Menopause: Low-fat vegan diet may help reduce hot flashes

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
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Can a vegan diet help reduce hot flashes? Image credit: Studio Firma/Stocksy.
  • More than 80% of menopausal women experience hot flashes.
  • Previous research has shown that hot flashes can increase a person’s risk for certain diseases and negatively impact their sleep.
  • Researchers from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine have now found that following a low-fat vegan diet that includes soy makes changes in the gut microbiome. Some of these changes were linked to a decrease in menopause-related hot flashes by as much as 95%.

More than 80% of people at menopause experience vasomotor symptoms, commonly known as hot flashes.

Past studies show that individuals who have hot flashes are at a higher risk for diseases such as osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Additionally, hot flashes can cause sleep disruptions that can negatively impact a woman’s overall health.

Hot flashes can sometimes be reduced through lifestyle modifications like maintaining a Health">Healthy weight, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and not eating spicy foods.

Now, new research recently published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine says that following a low-fat vegan diet that includes soy leads to a decrease of menopausal hot flash by as much as 95%.

For this study, Dr. Kahleova and her team used data from 84 postmenopausal women participating in the Women’s Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms (WAVS) trial. The participants reported having two or more moderate to severe hot flashes every day.

Study participants were randomly asked to either follow a low-fat vegan diet that included a half-cup of cooked soybeans a day, or to just continue with their normal diet for 12 weeks.

A subset of 11 participants were asked to provide stool samples for a gut microbiome analysis both before the start of the study and after being on a vegan diet for 12 weeks.

Scientists found changes in the species of bacteria in the gut microbiome of participants who followed the vegan diet.

For example, more of the bacteria Porphyromonas and Prevotella corporis were found in those who followed the vegan diet, and these were linked to a reduction in severe hot flashes, including after adjustment for body mass index (BMI), a calculation that infers adiposity.

At the same time, researchers found a decline in the number of the bacteria Clostridium asparagiforme in the gut microbiome, which was associated with a decrease in total severe and severe night hot flashes.

Dr. Kahleova explained:

“A vegan diet with soybeans is rich in fiber and compounds called Health">isoflavones, both of which help increase the abundance of gut bacteria that fight inflammation and stabilize estrogen levels, which helps to fight hot flashes. Avoiding meat also helps to decrease the amount [of] gut bacteria that are linked to increased inflammation.”

MNT also spoke with Monique Richard, a registered dietitian nutritionist, owner of Nutrition-In-Sight, and national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition Dietetics, about this study.

Richard commented that because only 11 participants’ stools were analyzed during the study, it is a very small sample even though the percentage of hot flash frequency was significant at 95%.

“It is a very small sample size to pull from and make a conclusive statement/headline,” she noted. “It would be important to see this study replicated in larger sample sizes. Looking at vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores each as a population, measuring fiber in each group, or possibly seeing if simply adding the 1/2 cup soy a day to each sample size would elicit the same type of outcomes and similar microbiome profiles would be interesting.”

Richard said previous research shows isoflavones in soy may contribute to a reduction in hot flashes possibly from the estrogen-like constituents of the plant, but they are not able to ascertain direct cause and effect and some of the studies are inconsistent and inconclusive.

“What we do know is that soybeans are a great source of protein, fiber, phytochemicals, and beneficial nutrients that also feed our ‘good’ gut bugs and provide many protective benefits,” she continued.

“Literally feeding the gut microbiome with a plant-centric diet of whole foods tends to be beneficial in numerous ways and also alters the gut microbiome configuration and how those bacteria interact with hormones, enzymes, proteins, and metabolic reactions. This in turn affects our general well-being, tolerance, and symptomatic consequences of menses, illness, disease management and so much more.”

– Monique Richard

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