Hot flashes and night sweats
Women complain about hot flashes and night sweats more than any other symptoms of menopause. Some women say their hot flashes are so severe that they prevent form them living a normal life.
Hot flashes can appear without warning and make you feel unbearably hot on your face and all over your body. Each flash can last any time between 30 seconds and 30 minutes, and you may experience anywhere between a few a day to up to four an hour. During the night, hot flashes are referred to as night sweats, and they cause immense sleep disruption, sometimes even leading to severe insomnia. Some women have been known to suffer reduced mental agility and even depression as a result of sleep deprivation caused by night sweats.
Day or night, the flash itself will feel hot, usually throughout your body, but afterwards many women complain that they feel cold and shivery. Among the other most debilitating symptoms of a hot flash is the appearance of redness or blotchiness on your face and neck, as well as obvious sweating. You may also feel a tightness or heaviness in your head, and your heart may start to beat faster as the flash begins.
Some experts suggest that falling levels of estrogen (estrogen withdrawal) may cause hot flashes. Others suggest that high levels of follicle-stimulating hormone are to blame. The flashes themselves occur when your blood vessels dilate (become larger) to let more blood to flow through your circulatory system, aiming to cool you down. This is exactly the same automatic response that lets you to sweat and cool down on a hot day. Some women have a particular trigger for their hot flashes, including spicy food, caffeine, alcohol, hot drinks, and stress. In addition, there appear to be certain risk factors for hot flashes, such as smoking, being overweight, and having a sedentary lifestyle.
Research shows that women who eat a diet rich in phytoestrogens report fewer hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms than women who don’t. It appears that plant estrogens work to balance hormones, increasing estrogen levels when they’re low, but not increasing them unnecessarily when they’re high. Essential fatty acids will also help, so eat plenty of oily fish and lots of seeds, such as flax sees. One small study showed that women taking 4 tbsp. powdered flax seeds daily reduced hot flashes by half.
You should also increase your intake of citrus fruits, which contain substances called bioflavonoids. These strengthen your blood capillaries to regulate blood-flow through your body. In addition, citrus fruits contain plenty of vitamin C, which can help control hot flashes. (As well as eating more citrus fruits, you can supplement. Take vitamin C with bioflavonoids; 500mg twice daily, as magnesium ascorbate).
Finally eat little and often because fluctuations in blood sugar can cause levels of adrenaline to rise, which can trigger flashes.
Vitamins and Supplements
As well as taking extra vitamin C, take the following vitamins and supplements.
• Vitamin E (400iu, daily) Research shows that vitamin E can be helpful for both reducing hot flashes and also helping overcome vaginal dryness.
Take a combined tincture of the following herbs, mixing the herbs in equal measures. Take 1 tsp. of the combined tincture in a little water, two or three times daily. Alternatively take 200-300mg of each individual herb in capsule form, daily.
• Agnus Castus This herb, also known as chasteberry, is an adaptogenic herb because it has a balancing effect on the body, helping to reduce where there is excess and increase where there is deficiency. It does exactly this for your hormones. You should be able to see results (reduced symptoms) within three months if you take the herb regularly. But always check with your doctor first.
• Black Cohosh This herb is really the herb of choice for hot flashes and night sweats. It’s thought to work like a SERM (selective estrogen receptor modulator), which stimulates the estrogen receptors in certain parts of the body and does not stimulate those in the breasts or uterus. As a result menopausal symptoms are reduced without risk to your breast or uterine tissue.
• Dong Quai This is a popular herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine and acts as a tonic to the female reproductive organs, helping balance hormones and, as a result, reducing hot flashes and night sweats.
• SAGE This well-known cooking herb has been shown to help with both hot flashes and night sweats. In one study, it completely eliminated these symptoms in 20 out of the 30 women tested.
• Valerian This herb has a sedative effect on the body, so if disturbed sleep is making you tired the next day, use black chhosh to get rid of the sweats and add in some valerian to help improve your sleep quality, relieving tiredness.
Other Natural Treatments
The following are the most useful complementary approaches for treating hot flashes and night sweats. You may also like to try acupuncture, which has been successful in many of the cases.
Homeopathy A number of homeopathic remedies can help with hot flashes. Take each of the relevant remedies in a 30c potency twice a day. Choose the appropriate remedies from the list below.
• Lachesis is useful if your hot flash starts lower in your body and then moves towards your head. This remedy is good for those women who prefer to wear layers, in order to help them to stay cool in every environment and don’t want anything around their necks.
• Pulsatilla is useful when there’s no consistency to the flushes – they feel different each time they occur
• Sepia if the hot flashes make you feel weak; you may also feel negative and have reduced sex drive
Aromatherapy The best oils to treat hot flashes are Roman chamomile, sage, basil, thyme, and clary sage. Mix any combination of these oils in equal parts, then dilute 15 drops of the blend in 6 tsp. sweet almond carrier oil. Use the combination in a gentle, relaxing massage. Experiment with the blend until you find the right combination for you – that is, the one that gives you the most relief. For an emergency aid while you’re out, add a few drops of your blend to a tissue, then put the tissue in a plastic bag and keep it in your handbag. Take out the tissue and inhale the essential oils as soon as you feel a hot flash coming on.
Wear layers Layer your clothing so you can pull clothes on and off according to how hot you feel.
Steer clear of triggers For example, if you know a glass of red wine will trigger a flash, drink something else. Apply this approach to all of your triggers.
Breathe through it Many women find that their hot flashes are related to stress. When you feel stress coming on take a deep breath. One study found that when women practiced deep, abdominal breathing (taking six to eight controlled breaths a minute), twice a day, the incidence of hot flashes halved.