Hot flashes - a well-known symptom of menopause is characterized by disturbing feelings of heat that are often followed by flushing of face and profuse sweating in the head and neck region. In about 80 to 95% cases, they usually occur in the middle of the night; which greatly compromises the quality of sleep.
What causes Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes are caused by fluctuation in the estrogen levels as part of the physiological menopause. According to a new study, approximately 70-85% females experience them during the first year of menopause. However, it is imperative to mention that hot flashes may occur in perimenopausal women as well.
Hot flashes is associated with following symptoms in most cases:
- Tiredness without much physical labor
- Feeling of laziness
- Unexplained fatigue
- Lack of sleep or insomnia
In severe cases palpitations and arrhythmia are also reported in some females.
Pathophysiology of Hot Flashes:
Hot flashes are caused by a vascular shift in the blood vessels. This vascular shift causes the dilation of blood vessels in the head and neck region; thereby increasing the overall rate of blood to flow to upper body. This shift can lead to flushing (redness of face/ neck region) and generation of heat. The exact cause and triggers of this vascular shift is not known, but researchers believes that any change in the secretion or metabolism of neurotransmitters can lead to vascular shift.
Other explanations of hot flashes are:
- A decline or sudden increase in the hormonal levels of estrogen can trigger or worsen hot flashes in the menopausal females. Other hormones that are also known to influence the vascular dynamics are; follicle stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, cortisol, progesterone, beta endorphins etc.
- Increase in the concentrations of free radicals and a substantial decrease in the anti-oxidant levels can also cause hot flashes.
It is also believed that metabolic changes (such as alterations in the intake of carbohydrates due to anorexia/ illness) or intake of some OTC or over-the-counter medications (such as flu/ allergy drugs) can also be a trigger.
Some Diet and Lifestyle Modifications:
Based on latest research, here are some triggering agents that are very commonly associated with menopause:
- Intake of spicy foods: excessive intake of spicy foods can aggravate the risk of hot flashes.
- Warm beverages: Intake of hot beverages can also worsen the intensity of hot flashes. Same is true for caffeinated beverages and alcohols.
- White refined sugar: Intake of white refined sugar can cause palpitations, so reduce the intake especially before bedtime.
- Stress and anxiety: Uncontrolled anxiety and persistent stress can alter the metabolic and hormonal balance in the body that may trigger/ worsen hot flashes in females. It is highly recommended to adopt stress relieving strategies to alleviate the risk of hot flashes and related symptoms of menopause.
- Diet Modification: Identify your dietary triggers and minimize the intake of problematic foods to minimize the risk of severe episodes.
As discussed previously, changes in the serum levels of estrogen or other hormones are usually responsible for these symptoms in menopausal women. Therefore, we recommend natural hormone replacement therapy interventions to restore optimal hormonal balance in these women.
Natural Estrogen Replacement: Natural Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the most useful intervention in most cases that can help in alleviating other menopausal symptoms as well. Depending upon the severity or intensity of symptoms, a custom program can be designed for patients.
According to a study reported in the scientific journal Menopause (3), estrogen (0.5 mg/day) used in combination with venlafaxine (75mg/ day) has helped in improving the symptoms of hot flashes as well as depressive symptoms, anxiety and pain in the study population of 339 menopausal women.
If you or someone you know would benefit from learning more about natural hormone therapy to alleviate hot flashes, contact Renew Health & Wellness in Richmond (800-656-83866) or St. Louis (800-815-8456) to schedule your free consultation.
Or you can download the free ebook: Living Well With Menopause