Hot flashes typically occur in women beginning to go through menopause as their hormone levels change, with approximately 85 percent of women experiencing these unpleasant symptoms at some point. While hormone replacement therapy and other medications can help minimize hot flashes, not all women want to undergo this type of treatment. Magnesium and vitamin E are two alternative treatments women sometimes use in an attempt to limit hot flashes without taking prescription medications, but the evidence is still preliminary and conflicting as to their effectiveness.
Magnesium and Hot Flashes
Taking 400 to 800 milligrams of magnesium oxide per day helped more than half of the women in a study published in "Supportive Care in Cancer" in June 2011 reduce the frequency of their hot flashes and the sweating, fatigue and distress associated with hot flashes. These women experienced only minimal side effects, including nausea and headache, during the four-week study period. This study was very small, using only 29 women, so further, larger studies comparing the effects of magnesium supplements to a placebo are needed to confirm whether magnesium provides benefits in reducing hot flashes.
Vitamin E and Hot Flashes
Evidence on the benefits of vitamin E for hot flashes is conflicting, with some studies showing more of a benefit than others. A study published in "Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation" in 2007 found that taking 400 international units per day of vitamin E helped reduce the frequency of hot flashes by about 57 percent and their severity by about 32 percent. Other studies have not shown as much of a benefit. PubMed Health notes that taking 400 IU of vitamin E twice per day only helps with hot flashes slightly more than taking a placebo, and a study published in "Climacteric" in August 2009 came to a similar conclusion, only finding a reduction in the frequency of hot flashes of about 10 percent.
For moderate to severe hot flashes, doctors often prescribe a medication that contains estrogen. But for mild hot flashes, the North American Menopause Society recommends trying lifestyle changes before using this type of hormone-replacement therapy. These lifestyle changes could include exercising, using relaxation techniques and keeping a journal to help determine what triggers your hot flashes.
Speak with your doctor before taking either magnesium or vitamin E for hot flashes to make sure it is safe for you. Getting too much magnesium could cause adverse effects, and both magnesium and vitamin E can interact with certain medications.
- Supportive Care in Cancer: A Pilot Phase II Trial of Magnesium Supplements to Reduce Menopausal Hot Flashes in Breast Cancer Patients
- BreastCancer.org: All About Hot Flashes
- Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation: The Effect of Vitamin E on Hot Flashes in Menopausal Women
- Climateric: Non-Hormonal Treatment of Hot Flushes in Breast Cancer Survivors: Gabapentin vs. Vitamin E
- PubMed Health: Hot Flashes and Night Sweats (PDQ®)
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Magnesium
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin E
- MedlinePlus: Vitamin E
- Menopause: Treatment of Menopause-Associated Vasomotor Symptoms: Position Statement of The North American Menopause Society