No surprise here: hot flashes are the most common complaint of women facing menopause, with somewhere between 50 and 85% of women over 45 worldwide (that’s up to 360 million women!!) suffering from them. **What if we could harness that heat? But I digress…**
According to the numbers, hot flashes are more prevalent in Western countries than in China or Asia; and they are temporary in the majority of women (lasting 6 months – 2 years); but 26% of women experience hot flashes for 6-10 years, and 10% suffer for more than ten years. So yeah, it’s a problem.
Declining estrogen plays an important role, but it is not the only culprit. Lower estrogen levels increase activity in the serotonin receptors to mess up the body’s temperature regulation centers, which is why certain SSRI and SNRI drugs that are generally prescribed as anti-depressants and increase serotonin levels are sometimes prescribed to treat hot flashes, but with mixed results.
There may be a better way: folic acid has shown in several studies to have effects similar to or even better than anti-depressants in increasing serotonin levels and has other beneficial effects on aging to boot. One study showed that folic acid works similarly to hormone replacement therapy to reduce hot flashes by up to 65% in its participants!
This is good news. And considering the relationship between increased folic acid intake and reduced signs of depression, dementia, and even breast cancer in menopausal women in this study and this study, the evidence supporting supplementation seems clear.