Hot Flashes & What to Do
Feel like you are in a perpetual summer? Well, you’re not alone. Millions of menopausal women across the country are sweating, disrobing, fanning themselves, trying to find a way to cool down. Hot flashes are not a new problem and after all these years wouldn’t it be great if there was a better solution than a portable fan! Well, at alvöru we are trying to help with some of that, but let’s give you a bit of background about hot flashes.
Three out of four menopausal women experience disturbing hot flashes and night sweats that seem to happen at the worst possible times — during an important meeting at work, while you’re having fun at a big party or when you really need a good night’s sleep.
Hot flashes typically begin as a sudden sensation of heat on the face and upper chest that becomes generalized. It can be pretty intense (I’ve explained it as Old Faithful erupting or a ‘power surge’ of heat), lasting between 2 and 4 minutes and followed by profuse sweating. Add insult to injury and then many women also have chills and shivering. Physiologically, a hot flash happens for the same reason that you sweat in a sauna … the body is trying to cool down. The difference is, you don’t really need to cool down, but your menopausal brain thinks you do. Let me explain.
Human body temperature is meant to be around 98.6 degrees. If you go outside in the winter without your coat, you’re going to shiver to generate heat. You sweat when you exercise to cool the body down. The part of the brain that keeps your body at the right temperature is known as the hypothalamus. It decides that a lower temperature is optimal for your body, and it tries to cool you down by sending signals that you’re too hot.
So what works?
Estrogen therapy is often used to reduce hot flashes, and it works well in even very small doses. But many women can't, or chose not to, take estrogen.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) have been found to significantly reduce hot flashes in menopausal women years ago, but the drugs are only intended and FDA approved to be used as anti-depressants. Drugs such as Prozac, Paxil, Effexor, and others have all been found to be helpful in reducing flashes. Effexor is the most studied and seems to do the best job.
Maybe you’re wondering about supplements such as soy, black cohosh, or wild yam to relieve your hot flashes instead of using menopausal hormone therapy MHT (used to be called hormone replacement therapy HRT). Just know that according to the FDA, dietary supplements are products taken by mouth that may contain a “dietary ingredient” intended to add to or supplement the diet. This seems safe because they might come from plants and are ‘natural’. But, we really don’t know enough about the use of these supplements and their level of safety of effectiveness to ease menopausal symptoms.
It’s really best to learn as much as you can about a dietary supplement before trying it. Some supplements can change how other medicines work by increasing or weakening their effect. Talk to your doctor before using any supplements, and make sure he or she knows everything you are taking, even vitamins and minerals.
But drugs and/or supplements aren't the only available option; don't underestimate the value of healthy lifestyle and dietary choices:
Nourish your body. Eat whole, fresh foods, and balance your meals and snacks with plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and protein. Add essential fatty acids and soy to ensure an adequate supply of the micronutrients needed for neurotransmitter and hormonal balance.
Stay active. A recent study found that although exercise does help with sleep quality, depression and possibly anxiety it might not actually ease hot flashes. However to improve how you feel and your overall health don’t rule out staying active. Also keep in mind that forms of exercise that raise core body temperature can trigger hot flashes, so remember to allow for cool-down time.
Cultivate emotional health. Take small steps to reduce stress, whatever form it takes in your life. Whether that means setting better boundaries at work, home, or within your community, learn to keep commitments and expectations reasonable.
Remember, it’s your body
Waking up in a pool of perspiration at night or having to leave an important meeting because of a hot flash can be frustrating, or frightening, or embarrassing. No one likes to feel helpless or limited to one-size-fits-all solutions.
Our bodies are amazing and have the ability to recover and maintain balance through life’s transitions — sometimes it just needs more support —both physical and emotional. Try to discover the approach that works for you to restore hormonal balance and regain personal comfort — while helping you tune in to your body, find greater peace of mind, and create better long-term health.
The material on this website is provided for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.