The most common and often the most annoying symptom associated with menopause is the hot flash, sometimes referred to as a hot flush. As many as 75% of women experiencing menopause in america experience hot flashes with 10% to 15% of girls with severe or frequent hot flashes.
I’d miserable hot flashes that warmed up in the most inconvenient times and occasionally flaring up every couple of hours. I tried every trick in the book to remove this gloomy symptom – from herbs, to teas, to exercise, to diet, to praying hourly which they would vanish – but they persisted. With confusing and contradictory information on the internet and in best selling books, I teamed up with top menopause specialist and co-author of The Menopause Makeover, to receive the most recent scientific information on alternative, complementary and healthcare choices to alleviate hot flashes. Understanding available options will provide you the chance to go over menopause control with your clinician.
What is a hot flash?
It’s a sensation of intense heat in the head and upper body normally related to sweating. We know from studying women the inner core temperature does grow. You can a place a sensor on the skin and until a woman has the expertise she is going to have the ability to tell you,”I will have a hot flash.” And sure enough, there’ll be an increase in internal core temperature followed by profuse sweating that’s extremely uncomfortable. As you know, the goal of perspiration is to cool the body so there’s often a reflex of type of chill which follows. It’s a really embarrassing and distracting sensation. It can happen at any time of the day. It can happen with enormous variability, it can occur many times an hour or just just one or two times per day. Some girls have one or two per day, and get through menopause with no problems while other girls have twenty or fifteen a day. We’re all different.
What causes a hot flash?
We’re still trying to comprehend the reason. We know that they’re linked to the hypothalamus, which is in the middle of the mind and behaves like the thermostat to the body. What we do not understand is why some girls are so bothered by them and others aren’t. Certain women appear to have triggers. An alcoholic beverage may cause a hot flash, or a change in outside temperature can lead to a hot flash for some girls. Generally speaking, the hormonal level or variation in hormone levels appears to be associated with this feeling in some women.
Are there any other causes?
We all know that smoking is related to hot flashes. Women who smoke have a greater risk of annoying hot flashes, so obviously you shouldn’t smoke. Also certain medications can cause hot flashes such as certain antidepressants SSRI, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, are typical antidepressants which could actually result in an increase in hot flashes. Yet, for some women, a very low dose may actually alleviate hot flashes, which makes antidepressants a substitute for hormone treatment.
Illnesses and fever may cause hot flashes, as may malignancies, and tuberculosis – many disorders can cause hot flashes. Increased BMI, Body Mass Index, has been associated with hot flashes. We used to believe that girls who were heavy’d excessive estrogen, and therefore fewer hot flashes. Now from the significant study that was done at the SWAN, Study of Women Across the Nation, we know that women that are heavy, who have abnormally large body mass index, are at greater risk for hot flashes.
What to do?
The real issue is how troubled are you. Some women discover they can handle them with simple lifestyle changes, like wearing layered clothing, lowering the thermostat, carrying out a fan, drinking cool drinks, avoiding triggers like caffeine and alcohol. Some women may have a couple of hot flashes every day and over time, seventy-five to eighty percent of cases will diminish and disappear.
Then there’s a subset of women for whom hot flashes are really troubling and do not go away. Lots of women have recurring hot flashes waking them up over and over again and they can not return to sleep. They aren’t getting enough rest; they wake up grouchy, tired, and sweaty. If it is actually a problem, there are hormonal treatments that will alleviate these symptoms. As you know hormone treatment can have side effects, so you have to always weigh the benefit versus the risk. There are quite low dose hormone therapies which are now available that could be extremely helpful for relieving hot flashes.
There are some additional options to consider like soy and black cohosh. The research regarding soy have been mixed, with some showing that soy can be useful; while there are other studies that show soy may help with mild symptoms. Soy is benign and readily available and might be worth trying. Black cohosh is another herb and has been used in Europe extensively, but you need to be careful because there have been reports of toxicity with high doses. Used in limited quantities in standardized doses black cohosh supplements can help some women.
Again, there have been blended studies, so regardless of what you do, and with whatever you take, you should always talk with your clinician. You can even try lifestyle changes – wearing layered clothing, practice deep breathing, meditation and yoga, exercising – all these things which can be quite helpful in learning how to live with the symptoms if they’re moderate.
Another choice is gabapentin. This is a drug that was originally developed as an antiseizure medication. Gabapentin is widely used for pain relief, since it had been found that with patients in whom it had been used for seizures, it helped with pain. It was then discovered that it helped with hot flashes. Gabapentin is a sensible alternative to go over with your clinician if you don’t want to or in case you can’t take hormone therapy. Staness: I had been on birth control pills for many years and had no idea I was perimenopausal before I stopped them, then the hot flashes began erupting.
What about birth control pills?
Birth control pills are a kind of hormone therapy. They’re a greater dose compared to standard menopausal therapy, but there’s estrogen in most birth control pills which keeps hot flashes off. If you’re in the perimenopausal stage, birth control pills may also be helpful for regulating your periods, and they keep hot flashes off.
Understanding the causes and remedies is your first step to managing your menopause. If you suffer from hot flashes, then talk about your treatment options (alternative, complementary and medical) with your health care provider.