Hot flashes are a natural side effect of reaching peri menopause or menopause, but that doesn’t make them any less unpleasant.
They often come on suddenly and can leave you feeling uncomfortable and tired, but understanding how and why they happen can go some way to helping you manage them. We have researched some tried and tested methods for you, to help you cool down if you’re having a hot flush.
What causes a hot flush?
The changes happening in your body during the peri menopause and the menopause cause fluctuations in hormone levels. As different hormones control different bodily processes, this can affect the regulation of your temperature.
During the peri menopause, levels of estrogen start to decline. Estrogen is a hormone widely known for its role in reproduction, but it also plays a part in modulating your body temperature.1 This is why, as your estrogen levels fluctuate, you experience rapid and sometimes extreme changes to your body temperature.
Certain medical conditions, such as thyroid disease, eating disorders, and drug therapies can also cause hot flushes. If you have any of the medical conditions mentioned, it’s worth talking to your GP to determine if you are experiencing hot flushes lined to one of these conditions, or the menopause.
In addition to declining estrogen levels, certain foods, habits, or health conditions could trigger a hot flush.2 Try to keep notes of what you were doing just before you experienced a hot flush, as this can be helpful in identifying triggers. Many women mention triggers such as, spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, stress or being in a hot place. There are, of course, triggers related to lifestyles like smoking and specific medications.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to prevent a hot flush, but it is possible to take steps, from natural remedies to lifestyle changes, to lower the frequency.
What are the stages of a hot flash?
A hot flash happens because your body mistakenly thinks you are too warm. This causes your body to trigger the reactions which would release excess heat, namely the dilation of blood vessels near the head, neck and chest, which makes you sweat.3, 4
Usually, women experiencing a hot flush feel an intense warmth in which starts at the head a spreads downwards to the neck and chest, followed by skin redness and sweating. After the initial heat has subsided, women often feel cold and clammy, and this tends to mark the end of an episode. Hot flashes last four minutes on average, but can range anywhere between thirty seconds and five minutes.3
How to cool yourself down during a hot flush
Many women find relief from excessive sweating by making a few small changes to their routine that help not only the cool the hot flush but also improve their overall health.
When the sensation of heat begins to travel around your body and spread, try drinking a glass of cold water, as this seems to lessen the discomfort for some women.3 Also, try and keep hydrated throughout the day by drinking six to eight glasses per day.
Cool packs and fans
Some women find it helpful to keep a hand-held fan close to hand to help with the feeling of creeping heat symptomatic of a hot flush. You could also try and keep a gel pack in the fridge or freezer.
Take deep breaths
Some research suggests that practising deep, abdominal breathing at the start of an episode can help make a hot flush less intense.5 Regularly doing deep breathing exercises is also thought to help lessen the intensity of hot flushes.
Wear flush-friendly clothing
Wear lightweight, layered pieces of clothing that are not only breathable but able to wick away moisture. Look for clothes made of 100% cotton, or specially designed fabrics. Coolibrium's range of ThermoReg clothing for example, is designed to keep you cool, absorb moisture and restoring heat to it's perfect temperature.
Lifestyle factors to help manage hot flashes
Exercise and weight Loss
Recent research showed that women who lost weight over the six month study period reported experiencing fewer hot flushes by the end of the experiment.6 Researchers did caution, however, that weight loss alone is unlikely to be a fully effective treatment for menopausal symptoms, so other changes to diet and lifestyle will be necessary.
Diet and nutrition
Although the research on this particular dietary solution is mixed, it might be worth adding soybeans, tofu, tempeh, or miso to your diet since as they are part of the group of plant-based chemicals called phytoestrogens.7 These act as a weaker form of estrogen in the body, and the theory is that they might reduce the hot flush in some women.
Yoga, Meditation and Relaxation
Many women find that yoga and meditation are useful tools for coping with hot flashes. These practices help lower the stress hormone cortisol, making women less sensitive to hot flashes. This could be a simple inclusion into your lifestyle that will improve not only your health but also your mental wellbeing.
- Charkoudian N., Stachenfeld N. (2016) Sex hormone effects on autonomic mechanisms of thermoregulation in humans Autonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical, 196 , pp. 75-80.
- nhs.uk. (2018). Menopause - Hot flushes. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/hot-flushes/ [Accessed 10 Jan. 2020].
- Harvard Health. (2019). Hot Flashes - Harvard Health. [online] Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/hot-flashes-a-to-z [Accessed 10 Jan. 2020].
- WebMD. (2018). What Are Hot Flashes? What Can You Do About Them?. [online] Available at: https://www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/menopause-hot-flashes#1 [Accessed 10 Jan. 2020].
- Burns, D. and Carpenter, J. (2012). Paced Respiration for Hot Flashes?. [online] Menopause.org. Available at: https://www.menopause.org/docs/professional/tfppaced0712.pdf [Accessed 10 Jan. 2020].
- Thurston, R., Ewing, L., Low, C., Christie, A. and Levine, M. (2015). Behavioral weight loss for the management of menopausal hot flashes. Menopause, 22(1), pp.59-65.
- Healthline. (2019). Can Soy Ease Menopause Symptoms?. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/soy-for-menopause#isoflavones [Accessed 10 Jan. 2020].