Heat Waves Ahead: Understanding the Causes of Hot Flashes
It often comes out of nowhere. You begin to feel the heat rising from your neck, sweat beads forming on your forehead. Maybe night sweats jolt you from your sleep. It is yet another sign of times, your body signaling its evolution into midlife. Hot flashes, or hot flushes depending what part of the globe you're in, are often regarded as one of the most common symptoms of menopause. Up to 80% of people on their menopause journey experience them, yet they feel a bit different for each person. While there are remedies created to help you weather your body’s heat wave, it is equally important to debunk the myth and remove the mystery around this natural side effect. Before rushing to your women's health specialist or gynecologist and get to know a bit more about this common symptom of menopause.
What are the symptoms of a menopausal hot flash?
Let's dig into some women's health education. A hot flash feels like a burst of heat moving throughout your upper body, often beginning with a flash of warmth through your chest and spreading up towards your face. You may notice that you take on a flushed look with red, blotchy skin. Sometimes your heart rate will begin to speed up and it is likely you’ll start sweating. Since your body temperature has raised rather quickly, you may experience a “cold front” afterwards, where you feel chilled as the hot flash lets up. Other symptoms include a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and a headache.
Hot flashes can be a unique experience - how often they occur is dependent on the person. Furthermore, the intensity of the hot flash is also unique to each individual. Some may have such mild hot flashes, it feels like nothing more than a quick burst of hot energy. Others may have such intense hot flashes that they disrupt daily activities. They can happen at any time of the day or the night. Hot flashes happening in the night are often referred to as night sweats and they can become so bothersome that they induce insomnia symptoms, waking you from sleep and causing sleep disturbances. The majority of those who report having hot flashes end up experiencing them daily.
When do hot flushes start happening?
They start during perimenopause (also known as the pre-menopause years) and persist throughout menopause. Perimenopause typically starts around age 40, though some may enter perimenopause in their late 30s. Ages 46 to 53 are the average ages for menopause in the United States. Just as a quick refresher, menopause is marked when you experience 12 months without a period. Hot flashes tend to hit their peak in frequency after two years of menopause. Once you hit your late 50s, hot flashes will continue to persist but will usually decrease in frequency and severity. Hot flashes continue for anywhere from four to 10 years post-menopause.
What causes hot flashes?
The exact scientific causes of hot flashes are still unknown, but scientists generally agree that changes in the brain’s thermoregulatory center trigger these pesky heat waves. The thermoregulatory center is influenced by your hormones and basically functions as your body’s internal thermostat, controlling both heat production and heat loss. As you hit the perimenopause phase, your hormone levels begin to fluctuate with plenty of peaks and valleys. During these ups and downs, your progesterone and estrogen levels shift with wide variation. The shift in these levels triggers that internal thermostat. This is when your blood vessels closest to the surface of your skin will dilate to release heat and create that flushed and blotchy in your skin. Your heart will beat faster and your sweat glands open up in hopes of cooling down your body. Your body temperature may even rise a few degrees during the hot flash.
What can I do to ease this menopause symptom?
Relief is within your reach! Let’s talk about what it takes to start feeling better. When it comes to these hormone-induced heat waves many women find it more effective to treat the symptoms, rather than treating the hormones. Since your hormones are constantly fluctuating, it can be more personally effective to address the hot flash or other experience with what works best for you. Besides, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) isn't an option for everyone. Keeping that in mind, we’ll run through some lifestyle changes and natural treatment options that may help.
Lifestyle changes to support hot flash relief
- Keep your cool...
Lifestyle changes can be as simple as the clothes you wear. Layers are key here - you need to be able to strip down (so to speak) anytime, anywhere. While you’re at it, wear natural fibers like linen and cotton. These materials are breathable and far more comfortable than synthetic blends that can increase the heat and perspiration. This is the era of COVID-19, so make sure your mask is also made out of a natural fiber.
Keep some heat relief goodies in your purse - a portable fan is great, a spray bottle with a washcloth (spray the washcloth down with water and lay it on your neck for some heat relief), or try some pre-treated cooling wipes (saturating napkins in eucalyptus essential oil mixed with water and keeping in a plastic baggie is a great way to DIY some relief). You can even keep a damp washcloth in a bowl by the bed to soothe those night sweats at a moment's notice.
- Learn your triggers. Avoid your triggers.
Take note of what you’re consuming daily and when your hot flashes are occurring. You may be eating food and drinking beverages that trigger the hot flash. Two common triggers you should watch out for? Caffeine and red wine! Spicy food and lounging in the sun on a hot day can be a culprit too.
- Take an inventory of your prescription medications with your doctor.
Some prescription medications, particularly those that tackle medical conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, hyperthyroidism (aka overactive thyroid gland), and cholesterol, can cause hot flashes.
Supplemental Supports for Hot Flashes
This supplement is a MVP when it comes to tackling the main symptoms of menopause. Brain fog, mood swings, and hot flashes can feel some sweet relief after just four weeks of daily usage! Bonus: all of our products are approved by the FDA.
As mentioned previously, sometimes these pesky hot flushes cause sleep disturbances. Our sleep enhancing dietary supplement tackles menopause-induced sleep troubles while managing hot flashes.
Acupuncture can be extremely effective in treating hot flashes. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that the occurrence of hot flashes were slashed nearly in half for 50% of participants during the eight week study.
When do I know it is time to see a doctor?
Are you struggling to sleep because hot flashes jolt you from your sleep? Is it getting to the point where your daily activities are disrupted? If so, it is probably time to call a doctor. If not, consider exploring natural remedies first to support you during this transition, and of course if anything changes check in with your doctor
What about life after hot flashes?
According to the North American Menopause Society, regular exercise, a balanced diet, yearly gynecologist visits for mammograms to screen for breast cancer plus pap smears will help you ease into your healthiest decade yet.
You’re never alone in this evolution. We’ve created a Facebook group for women experiencing menopause to connect with one another and provide support during this journey. Feel free to join us here. If you’re feeling like you need some further knowledge regarding the phase of your menopause evolution, take our quiz.
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