Vasomotor menopausal symptoms (VMS) commonly referred to as hot flushes or night sweats are a result of fluctuating hormone levels during menopause, and cause many women extreme discomfort and reduced quality of life. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the common treatment option given to women experiencing these symptoms, however, lifestyle changes can provide relief without the associated health risks that come with HRT.
Eating foods that help to stabilise hormone levels can reduce the symptoms of menopause. A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that a Mediterranean style diet and a diet high in fruits is associated with a decrease in menopausal hot flushes
The Mediterranean diet is characterised by foods like garlic, capsicum, mushrooms, salad greens, whole grains, pasta and red wine. Participants who consumed a diet dominant in these foods were significantly less likely to experience hot flushes and night sweats. Similarly, participants who ate a diet characterised by a high intake of strawberries, pineapple, melon and mango also reported less hot flushes. Conversely, dietary patterns high in trans and saturated fat and sugar was associated with an increased risk of menopausal symptoms.
But why do Mediterranean-style diets and diets high in fruits reduce hot flushes?
The physiology is not entirely clear, however, the common features of both diet patterns is that they are high in fibre and low in trans fats. High fibre diets are linked to lower oestrogen levels, and help to stabilise the hormones insulin and cortisol. Stabilisation of these hormones helps to reduce the fluctuation that is associated with hot flushes. Furthermore, diets high in fibre moderates blood sugar levels. Women with stable blood sugar levels are less likely to experience hot flushes.
So before turning to HRT or suffering through your hot flushes, why not try making some modifications to your diet. However, I will just note that while the Mediterranean diet appreciates regular consumption of red wine, I wouldn’t recommend it for reducing hot flushes. That said, one glass enjoyed now and then with friends can still be great for the soul.