For women in their late 40s to early 50s, hot flashes can be a troublesome and depressing experience. A burst of heat in the face and chest that can spread throughout the body, hot flashes may include red skin, sweating, cold shivers and dizziness. Flaxseed shows promise for alleviating hot flashes, according to a recent Mayo Clinic study.
Three out of four menopausal women experience hot flashes. Triggered by the withdrawal of estrogen, your body's thermostat, or hypothalamus, shuts down and creates a misfire or hot flash. Frequency, duration and timing of hot flashes determine treatment. Hot flashes that occur during the night can cause insomnia and depression. MayoClinic.com's treatment options include: hormone therapy, prescription medications, lifestyle/home remedies and alternative treatments such as adding flaxseed to your diet.
In her article, "New Approaches to Menopause and the Shift Away From Hormone Replacement Therapy," naturopathic doctor Nita Bishop reports that hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, which has been linked to breast cancer, heart disease and stroke in several recent studies, does more harm than good. Bishop recommends the use of plant-based estrogen or phytoestrogens to replace estrogen. Phytoestrogen binds itself to the same cell receptor site as estrogen, and although weaker, it provides the same benefits as estrogen, alleviating hot flashes. Flaxseed contains phytoestrogens.
In the Mayo Clinic's six-week study, 29 women who suffered from hot flashes ingested 40 g of ground flaxseed daily. Researchers reported hot flash frequency decreased by 50 percent and severity by 57 percent over the six weeks. Participants reported improved temperaments, reductions in joint and muscle pain, and reductions in chills and sweating. Dr. Sandhya Pruthi, the study's primary investigator, was optimistic about the results. "We are quite pleased with the improvements noted by these women in their quality of life. Not only does flaxseed seem to alleviate hot flashes, but it appears to have overall health and psychological benefits as well."
Side effects of ingesting flaxseed include bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation. These effects are largely due to the large amount of fiber that flaxseed contains. Start with a small amount of flaxseed and slowly build to your desired level. Consuming water with flaxseed is an option, and while flaxseed oil lacks fiber, it also lacks phytoestrogens. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil may react adversely with both diabetes and blood-thinning medications. Consult your doctor before adding flaxseed to your diet.
Besides phytoestrogen, flaxseed and flaxseed oil contain an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids. A blood thinner, omega-3 can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. It is also an anti-inflammatory and can provide relief for migraine headaches, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. A recent clinical study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition provides evidence that daily ingestion of flaxseed reduces the risk of breast cancer, a concern when employing HRT for hot flashes.