Hot Flashes – What to Know
Menopause symptoms can vary as much the women who experience them. They may range from mild and momentary to harsh and debilitating. However, one of the most common and distressing symptoms are hot flashes. Hot flashes and night sweats are caused by fluctuations in female hormones and the reduction of estrogen, which affects your ability to regulate internal body temperature correctly.
Hot flashes and night sweats can happen with such intensity and frequency as to affect a woman's overall quality of life. Most women experience hot flashes at some point either before the start of menopause or after menopause has officially been begun. These uncomfortable episodes usually last anywhere from thirty seconds to several minutes, although some unlucky women have been known to have hot flashes lasting up to an hour at a time.
Hot flashes, also known as vasomotor flushes, are characterized by the feeling of heat and sweating, especially around the head and neck. They are the most common menopausal symptom, affecting anywhere from 50 to 85 percent of women at some point in their lives. Hot flashes are often believed to be a result of declining estrogen levels. However, women with high estrogen levels or fluctuating estrogen levels also experience hot flashes. It is not uncommon for women to also experience hot flashes during pregnancy.
While hot flashes tend to go away a year or two after menopause, many women continue to battle them. Depending on the intensity of a hot flash, some women may get accompanying headaches or feel dizzy, tired, weak, or lose sleep. Others experience heart palpitations or erratic heart beats. Many women flush, sweat and then become chilled afterward.
Hot flashes occur when blood vessels in the skin of the head and neck open more widely than usual, allowing more blood to shift into the area, creating heat and redness. Researchers believe that this vascular shift is due to changes in neurotransmitter activity that are not full understood, occurring in response to erratic hormone levels.
Women with low progesterone but normal estrogen levels may also feel the heat. Other hormones may play a role. Hot flashes can also occur with low testosterone levels (even in men), high FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), surges of LH (luteinizing hormone), increased cortisol, increased stress hormones and low beta-endorphin levels. Even low levels of antioxidants in the body can contribute to hot flashes, which is another reason why a hormone-balancing diet rich in nutrients and low in refined carbohydrates is important to support the body during menopause.
Certain illnesses, such as anorexia nervosa, can cause hot flashes. Medications can also cause hot flashes. Over-the-counter medications for sinus and allergy trouble can have an adrenaline-like effect that can trigger hot flashes.
While researches continue to look at the underlying causes of hot flashes, one thing is certain: Every woman can learn to stay cool by paying attention to her own individual triggers. What seems to trigger a hot flash for one woman, may give another woman no trouble at all. Learning your triggers may be all you need to control your hot flashes. Here are some common triggers:
- Hot, spicy food. Although many women find that spicy food aggravates or even triggers hot flashes, researchers now believe that hot peppers can help some women fight hot flashes, as women in South American and Mexico rarely experience them.
- Hot drinks. Warm beverages can heat you up just enough to trigger a hot flash. If this is true for you, stick with cold or room-temperature drinks instead.
- Caffeine. Eliminate all caffeine for one week to see if caffeine is a trigger for you.
- Alcohol. Alcohol is a refined carbohydrate that acts like sugar in the body. It can cause an epinephrine release, which can trigger a hot flash. Red wine is particularly potent.
- White sugar. The cause of many other health issues. Avoid it.
- Hot weather. You can't control the weather, but you can set your thermostat at a comfortable level; 70 degrees during the day and 65 at night may help keep you cool.
- Tobacco. Same as white sugar, above.
- Stress. Stress causes a hormonal chain reaction in the body that has been linked to increased number and severity of hot flashes.
Hot flashes are most common in Western cultures. 70 to 85 percent of women in the "Western World" suffer from hot flashes, sometimes severely. While many of the causes and methods to reduce symptoms are chemical or medical, don't discount the importance of stress and emotional anxiety on your body. The direct physical effect of changing hormones, such as hot flashes, will be magnified and prolonged if a woman is carrying heavy emotional baggage. In general, women with a history of anxiety, panic attacks or depression are more troubled by hot flashes than women without these experiences.
There is also a long history of natural help for menopausal symptoms.
Black Cohosh is a medicinal root from the buttercup family which grows in eastern and central regions of the United States. It was used by Native Americans as a remedy to treat hormone-related symptoms in women, such as menstrual cramps, hot flashes, as well as helping the discomfort of arthritis, muscle pain, sore throat, cough and indigestion.
Menopause comes with its share of unpleasant side effects, which may include memory loss, hot flashes, cramps and night sweats. There are a number of ways to approach the problem.
Menopause and the symptoms associated with it can severely disrupt your quality of life.
A wonderful natural formula to help you live a longer, healthier life is Women's Natural Balance (click here to view), a safe, and effective daily supplement that contains many of the top ingredients. This specially blended formula contains many safe and all natural substances that include black cohosh, soy isoflavones, red clover, Mexican yams and red raspberry extract.