Hot flashes have been a constant problem for women in the United States. Each month there are articles about the best treatments for women experiencing hot flashes, and most of them look at taking soy supplements or hormone replacement. I have found, working with women in my practice, that the most effective treatments to reduce hot flashes require behavioral change and adrenal support supplementation.
In the March 3, 2011 online addition of “Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society” there was an article about a study that measured and compared the benefits of hormone replacement, soy supplementation and a placebo for treating hot flashes. The study concluded that hormone replacement therapy reduced the incidence of hot flashes slightly more than soy supplementation. Both were more useful in reducing the number of hot flashes than the placebo. In 2002, the NIH Nurses Health Study conclusively showed taking hormone replacement therapy can increase the risk of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. This means that women who decide to take hormone replacement need to be placed on this treatment using the lowest dose for the shortest period of time in order to not increase the risk for the other diseases.
As a physician, I find it disturbing to put a patient on any medication that increases the risk of other diseases. As a naturopathic physician I always look towards the full spectrum of treatment plans, not just medications or supplements as the answer. In my practice I have been able to reduce hot flashes by working with women on behavioral changes including improving the quality of the diet, improving quality of sleep and reducing stress responses. For example, plant-based diets increase the nutrients in the diet. Plant-based diets also tend to reduce any extra weight on the body, which is important because excess fat produces extra estrogen in the body and creates a hormonal imbalance including increased hot flashes. The fiber in a plant-based diet helps to bind to extra estrogens and draw them out of the body, which can help balance hormones.
Improper sleep patterns can cause hormonal imbalances as well. The constant stress of the everyday life affects the adrenal glands and female hormones. Stress reduction and sometimes additional adrenal support can reduce hot flashes as well. When my patients focus on these issues they reduce and sometimes eliminate hot flashes.