Treating Hot Flashes with Soy

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

Phytoestrogens like soy are associated with fewer and less intense hot flashes.

Recently, researchers have found that some women find soy effective for treating hot flashes. Middle-aged women may expect hot flash episodes to reduce by approximately 30% with soy. Both foods and supplements that contain soy may help reduce menopause symptoms like hot flashes, according to 62 studies.

The last result was published in Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society. It found that soy may be helpful for decreasing intensity and frequency of hot flashes. This result indicates that soy and other-plant based products, such as red clover, can be beneficial in reducing menopause symptoms, including hot flashes.

The participants in this study were menopausal women who did not use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and who ate soy food at least three times a week. The results were based on reports from these women, who recorded how many hot flashes they had and also how severe they were. Hot flashes were measured with a skin monitor and urine tests.

As it turns out, 35% of the women produced equol, which is a metabolite generated by gut bacteria during the digestion of soy, and among these women, more soy consumed meant fewer hot flashes. The result confirms that phytoestrogens like soy are associated with fewer and less intense hot flashes daily, but they do not seem to influence other symptoms, such as night sweats. These phytoestrogens can act like estrogen in the body, which may explain the aggregate beneficial effect on hot flashes.

Women who produced equol were 76% less likely to experience as many hot flashes as the average woman due to their consumption of soy and soy products. However, for women who did not produce equol, soy made no difference in their menopause symptoms.

Without the urine test for equol, there is no way for women to know if they are equol-producers, so women cannot know in advance if soy will reduce their hot flashes. Still, the North American Menopause Society suggests women add soy to their diets to see if it has any beneficial effects. They recommend that soy foods, such as tofu, tempeh, soymilk, and soy nuts, should be eaten twice daily. However, the long-term efficacy and safety of this is unclear.

If soy supplements prove ineffective, there is still the option of using other hormone- herbal supplements with similar actions - such as macafem - but herbal supplements should not be consumed without consulting a doctor.