Menopausal hot flashes:
Most women experience night sweats and hot flashes during their menopausal years. Women can prevent or reduce these uncomfortable signs in many ways. Hot flashes are instant feelings of heat that extend through the neck, face, and chest. According to research, about 85% of women report experiencing hot flashes during their menopause . Keep on reading to learn more about menopausal hot flashes!
What is essential to know about hot flashes?
A hot flash is an intense feeling of heat that appears suddenly, usually as women go through menopause. People who have undergone chemotherapy or surgery treatments may experience menopause earlier in life. According to the National Institute on Aging, the menopausal phase usually starts between the ages of 45 to 55 years, and it lasts for about seven years. This phase can continue up to 14 years . Most women experience night sweats or hot flashes at one point or another in their lives. However, the timing, intensity, and duration of these uncomfortable symptoms vary dramatically among women.
Research has shown that women are classified into four different categories when it comes to night sweats and hot flashes .
- Chinese women are less likely to have night sweats or hot flashes during their menopausal years.
- Black women have higher chances of having these symptoms during their menopause states.
- Women wit obesity experience an earlier onset of such symptoms.
- Women who have a lower body mass tend to have a late-onset for these symptoms .
Causes of hot flashes:
Hot flashes occur during and sometime before the menopausal phase. The changes in the production of hormones such as progesterone and estrogen during this period ultimately affect the body temperature. Changing levels of progesterone and estrogen produce an impact on other hormones that work to regulate your body temperature. It then creates a feeling of sudden flushing, warmth, and an extreme sweating sensation. A study published in 2012 identified a group of brain cells, called KNDy neurons, that may initiate this uncomfortable rise of heat during the starting years of the menopausal phase . These are some hot flashes causes.
Symptoms of hot flashes:
Following are some common symptoms of hot flashes:
- Itching in the fingers
- Sweating in the upper body portion
- A sudden sense of heat in the skin
- Your face getting flushed or appearing to be red
- Your heart beating faster than usual
Is there anything positive about having hot flashes?
Believe it or not, there are benefits to experiencing those annoying hot flashes. A study published in 2011 suggests that women who experience hot flashes at the start of their menopausal phase tend to be protected against heart disease. They have a minimal risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks .
On the other hand, there are various studies available that discuss the risks associated with experiencing hot flashes. Let’s have a look at these drawbacks in detail:
- A study published in 2017 demonstrates that hot flashes may increase the possibility of developing diabetes .
- Another study published in 2020 suggests that physiological hot flashes are linked to alterations in the brain function and deficiencies in verbal memory. It appears that hot flashes may alter the prefrontal cortex and hippocampal function and reduces verbal memory .
Learning about these possibilities helps you to watch out for these complications and possibly prevent them when experiencing hot flashes.
Diet and lifestyle changes:
You may avoid/limit the intake of the following dietary triggers to protect yourself from experiencing intense hot flashes.
Try to reduce or eliminate the following:
- Spicy foods
- Tight clothing
- Research published in 2011 suggests that mindfulness can help women in coping with night sweats and hot flashes . You may use meditation and deep breathing techniques to reduce hot flashes and relieve stress.
- Another study from 2014 demonstrates that Cognitive Behavior Therapy can also help with night sweats and hot flashes .
- Keep taking a cool shower during the day and before bed
- Maintain a healthy weight. Keep doing exercises regularly to maintain an active lifestyle.
Herbal Supplements for Menopausal hot flashes:
Black cohosh, also known as Cimicifuga racemosa or Actaea racemose, is a herbal supplement. Black Cohosh is used to treat signs of perimenopause and menopause, such as moodiness, hot flashes, excessive sweating, and vaginal dryness. If you have a liver disorder, taking black cohosh will not be recommended. Research has shown that black cohosh can reduce the number and frequency of night sweats and hot flashes . A 2013 study demonstrates that menopausal symptoms were significantly reduced in women who were taking black cohosh supplements than those who were taking the placebo .
Flaxseed is a good natural source. Data from a Mayo Clinic study suggest that flaxseeds have the potential to minimize hot flashes. .
Red clover is also called Trifolium Pretense. A systematic review proves the positive effect of red clover on reducing hot flashes among menopausal women .
Phytoestrogens are the plant compounds that have similar properties as estrogen. Phytoestrogens have shown to minimize the hot flashes without having any significant side effects.
Following are a list of fruits and vegetables that are high in phytoestrogens:
- Chaste tree berries
- Liquorice root
Soy is another good source for minimizing hot flashes. Soy isoflavone herbal supplement has shown the reduce acute hot flashes . Soy, however, may have some side effects. It can cause mild constipation, stomach-ache, and diarrhoea in some people.
Ginseng has been used for many years to reduce the severity of hot flashes and night sweats. Recent research shows that ginseng may indeed reduce the risk of heart disease at the postmenopausal state .
Dong Quai is also called Angelica Sinensis. It has been used to treat menopausal symptoms for thousands of years. But a study published suggests that more research is required about the effectiveness of Dong Quai to treat hot flashes .
Oenothera biennis is also knowns as evening primrose oil. It is a good herbal supplement to treat menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. A study published shows the effectiveness of evening primrose oil in treating hot flashes .
Hormone Replacement Therapy:
Hormone Replacement Therapy is also known as menopausal hormone therapy, estrogen replacement therapy, or hormone therapy. Sometimes, women have symptoms like hot flashes or dryness of the vagina during their menopause because of a fall in their estrogen levels. Hormone Replacement Therapy is effective in reducing the symptoms of menopause. Its advantages include relief from hot flashes and night sweats. It also deals with vaginal dryness and alternation in mood or temperament. Hormone Replacement Therapy uses different types of HRT hormones (i.e., a combination of estrogen and progesterone), route of administration (skin patches, vaginal creams, gels or tablets, etc.) and its treatment plans (duration and type of hormone, etc. Women should consult with their doctor to find out about the particular type of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) that best suits their needs.
Although Hormone Replacement Therapy is an effective treatment, it has some side effects like headaches, swelling of the breast, nausea and bloating, etc. Women who use Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), may face a higher risk of developing breast cancer as compared to those who do not receive Hormone Replacement therapy.
Who should avoid HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)?
If a woman has the following conditions, she should not go for Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT):
- Liver and heart disease
- Heart attack
- Uterine, breast or endometrial cancer
- Positive pregnancy report
- Blood clots
There are some alternatives to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) like a different lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and regular exercise. Some antidepressants and other medicines like tibolone and clonidine (a non-hormonal prescription medication) can also be used as alternatives to treat the symptoms of hot flashes. Still, it is important to note that the effectiveness of these alternatives is not well established.
if you decide to try on natural alternatives to treat Menopausal hot flashes you should consult with your naturopathic doctor as what works best for an individual may not work best for you.
 Taku, K; Melby, M; Kronenberg, F; Kurzer, M.; Messina, M (2012).Extracted or synthesized soybean isoflavones reduce menopausal hot flash frequency and severity: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society: 19 (7) – p 776-790