Your Need-to-Know Remedies for Hot Flashes
3 minute read
Maybe it’s happened to you: Unexpected beads of perspiration break out on your upper lip, seemingly out of nowhere. Is it a hot flash? Or is it just warm in here?
Or — and this scenario is more likely – intense waves of heat course through your body. Flushed face. Blotchy chest. Clammy skin. You’re drenched in sweat, then you’re chilled. It’s a hot flash, unmistakable in its fury.
Up to 80 percent of menopausal women will experience hot flashes, the most common side effect of menopause. Hot flashes usually begin years before your periods actually stop during perimenopause. And since these heat surges can, and do, often interfere with sleep, mood, cognition and more, it’s natural to seek out remedies for hot flashes. (After all, do you really want to soak through your best silk shirts and pack away those precious sweaters forever?).
How can I get some hot flash relief?
Hot flashes are not fully understood, but what experts do know is this: Hot flashes happen when waning estrogen levels make it difficult for your body’s inner thermostat to regulate itself.
Researchers find that menopausal women experiencing severe hot flashes have more sensitive thermostats in the part of the brain that controls body temperature (a gland called the hypothalamus, which is partially driven by hormonal fluctuations).
Consider a hot flash a hint that your hormone levels are beginning to fluctuate wildly. This process, known as perimenopause, usually starts around your mid-40s. Periods become erratic, as do things like mood, sleep and, well, life as you knew it.
Why women seek treatment for hot flashes
Although they’re a completely normal part of the menopausal transition, hot flashes feel anything but normal, especially when they may also come with nausea, anxiety and chills (accompanying hot flash symptoms reported by some women).
Don’t worry – your hot flash symptoms will subside. But while it’s happening, a hot flash may feel like it will never end. That’s because although some hot flashes recede in 30 seconds, some can last for as long as 10 minutes.
Hot flashes may hit once in a while, or they may plague you all throughout the day and night.
Hot flashes can be moderate (as in, “I’m feeling a bit warm”) to severe (as in, “Sweat is pouring down my chest and pooling in my bra”).
Although hot flashes usually subside and get less bothersome within a few years of reaching menopause, some women will continue to get them for 10 years or more.
Looking for natural remedies for your hot flashes?
The first and most obvious thing might be to avoid hot flash triggers.
A too-warm room
Hot showers or baths
What if your hot flashes are persistent or severe despite your best attempts to avoid them?
Hot flash relief can be as simple as making some lifestyle changes.
Try to keep your weight under control. Overweight women have more hot flashes, according to research.
Keep indoor temperatures cool.
Dress in light, breathable and removable layers.
Avoid turtlenecks or any constricting clothing.
Keep ice water nearby.
Use a handheld and/or ceiling room fan.
Wear cotton pjs and use cotton sheets (not synthetics).
Place a frozen bag of peas or ice pack under your pillow (and flip the pillow over every so often).
Enjoy a cool shower before bedtime.
Intermittently stick your head in the freezer (might sound strange, but it works!)
Increase your level of activity. Studies show this may better control your hormone levels and inner thermostat.
Eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of whole grains, fresh fruit and veggies. Studies find that a Mediterranean-type diet helps ease hot flashes for some women.
Catch your hot flash when it’s first beginning and use slow, deep abdominal breathing (aka “paced respiration”). Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, aiming for five to seven times per minute.
More remedies for hot flashes
FDA-Approved Hormone Therapy to Treat Hot Flashes
The gold standard for treating hot flashes is hormone therapy (estrogen alone for women who haven’t had a hysterectomy and don’t have a uterus; or the hormones estrogen and progestin for others, to prevent cancer of the uterus.) But estrogen therapy is not for everyone and can carry risks like blood clots, strokes and breast cancer and gallbladder disease.
Hormone therapy can be in the form of pills, patches, gels and sprays.
Current guidelines for hormone therapy are for hormone therapy to begin within 10 years of your last menstrual period, or before age 60.
The North American Menopause Society states that “individualization is the key in the decision to use hormone therapy.” Always discuss with your doc to come up with the best plan for you as an individual patient.
FDA-Approved Non-Hormonal Prescription Therapies as Remedies for Hot Flashes
Low-dose paroxetine (Brisdelle) is the first and only government-approved non-hormonal treatment for hot flashes. Paroxetine is known as a select serotonin uptake inhibitor (SSRI), more commonly used to treat depression and anxiety disorders.
Although Brisdelle is the only FDA-approved anti-depressant for hot flash treatment, others that have been used include Venlafaxine (Effexor XR), Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), Citalopram (Celexa) and Escitalopram (Lexapro).
Other prescription medications sometimes used as hot flash remedies include anti-seizure medications Gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise and others) or Pregabalin (Lyrica); high blood pressure medication Clonidine (Catapres, Kapvay and others); overactive bladder medication Oxybutynin (Ditropan XL, Oxytrol).
Alternative Treatments as Hot Flash Remedies
Though evidence is mixed, many women find certain mind-body techniques and dietary supplements helpful in treating their hot flashes. So far, the strongest evidence is for hypnosis, which has been shown to have significant effects on reducing hot flashes. Others include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Plant estrogens (like soy isoflavone)
No matter which of these remedies for hot flashes you try, the first step for each is the same: Know you’re not alone — and know that Alloy can help.
About the author:
Sheryl Kraft is a freelance writer who specializes in midlife women’s health, nutrition and wellness. Her work appears regularly in publications such as Parade and HealthyWomen. She writes about a wide variety of topics, from acupuncture and aging to sleep and superfoods.
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