Women going through menopause often experience a variety of symptoms – everything from night sweats to increased anxiety to decreased libido. But perhaps the most known indicator of menopause – and the one experienced most by menopausal and perimenopausal women - is hot flashes.
Hot flashes occur in more than two-thirds of North American women during perimenopause and almost all women with induced menopause or premature menopause.
What exactly is a “hot flash” and what causes it?
A hot flash is a momentary sensation of heat that may be accompanied by a red, flushed face and sweating. Unfortunately, the cause of hot flashes is not known, but researchers believe they may be related to changes in circulation.
Hot flashes occur when the blood vessels near the skin's surface dilate to cool. This produces the red, flushed look to the face. As a natural response to try to cool down the body, a woman may start to perspire. In addition, some women experience a rapid heart rate or chills during the hot flash.
Over the years women have tried different methods of seeking relief from hot flashes, including avoiding certain triggers such as caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, tight clothing, heat, stress and cigarette smoke.
There are also prescription and non-prescription drugs available to try to ease symptoms.
But new research suggests that a more natural approach may get the job done just as well as any other. That approach? Incorporating flaxseed into your diet.
Flaxseed has long been known for its other natural benefits. Flax seeds contain high levels of lignans and Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s decrease your risk of a heart attack and lower blood pressure as well as protect against irregular heartbeats. Lignans benefit the heart, and they’ve been shown to possess anti-cancer properties. Initial studies suggest that flaxseed taken in the diet may benefit individuals with certain types of breast and prostate cancers. Flax may also lessen the severity of diabetes by stabilizing blood-sugar levels.
That’s quite a resume! And now we can add one more benefit to the list – helping to reduce the occurrence of hot flashes.
In a pilot study, 28 women consumed four tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily—two in the morning, two at night. After six weeks, the frequency of their hot flashes dropped, on average, from 7.3 to 3.6 a day. Intensity of the hot flashes decreased as well.
According the researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, the Lignans in flax offer a natural, less potent estrogen effect on hot flashes than synthetic hormone therapy. More research is set to be done on the effects of flaxseed on hot flashes, but for now researchers recommend starting with two tablespoons daily and working up to four to reduce frequency and intensity.
But wait - don’t go overboard. Flaxseeds are rich in fiber (2.5 grams per tablespoon) so increasing intake too quickly can cause bloating, cramps and intestinal blockage. A great way to get the suggested daily amount is to grind whole flax—a coffee grinder works great—and sprinkle it on yogurt, cereal, fruit and salads.
If you’re experiencing hot flashes due to menopause, adding flaxseed to your diet might be worth a try. After all – what have you got to lose? The other benefits of flaxseed speak for themselves and reducing hot flashes might just be an added bonus!