Hot Flashes - Why, When And How To Fix Them

A hot flush can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. The heart rate may increase, one may feel drenched in sweat and the face and neck might turn red.

Hot flashes, also known as hot flushes or vasomotor flushes are sudden quick surges of hot skin and sweat associated with menopause & perimenopause(the period of 8-10 years before menopause) . They begin in 40s for most women and may last for 2-10 years. They are less frequent during the peri-menopausal years and gradually intensify as we approach menopause.

A hot flush can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. The heart rate may increase, one may feel drenched in sweat and the face and neck might turn red. Night sweats are the same thing, only you’re asleep and are jolted awake by the heat and sweat sensation consuming your body. As per TCM, they usually happen between 3 and 4 a.m.  A more intense hot flush may cause headache, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, weakness and insomnia and even forgetfulness. May women feel chilled after the flush and sweat episode.

Medically put, hot flushes could be a result of diminishing estrogen . But sometimes, women with high estrogen levels also experience hot flushes. Some women may experience hot flushes during pregnancy or pre-menstrually as well.

The exact causes of hot flashes are still unknown, but they are thought to be related to changes in the brain’s thermoregulatory centre, which controls heat production & loss, and is influenced by our hormones. During perimenopause, hormones start acting like a rollercoaster, with wide variations in  progesterone & estrogen levels . Low progesterone, high FSH, high cortisol, surges in luteinizing hormone, and deficiency of antioxidants can all be possible causes of hot flashes.

For 10-15% of women, hot flashes are so severe that they disrupt normal daily life. Consulting one’s physician/ gynaec  and including  following diet & lifestyle modifications may help.

-       If hot flushes are a part of pre menstrual syndrome, try to consume cooling beverages around that time to help manage the variation in body temperature. Coconut Water, Chia lemonade, Saffron/ Kesar Shikanji/ Bel sharbat are some of the beverages that can help.

-       Watch and limit intake of trigger foods like tea, coffee, colas, alcohol(specially red wine )and caffeine. For some, even spicy food could be a trigger.

-       From Ayurvedic point of view, hot flashes are a sign of pitta imbalance and taking foods that pacify pitta may be helpful. One should add cooling spices such as coriander, fennel, mint.

-       Herbs like Shatavari, licorice, Black Cohosh are helpful

-       Curtail intake of refined sugar and refined flour as they may deplete antioxidants in the body.

-       Antioxidant supplements like Vit A,C and E,GLA(Gamma Linoleic acid-available commonly as Evening Primrose Oil supplement) show well-documented effects on providing relief from hot flashes.

-       Soy contains isoflavones that can provide relief by mimicking estrogen.

-       Review your medications with your physician. Some high blood pressure and cholesterol medicines may cause hot flashes.

-       Avoid stress as cortisol could initiate a hormonal change reaction. Stress may also affect the severity of hot flushes.

-       Women who face severe and frequent hot flushes may be advised to avoid sauna and steam baths.

-       Journal your feelings and try and release bottled up anger, guilt or shame as these could lead to hormonal imbalances. Women with heavy emotional baggage (including anxiety, panic and depression) tend to experience prolonged and intense hot flashes. A peer support network may help alleviate anxiety.

Research has shown that acupuncture can be highly effective for resolving hot flashes. In a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and one by Wake Forest Baptist Medical centre, hot flashes were reduced by almost half for 50 percent of women over eight weeks of acupuncture treatment.

That could join the dots as to why a nourishing , well-balanced and antioxidant rich diet is important in menopausal years.

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Hot Flushes Mansi Chaudhary


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