Dealing with hot flashes

When hot flashes happen…

You feel it in your face. It moves down your throat, to your chest – then through your entire body. You want to yell “I’m melting!” while your makeup slides off your skin. Sound familiar? If your answer is yes, then you are one of the millions of women who have experienced or are experiencing one of the most common symptoms of menopause – hot flashes.

Hot flashes are your body’s way of announcing the beginning of a new phase of your life. The end of your period and the beginning of menopause is marked by hot flashes. Perimenopause, the onset of symptoms, can start in your late 30s but menopause usually occurs in the 40s and 50s and can last for 2-8 years as your body changes. The first years and signs (like hot flashes) are the most drastic as your hormones are rapidly changing.

Hot flashes happen more at night. All of those symptoms associated with menopause – like mood swings, irritability, depression and fatigue – can actually be linked to the lack of sleep or disturbed sleep caused by hot flashes.

Early hot flashes and menopause symptoms can be caused by hysterectomy, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. 75% of women going through natural menopause get hot flashes and 90% of women who have had a hysterectomy or had their ovaries removed will have hot flashes.

If you can’t beat hot flashes, manage them –

AVOID – Going out in hot weather, stuffy rooms, synthetic clothing, hot drinks, stress
LIMIT – Alcohol and caffeine
QUIT – Smoking
SAY YES TO – Dressing in layers, wearing natural fabrics (like cotton and silk), fans, cold drinks, smaller, more frequent meals, regular exercise, relaxation techniques, yoga, a high-fiber, low fat diet

There are medications that can help stave off hot flashes, but they are not for everyone. The most effective treatment is a low dose estrogen replacement therapy – available in pill or patch form. Not everyone wants the added risk of extra hormones or perhaps they simply can not take the hormone therapy due to a history of breast or uterine cancer or liver disease. Some antidepressants have also been used to alleviate hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.

There are several natural remedies used around the world to lessen the effects of hot flashes. Black cohosh is a natural, herbal supplement that is thought to help. Natural estrogen can be found in many foods, it is a safe and easy way to counter the effects of menopause and hot flashes. It is found in real, unprocessed soy products – not the kind found in meat crumbles or veggie burgers, but in edamame, soy beans, and real tofu. Flaxseed, sage, apples, grapefruits, plums/prunes, strawberries, red raspberries, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and sweet potatoes are all good sources of natural estrogen. And these foods are part of a healthy diet which will also help to manage hot flashes.

If you are experiencing hot flashes or symptoms of menopause, remember that this is a significant time of change in your life. Talk to Dr. Hessel today, she can help you learn more about menopause and what it means to you and the rest of your life.