Hot flushes are one of the most outwardly obvious symptoms of menopause. Most women experience hot flushes during perimenopause and into menopause, but some seem to experience more than others. The severity and duration can vary between women too, with some having much milder symptoms than others. There are many supplements and HRT medications that can help reduce hot flushes, or at least make them less severe and these can work really well for some women. It is worth discussing medical or complementary therapies with your doctor or other health practitioner if hot flush symptoms are causing a lot of disruption in your life.
It is also quite common for women to experience night sweats and for some these are more prevalent than daytime hot flushes. While it isn't crystal clear what causes hot flushes, hormone levels have been shown to play a crucial role. Researchers believe that fluctuating oestrogen levels affect the hypothalamus – the body's thermostat – and make our bodies think we are too hot even when we are not. Because sweating is the mechanism by which we cool down (through sweat evaporating), the body responds to this false trigger by producing a surge of heat to initiate sweating – this is a hot flush.
When our internal thermostat is prone to going haywire we end up having hot flushes in response to actual changes in temperature as well as false ones, which means we need to be aware of our personal triggers. Spicy food and caffeine are common triggers for hot flushes, as are exercise or stress and anxiety.
There are some herbs which have a long history of being used to treat hot flushes, sage is a traditional one which has was clinically tested in 2016 and found to decrease the intensity and frequency of hot flushes by up to 64% after 8 weeks1. The red clover extract in our MenoShake™ is also proven to treat the severity and frequency of hot flushes2.
Breathing exercises can be very useful in coping with a hot flush while it's happening (especially a stress related one), and can even cool you down faster through the grounding effect of deep breathing. Wearing loose, cool fabrics is also advisable as this stops us getting too hot and triggering a sweating episode. Cooling face mists and sprays are a quick way of cooling us down when we feel a hot flush coming on and they can reduce the duration of a hot flush by mimicking the action of sweating and evaporation.
During the summer months, having a bowl of cold water to plunge your feet into can help regulate your temperature, while we know a few women who will use the ice pack from their packed lunch held in place by their bra band to get quick relief from heat surges. Drinking an iced MenoShake™ instead of a frappe will also give you a burst of cool inside and swerves the hot flush inducing effect of caffeine.
At night, wearing loose silk or cotton pyjamas or a nightgown will keep you cooler than other fabrics, while a silk pillowcase or specially designed cool pillow (and even an air circulating mattress topper) can help regulate your temperature and avoid lots of night sweats. Keep a spare pair of pyjamas handy so you can quickly change if you need to.
Hot flushes are a very common menopause symptom but there are so many things we can try, from medication to diet changes and nifty products like the MenoShake over ice, that we needn't keep on suffering.
1) Bommer S, Klein P, Suter A (2011) First time proof of sage's tolerability and efficacy in menopausal women with hot flushes Adv Ther . 2011 Jun;28(6):490-500. Doi: 10.1007/s12325-011-0027-z
2)Masumeh Ghazanfarpour M et al. (2015) Effects of red clover on hot flash and circulating hormone concentrations in menopausal women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Avicenna J Phytomed. 2015 Nov-Dec; 5(6): 498–511. Pubmed