Photo of a sweating man wiping his face with his tie
Strategies for dealing wiht hot flashes in men need to be different from those for women

Soya not so effective for men’s hot flashes

1 November, 2013

Natural Health News — Flushed face, sweating, a sudden rush of intense heat. The hot flash, the bane of menopausal women, also can affect men who are undergoing hormone therapy for prostate cancer.

But unlike in women, neither soya protein nor a common antidepressant provides relief for men, according to US researchers.

 Hot flashes occur in approximately 80% of men who are undergoing hormone manipulation as treatment for prostate cancer. Hormone therapy (sometimes called androgen-deprivation therapy) reduces the levels of male hormones, called androgens, to prevent them from reaching prostate cancer cells and stimulating their growth.

A hard to treat side-effect

“Changing hormone levels cause hot flashes in both women and men, so we hoped that using soya supplements and/or an antidepressant would help reduce them in men as it does in many women,” said Mara Vitolins, DrPH, professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina, and lead author of the study, which is published in the online issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

For this study, 120 men, aged 46 to 91, undergoing prostate cancer treatment were randomly assigned to one of four daily regimens over a 12 week period: placebo pill and milk powder; venlafaxine, an antidepressant commonly prescribed to treat hot flashes in women, and milk powder protein; soya protein powder and placebo pill; or venlafaxine and milk powder.

When assessing hot flash symptom severity and frequency and quality of life the researchers found that neither venlafaxine nor soya protein alone or in combination reduced hot flashes in men.

Men need better advice

While the triggers of hormone decrease differ for men and women, the symptoms of hot flashes are identical in both genders. That is, a sensation of warmth and flushing comes on suddenly—most intensely in the head and trunk areas. Heavy sweating and a reddening of the skin may accompany these symptoms.

Such symptoms may pass quickly, averaging about four minutes, and end in a cold sweat. Some men and women will experience these symptoms infrequently, while others may suffer from them up to 10 times a day.

 Most men stop having flashes within three to four months of finishing their androgen deprivation treatment Men who stay on the therapy may continue to suffer from symptoms.

Treating hot flashes in women can also be difficult – different women respond differently to treatments.  But says Vitolins, “Utilizing interventions that appear effective in decreasing hot flashes in women to treat men who have hot flashes has proven to be relatively ineffective.”

These findings , he suggests, highlight the need for continuing efforts to identify treatments for hot flashes that are specifically developed for men.

Non-drug options

This study focussed on medical approaches to men’s hot flashes. But because drug and supplement treatments can be hit and miss many women choose more practical non-drug options. There is no reason why these should not work for men too:

Food Avoiding caffeine, spicy foods, and alcohol can help lessen both the number and severity of hot flashes. In this study  soya supplements didn’t work for the men though some women find reducing fatty foods and incorporating more plant-based foods into their diets helpful. Eating a wide variety of vegetables is always a good idea anyway; specific sources of plant estrogens include: soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, flaxseed, grains, beans, fruits, red clover.  Recent evidence suggests that flaxseed may have other benefits in helping to reduce the recurrence and death rates from breast and prostate cancer.

Lifestyle Reducing the temperature in a room, dressing in layers, and the use of an electric fan can be effective ways to help deal with troublesome hot flashes. Being overweight can also make hot flashes more bothersome hot flashes, therefore weight loss can be helpful. Smokers tend to experience more hot flashes (and are at greater risk of certain cancers), so quitting is a good idea. Incorporating more exercise into your daily or weekly routine will also help – those who are sedentary seem to have more troublesome hot flashes.

Breathe. Stress can make symptoms worse. Find a self-calming skill to practice, such as yoga, meditation or slow, deep breathing.  Try deep, slow abdominal breathing (6 to 8 breaths per minute). Practice deep breathing for 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes in the evening and at the onset of hot flashes.

Sleep Keep the bedroom cool – and dark – to encourage comfortable sleep. Try keeping a small plant sprayer filled with water and a calming essential oil like lavender by the bedside for a cooling emergency spritz when you need it.