Fluctuating hormones during menopause, particularly the drop in estrogen, can lead to hot flashes as well as mood swings, dry skin, weight gain, vaginal dryness, and lack of libido.
Several foods, however, have been proven to reduce the intensity of hot flashes, as well as other symptoms, while various foods are also known to exasperate them.
Read on for more information on the foods that fight hot flashes and the ones you’ll want to avoid, as well as a natural supplement that reduces the intensity of additional menopause symptoms.
What Is a Hot Flash?
Decreasing estrogen levels, and sometimes progesterone levels, are the cause of hot flashes. Essentially, the drop in hormones during perimenopause causes the hypothalamus – the part of the brain responsible for regulating body temperature – to become more sensitive to small temperature changes in your body.
During this time of change in the female body, just a slight increase in body temperature can trigger the hypothalamus into a heightened state of activity to cool down the body.
The result feels like an abrupt sensation of rising heat from within the body, and the sudden sweating associated with hot flashes occurs when the blood vessels closest to the surface of the skin broaden to cool the body.
With over 75% of women aged 45-52 experiencing hot flashes, they are considered the most common symptom of perimenopause and menopause. For some, hot flashes are accompanied by an accelerated heart rate, a flushed face and neck, and sometimes chills.
When hot flashes occur during the night they are referred to as night sweats and are often responsible for interrupted sleep during perimenopause.
Why Do Hot Flashes Happen During Menopause?
As women grow older the female body instinctively knows that the childbearing years are coming to an end and signals the ovaries to begin producing less estrogen.
When entering the phase of life known as perimenopause, estrogen levels continue to incrementally drop, and the menstrual cycle typically becomes irregular. It is during this time that most women experience symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, dry skin, weight gain, and low libido.
Once menstruation has not occurred for twelve consecutive months, women have entered menopause and can expect symptoms like hot flashes to subside.
How Long Do Hot Flashes Last?
The duration and intensity of hot flashes vary from woman to woman. A hot flash can be mild or severe and it can last anywhere from a minute to five minutes. They typically occur for approximately seven years, although some women can experience them for longer and about 20% of women experience no hot flashes at all.
7 Foods That Fight Hot Flashes
Given the nutrients and vitamins in many edibles, it is not surprising that eating particular foods can help to reduce hot flashes. And because hot flashes can occur for anywhere from seven to eleven years, it’s a great idea to lessen their impact on your daily life by including certain foods in your daily diet.
The top 7 foods to fight hot flashes include the following:
1. Cooling Foods
When it comes to “cooling foods”, it is not the temperature that renders it cooling but rather how the food affects the body. In addition to regulating body temperature, cooling foods also help to hydrate the body, balance mineral levels, blood pressure, sugar levels, and aid in digestion.
Cooling foods include sweet water-rich fruits like apples, pineapple, bananas, watermelon, and strawberries. Green leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, kale, and broccoli are also considered cooling foods as well as bitter herbs such as chicory and mustard greens.
2. Foods Rich in Vitamin E
In a 2007 study where the effect of vitamin E in menopausal women was researched, results showed that it substantially minimized the intensity of hot flashes. Vitamin E also aids in lowering the possibility of weight gain, depression, and heart disease during perimenopause and menopause.
To combat hot flashes and additional menopause symptoms, experts recommend ingesting 15 mg of vitamin E each day. While supplements are the easiest way to ensure you are getting a sufficient dose, vitamin E is also abundant in foods like avocado, broccoli, shellfish, spinach, squash, and sunflower seeds
3. Foods Containing Phytoestrogen
Phytoestrogen is a compound found in several plants and has been proven to mimic the effects of estrogen in the body and thereby reduce menopause symptoms like hot flashes. Foods containing phytoestrogen include soy-based products like miso, soybeans, tempeh, and tofu, as well as celery, rhubarb, and green beans.
4. Foods Rich in Magnesium
A 2011 study into whether magnesium supplements could reduce menopausal hot flashes in breast cancer patients concluded that the women who participated reported a 50-25% reduction in the frequency and intensity of hot flashes.
Although the trial was centered around breast cancer patients, experts concluded that their hot flashes were similar to those experienced during menopause due to the comparable drop in estrogen levels.
In addition to fighting hot flashes, magnesium is also believed to reduce the risk of osteoporosis during menopause, relieve joint pain, boost heart health, decrease the risk of diabetes, reduce blood pressure, and ease constipation.
Foods that are rich in magnesium can also provide sufficient amounts when ingested daily. These foods include beans, leafy greens like kale, spinach, and lettuce, as well as dark chocolate, lentils, and whole grain foods. Alternatively, magnesium can be taken in supplement form with a recommended daily intake of no more than 350mg.
5. Vitamin C & Bioflavonoids
Female health experts recommend that a daily combination of vitamin C and bioflavonoids can significantly help to relieve hot flashes associated with perimenopause and menopause.
Both vitamin C and bioflavonoids are found in citrus fruits like limes, lemons & oranges, with the white core and pulp, in particular, being a great source of bioflavonoids. A combination of both is also found in fruits like cherries, grapes, and pomegranates.
6. Some Nuts – But Not All
Snacking on nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts, as well as adding them to your recipes and salads can also help to reduce the severity of hot flashes associated with menopause.
Almonds and hazelnuts are rich in vitamin E, and all three are abundant in calcium, magnesium, polyunsaturated fats, potassium, and zinc – all of which help to ease additional menopause symptoms like dry skin, dyspareunia, and osteoporosis.
7. Healthy Snacking
As well as the nuts mentioned above, seeds like pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds, all of which contain phytoestrogens, are perfect to snack on throughout the day and fight hot flashes during menopause.
Additionally, snacking on raw vegetables like carrots, celery, green beans, and sprouts will not only help to reduce hot flashes but provide the body with nourishing nutrients for women’s overall health.
Reduce Menopause Symptoms with Chasteberry
Vitex agnus-castus, also known as Chasteberry, is a natural supplement made from the berry of the chaste tree which is native to the Mediterranean and Asia. Used for centuries to manage women’s health, it is now available in easy-to-take supplement capsules.
As well as easing the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, chasteberry has been found to treat a myriad of PMS and menopause symptoms such as PMS mood swings, interrupted sleep, headaches, hormonal imbalances, breast tenderness, and pelvic pain.
After a recent study, for example, 23 women experiencing menopause symptoms who took chasteberry supplements for three months reported better moods, improved sleep, and less intensity with hot flashes.
In a follow-up study, of the 52 additional women who used chasteberry as a supplement, 33% experienced a major improvement in menopause symptoms and 36% reported moderate improvements.
For best results, women's health experts recommend taking chasteberry in supplement form, for at least three months to experience a noticeable improvement in menopause symptoms.
Foods to Avoid for Hot Flashes
Spicey foods, sugar, alcohol, white carbs, caffeine, and milk chocolate are known to increase the intensity of not only hot flashes but also additional menopause symptoms like mood swings and interrupted sleep.
If you are suffering from hot flashes during menopause or perimenopause the foods that you eat can either intensify or ease them. Instead of processed foods, which can exacerbate hot flashes, eating nutrient-rich foods, cooling foods, and foods rich in phytoestrogens can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes as well as ease additional menopause symptoms.
Before making any significant changes to your diet, speak with your healthcare provider to ensure you are receiving all the nutrients you need to combat the side effects of menopause.
The North American Menopause Society – Hot Flashes - https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopause-faqs-hot-flashes
Cleveland Clinic – Perimenopause - https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21608-perimenopause
College of Naturopathic Medicine – The Energy of Foods in Chinese Medicine - https://www.naturopathy-uk.com/news/news-cnm-blog/blog/2020/07/16/the-energy-of-foods-in-chinese-medicine/
National Library of Medicine - The Effect of Vitamin E on Hot Flashes in Menopausal Women - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17664882/
Chen, M-n., Lin, C.-c., & Liu, et al - Efficacy of phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms: a meta-analysis and systematic review - https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/13697137.2014.966241
National Library of Medicine - A pilot phase II trial of magnesium supplements to reduce menopausal hot flashes in breast cancer patients - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3085555/
National Center for Biotechnology Information - Comparison of Vitex agnus-castus Extracts with Placebo in Reducing Menopausal Symptoms: A Randomized Double-Blind Study -