including the common hot flashes as well.
You can find the dried and ground root of black cohosh in supplement form, usually in capsules, in many online stores and also health food retailers. You may also find the root of this plant used to make tea but this is much less common.
One major study in the United States which lasted a year – carried out by the NCCIH – did not find any negative effects on the body for those participating in the study. However, it is still recommended that you consult your health care provider before you start taking any supplements, including black cohosh.
9. Eat High Protein Food
It has been shown through many studies that when women eat a diet high in protein and low in saturated fats and salt, they experience fewer hot flashes and when they do occur they are less severe. This is mainly due to the fact that proteins are used by the body as a way of balancing hormone levels, which makes this even more important for menopausal women.
In this case, snacking on nuts such as almonds throughout the day can provide benefits in more ways than one. For a start, almonds are high in protein which will help hormonal balances, and they are also a good source of polyunsaturated fats which are much more healthy than other fats and also provide benefits during menopause.
Other foods which are high in protein include eggs, lentils, and lean red meat which will also give you a boost in iron which that body may be craving during this time.
10. Get More Healthy Fats in Your Diet
As we discussed earlier, eating a lot of food which is high in fat is not good for your hot flashes. However, fats are not all the same and you actually need to get about one quarter to one-third of your calorie intake from fat. The trick is to eat food that is high in healthy fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
In the case of polyunsaturated fats, you can get these by eating food such as nuts and seeds which you can snack on throughout the day as a substitute to junk food, and also from fatty fish such as albacore tuna, salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, and so on for lunch or dinner.
Monounsaturated fats can also be found in nuts, but a better source may be avocado which you can add to your sandwiches or other meals – eating half of an avocado every day has many other health benefits as well. Vegetable oils are also a great source of monounsaturated fats, such as olive or canola oil among others, as well as natural peanut butter.