Soy Isoflavones & Hot Flashes: What You Should Know

Isoflavones, which are present in soy, are believed to have estrogenic effects (meaning they mimic estrogen activity in the body).  

That means that soy or soy extracts can aid in reducing hot flashes for menopausal women. 

Menopause is a naturally occurring stage of a women's reproductive life where hormone levels drops. Soy isoflavones, therefore, can help bring stability and control back to your life and in check. 

What are Isoflavones? 

Isoflavones are a class of flavonoids or compounds that are present in plants and offer a number of health advantages.1 

As phytoestrogens, or natural plant compounds that are similar in structure to estrogen, they function similarly to estrogen produced by humans.  

Genistein and daidzein are the two main isoflavones found in soy. These substances, which are almost exclusively present in legumes like soybeans, are also sold as supplements. When ingested, soy isoflavones bind to specific estrogen receptors on the surface of cells. You can think of these receptors as docking stations.  

Isoflavones produce pro-estrogenic effects when they bind to specific receptors. When they bind to other receptors, they block estrogen’s effects. This estrogen-like behavior provides relief from symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and mood swings. 

What else can soy isoflavones do for your health? 

Other than being a useful part of menopause treatment, soy isoflavones may carry numerous health benefits.  

Examples include: 

  • Cardiovascular health: Research has shown that soy isoflavones can lower blood pressure in hypertensive subjects. However, researchers did not observe the same effect in normotensive subjects. Larger trials may be needed to confirm the present findings.2  
  • Cellular health: foods containing isoflavones may help support cell growth and provide antioxidant activity  
  • Bone health: Isoflavones may help support bone health.   

Consumption of soy isoflavones is considered generally safe for short term use.  

Risks are minimal, but within the first few months, you might experience side effects such as: 

  • Loss of appetite 
  • Nausea 
  • Itching or rash 
  • Constipation 
  • These side effects usually taper off in time and aren't detrimental to your overall health and wellness. 

Low Estrogen Levels & Hot Flashes 

Estrogen influences a variety of bodily functions, ranging from bone health to emotional well-being and it is primarily linked to female development during puberty and the reproductive cycle.  

Estrogen levels typically decrease as women get older and closer to menopause, which can affect how the body functions.3

The hypothalamus, the area of your brain that regulates body temperature, is under the control of estrogen. And during menopause, the hypothalamus becomes extremely sensitive to slight changes in your body.  

This hypersensitivity may cause your temperature to rise uncomfortably due to low estrogen levels. When that happens hot flashes and night sweats occur.  

How Isoflavones Can Help 

Numerous studies have examined how soy affects menopause symptoms, particularly night sweats and hot flashes. So far, the results have been mixed. 

A 2021 study of postmenopausal women discovered that when they increased their low-fat plant-based diet with half a cup of soybeans, they experienced an 84% reduction in moderate to severe hot flashes, going from five per day to one.4 

Another study points out that, in nations where soy consumption is common (many parts of Asia, for example), vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes are less frequently experienced by women.5

The benefits of soy isoflavones, then, can also extend to relieving the symptoms of menopause, and one of the best and easiest ways to take advantage of them is through supplemental consumption.  

Relying on diet alone to get soy isoflavones can be tricky, especially if your diet doesn’t include many soy-rich products. 

Find Relief for Your Hot Flashes 

If you experience hot flashes and night sweats while attempting to get some rest, knowing how to quickly find relief can prevent you from having a miserable night.  

Among the things to try are: 

  • Using pillows and gels to cool off, as well as sprays: Pillows are fantastic because they are portable and versatile. To avoid them getting too warm while you're out, just remember to keep them cool in the refrigerator or freezer when not in use. Another great choice is gels, particularly if you want to use something on your face that won't leave behind any sticky residue. Additionally, they come in a variety of scents so you can personalize your cooling experience. Sprays are a fantastic alternative because they can be used sparingly on the body or face and they offer quick relief. Just make sure to read the ingredients list to make sure you don't have any allergies!  
  • Carrying cool water at all times: During hot flashes, drinking cold water or sprinkling it on the face and wrists can help the body cool down quickly. Even faster temperature reduction is achieved by taking a cold shower or running cold water over the face and wrists. Consistent hydration may also aid in maintaining body temperature.  
  • Keeping a fan close by: Fans can create a breeze that can help maintain a cool, consistent temperature in the bedroom all night long, especially during warmer months. Handheld fans can also provide instant cooling relief.
  • Avoiding things that may predispose you to getting too warm: This can mean taking off extra layers of clothing or dressing sparingly, wearing loose and breathable fabrics, and even choosing a high-quality mattress that supports good airflow.   

Resources: 

1 Isoflavones. Isoflavones - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/veterinary-science-and-veterinary-medicine/isoflavones 

2 Liu XX;Li SH;Chen JZ;Sun K;Wang XJ;Wang XG;Hui RT; (n.d.). Effect of soy isoflavones on blood pressure: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition, metabolism, and cardiovascular diseases : NMCD. Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21310599/ 

3 Horstman, A. M., Dillon, E. L., Urban, R. J., & Sheffield-Moore, M. (2012, November). The role of androgens and estrogens on healthy aging and longevity. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences. Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3636678/ 

4 Medicine, 1P. C. for R. (n.d.). The women's study for the alleviation of vasomotor symptoms ... : Menopause. LWW. Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://journals.lww.com/menopausejournal/Fulltext/2021/10000/The_Women_s_Study_for_the_Alleviation_of_Vasomotor.12.aspx 

5 Levis, S., & Griebeler, M. L. (2010, December). The role of soy foods in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. The Journal of nutrition. Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2981010/ 

6 Thrane, M., Paulsen, P. V., Orcutt, M. W., & Krieger, T. M. (2016, October 7). Soy protein: Impacts, production, and applications. Sustainable Protein Sources. Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128027783000020