It would be hard to say that anyone likes the feeling of being instantaneously hot, getting red and flushed, while sweating and some times getting the chills. Unfortunately, like puberty, hot flashes are an inevitable part of life (for 85 percent of women at least).
Every woman is different, and every woman experiences hot flashes differently. At the onset of menopause some women experience hot flashes rarely, while others have to tolerate them up to 20 times a day.
The average woman can experience them for only six months, but others can have them for 15 years.
Whether we like it or not, hot flashes are a part of menopause. Although the exact cause of them isn’t known, there are things you can do to help prevent these uncomfortable and sometimes intolerable episodes from taking over your day.
Life happens, things go wrong, bills come in, and ultimately stress follows. But until recently, stress wasn’t associated with hot flashes.
In a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers found that stress is a large factor that triggers hot flashes. Women who experienced moderate anxiety were three times more likely to experience hot flashes than anxiety-free women. On top of that women with high levels of anxiety were almost five times more likely to have hot flashes!
Keeping a level head is a good way to prevent stress from holding the reigns on your hot flashes. But if anxiety is a regular part of your day, try putting aside some time for meditation or yoga. If you’re on a tight schedule try paced breathing when you feel a hot flash coming on.
Evidence shows that slowing down your breathing (six to eight breaths per minute) allows your body to cool down and is helpful at the onset of a hot flash.
Caffeine is a double-edged sword when it comes to menopause. Premenopausal women can actually benefit from the effects of caffeine. Unfortunately postmenopausal women don’t.
According to a Mayo Clinic study, caffeine may be worsening the effects of not only hot flashes but night sweats as well.The study is still new but a smaller caffeine intake is recommended to help control these toasty episodes.
If you can’t forgo coffee shoot for an alternative that has a lower caffeine level to gradually decrease your caffeine intake, like green tea.
Alcohol can take a toll on your mood, your organs, and now the extent of your hot flashes. According to The North American Menopause Society, although alcohol does not affect all women, it can trigger hot flashes in some.
A possible link between hot flashes and alcohol consumption may stem from alcohol's effect on the brain. When consuming alcohol there is increased blood flow to the brain causing a temperature increase.
The brain needs to counterbalance the heat and releases chemicals to dilate heat, triggering a hot flash with the excess.
4) Hot food (both temperature and spicy)
Both types of hot foods (temperature and spice) are major hot flash inducers. By eating foods that have some heat to them you raise your core body temperature.
Even people who aren’t menopausal can experience a hot flash from eating spicy food.
Instead of indulging in spicy Mexican food or a hot side dish like soup, order cold foods. Salad, iced beverages, and cold sandwiches are all alternatives that won’t trigger a spike in body temperature.
5) Tight clothes
When experiencing menopausal symptoms tight clothes can be restricting and end up making your hot flashes feel more intense. Forgo the tight clothes and embrace layering.
Layers allow you to control your temperature. Simply wearing a sweater that can be unbuttoned will feel more comfortable than a turtleneck.Having control of your clothing is an easy way to stay on top of your comfort.
If the hot flashes are still unbearable try and wear fabrics like cotton. Cotton absorbs sweat and can help to cool you off.
Studies have shown that women who smoke are at risk of starting menopause earlier and experiencing more intense symptoms.
In a recent study, it was found that smoking does not affect the hormone levels that researches once attributed to the increased level of symptoms.
Instead researchers hypothesize that the effect is caused by the nicotine and how it affects the nicotine receptors in the hypothalamus (a section of the brain responsible for hormone production).
Smoking has no health benefits and maybe hot flashes can be an incentive to quit. Quitting smoking can help your overall health and lower the severity and frequency of hot flashes.
Hot Flashes. Womens Health. Retrieved Jan. 26,2015.
The Role of Anxiety and Hormonal Changes in Menopausal Hot Flashes. NCBI. Retrieved Jan. 26,2015.
Paced Respiration for Hot Flashes? Menopause.org. Retrieved Jan. 26,2015.
Study Suggests Caffeine Intake May Worsen Menopausal Hot Flashes, Night Sweats. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved Jan.26,2015.
Drink to your health at Menopause or not? The North American Menopause Society. Retrieved Jan. 26,2015.
Alcohol and Hot Flashes. 34 Menopause Symptoms. Retrieved Jan. 26,2015.
Cigarette smoking, Androgen Levels and Hot Flushes in Midlife Women. NCBI. Retrieved Jan. 26,2015.
Reviewed January 27, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith