Can Eating a Vegan Diet Diminish Your Hot Flashes? - Ellen Dolgen
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Can Eating a Vegan Diet Diminish Your Hot Flashes?

Hot flashing, night sweating, or flushing and sick of it!?!??!  You might be able to change your diet and diminish those heat surges!!!

I interviewed Dr. Neal Barnard, MD, FACC, an Adjunct Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., and President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Dr. Barnard has led numerous research studies investigating the effects of diet on diabetes, body weight, and chronic pain. He conducted a groundbreaking study of dietary interventions in type 2 diabetes, funded by the National Institutes of Health, that paved the way for viewing type 2 diabetes as a potentially reversible condition for many patients. Dr. Barnard has authored more than 100 scientific publications and 20 books for medical and lay readers and is the Editor in Chief of the Nutrition Guide for Clinicians, a textbook made available to all U.S. medical students. He recently published The Women’s Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms (WAVS) in The North American Menopause Society journal.

This study was done in Washington, DC, with 38 post-menopausal women aged 45 and up. These women reported having two or more hot flashes a day. Half were put on a low-fat vegan diet, including cooked soybeans daily, and the other had no special diet for 12 weeks.

The women on the vegan diet only ate foods made from plants, nothing from animals, including no dairy products and eggs. However, because it is a low-fat vegan diet, one must exclude nuts, avocados, and minimal oil. Here are a few sample menu ideas:

Breakfast – pancakes (recipe below), power smoothie (recipe below), big bowl of oatmeal with fruit – can use soy milk – no cow milk

Lunch – A veggie sandwich, bean chili, low-fat hummus, pizza without the cheese

Dinner – angel hair pasta with tomato sauce and lots of veggies- no cheese, beans, and rice, fishless sushi, veggies and beans, bean burrito

Barnard has some wonderful sample low-fat vegan recipes. I will give you a few examples at the end of this Blog. He did tell me that it took the women about a week to get used to eating this way, and then they found it easy.

I asked Barnard what prompted him to do this study. He explained that he released a book called, Your Body in Balance right before the pandemic started. A woman named Betty got a hold of his book and read the menopause chapter. She followed the recommended vegan diet- keeping oils scrupulously low and adding ½ cup of soybeans a day. She told Barnard that her hot flashes disappeared within one week!

She cooked whole soybeans in her Instant Pot covered with two extra inches of water for 40 min. She put them on her salads and soups. You can make your own soybean snacks by lining parchment paper on a baking sheet then spread a thin layer of whole cooked soybeans and bake them for an hour at 350.  They come out crunchy and delicious – no oil needed! If you prefer, you can buy roasted soybeans. It is important to note that edamame & soy milk do not count as your daily ½ cup of soybeans. Only whole non-GMO soybeans will provide you with the full benefit of the isoflavones.

Betty’s phone call inspired Dr. Barnard to do a trial!! The participants in the trial received an app to track the number and severity of their hot flashes.  They were also able to track their weight. BTW the average participant lost 8 pounds.

In addition, the participants met every week as a group for support. They helped each other with recipes and restaurant tips as they followed a strict low in fat vegan diet and ate half a cup of soybeans each day. They realized that commercially packaged products that are vegan are usually full of fat. So, avoid packaged food. You can eat any fruits or vegetables. Yum!

The results are astounding! Most of the women had no moderate-to-severe hot flashes at all. Many started the study with a baseline of five moderate to severe hot flashes a day. They went down to less than 1 a day! When they combined all the different levels of hot flashes, they dropped by 79%. Moderate hot flashes alone fell at 84%.

BTW for those worried about soy causing cancer, Dr. Barnard flatly said, “Soy does not cause breast cancer.”  Unlike prescription estrogens which attach to alpha receptors on cells and increase cancer risk, soy isoflavones mainly attach to beta receptors, and have the opposite effect, reducing cancer risk.

I asked him how long it takes for most women to see results? He replied that it was quick for Betty as she was already a vegan. According to Barnard, the results are like a bell curve, a graph that has a shape reminiscent of a bell. Some women had diminished hot flashes in the first week. He found the fastest reduction of hot flashes came from women who already were eating a clean diet. For others, it took approximately 6-7 weeks before they noticed a change in their flashes. Many vegan people can convert daidzein to another property called equol. Barnard explained that equol is supercharged hot flash medicine. When you eat vegan, one’s gut microbiome goes through a change. The remaining bacteria that flourish can convert these isoflavones to a powerful force.  With this in mind, Barnard is duplicating the study again. The new group of women entering the study will have samples taken of their microbiome to see if the reduction in hot flashes relates to the change in their microbiome due to the vegan diet.

I wondered if the results improve the longer you stay on this eating plan. Barnard said that there are hints of an accumulative benefit. As you go towards six weeks, it improves.

Many women found that their hot flashes often returned if they stopped any of the three parts of the eating plan. He did say you could gradually ease in a bit more fat or ease off the soybeans and see how it goes for you. However, with such great results, it might be easy to stay on the three-tiered plan.

Here is a flash for anyone suffering from menstrual cramps.  In 2000 Barnard published an article on his randomized clinical trial on menstrual cramps/pain. He explained that cramps are a sign of excess estrogen activity, which thickens the uterine lining. This 100% vegan diet with no oil at all can help resolve menstrual cramps, too! Oils stimulate estrogen production! Who knew!?

Spread the word to your “hot” friends:  Dr. Barnard is offering a FREE one-hour session on September 9 for anyone who’d like to try this approach. For those wanting a bit more support, they are offering FREE four-week online classes, starting October 12 and November 9, respectively. You can register here at

The women in the study experienced a significant improvement in their quality of life.  Are you going to give it a whirl?

Would you please share your experience with us?

Here are a couple of sample recipes that you can find in Barnard’s book, Your Body In Balance:

Perfect Pancakes – Serves 4

1 cup flour

1Tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup of soymilk or almond milk

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or substitute applesauce or pumpkin puree

1 sliced banana or blueberries

Pure Maple syrup for serving

Whisk flour, baking powder, and cinnamon in a medium bowl until well combined.  Stir in milk and maple syrup (or substitute applesauce or pumpkin puree). Let batter rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a nonstick skillet or place parchment paper into a regular skillet (cut to size). Check batter.  If it’s very thick and heavy add more milk as needed. Pour ¼ cup of the batter for each pancake.  When bubbles appear, slide a spatula underneath and gently flip.  Add banana slices (or blueberries on top.  Cook another 2-3 minutes.  Repeat with the remaining batter.

Purple Power Smoothie

1 cup plain soymilk or almond milk

2 dates (or 2 tablespoons of raisins)

1 frozen ripe banana

2 cups frozen mixed berries (or other berries)

1-2 cups fresh spinach (optional)

Fresh mint or basil (optional)

1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)

Combine milk and dates in a blender and blend until well combined.  Add remaining ingredients and blend, adding more milk if desired for consistency and thickness. Serve immediately

Here are a few more delicious recipes that you can find in Your Body in Balance:

Breakfast Crostini (14g protein, 3g fat)
Roasted Vegetable Salad (10g protein, 2g fat)
Middle Eastern Lentil Soup (20g protein, 2g fat)
Chipotle Chili (12g protein, 2g fat)
Autumn Chowder (10g protein, 3g fat)
Blackeye Pea Tacos (20g protein, 3g fat)

Remember:  Suffering in silence is OUT!  Reaching out is IN.

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* does not recommend, endorse, or make any representation about any tests, studies, practices, procedures, treatments, services, opinions, healthcare providers, physicians, or medical institutions that may be mentioned or referenced.



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