The People's Perspective on Medicine

Yams–Anti-Menopause Food

Q. I am 52. At age 49 I began to have menopausal symptoms–irregular periods, hot flashes, night sweats, depression (not wanting to get out of bed in the morning), vaginal dryness that made for painful intercourse and fuzzy thinking.

I have a very healthy lifestyle including a vegan diet, daily exercise, no smoking, and almost no alcohol. I've always believed that the right nutrition allows the body to handle anything. But menopause really threw me for a loop.

Somewhere I’d heard that yams could help support hormones. So I began baking yams and eating some every day. I was certainly a skeptic.

However, after only five days of eating yams (one half per day, depending on size), I stopped having hot flashes and night sweats altogether! Within a few days I realized that the vaginal dryness problem was gone. My thinking had cleared up and my depression began to lift.

In addition, my breasts have increased in size and feel full instead of saggy and droopy. My normal menstrual periods have also returned. What surprising results I've gotten from a simple (and delicious) food. The key is to eat them daily.

A. A search of the medical literature revealed that there does appear to be an estrogenic effect from regular yam consumption (Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Aug. 2005).

Taiwanese investigators fed postmenopausal women yams (Dioscorea alata) for 30 days. There were improvements in hormone and cholesterol levels. Control subjects were fed sweet potatoes and did not experience similar benefits.

The investigators concluded that the changes brought about by the consumption of yams “might reduce the risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women.”

In the U.S., sweet potatoes and yams are often confused, but they are completely different plants.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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So this is my thought. My friend just told me about sweet potatoes for hot flashes, I asked her was it the white one or was it a orange colour she said the orange and it has been working for her so that is the one I call a yam. Obviously it must belong to the sweet potato family. That’s all I can figure out. So go with the orange coloured one. I also was told to eat it raw. Good luck ladies, I am starting today. Cheers!! From Mb. Canada

I have just had the exact same experience! I just finished a week of eating yams once a day–in burritos, with eggs and sausage, however I could mix them into my meals. I have had 2 hot flash free nights, and I’m so happy!!

Not first hand experience but I studied with a lady from Africa (I can’t remember which country, I’m tempted to say Kenya but I could be wrong) some years ago and she told me about yams and how she had never met anyone who was menopausal before she came to study in Europe. She had looked into it herself and concluded that the only real difference in diet was yams.

I’ve heard of the “Yam” remedy administered by a doctor?? Have they reduced it to a supplemental form?? I’m also wondering, does it have to be a raw yam or can it be the ones you see in the cans? Thanks….

I am suffering from night sweats, and day sweats. The patch that the doctor prescribed isn’t helping at all. I went to the local Spanish market to find the correct yams. Before I went I looked up the world for yams in Spanish which is the word “name” sweet potatoes is “batata” I found “White Name” and “Espino Name”. These were both a rough brown tuber with white inside. I peeled, sliced it into 5 piece microwaved for 5 min. and cubed. I put in my bowl of chicken soup and it could of passed for a turnip or potatoe.
I read the original white paper on the study and it should

The vegetable in the picture is a sweet potato. Is this actually about yams or sweet potatoes?

Well well, let me tell you my experience. I went to several stores to try to find yams I’m in Aurburn Washington one store told me they had yams. I baked the oven however when I open it, it was orange. I remember watching Dr Oz and he said that yams are white.
I visit several more stores and I couldn’t find yams. Everyone told me that yams are the same as sweet potatoes. I tried to educated them but they just nod their head like okay. I look everywhere but I couldn’t find white yams, guess what I found them at the local store and I told the lady what I was looking for and I asked her to open yams and which she did and it was white. I could have cried I was so happy. I’m over my son house and I don’t know if it’s going to be available in my supermarket but I’m going to try to find them in Seattle.
I’ve been eating yams for 3 days and nothing happened yet but I’m going to eat them for 1 month because that’s the time I give my medications.
l have been menopausal for over 15 years so let’s see how the yams works pray with me and hopefully,I have good news
Hot flashes, in raining Seattle

W.C.
People ARE different and so would the nutritional requirements be different.
Studies tend to attempt to put all in the same basket and that can have poor results for one and good results for another.
A good example of this is low carb diets. Just read the reviews for some of those books on Amazon and you will find varied results.

You can specifically ask for Japanese yam or Japanese sweet potatoes. They are white or creamy yellow in flesh and delicious. I found them at Wholefoods in Seattle.

Sorry. I just saw the bit about Discorea alata. It’s to the true yam that this article refers. Scientific study or not. I’m skeptical. Yams are extremely popular in Jamaica and trust me, women here complain about menopause symptoms just as much as they do elsewhere. Just because it was a scientific study doesn’t mean its results are reliable. It depends on how well the study was crafted. It would be interesting to know if the results were reproducible by other scientists.

I forgot to say that the reason sweet potatoes are so helpful is that they are extremely nutrient dense. They are considered a super food or almost perfect food. They are high in carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. The vitamin A content is massive.
A serving of sweet potato will provide all the Vitamin A needed in a day. Vitamin C, Iron and Calcium are also high. Vitamin Bs are present in substantial amounts and these are very important for the bodies self-regulation. It’s also high in Magnesium and Potassium which tend to be depleted in diets that are high in processed foods and/or low in vegetables. Google the nutrition facts for the sweet potato and be amazed.

As a Jamaican, I can clear up this issue of what a yam is for the Americans.
Yams are a starchy tuber originally from Africa. Some varieties can weigh several hundred pounds. They are so large that usually you just buy a section at a time, instead of a whole yam. A true yam looks like a very, very fat, overgrown, barky root — nothing like a sweet potato. Yams are a staple of the Jamaican diet and unless you shop in West Indian stores, you are unlikely to encounter them.
Sweet potatoes are also a staple in Jamaica. There are basically two types of sweet potatoes — one has a pale coloured flesh and the other has an orange coloured flesh. In the U.S. the orange coloured variety tends to be called a yam. This is a misnomer, because it is actually a sweet potato and not a true yam.
Use the photo at the top of the article as a guide. It represents a sweet potato (regardless of the flesh colour). The sweet potato is the one for which these wonderful claims are being made. An educated guess is that which colour you buy doesn’t really matter greatly in terms of nutrition.

Very helpful thank you.

sheesh !!! why can’t someone explain what to look for? what IS the difference? I can and will say this: what I’ve been eating comes from my supermarket, it sure looks like a yam to me. I almost don’t care — I’m eating them and I’m feeling better; that’s enough for me. just for I.D. purposes, I’d be curious to know how to tell the sweet potato from the yam.
It doesn’t make much sense to say that you can’t get yams in the U.S. — I’ve always heard that they are a major crop in the South here. When you think about it, they look and taste fairly similar — why SHOULDN’T the one help with symptoms if the other does? I don’t give a you know what if this is placebo effect or what-have-you — it’s working.

I admit, this sounds too good to be true…. BUT, on my own (before even reading this page) 3 days ago, I started having a baked yam a day. Well, before my “yam treatment”, I was suffering from every symptom going — especially hot flashes. Now, since I’ve been eating the yams, I hardly get any hot flashes and I’m sleeping through the night. It sounds crazy, but it’s working. I’m still in the early stages of the “cure”, so I’m going to let time prove the success of it to me, but as of right now, it’s helping me and I’m GLAD!!!

I live in Hawaii – what do you know about purple sweet potatoes ( in abundance here ) Okinawan variety

I’m assuming that you are referring to the regular yams you can buy at the store — that are white inside. I baked one in the oven tonight and it was delicious. Does it matter what variety of yam you eat? That’s the real question here. I usually eat sweet potatoes but I’m going to try this out for a week solid and see how my night sweats do. Thanks for the information.

An article I recently read did say real yams were hard to find in North America. A friend of mine has been eating “yams” daily and has had relief from hot flashes but I think she has been eating the “look alikes”. So either its all in her head or the look alikes are helping!!!
PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: WHAT WE USUALLY CALL YAMS HERE ARE SWEET POTATOES. BUT ACTUAL YAMS, OF THE SORT THAT WERE TESTED AND FOUND HELPFUL, CAN BE FOUND IN SOME STORES THAT CARRY AFRICAN OR LATIN AMERICAN FOODS.

I live in NC and I found fresh yams at Whole Foods.

Did the woman who had the wonderful results really have yams in the US? She might live in the southern hemisphere. True yams are not to be found. Has anyone tried the US “yams” for results? I am starting with them right now. I live in Oregon.

I was able to find yams at a Harris Teeter grocery store (in NC). They were in the organic food section, and although their label said sweet potato, they looked much different. Harris Teeter had a vegetable reference book in the produce dept with lots of photos, and it was easy to see the difference between the yam & sweet potato.

In response to the question of where to get yams. You can only find them in ethnic grocery stores. They will have the fresh yams, and they may come from Mexico or Jamaica. From all that I’ve read so far, the discussion has been on the yams from Mexico. I don’t know if that makes a difference, though. I just brought the jam from Jamaica, I’ll try it to see if it works.

After reading this article, I phoned several specialty stores, and one claimed they carried both yams and sweet potatoes. But when I checked their web site on line, the ‘yams’ are from California, and from what I’ve read, true yams aren’t even grown in the US…. So be wary because even produce departments seem to be confused.

Can you please tell me the difference in the yam and the sweet potato…or where to get the yam and how I can tell the difference. I apparently have been eating sweet potatoes and didn’t know there was a difference! (No one I talk to knows the difference, either!)

Do canned yams produce the same effect? I’ve tried 5 stores in the area and none of them have any fresh yams…of course they all say “Oh, yeah we have them…they are the same as sweet potatoes ” !!!

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