Foods don't cause night sweats, or midsleep hot flashes, but they can trigger or worsen flare-ups if you're prone to them. In addition to seeking medical guidance regarding underlying causes, such as hormonal imbalances associated with menopause, infections, cancer and certain medications, a healthy diet limited in certain foods could help minimize your symptoms. Avoiding certain foods near bedtime could also help.
Common Problem Foods
Some women find that a sugar-rich diet triggers hot flashes, reports the Cleveland Clinic. Research published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in April 2013 analyzed the diets and night sweat symptoms of 6,040 women for nine years. A diet rich in fat and sugar was linked with a heightened risk for symptoms, whereas a healthier, Mediterranean-style diet -- which emphasizes vegetables, fruits, grains and healthy fats -- was linked with fewer symptoms. Spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine can also contribute. Christiane Northrup, a physician and women's health expert, recommends avoiding caffeine for one week to determine whether it contributes to your symptoms and should thus be avoided. Anything that raises your body temperature, including warm or hot foods and beverages, can also trigger or worsen night sweats.
Rather than reach for candy or soft drinks for sweet flavor, have fresh fruits or sweet vegetables, such as a baked sweet potato dusted with cinnamon. These foods provide vital nutrients, and an overall nutritious diet can help minimize discomforts, such as hot flashes, associated with menopause. Let hot foods and drinks, such as soups and teas, cool down before consuming them with or after dinner. If caffeine worsens your symptoms, swap out coffee and black tea for caffeine-free herbal teas -- such as chamomile, which could enhance restfulness. Mild-tasting herbs and spices, such as oregano and basil, and modest amounts of pure juices, such as lemon or orange, provide useful seasoning alternatives to hot spices.
Other Helpful Foods
Plant estrogens may help reduce hot flashes by acting like estrogen in your body, says the Cleveland Clinic. Food sources include fruits, vegetables, legumes such as beans and lentils, and whole grains, such as oats and brown rice. Soy products, including whole soybeans, soy flour, soy protein powder and miso soup, are particularly rich in plant estrogens known as isoflavones. To eat a Mediterranean-style diet, replace unhealthy fat sources, such as fatty meats and cheeses, with heart-healthy alternatives, such as fish and olive oil.
Because foods affect people differently, take note of which items seem to precede your night sweats, then avoid them near bedtime -- when they're most likely to contribute to night sweats. The Cleveland Clinic also recommends exercising routinely, increasing relaxation through practices such as yoga, taking a warm bath or shower before bed and sleeping in a cool-temperature room. Eating mindfully -- without distraction -- can help improve appetite awareness and portion control, which is important because carrying excess pounds could raise your risk for night sweats.
- American Osteopathic Association: Don't Lose Sleep Over Night Sweats
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Menopause
- Cleveland Clinic: Non-Hormonal Ways to Cope With Hot Flashes & Menopause
- Dr. Northrup: Hot Flashes
- University of Maryland Medical Center: German Chamomile
- National Eating Disorders Association: 7 Mindful Eating Tips
- 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