Hormone Replacement Therapy
The most effective treatment for hot flashes is estrogen supplementation. It’s often referred to as hormone replacement therapy. Estrogen may be taken alone or in combination with progesterone. Women who have had a hysterectomy can safely take estrogen alone, while all other women should take estrogen and progesterone together. Estrogen isn’t recommended for women with a history of breast cancer or blood clots. Also, estrogen has been shown to increase the risk of future health problems, including heart disease, breast cancer, and blood clots.
Soy contains large quantities of phytoestrogens, chemicals that act like estrogen in the body. Soy is particularly high in isoflavones, which bind to estrogen receptors in the body. This can help reduce hot flashes. Soy continues to be studied in terms of menopausal relief. According to the National Institute on Aging, it’s not known whether soy is as effective, or even safer than, conventional medications.
Marji McCullough, ScD, RD, writing for the American Cancer Society, suggests avoiding soy isoflavones in supplement form until more research is complete. Meanwhile, soy foods are the best way to get isoflavones. Incorporate soy foods like soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and steamed soy beans into your diet.
Black cohosh is among the most popular and studied herbs for treating hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. It’s the root of the plant that’s used in capsules and, less commonly, tea. Both forms are found in most health food stores and available online. Although the exact mechanism of black cohosh is unknown, researchers believe it binds to estrogen receptors or stimulates serotonin receptors.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reports that the majority of clinical studies performed on the herb have been less than six months long. That could suggest the effects of long-term consumption of black cohosh are unknown. There are isolated cases of black cohosh side effects including abdominal pain, jaundice, dark urine, headaches, rashes, and, in one case, liver failure.