Q. I got my hot flashes under control by using cold-milled ground golden flaxseed. I started with as much as 4 tablespoons per day, adding the ground flaxseed to cereal in the morning and yogurt later in the day.

I later reduced my intake to 2 tablespoons daily. After about five weeks of using flaxseed, the hot flashes went away completely.

I decided to give soy milk a try because I have osteoporosis and I had read that soy is good for bones as well as menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. Three weeks later, my hot flashes are back. What a disappointment!

I’m going to cut out the soy and see if that helps. I’m pretty sure it’s the culprit.

A. Soy certainly has had a reputation for helping hot flashes, but it may be undeserved. A recent review of alternative treatments for menopausal hot flashes found that soy and red clover are no more effective than placebo (Climacteric, April, 2012). A study last year demonstrated that women taking soy actually experienced more hot flashes than those on placebo (Archives of Internal Medicine, Aug. 8/22, 2011).

We are sending you our Guide to Menopause, in which we discuss the pros and cons of estrogen therapy as well as many non-hormonal alternatives. Estrogen is certainly effective, but it can increase the risk of breast cancer. Doctors sometimes prescribe medications such as fluoxetine (Sarafem), gabapentin (Neurontin), paroxetine (Paxil) or venlafaxine (Effexor). These too may help, but they carry their own side effects and can be difficult to discontinue. Many women are enthusiastic about progesterone, but the evidence to support its use is equivocal (Maturitas, online April 25, 2012). We are delighted that flaxseed worked so well for you.

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  1. PJL

    I started hot flashes at age 47. I refuse to take any type of prescription medicine unless I’m on death’s door, so I thought it would just be something I had to deal with. My sister told me about flax seed and I thought I’d give it a try. I bought the flax seed and grind a little bit every other day (small coffee bean grinder is great for that) and keep both the flax seed and the ground flax in the fridge. I sprinkle it on everything I can, not really measuring, just making sure I get some every day. I sprinkle it on my toast in the morning before I put peanut butter on it. I sprinkle it on salads, mashed potatoes, vegetables, in pudding… anywhere I can use it. It loses it’s effectiveness if it’s heated, so you may sprinkle it on soup right before you are ready to eat it, just don’t put it in the soup as it heats. You shouldn’t grind a lot at a time, either, just enough for a few servings. You must grind it for it to do any good.
    So… did it help? Yes! My hot flashes decreased within a few days and now, three years later, I may get warm occasionally, but it’s nothing like the searing heat that I felt before. But I have to also add that I do a lot of hiking and walking and have noticed that if I miss a couple days in a row of walking, the night sweats seem to be more frequent, so I think it may be a combination of both the flax seed and the exercise.
    But flax is so cheap and easy to use, it’s well worth a try. I won’t go without it, probably for the next 10 years!! LOL!

  2. AS

    I was using soy for approximately two years steadily every morning, from a well-known company that specialized in soy powder. I was hoping this would help with my VERY severe hot flashes. I was diligent in having a shake every morning, with the suggested amount (even more at times). This NEVER helped.
    My flashes remained severe (extreme sweats every hour), couldn’t get a sound sleep, etc.. I guess I took it for such a long time because I thought that they (hot flashes) would be even worse without taking the soy (little did I know). I finally went on bio-identical hormones, which definitely did relieve my symptoms. Took these for about two years, but knew that I did not want to continue because there is still estrogen in these products.
    So, at 63 years old, my flashes have diminished substantially, although I still do get them daily (especially in the summer). Although they are not as severe, I would still like to eliminate them altogether or subside even more. I do have flaxseed occasionally with my cereal, but I will make it part of my routine, and see if it helps. I completely eliminated soy from my diet!

  3. CM

    Soy helped me tremendously but it has to be whole soy beans such as edaname or tofu, tempeh, or miso.

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