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Fish Oil & Hot Flashes

By Julie Webb Kelley

Omega-3s (found in fish oil) are recommended by the American Heart Association for heart health and the National Institutes for Health. According to Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women’s Mental Health, studies looking into omega-3 fatty acids as a possible treatment for hot flashes are not conclusive but they are promising.

Hot Flashes

Hot flashes are commonly associated with menopause. Up to three out of four women experience the symptoms (red-face and sweating) during menopause. Caused by hormonal changes in the body, hot flashes typically do not need treatment unless they are not being tolerated well.

Fish Oil

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which are vital parts of the membrane of every cell. Omega-3s are essential polyunsaturated fats that are not produced by the body, yet they are essential for cell maintenance. Since the body cannot make omega-3s, eating oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines or tuna as a source of omega-3s is important.

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Why Fish Oil?

When estrogen levels drop, the hypothalamus (responsible for body temperature, controlling appetite, sleep cycles and sex hormones) gets confused and reads "too hot." It is possible that omega-3s can help by reducing the production of one type of eicosanoid, says Dr. Barry Sears: the one that promotes inflammation in the body.

Research

Canadian doctors in 2009 reported results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial involving 120 women between the ages of 40 and 55 who were experiencing hot flashes. After eight weeks, it was concluded that EPA omega-3 fatty acid supplements reduced the frequency and decreased the intensity of hot flashes relative to the placebo. Although not conclusive, that is enough evidence to encourage researchers to complete larger studies connecting omega-3s and hot flashes.

Dosage

While the generally accepted daily dose is two to four grams of EPA and DHA daily, Harvard Medical School expert on omega-3s, Charles Serhan, says that there is no hard scientific evidence suggesting dosages for omega-3s. The Wall Street Journal has reported that omega-3 dosages in clinical trials are much higher than those suggested on supplement labels.

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