Hot Flashes in Menopause and How to Manage Them

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I remember having a conversation with my two older sisters about hot flashes. They said I’ll know when it is coming and how different it is from a normal “sweat attack”. They were so right! It just hits you super quick, with all the redness and sweat pouring out.

At that time, I had no clue what to do. So here, I’m going to share with you some healthy tips on how to stop hot flashes!

Hot Flashes in Menopause and How to Manage Them

If we were to rank menopause symptoms, hot flashes would be high up on the pedestal. It has become a hallmark sign of menopause. More than just making you feel hot and uncomfortable, hot flashes can disrupt your daily activities. Sometimes, it also makes you feel pretty self-conscious with your body.

Good thing is – there are plenty of ways on how to stop hot flashes!

What is a Hot Flash?

Dr. Kristine Eule, an obstetrician-gynecologist, says a hot flash or hot flush is a “feeling of intense heat or warmth that often begins in the head and neck regions, spreading to the rest of the body.”

Hot flashes are unpredictable because they happen without warning. A hot flash can last for several minutes and can happen in the middle of the night too. This symptom is called a night sweat. Apart from feeling warm and sweating, hot flashes may also be accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • Tingling of the fingers
  • Red or flushed face
  • Blotchy skin patches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Cold shivering once hot flash subsides
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety

Although hot flashes are common, it’s not a universal menopause symptom, meaning not all women experience them. Japanese women, for example, rarely have hot flashes or other menopause symptoms. This may be because of their predominantly plant-based diet and having soy (rich in estrogen) as a main staple in their dishes.

Many women say that hot flashes usually start at the later parts of perimenopause and intensifies during menopause. You can read more about the different stages of menopause and their accompanying symptoms!

What Are the Causes of Hot Flashes During Menopause?

Menopause brings your body to a roller coaster ride.

Your hormone balance shifts, some of your body functions slow down, and changes in your sex hormones affect other hormones in the body too. All these may cause hot flashes and other menopause symptoms.

Experts can’t really point out the root cause of a hot flash during menopause. Research explains it is triggered by your hypothalamus, the part of your brain that regulates temperature. But the big question is, what sparks the hypothalamus to do so?

Unknown to many, estrogen and progesterone have big roles when it comes to temperature regulation. These two hormones help in the dilation of your blood vessels, allowing better blood flow through your skin, releasing heat and cooling your body. Estrogen and progesterone also send direct signals to your hypothalamus that it’s time to lower temperature. Now, things are starting to make sense, right?

During menopause, your hormone levels go through drastic changes. Estrogen plunges and when this happens, your hypothalamus thinks your body is overheating. Amid the confusion, your body will try to cool off and that’s how you experience a hot flash.

Do men experience hot flashes too?

Surprisingly enough, the answer is yes! Harvard Medical School found out that decreasing testosterone levels during andropause is the culprit. However, compared to menopause, andropause (the male version of menopause happens very slowly so symptoms are not as intense.

It’s important to know that hormonal changes aren’t the sole reason why you experience hot flashes. Other known causes include:

Stress – The stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol make your heart pump faster, triggering blood vessels in the skin to swell. In response, your body cools off through hot flashes. In addition, cortisol is known to hyperactivate the sweat glands, making you perspire a lot.

Thyroid problems – Although hypothyroidism can also cause hot flashes, this symptom is more common if you have hyperthyroidism. Overabundance of thyroid hormones speeds up your metabolism greatly which then leads to hot flashes and sweating.

Low serotonin levels – Serotonin combats the stimulatory effect of adrenaline and cortisol which triggers hot flashes to take place. Low levels of this mood hormone can exacerbate the occurrence of hot flashes in women.

Poor diet – Consuming too much spicy foods, caffeine and alcoholic beverages can also cause hot flashes.

How to Stop Hot Flashes in 8 Effective Ways!

When I started looking for answers, my eyes were all on natural remedies for hot flashes. These tips that I’m going to share with you made me feel better. I hope they work for you too!

1. Eat a healthy diet. Consume more whole, real foods like cruciferous and leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and berries. Go organic, support local farmers and buy in season as much as you can! These healthy foods are filled with vitamins and nutrients, which can help detoxify your body from harmful toxins that mess up your hormone balance. And oh, don’t forget to reduce the consumption of food triggers – anything with caffeine, alcohol and refined sugars!

2. Use herbs and supplements. Supporting hormone production and balance is really important if you have hot flashes. Phytoestrogenic herbs contain plant-based estrogens, which can raise your estrogen and prevent hot flashes. Adaptogenic herbs, on the other hand, have hormone balancing and stress relieving properties. Some of the best herbs and supplements you can take include:

Black Cohosh – Studies show black cohosh can reduce hot flashes in menopausal women by maintaining serotonin levels.

Flaxseed – These are rich in lignans which are plant-based estrogens that can act like your endogenous estrogen, but do not cause hormonal imbalance.

Dong Quai  – This is one of the most effective herbs for the relief of general menopause symptoms. Dong quai contains phytoestrogens that can help support estrogen levels during menopause.

Red Clover – Rich in isoflavones, red clover eases hot flashes, mood swings and brain fog.

Wild Yam – Also known as Vitex, this herb contains a compound called diosgenin which is a natural estrogen. Diosgenin also helps in the synthesis of progesterone, supporting its levels during menopause.

DHEA – Better known as the mother of all hormones, DHEA is necessary for keeping your estrogen and progesterone levels during your menopause journey and, in turn reducing hot flashes.

Gamma Linolenic acid (GLA) – Found in primrose oil, borage oil and black currant seed oil, GLA promotes better binding of estrogen into receptors, thereby reducing the severity of hot flashes.

Magnesium – It helps in relaxing your body and managing stress better. It also stimulates sex hormone production and calms the central nervous down, stopping hot flashes.

Tryptophan/5-HTP – Increase your serotonin levels with these precursor compounds. Sleep disturbances can also cause hot flashes and serotonin ups melatonin production necessary for a good slumber!

Liver supplements – according to Natural Health Resources, the liver is a vital organ in producing hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone. This is why it’s important to maintain your liver’s health. Vitamin D3, dandelion tea and milk thistle all keep the liver healthy and functioning at optimum levels.

3. Find ways to manage stress – As previously explained, stress hormones may trigger your hot flash, they can also further suppress hormone production. Practicing mindfulness and doing yoga are two of the most helpful ways to manage stress and get rid of hot flashes. Meditation is also a great stress-reliever because it synchronizes the mind and body.

Kathy Smith Fitness has a great yoga routine for your hot flashes (7:00):

4. Support your adrenal glands – During menopause, you heavily rely on your adrenals to provide you with estrogen and progesterone. Relieving stress is a great way to support your adrenals. You may also want to add in adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha, eleuthero, rhodiola and maca. These herbs have stress-busting and relaxing properties which promote healthy adrenal glands.

In this video, Dr. Berg shares the role of adrenal glands in hot flashes and the importance of supporting our adrenals. [3:52]

You can also try Dr. Berg’s adrenal fatigue and estrogen balance products. The Estrogen Balance with DIM contains Diindolyl-Methane, an important extract found in cruciferous veggies and maintains the health of estrogen in the body. The Adrenal Stress Advanced Formula is perfect for those suffering from chronic stress that burns out the adrenal gland.

5. Exercise daily – Daily movement is a must, but rigorous workouts are not advised if you suffer from hot flashes. If you overtrain, you add more stress to your adrenal glands which can suppress hormone production. Going on walks, jogs, swimming, dancing, Pilates, rebounding, barre, tai chi and other light but blood-flow improving activities are recommended by experts. They encourage movement while keeping the body relaxed and calm.

6. Maintain proper hydration – Drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water daily replenishes the fluids you’ve lost when you sweat during hot flashes.

7. Try acupuncture – This alternative therapy benefits so many health conditions. Acupuncture targets pressure points in your body which releases tension, relieves stress, calms your entire body and maintains its overall balance. This therapy has been found to relieve menopause symptoms, especially hot flashes.

Check this video to know which pressure points you should massage to lessen your hot flashes [2:22]:

8. Maintain a healthy weight – According to experts, women who are on the heavy side have an increased risk of experiencing hot flashes. One of the best ways to keep your weight in check is to support your thyroid function. The thyroid is in charge of metabolism and fat-burn. Check out our thyroid article for the best tips!

10 Quick Relief Tips to Ease Hot Flashes!

1. Do deep and slow abdominal breathing when you feel a hot flash coming. This is one of the most effective ways to calm yourself down and relieve stress!

2. Sip on a cold drink. This is a quick way to lower body temperature.

3. Wear several layers of light clothing that are easy to take off, in case a hot flash occurs.

4. Put your wrist under running water. This will relax the blood vessels and cool your entire body down.

5. Freeze a washcloth and place it around your neck when a hot flash happens.

6. Cool your room. Open your windows, turn off the thermostat and put your fan or air-conditioning on full blast. Use anything you have in your toolbox to keep yourself cool!

7. Keep essential oils in your purse! Essential oils are great for relieving stress and anxiety, which can trigger a hot flash. Lavender, chamomile, basil, peppermint, clary sage and geranium are some of the best oils you can keep in your bag.!

8. Carry a portable fan wherever you go so when hot flash strikes, the fan can just blow it off.

9. If hot flashes occur at night, try to look for chill pillows.

10. Tell co-workers, friends and family that you experience hot flashes from time to time. Freeing yourself from the shame attached to this natural process will help relieve mental pressure, which ultimately helps to ease hot flashes!

Conventional Therapies to Relieve Hot Flashes

Over the years, I’ve not been a big fan of taking hormones to relieve my menopause symptoms. However, thanks to many eye-opening research studies, I have become more open to this approach. So I think it is important to be well-informed about Menopause Hormone Treatment (MHT), such as BHRT and HRT.

Bioidentical Hormone Treatment

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), or natural hormone therapy, uses man-made hormones, which are very similar to hormones naturally produced by your body. Yam and soy can be used to extract compounds that can be turned into bioidentical hormones in a lab.

Bioidentical hormones are so identical to your sex hormones’ molecular structure that the body acknowledges them as one. These synthesized hormones produce the same effects to the body as their human counterparts: the elimination of unwanted signs of menopause, including hot flashes.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

Hormone replacement therapy is recommended based on your personal history and preferences, as discussed with your doctor. HRT comes in tablets, injections, patches, implants, rings, transdermal gels and more. Unlike BHRT, hormones used in HRT are completely artificial and chemically made.

Generally, MHT should be individualized based on the following factors:

  • age
  • time of menopause
  • health risks
  • patient’s preferences for assessing her risks and benefits to the therapy

Menopause hormone treatment is such a huge topic! You can find out more information about MHT in our article here.

FACT BOX


study in July 2018, published in the journal Cell Reports, points out to a molecule called kisspeptin, which may be involved in hot flashes.

Kisspeptin, a hormone produced in the hypothalamus, is in-charge of reproductive maturation and hormone production. Scientists believe that when this molecule sends signals to the ovaries to produce estrogen and progesterone, it also sends a signal to the brain to open up our blood vessels. As a result, hot flashes occur.

According to the Cell Reports study, estrogen also keeps neurons that produce kisspeptin in check. However, when estrogen levels decrease during menopause, neurons that produce this hormone will start to swell. This leads to the production of more kisspeptin and neurokinin B, both of which mess up body temperature regulation and spur hot flashes.

One interesting research, published in the journal Menopause, links hot flashes to genetics. According to its lead researcher Carolyn J. Crandall, MD, of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, women who have a kind of gene called tachykinin receptor 3 (TACR3) are more predisposed to having hot flashes and other vasomotor symptoms.

Whether you’re on and off hot flashes, turbulent hormonal fluctuations and imbalances, remember that by listening to your body and living a healthy lifestyle, you’ll be able to ease menopause symptoms and live a more active life.

We would love to hear your thoughts so feel free to add your comments below 💜

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References:
https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/hormones/mht-fact-sheet
https://www.menopause.org.au/health-info/fact-sheets/what-is-menopausal-hormone-therapy-mht-and-is-it-safe
https://www.cell.com/cell-reports/fulltext/S2211-1247(18)30947-1
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31239119
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11109974
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23625331
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16164376
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21372745
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24473534
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19907348
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19423996
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15660-bioidentical-hormones

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