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.