By Mary Bove, ND
Debbie, who was 52 years old and had not had a menstrual cycle for the past 10 months, came to my clinic concerned about hot flashes. She reported having several of them an hour throughout the day, and she would wake up multiple times each night with both hot flashes and sweating. Hot, spicy foods seemed to bring on the hot flashes, she said, adding that on some days they were more severe than on others.
Hot flashes are the most common symptom of menopause, occurring in 80 percent of women during their menopausal years. They're often the first sign of approaching menopause and may last several years after cessation of menses. Hot flashes are most frequent symptom in the first two years after the onset of menopause.
Hot flashes may be accompanied by headaches, dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, palpitations and sweating. The mechanism behind hot flashes is not well understood -- nor is what triggers them -- but they are definitely tied to shifting hormone levels.
I recommended that Debbie eat a diet rich in foods that are high in phytoestrogens: soy, legumes, flaxseed, whole grains, olives, parsley and fennel. Studies show that phytoestrogen-containing foods have a protective effect against hormone-related cancers, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. They also play a role in alleviating hot flashes, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, vaginal dryness and loss of libido, which are all associated with menopause. Good digestive function and bowel flora health are a must for optimal use of phytoestrogen-containing foods because their beneficial compounds are activated in the large intestine.
Although hot flashes can come on for no apparent reason, they can also be triggered by hot, spicy foods, alcohol, chocolate and caffeinated drinks, so I recommended that Debbie avoid these foods. Surges of anxiety and stress will aggravate hot flashes and night sweats. We discussed the use of yoga, relaxation, visualization and meditation for stress management.
In addition to a good multivitamin/ multimineral, I recommended vitamin E-400 international units (IU) daily with a meal to help diminish the frequency and intensity of Debbie's hot flashes. Vitamin E has also been shown to be helpful with improving the symptoms of atrophie vaginitis, which is often associated with menopause.
Gamma-oryzanol, a substance isolated in rice bran oil, enhances pituitary function and reduces hot flashes. Whole grains are particularly rich in this substance. Debbie also took gamma-oryzanol supplements in doses of 100 milligrams three times per day with meals.
Herbal medicines can also be helpful in ameliorating hot flashes, night sweats and sleep disturbances. Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) root has been shown in clinical studies to relieve hot flashes, menopausal depression and vaginal dryness. A standardized 40-milligram capsule is taken two to three times per day, while 1 teaspoon of liquid extract is taken three times per day.
Like soy, red clover (Trifolium pratense) is a member of the legume family and contains isoflavones used for their phytoestrogenic effects. Dong quai (Angelica sinensis), a Chinese aromatic root, is a tonic to the female reproductive system, which helps to decrease hot flashes and night sweats along with regulating abnormal bleeding. I gave Debbie equal parts of the above three herbs in addition to motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), which is known for its relaxing quality. Debbie took 1 teaspoon of the mixture two to three times per day.
Lastly, I had Debbie do a castor oil pack over the liver area each night to support liver function. Many women find that this helps to diminish hot flashes at night and improve sleep. We used a simplified castor oil pack by applying a roll-on castor oil over the liver area and covering it with a plastic bag and hot water bottle for 30-60 minutes.
Debbie was pleased to find that in just three short weeks, her hot flashes had decreased significantly.
Internationally known lecturer and author, Mary Bove, ND, offers real-life case studies from her clinical practice in Vermont.
Mary Bove received her doctorate of naturopathic medicine and midwifery certification from Bastyr University of Natural Health in Seattle. She currently practices naturopathic family medicine at the Brattleboro Naturopathic Clinic in Vermont.
Source: Better Nutrition. Powered by Yellowbrix.