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Keep misery of menopause at bay

Q: My colleagues might be wrapping up warm but I suffer terribly with hot flushes and am forever taking layers off. What do you recommend?

A: Hot flushes, as well as night sweats, are typical symptoms of the menopause and are caused by declining levels of oestrogen.

As the ovaries produce less oestrogen, hormone fluctuations cause surges in the levels of chemicals that dilate blood vessels, making blood rush to the skin’s surface resulting in a hot flush.

Isoflavones, oestrogen-like plant hormones or phytoestrogens can help to reduce hot flushes by providing an additional hormone boost when oestrogen levels are low.

Soya and soy foods such as natto, tempeh and miso are a rich source of isoflavones and in Japan, where it is a dietary staple, so few women suffer with hot flushes that there are no words in the Japanese language to cover this phenomenon!

The active isoflavones in soya are called genistein, diadzein and glycetein. In Japan, soya foods are almost always cultured or fermented before being eaten so the Japanese obtain far more of these active phytoestrogens from their food.

Soya milk, protein powder and meat substitutes tend to provide very few active isoflavones, in which case a supplement may be preferable but make sure you opt for one made from fermented isoflavones . There is a difference!

Mexican yam extract might also prove useful for hot flushes.