It’s the most common symptom of perimenopause and menopause, and thankfully, the incidence generally fades away during postmenopause. We’re talking about hot flashes, aka hot flushes. Approximately 75-80 percent of women in North America experience this symptom, and it tends to be among the most uncomfortable and irritating factor associated with this time of life. But it doesn’t have to be!
What are hot flashes?
Hot flashes, which are also known as vasomotor symptoms, are a sudden feeling of heat that typically causes your face, neck, and perhaps your shoulders to become red, flushed, and sweaty. The intensity varies: some women just experience a “glow” while others have sweat running down their face, back, and arms.
Not all hot flashes are created equal. Some last a minute or less while others linger on for several. Hot flashes can come and go quickly, lasting only a few months to a year, although the average is about 7 years.
Why am I getting hot flashes?
Experts believe this symptom occurs when the blood vessels near the surface of the skin expand to cool off. This causes you to break out in a sweat, and you may also experience chills or a rapid heart rate.
So far no one has found a way to completely prevent hot flashes. However, you can take steps to avoid triggers. Those triggers can include alcohol, caffeine, heat, tight clothing, spicy foods, smoking cigarettes, bending over, and stress.
How can I treat hot flashes naturally?
Finding ways to stay cool and deal with hot flashes has been a goal of many women who find themselves sweating unexpectedly. We suggest that you:
- Keep a small hand fan—manual or battery-powered—in your pocket or purse.
- Keep an ice pack next to your bed at night.
- Carry a stainless steel bottle of cold water with you.
- Try deep, slow abdominal breathing and continue for about 10 to 15 minutes when a hot flash starts.
- Participate in aerobic exercise (e.g., tennis, dancing, walking, spinning), which may help reduce the incidence of hot flashes.
- Eat foods that contain plant estrogens, such as edamame, tempeh, flaxseeds, almonds, oats, apples, strawberries, yams, lentils, and wheat germ, among others. Soy supplements are not recommended.
- Dress in layers so you can always take away or add clothing as needed.
- Certain women find relief taking black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) supplements, which have proven to be helpful in some research studies. The suggested dose for hot flashes is 20 to 40 milligrams of a standardized extract twice daily. Limit use to no longer than six months at a time as long term use has been associated with liver issues and/or injuries. Read more about the association between black cohosh and our liver here.
Hot flashes because of menopause are generally are not considered a serious medical problem. However, if your hot flashes are affecting your quality of life and natural methods have not helped, talk to your healthcare provider about other treatment options.
Hot flashes are a hallmark symptom of menopause. They can sneak up on you, leave you drenched in sweat, then freezing cold, and then disappear as quickly as they came. We hope this information is helpful t better understand what’s happening to your body during perimenopause and menopause.