Many post-menopausal women suffer from hot flashes but are reluctant to hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) because they pose possible risks of endometrial cancer, blood clots, stroke, breast cancer gallbladder problems or even of dementia if HRT is started after midlife.
But now, a new study by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine – a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine and conducts clinical research – maintains that a low-fat vegan diet that includes soy fosters changes in the gut microbiome that decrease postmenopausal hot flashes by 95%.
They found that a vegan diet also eliminated severe hot flashes, led to a 96% decrease in moderate-to-severe hot flashes, and reduced daytime and nighttime hot flashes by 96% and 94%, respectively. Participants also lost an average of three kilos.
“Women who want to fight hot flashes should feed the bacteria in their gut a vegan diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans, which also leads to weight loss and protects against heart disease and type 2 diabetes,” said study co-author Dr. Hana Kahleova, director of clinical research at the organization.
The new research is a secondary analysis of the WAVS trial – the Women’s Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms – that the Physicians Committee previously published in the journal Menopause. In the study, 84 postmenopausal women reporting two or more moderate-to-severe hot flashes daily were randomly assigned to either the intervention group that was asked to follow a low-fat vegan diet, including half a cup of cooked soybeans a day or to the control group that continued their usual diets for 12 weeks. Changes in Clostridium asparagiforme bacteria were correlated with changes in severe hot flashes.
They published their findings in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine under the title “A dietary intervention for postmenopausal hot flashes: A potential role of gut microbiome.”
For the secondary analysis, stool samples from a subset of 11 participants were used to perform a gut microbiome analysis at baseline and after 12 weeks on a vegan diet. Changes in bacteria were found.
Other bacteria examined may alleviate hot flashes too
Changes in the abundance of other bacteria looked at in the study may play a role in alleviating hot flashes by stabilizing estrogen levels, reducing inflammation, and increasing satiety, among other benefits. The authors suggested that larger randomized clinical trials are needed to further investigate these findings. In any case, a vegan diet is not dangerous and is known to be beneficial to the health of most people.