Hot Flashes in Menopause: What to Do
When we think of the menopause, the image of a flushed woman often comes to mind, with flushed cheeks, fanning herself frenetically with whatever she can get their hands on. And, of course, it’s undeniable that hot flashes are one of the main symptoms of this particular stage of life.
According to a study published in the journal Menopause in 2008, hot flashes are defined as ‘sudden subjective sensations of heat, often accompanied by a reddening of the skin and sweating’.
In general, women notice these in the chest area and they spread towards three specific parts of the upper body: the face, head, and arms.
They can occur at any time of the day and last -generally- about 2 or 4 minutes. There’s no given rule on when they’ll arrive, but they usually appear in the pre-menopause stage and, as it progresses, they remit.
What else is there to know about hot flashes?
Although they’re part of the typical changes of menopause, that doesn’t mean that they’re any less annoying. Depending on their frequency and intensity, hot flashes can significantly reduce the quality of life for symptomatic menopausal women.
Mood, sleep, sexual function, cognitive abilities (memory and concentration, especially) can be diminished by hot flashes.
The same study explains that approximately 70 percent of women experience hot flashes during the first five years of menopause. However, the incidence and severity of these and the symptoms they bring with them vary.
In some cases, they can be overcome with relative ease, as they often don’t become too intense. However, in other people, they can be extremely difficult to cope with. In fact, experts have observed that they tend to be more severe in women who have had menopause induced by surgical procedures, as well as cancer patients.
Besides hot flashes, women report other complaints, such as nausea, sweating, rapid heartbeat, tingling, fatigue, anxiety, depression, stress, and negative emotions associated with frustration and shame.
What are its causes and triggers?
“From the pathophysiological point of view, although it’s widely known that hot flashes appear with the hormonal decline of menopause, estrogen alone isn’t the only cause, as its plasma and urinary levels don’t differ significantly between symptomatic and asymptomatic women”. So explain the authors of a study focused on thermoregulation and menopausal hot flashes.
Regardless of its origin, what people generally discuss are the triggers, which are the factors that can influence its appearance.
Some of the triggers that women mention the most are spicy foods, cigarettes, sources of caffeine (coffee, chocolate, etc.), alcohol, and emotional tension (stressful or uncomfortable situations).
How’s it best to cope with hot flashes?
The good news is that there are several ways to relieve and cope with hot flashes. Depending on each woman’s health and individual needs, they can apply different combinations and solutions.
However, all the options usually include some sort of lifestyle changes (such as improving your diet, avoiding hot spices and other spices, cutting down on coffee, quitting alcohol and cigarettes, etc.).
Drink cold water
A simple and effective way to cope with hot flashes is by drinking cold water. This won’t only help to refresh the body but will also mitigate the burning sensation.
- Some recommend moistening your ears with a little cold water to maximize the feeling of freshness.
- If you have to leave the house, always be sure to take a bottle of water with you.
Deep breathing can be very beneficial to the body and mind when included regularly in a healthy lifestyle. In the case of menopausal women, by helping to manage emotional tension and stress, they can also help relieve hot flashes.
- This type of practice is often associated with yoga, meditation, tai chi, mindfulness, and the like.
- Acupuncture can also be combined with deep breathing, but experts affirm that it hasn’t yet been shown to be any more effective than a placebo.
Dressing in layers
Dressing in layers is one of the best strategies on a day-to-day basis, and not only in countries where there are four seasons. In the event of a hot flash, you can simply remove an item or two, such as a cardigan or a scarf, until the feeling of heat subsides.
Sunbathing for long periods of time when you’re going through hot flashes isn’t the best idea. As far as possible, avoid exposure to heat. This means that, in addition to sunbathing wisely, you should avoid hot showers, baths, and saunas.
Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), maca root, flaxseed, soybeans (and their derivatives), and other supplements made from foods, plants, and herbs from different parts of the world may help with hot flashes. To use them in the most beneficial way possible, be sure to check with your doctor first.
Finally, hormonal therapy and symptomatic treatment are also options that the doctor might approve if they feel the hot flashes are causing excessive problems.