Hot flashes are the main symptom of peri-menopause and menopause. In fact, it is estimated that 75-80 percent of all women going through menopause will develop hot flashes at some point during the menopausal years. In the 1990s, it was not uncommon to receive medications in the form of estrogen replacement therapy for hot flashes in menopause; however, it was found in a large research study that the use of estrogen replacement therapy increased the risk of breast cancer and heart disease in women who took the medication. From then on, the quest for more natural forms of treatment for hot flashes began.
Research On Soy
Several research studies were undertaken in order to see if soy products could be helpful in pregnancy. Soy contains molecules that mimic the effects of female estrogen. The idea was to see if plant estrogens, when taken through soy containing foods or soy supplements could have a positive effect on menopausal symptoms, particularly on hot flashes.
What was found was that soy didn’t help relieve hot flash symptoms right away, as is seen in estrogen replacement therapy, but it did relieve hot flashes after 6 to 12 weeks of use. Women who took soy supplements found a reduction in the intensity and frequency of hot flashes after extended use of soy supplements during peri-menopause and menopause. This makes sense because soy is a relatively mild form of plant estrogen so it needs to build up in the system before it can truly take effect.
Sources Of Soy
While you can take soy supplements, it makes better sense for some women to get their soy from the food they eat. Good sources of soy in food include the following:
• Soy milk—you can buy soy milk at almost any supermarket where the regular milk is offered.
• Tofu—this is a flexible ingredient made from soy that can be used in cooking. Tofu comes in soft, firm, and extra firm varieties and is used as a meat substitute in many different recipes. Tofu is especially good because it doesn’t have much flavor in and of itself but it takes up the flavor of just about anything it is marinated in. For example, tofu can be used in Chinese stir-fry by marinating it in teriyaki sauce or any other Chinese sauces.
• Tempeh—this is a fermented form of soybeans that, like tofu, can be used in recipes in place of chopped meat. Tempeh can be grilled, sautéed, or fried for a great taste that picks up the flavors of the sauces in the rest of the food.
• Edamame—these are the young, freshly harvested soybeans. They taste sweet and can be used as a vegetable in many recipes (after boiling) and make great snack food.
• Miso—this is a Japanese-inspired paste that is used to make miso soup. It can also be used in salad dressings, sauces, and marinades.
• Soy nuts—soybeans can be roasted and used as snacks. They can be flavored with spices for more intense and varied flavors.
• Soy sauce—this is a common ingredient in Chinese recipes used to add flavor to the recipe.
• Whole soybeans—these can be cooked like rice or noodles and added to a variety of recipes.
• Textured soy protein—this is made from soy flour and is high in protein and fiber. It is used along with meat as a meat extender, which is better for you than meat alone.
Soy Isoflavones—Studies in Research
The healthful ingredient in soy is soy isoflavones. These were studied in 19 studies and were compared to placebo. When adding up the total amount of women involved in these studies, they numbered more than 1,200.
The researchers discovered that those women who took soy supplements containing higher amounts of genistein, one of the soy isoflavones, the hot flashes were better controlled than in those women who took a placebo or even low amounts of genistein. The amount of soy necessary for hot flash control amounted to about 7 ounces of tofu, 2 glasses of soy milk, or ½ cup of edamame per day.
In the final analysis, any natural option that can help bring relief from the often very uncomfortable menopausal symptoms should be investigated.