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Hot Flashes and Phytoestrogens

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Menopausal women who experience hot flashes might be seeking alternative options other than pharmacological routes to reduce their symptoms. They hope to gain the same benefits from the products containing “natural” estrogens without the potential health risks of breast cancer and cardiovascular complications from hormone replacement therapy (HRT).[1]

When it comes to the topic hot flashes, many researchers are often focused on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as a treatment. In addition to hot flash symptoms, other health issues are also investigated including cardiovascular disease and bone mineral density or osteoporosis. There are some studies focused on the non-pharmacological approach such as Wikipedia:phytoestrogens, but there are a lot more studies involved with HRT.[2]

Hot FlashesEdit

Hot flashes (or sometimes known as hot flushes) affect many Wikipedia:menopausal women. Hot flash symptoms affect 50% to 85% of women who are over the age of 45, or approximately 360 million women worldwide experience these hot flash symptoms. Some women may experience hot flashes prior to the menopausal period. Hot flashes can occur more frequently and can be intense during the first two years of menopause. Different women experience hot flash symptoms differently, such as hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly. The intensity of hot flashes also varies among these women. The causes of hot flashes have not been fully understood. It has been suggested that as women are reaching menopause their Wikipedia:hormones are also changing. The changes in hormones specifically decreased levels of estrogen, which is linked to the temperature modulator in the hypothalamus.[3] Also, decreased estrogen levels may cause blood vessels to dilate. The dilated blood vessels allow more blood to travel quickly through the body. This suddenly increased blood flow accompanies more heat. The dilating or opening blood vessels to the skin causes hot flushing sensation and sweating reactions. Hot flushes and night sweats are known as Wikipedia:vasomotor symptoms (VMS). Hot flashes do not pose a danger to the body but it can cause discomfort physically and emotionally.[4]


Phytoestrogens or “dietary estrogens” are non-steroidal plant compounds. They have similar structural compounds as 17-B-estradiol. They are known as estrogen hormone-like chemicals and their chemical structure appears similar as human body’s estrogen chemical structure. This structure can act as estrogenic and/or antiestrogenic effects. When taking phytoestrogens by mouth, these foods may have estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects depending on the phytoestrogen concentration in the food, availability of sex hormone concentration in the body, and stage of life of a woman.

Three classes of phytoestrogensEdit

a. Isoflavones (chemical names: Wikipedia:genistein, Wikipedia:daidzein, Wikipedia:glycitein). Common foods are found in soy beans, tofu, and other soy food products.

b. Wikipedia:Lignans (chemical names: Wikipedia:secoisolariciresinol, Wikipedia:matairesinol). Common foods are found in flaxseeds, sesame seed, sunflower seed, and multigrain breads.

c. Wikipedia:Coumestan (chemical name: Wikipedia:coumestrol). Common foods are found in alfalfa sprouts, clover sprouts, split peas, and lima beans.[5]

Phytoestrogen food sources Edit

(1 ug=0.000001 g)

Phytoestrogen food sources Phytoestrogens content (ug/100g)
Flax Seed 379380
Soy beans 103920
Soy nuts 68731
Tofu 27150
Tempeh 18308
Miso Paste 11197
Soy Yogurt 10275
Soy Protein Powder 8841
Sesame Seed 8008
Multigrain bread 4799
Soy Milk 2957
Hummus 993
Garlic 604
Mung Bean Sprouts 459
Dried Apricots 445
Sunflower Seeds 216
Chestnuts 210
Olive Oil 181
Almonds 131
Cashews 122
Green Beans 106
Peanuts 35
Onion 32
Blueberries 18
Corn 9
Coffee, regular 6
Watermelon 3
Milk (cow) 1


Among the 3 classes isoflavones appear to be the most widely studied.[5]

The soy phytoestrogens as replacement estrogen (SPARE) study; it studied the effects of soy isoflavones in menopausal women. The study looked at menopausal symptom including hot flashes and bone density. The results of the study revealed there was no improvement in hot flash symptoms and bone loss between the women who received 200 mg daily tablets of isoflavones versus the women who received placebo.[1]

Limitations of the studyEdit

The limitations of the study included: poor design, small samples size, and short duration of the study. The other challenge in the study was to have the participants taking isoflavones tablets instead of eating real foods containing isoflavones. The tablets presented negative side effects and led to high dropout rates.[1]

Foods and lifestyle habitsEdit

According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS)[7] there are foods and some unhealthy lifestyle habits that can aggravate or trigger hot flashes such as: hot/spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, smoking cigarettes, and high stress levels.

Body weight statusEdit

For women who are overweight or obese, a gradual weight loss can have potential benefits for menopausal symptom reduction.[8]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Levis S, Stein NS, Azar PG, Xu P, et al. Soy isoflavones in the prevention of menopausal bone loss and menopausal symptoms. Arch Intern Med. 2011; 171(15):1363-9.
  2. Haines CJ & Varrell E. Menopause management: a cardiovascular risk-based approach. Climacteric. 2010; 13:328-39.
  3. Brown DA, Henneman A, Desai DN. Efficacy of drospirenone-containing hormone replacement therapy to reduce vasomotror sympdtoms of menopause. Pharmacy. 2013,1,193-203.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Anklesaria BS. The promise of phytoestrogens. Indian Journal of Pharmacology. 2011;4(43):369-70.
  8. Daiss, SR, Wayment, HA, Blackledge, S. The effects of a 12-month, small changes group intervention on weight loss and menopausal symptoms in overweight women. Psychology, suppl. Special issue on Applied Psychology. 2013;(4.3A):197-204.

Wikipedia:Category:Nutrients Wikipedia:Category:Nutrition Wikipedia:Category:Endocrinology Wikipedia:Category:Estrogens

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