Hot Flashes and Menopause: Integrate Good Habits for Positive Results

By Emma Sevilla

The most commonly mentioned symptoms of peri-menopause through post-menopause are hot flashes and night sweats, which are hot flashes at night; they can cause difficulty for sleeping through the night, and can be challenging to regulate in normal daily life. Some women report experiencing them multiple times a day, others every few days, and some women report not experiencing hot flashes or night sweats at all.  These menopausal symptoms are not a given for every woman, but about 80 percent of women experience hot flashes before, during, or after menopause.

So, why do they occur? There is not one firm answer to that question, but research indicates they start in the brain, where the temperature control mechanism gets a bit too reactive, due to swings in estrogen level, particularly with a decrease in estrogen level. In response to this, glands release higher amounts of other hormones that affect the brain’s thermostat, causing the body temperature to fluctuate. 

Stress plays a key role; the neurochemicals involved are serotonin, which helps us feel happy, can decrease and adrenaline, responsible for the stress we experience, can increase. The more stress felt, the more likely hot flashes will occur. Therefore, stress and anxiety management is crucial.

Other treatment that can help is hormone therapy; it been shown to relieve some of the discomfort of hot flashes for many women. There are various combinations of treatments and other options to consider: 

  • Progesterone – bioidentical in a cream, or pill, for its calming effect
  • Estrogen and Progesterone – as Hormone Replacement Therapy known as HRT, to balance levels
  • Increase activity and movement- like strength training and yoga
  • Reverse insulin resistance – lower stress, increase movement, lifestyle and diet changes 
  • Avoid triggers – especially alcohol, also spicy foods (and look for patterns that bring about your symptoms)
  • Magnesium and taurine supplements before bed – to promote calmness and good sleep
  • Herbal remedies and adaptogenic herbs – sage, red clover, dong quai, licorice root, angus castus, passion flower, black cohosh
  • Add phytoestrogen rich foods into your diet

As the brain gets used to the new level of estrogen, and as that level remains steady, some time after menopause occurs, which is considered  as the first full year without a period, hot flashes usually cease. But, some women, as many as 1/3, can experience hot flashes for as long as ten years. In these cases, getting on top of insulin sensitivity and their stress level is still the answer.

Good nutrition is always key; breath work for anxiety and stress can be a lifesaver and a habit that will be hugely beneficial for the rest of our lives. A great book to read about the benefit of breath work is “Breath” by James Nestor.

In the short term, keeping cool, hydrated, using hand held fans, wearing removable layers, talking about it with friends and even at work- there is no shame in being menopausal! Also, seek out and ask for help. You do not have to go through it alone, it’s part of our life process.

Have you experienced hot flushes or night sweats? Let me know your experiences, and get in touch if you’d like to know more about how I can help you.