Hot flashes are experienced by 3/4 of all women undergoing menopause, making it the most common symptom experienced during this time.
Hot flashes involve a temporary sensation of heat coming off the body, sometimes associated with sweating or flushing of the skin. They often last from 30 seconds to 10 minutes in length and can be extremely annoying and debilitating if they are severe.
Hot flashes can be dealt with by taking hormone replacement therapy, which replaces the estrogen lost when the ovaries give out during menopause. Because there are side effects and risks to taking this form of therapy, women should also consider natural remedies in order to cope with these symptoms.
Seven simple ways to deal with menopausal hot flashes include the following:
1. Simple changes in behavior.
This includes learning how to dress in layers so that you can take off layers of clothing when the hot flashes become intense. It also includes having ice water handy so you can sip on it when the hot flashes start. You can also wear light pajamas that are loose fitting and use bed linens made with cotton that breathe better and can reduce the incidence of night sweats.
2. Herbal relief.
While studies of their effectiveness are mixed, many women use herbal remedies to control symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes.
- Black cohosh. This is also referred to by the scientific names Actaea racemosa and Cimicifuga racemosa. While it helps hot flashes, you should not take this herbal remedy if you suffer from liver disease. Black cohosh is a phytoestrogen—a naturally occurring product that contains estrogen-like properties. And while black cohosh is often associated with supporting hormonal issues in women, many studies on its efficacy are inconclusive. Most of the research done on black cohosh focuses on Remifemin, a supplement for menopausal women that contains a regulated dosage of the herb (40 mg). Remifemin has been used in Europe since the 1950s to treat symptoms of menopause and has been heavily researched since then with mixed results. While not all studies have found conclusive data, many have found enough evidence of potential efficacy to recommend additional studies. (One studyconcluded that taking black cohosh reduced hot flashes by showing it was more effective than a placebo, while another one found that it was no more effective than the placebo.) 1, 2, 3, 4 , 5 , 6
- Dong quai. The scientific name for this herb is Angelica sinensis. It cannot be taken by people who take Coumadin (warfarin) because they interact with one another. The powerful health benefits of dong quai, or ‘female ginseng’, include its ability to balance hormone levels, increase sex drive in men and women, cure infertility, ease menstrual cramps, and improve heart health. The herb is a blood thinner and purifier that can boost energy levels, fight anemia, lower , and improve mental, skin, and bone health. For thousands of years, dong quai has mainly been turned to by women, as it has a unique ability to regulate estrogen levels within the body. Whether you’re too high or too low in the estrogen department, dong quai extracts and supplements can get your system back on track, effectively helping to regulate periods. Dong quai has beneficial effects on the symptoms of syndrome and menopause. The cramping, mood swings, and general discomfort of are alleviated by the properties of dong quai. It also helps to replenish the blood after your menstruation so that you don’t feel weak or tired for days afterward. For women who have chosen to get off birth control pills, it can actually help to naturally regulate and ease your cycle. However, it is important to note that it is not good, rather it is harmful to take dong quai while on periods. ref. 1, 2, 3, 4
- Red clover. The scientific name for this is Trifolium pratense. This is generally safe but cannot be taken by people suffering from bleeding problems because it can increase the risk of bleeding complications. A 2005 report printed in the International Journal of the Society of Gynecological Endocrinology explained that an unexpected result of the Women’s Health Initiative study was that researchers realized most conventional hormone therapy treatments (HT) given to menopausal women come with unwanted side effects and complications, so as a result there’s been an increase in interest in alternative, natural options for providing menopause relief. ref. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,
- Soy products. This can involve drinking soymilk, eating tofu, or eating tempeh, which is a fermented form of tofu. It has some side effects, including diarrhea, constipation, and stomach troubles. Soy isoflavones are about one third as effective as estrogen in reducing hot flashes. However, prolonged daily soy consumption has been shown to reduce important menopause-related inflammatory proteins. The biology of soy is complex and only partially understood. Soy is a plant protein containing phytoestrogens (hormones derived from plants) called isoflavones , which have an estrogen‐like structure that binds weakly to estrogen receptors. Soy isoflavons have been described as either stimulating or blocking estrogen responses. If soy isoflavones attach to estrogen receptors not normally involved in the body’s hormone function, their actions are considered stimulating. If they occupy important receptors that need the body’s own estrogens, they act as a blocking agent.
- Evening primrose oil. The scientific name for this oil is Oenothera biennis. This is generally safe but may interact adversely with certain psychiatric medications and blood thinning medications. This botanical is also promoted to relieve hot flashes. However, the only randomized, placebo-controlled study (in only 56 women) found no benefit over placebo (mock medication). Reported side effects include inflammation, problems with blood clotting and the immune system, nausea, and diarrhea. It has been shown to induce seizures in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia who are taking antipsychotic medication. Evening primrose oil should not be used with anticoagulants or phenothiazines (a type of psychotherapeutic agent). ref. 1, 2,
Acupuncture can decrease the incidence and intensity of hot flashes without the side effects that you can have if you are taking medication. A study out of the British Medical Journal in 2011 showed that women who undertook acupuncture for hot flashes had fewer hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. Acupuncture involves putting thin sterile needles into specific areas of the body, resulting in an increase in the flow of qi energy in the body.
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4. Eating a well-balanced diet.
This means eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains rather than saturated fats (found in dairy products and meat products) as well as trans fats, which are found in highly processed foods. You should drink less alcohol as this can be a trigger for hot flashes and avoid foods that are high in sugar and fats.
We have had clients who experienced great results during their menopause following the Ketogenic Diet. We have a a specially designed Keto Diet Challenge for women over 40, to heal and balance hormones and lose weight while eating wholesome healthy and delicious foods.
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5. Mindfulness & meditation
This involves a deep focus of experiences on moment-to-moment basis. A study by the National Center For complementary And Integrative Health found mindfulness meditation training reduced the intensity of hot flashes and also other symptoms of anxiety, stress, insomnia, and overall quality of life.
6. Quit smoking.
Smoking can trigger hot flashes so, if you already smoke, you should make every attempt to quit. If you do not smoke, you shouldn’t start the habit. Smoking can be a trigger for hot flashes and is generally not a healthy lifestyle behavior to have.
7. Get regular exercise.
Exercising aerobically has been found to decrease the intensity and frequency of hot flashes. You can exercise aerobically by taking part in any physical activity that increases the heart rate and increases the respiratory rat.
Aerobic exercises include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, running, swimming, tennis and, to some degree, golf. You need to exercise at least thirty minutes a day on most of the days of the week.
You can also engage in anaerobic exercise, which involves lifting weights or using weight machines that will help tone your muscles and will increase your muscle mass.
These things can be used together or separately in order to reduce the incidence and severity of hot flashes.
The advantages of natural therapies for hot flashes is that, other than some side effects from herbal therapies, most natural remedies have no side effects and are completely safe to undertake in order to control this uncomfortable symptom.
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