Menopause brings many uncomfortable symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats. Alternative therapies that include soy-based food products and herbal supplements have offered some relief, but these remedies are still not considered valid options by the larger medical community. However, a new meta-analysis says that food and supplements can moderately help treat symptoms of menopause, most significantly hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.
The meta-analysis was led by researchers from Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands, where they reviewed 62 previous studies that had tested the efficacy of plant-based therapies, including a number of soy foods (such as tofu, tempeh, miso, and natto) and herbal remedies. In total, 6,653 women were examined in those 62 studies.
Researchers discovered that soy isoflavones in food and supplements did in fact improve hot flashes, by reducing their frequency and intensity, and vaginal dryness. Night sweats were also improved, but not significantly. Isoflavones are a plant-derived compound (a form of phytoestrogen) that can have estrogen-like effects on the body.
A number of herbal remedies were thought to be responsible for the overall decrease in the frequency of vasomotor symptoms (night sweats, hot flashes, and flushing). For example, one herbal supplement that scored well in easing symptoms was red clover, which is a source of some phytoestrogens, including formononetin and biochanin A. Red clover improved night sweats, but did not help with the frequency of hot flashes. On the other hand, some of the herbs often used in traditional Chinese medicine were found not to work, including don quai and black cohosh.
Overall, the meta-analysis did determine that when certain soy-based foods and herbal remedies are used, modest reductions in hot flashes and vaginal dryness are seen, but there aren’t significant improvements with night sweats. Researchers determined that more studies need to be done to verify the association between plant-based therapies and the symptoms of menopause, but it does look like there is some evidence pointing to a correlation.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“How Plant-Based Therapies Can Give You Relief for Menopause Symptoms,” Cleveland Clinic web site; https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2016/06/plant-based-menopause-treatments-can-help-sometimes/, last accessed June 27, 2016.
“Use of Plant-Based Therapies and Menopausal Symptoms,” JAMA Network web site; http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2529629, last accessed June 27, 2016.