The Science Behind Hot Flushes

The Science Behind Hot Flushes

Hot flushes can be horrendous at the best of times but the recent heatwaves have made them feel so much worse and more frequent than normal.  Yes, everyone's too hot, but when you're also dealing with a body that is working differently thanks to menopause, it's a different matter.  Hot flushes see a rush of blood, to the skin, causing sweating and redness.  Those who haven't experienced a hot flush are always surprised when they feel how much heat we are radiating even just standing near them, so what's going on?

It's down to our neurobiology – the way our brains are acting and reacting to the world around us trying to maintain homeostasis.  Homeostasis is all the things we do (unconsciously) to stay alive, including metabolism, the sleep-wake cycle, circulation and temperature regulation.  The human body has an average internal temperature of 37°C, and our systems work to maintain and defend that temperature.  In non-menopausal people there is a tolerance of around half a degree on either side, so the body can take a little increase or decrease in heat before it takes action to generate or lose heat.  This tolerance, and the actions to maintain the ideal internal temperature rely on hormones to signal when a change needs to be made.

In menopause, however, this tolerance is decreased to practically nothing, so we can't tolerate any fluctuation in temperature before we start trying to lose or generate heat.  One of the primary ways we lose heat quickly is through vasodilation, where the blood vessels near the skin expand and take in more blood than usual with the aim of cooling it down near the surface of the body.  We also start to sweat, which creates evaporation on the skin which helps wick the heat away.

This action, the dilating and constricting of various blood vessels (when our surface blood vessels dilate, blood is pushed there by our deeper blood vessels constricting) is called vasomotor action, and can also trigger heart palpitations, night sweats and other sleep disturbances.  It is important to remember that while vasomotor actions are a normal feature of how the body regulates itself, that during menopause this action is triggered more easily.

Now that we know that our hot flushes are a vasomotor symptom triggered by a reduced heat tolerance we can feel a bit more in control of what's happening to us.  While we may not be able to completely eliminate hot flushes, we can take supplements that keep our circulatory systems in tip-top condition to help it cope with the quick changes from constricted to dilated.  The reishi mushroom and the pine bark extracts in the MenoShake both aid our vascular health.  We can also explore HRT and whether replacing lost oestrogen can help regulate our body temperature and restore the in-built heat tolerance we had before the menopause.

We can also create strategies to avoid raising our body temperature where we can.  Many people report that caffeine (which can have a vasodilatory effect) triggers a hot flush, while spicy food is very common trigger.  Exercise is important, so this may be a case of having to bear the effects of a hot flush to get the benefits, but we can opt for swimming where the cold water helps combat the effects of a hot flush – wild swimming especially helps to regulate your temperature while exercising. 

Staying slightly cooler than is ideal can also help reduce the likelihood that the slightest change in ambient temperature will trigger a hot flush – remember that maintaining body temperature is an unconscious action that we can't control, we can only control the outside factors that lead to a change in temperature being detected.

Order your MenoShake today and take the first step in combatting hot flushes, armed with the scientific knowledge you need to help you regain control of your menopause.

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