Hot flashes can be uncomfortable, keep you up at night and even interfere with your daily activities. The good news is that you help control these annoying episodes with the right dietary choices. The best foods for managing hot flashes also happen to be rich in important vitamins and minerals, so you may even improve your overall health as you fend off symptoms.
Hot Flashes Explained
Also called flushes, hot flashes occur suddenly and produce feelings of heat in the face, neck and chest. About two-thirds of women experience hot flashes during midlife, making these episodes the most common symptom of menopause, according to the Baylor College of Medicine. Your complexion may turn red, and you may also experience sweating and rapid pulse and feel chilled once the initial symptoms subside. On average, hot flashes may recur for three to five years.
Certain foods may be linked to the occurrence of hot flashes. Spicy peppers, hot drinks and caffeinated beverages such as coffee may all contribute to hot flashes, reports Baylor. In addition, sugary and fatty foods may play a role, according to a study published in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2013. Researchers followed more than 6,000 menopausal women, and found that those who consumed the most fat and sugar tended to have a greater risk for hot flashes. Thus, it may help to avoid pastries, candy and soft drinks as well as high-fat fare such as butter, bacon, fried foods and full-fat cheese.
The jury is out about whether alcohol helps or hurts hot flashes, according to the North American Menopause Society. Therefore, it may be wise to monitor your symptoms when you drink and adjust your lifestyle accordingly. If you notice that alcohol worsens your symptoms, cut back to see if they improve. Heavy drinking may also cause negative effects such as increased risk of obesity, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, reports the organization. So if you do consume alcohol, moderation is key. For women, that means drinking no more than seven alcoholic beverages per week and no more than three beverages in a day.
Women who follow a Mediterranean-style diet may be less vulnerable to hot flashes. This diet emphasizes fruit, vegetables, fish, whole grains, beans, olive oil and herbs and spices. It's also low in red meat, sweets and fast food. As a bonus, following a Mediterranean plan may help boost your cardiovascular health. According to the 2013 study in "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," fruits, in particular, are associated with lower risk of hot flashes, so include plenty of berries, oranges, melons, apples and other fruits in your diet.
- Baylor College of Medicine: Reproductive Health Information -- Menopause and Related Midlife Health Problems
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Fruit, Mediterranean-Style, And High-Fat and -Sugar Diets Are Associated with the Risk of Night Sweats and Hot Flushes in Midlife: Results From a Prospective Cohort Study
- North American Menopause Society: Drink to Your Health at Menopause, or Not?
- U.S. News and World Report: Mediterranean Diet