- Hot Flash Causes and How to Treat Them
- Help! My symptoms have come back and I thought I had everything under control, so what’s going on?
- Reappearing symtpoms
- What causes this?
- So what can you do?
- I recommend joining our 7 day menopause plan
- What Hot Flashes Can Tell You About Your Health
- Hot Flashes and Your Heart
- Hot Flashes and Your Thyroid
- Hot Flashes and Your Breast Cancer Risk
- Hot Flashes and Your Bones
- How to Use the News Now
Hot Flash Causes and How to Treat Them
Treating hot flashes depends on what’s causing them. Many people can manage their hot flashes at home with some strategies. In cases of more severe hot flashes, your doctor may prescribe medication to help reduce them. Other people use alternative treatments for hot flashes, although you should talk to your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements.
Lifestyle changes and strategies for managing hot flashes
To manage your hot flashes, it helps to know what triggers them. One way to figure out what’s triggering your hot flashes is to keep a hot flash diary. Take note of each incident, including what foods you ate before the hot flash. A symptom journal can help you narrow down your hot flash triggers and determine which lifestyle changes to make to reduce your symptoms and prevent hot flashes. Your doctor can also use the diary to help diagnose your symptoms.
Lifestyle changes and strategies for managing hot flashes include:
- dressing in layers, even on the coldest days, so you can adjust your clothing to how you’re feeling
- sipping ice water at the start of a hot flash
- keeping a fan on while you sleep
- lowering room temperature
- wearing cotton clothes and using cotton bed linens
- keeping an ice pack on your bedside table
- avoiding spicy foods
- limiting how much alcohol you drink
- limiting hot beverages and caffeine
- stopping smoking
- using stress reduction techniques, such as yoga, meditation, or guided breathing
To deal with hot flashes while pregnant, keep rooms cool and wear loose clothing. Rinse your face with cold water, and try to avoid hot and crowded areas.
Need to cool down? Shop for misting fans.
If these lifestyle changes and strategies don’t work, or in severe cases, your doctor may prescribe medication to help you manage hot flashes. Possible prescriptions include:
- hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- gabapentin, an anti-seizure medication
- clonidine, a high blood pressure medication
If hyperthyroidism, beta-blockers, or antithyroid medications cause your hot flashes, there are medications used to relieve symptoms. Surgery may be necessary in extreme cases to remove the malfunctioning areas of the thyroid gland.
Note that using some of these prescription drugs for hot flashes is off-label use. Off-label drug use means that a drug that’s been approved by the FDA for one purpose is used for a different purpose that has not been approved.
A doctor can still prescribe these drugs for treating your symptoms. This is because the FDA regulates the testing and approval of drugs, but not how doctors use drugs to treat their patients. So, your doctor can prescribe a drug if they think it’s best for your care.
Learn more: Off-label prescription drug use “
Some people prefer to use natural or alternative remedies to treat their hot flashes. One option is acupuncture. A 2016 study of 209 women experiencing four or more menopause symptoms a day found that acupuncture significantly reduced their menopause symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats.
Herbs and supplements touted as menopause remedies are also sold at many drugstores. Research has been inconclusive on the following herbs and supplements. You should check with your doctor before taking any herbs and supplements because they can sometimes interfere with medications you’re taking.
- black cohosh: If you have liver disease, don’t use this.
- dong quai: If you take blood thinner medications like warfarin you shouldn’t use this.
- evening primrose oil: This may interfere with blood thinners and some psychiatric medications.
- soy isoflavones
Shop for evening primrose oil.
Keep reading: Remedies for hot flashes “
Help! My symptoms have come back and I thought I had everything under control, so what’s going on?
Many women try really hard to help themselves through the menopause, watching their diet, stress levels and taking some kind of supplement or herbal remedy to help with their particular symptoms.
Then suddenly their symptoms come back, often with a vengeance, and their trusted remedy just doesn’t seem to help any more. So what is going on?
There can be a number of reasons for this so let’s have a look.
The menopause is not a static state and your hormone levels can fluctuate a lot. Sometimes they can be quiet, not moving much, or they can suddenly spike or fall. This means that you may have very few symptoms for a while, or a very stable set of symptoms, but then some new ones suddenly appear or the ones you have get worse.
What causes this?
Once again there can be a number of reasons.
We know that many things can affect our nervous system, which in turn can affect our hormones, such as:
- Stress: even low grade day-to-day stress can have a huge impact
- Dehydration: lots of women find their symptoms get worse in the summer. If you are lucky enough to have good weather but forget to up your water intake this can trigger flushes, joint pain, muscle ache, dizziness and headaches to name just a few!
- Getting a minor infection such as a cold, or being prone to hayfever or other allergies.
- Taking prescribed or over the counter medications
- Having a sudden shock
- Change of lifestyle
- Fatigue: falling hormone levels can deplete us of body energy very quickly and this can have a knock-on effect on other symptoms, resulting in a vicious circle.
- Your diet slipping: eating extra sugary foods, drinking more alcohol and coffee especially.
- Just being extra busy or on the go all the time.
- Not getting a good night’s sleep: falling oestrogen levels can affect our sleeping patterns, making it more difficult to get a deep sleep, so you wake up less rested. This can affect mood and energy the next day.
So what can you do?
- Firstly, I always suggest that you look back to the point where your symptoms got worse or your remedy stopped working and see what was going on in your life. Very often you will get a good clue!
- Have a thorough overhaul of your diet – it is amazing how quickly our healthy diet can slip, especially in the summer when there are parties, BBQs (more alcohol and processed foods) and the chance to sit outside and have a coffee or two and a cake! Caffeine and high sugar intake are primary triggers for flushes!
- If you are extra busy or stressed remember to take time out every day. I cannot stress enough how very, very important me-time is in the menopause and how quickly proper relaxation can help to reduce symptoms – and this is free!!
- If you feel fatigued all day or never feel rested after a night’s sleep it is best to get this checked out by your doctor. Low iron, low thyroid or low vitamin D may be the culprit – these can also cause other menopause-like symptoms such as low mood, poor sleep, joint pain, dry skin and poor hair.
- Get a good night’s sleep. You could try Dormeasan®, as this is traditionally used to help aid a good sleep and usually works quickly.
If your symptoms got worse what did you do to help yourself?
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What Hot Flashes Can Tell You About Your Health
Hot flashes aren’t just annoying, either. Research increasingly suggests that there may be a link between the presence of them during menopause and a woman’s risk for certain conditions, such as breast cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, and thyroid problems. Findings are preliminary, but experts are working hard to determine how we might use hot flashes might act as red flags or clues to your overall health.
Why hot flashes happen in the first place isn’t well understood — yet. For now, you can chalk them up to changes in your reproductive hormones as well as your body’s internal thermostat, says Rebecca C. Thurston, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry, psychology, and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Thurston is one of the researchers poring through the Study of Women Across the Nation (SWAN), an ongoing research project that has so far yielded more than seven years’ worth of data about women’s health and the menopause transition. Many questions remain unanswered, but here’s what we know so far.
Hot Flashes and Your Heart
Timing is everything — at least when it comes to the relationship between hot flashes and heart disease. In a study published last year in the journal Menopause, researchers looked at menopause symptoms and heart disease risk in 60,000 women participating in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study (WHI-OS). They found that hot flashes that happen at the time of menopause are not necessarily indicative of heart disease. However, this is a complicated situation, says Cynthia Stuenkel, MD, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California in San Diego and co-author of the book Menopause Practice: A Clinician’s Guide.
The WHI-OS indicated that women who experience their first hot flashes early in menopause actually have a slightly lower risk of heart attack than other women, while those who have hot flashes later in the transition have a slightly increased risk. Worse still, that risk may get stronger as the years go by.
“Hot flashes that start when you’re older, past menopause, are linked to heart disease,” Stuenkel says.
Weight may also be a factor, she adds. Women who are obese seem to be more likely to have hot flashes, and these women are also at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers because of their obesity. Losing weight seems to reduce hot flashes for many women, just as it ultimately reduces the risk of these other chronic diseases.
More findings raise questions about a link between hot flashes and heart disease because of these risk factors:
- High cholesterol. Cholesterol is already known to increase significantly after menopause, independently of hot flashes, because of hormonal changes. But data from an analysis of 3,000 women going through menopause suggest that those who have more hot flashes have higher levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol as well as “good” HDL cholesterol.
- Thickening arteries. Thurston’s research on hot flashes and health information from 432 adult women showed that those who reported hot flashes on at least six days in the previous two weeks were more likely to have thickening arteries.
Hot Flashes and Your Thyroid
The relationship between menopause and thyroid issues such as hypo- or hyperthyroidism is multifaceted. First, thyroid problems often worsen at the onset of menopause, in part because of changing hormones. Second, symptoms of thyroid disease often mimic symptoms of menopause. With both conditions, women may experience exhaustion, brain fog, mood swings, hair loss, changes in libido, sleep disturbances, irregular or missed menstrual periods, weight gain, and, yes, hot flashes.
“Hot flashes may be a sign of the menopausal transition, or of other medical conditions such as thyroid disease,” says Anne Z. Steiner, MD, MPH, assistant professor in the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, N.C. In fact, many women who have thyroid issues are not immediately diagnosed, because they assume their symptoms are due just to menopause. A simple blood test for thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) can let you know if your thyroid is acting up.
Left untreated, thyroid disease can increase your risk for heart disease and osteoporosis, according to researchers from Boston University Medical Center. So get yours checked.
Hot Flashes and Your Breast Cancer Risk
Here’s some good news to make hot flashes a little more bearable: Women who have hot flashes may have a lower risk of breast cancer, according to a study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention. Researchers from Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center interviewed 1,500 women — some with breast cancer, some without — and found that those who experienced hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause had half the risk of invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma, two common forms of breast cancer. Furthermore, the worse they said their hot flashes were, the lower their risk appeared to be. Think about that the next time you just can’t get cool!
Hot Flashes and Your Bones
Osteoporosis is a risk for all older women. But some may be more vulnerable than others, according to research published in the Journal of Bone Mineral Research. Analysis of data from 2,283 women participating in SWAN suggests that hot flashes that begin either early or late in the menopausal transition are correlated with quicker bone turnover, possibly putting women at risk for poor bone health after menopause.
A study published in Menopause supports this theory. Researchers at UCLA found that women who suffer frequent hot flashes or night sweats have lower bone density than other women. Low bone density is an indication of osteoporosis.
How to Use the News Now
The upshot, Thurston says, is that hot flashes serve as a reminder that your body is changing, and that taking care of your cardiovascular and your bone health is more important than ever. “Women should get their regular check-ups,” she advises. “And be sure to monitor risk factors such as blood pressure, weight, blood glucose, and cholesterol with your doctor.”
If your hot flashes are a sign of something more worrisome, you’ll be able to get the treatment you need to safeguard your health.
Treatment of hot flashes is often neglected, but while hot flashes are benign, they can affect sleep and quality of life. Hot flashes and night sweats also have a significant economic impact; women with untreated vasomotor symptoms have higher health care expenses and more absenteeism from work.
The most effective treatment for hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause is estrogen replacement. Certain other prescription medications may be helpful for some women — including some anti-depressants as well as the medications gabapentin and pregabalin. Nonpharmaceutical options, such as herbal remedies, exercise and meditation, have not been shown to be effective in studies, although increasing dietary soy may have a beneficial impact for some women. Simple lifestyle changes — such as dressing in layers and avoiding warm rooms and hot drinks — may help some women with milder symptoms.
There is a lot of misinformation about hot flashes and night sweats online and in the doctor’s office, from medical professionals not believing the distress women experience or the importance of treating vasomotor symptoms, to people trying to exploit the gaps in medicine by selling ineffective and potentially harmful supplements. The North American Menopause Society is the best place for health care providers and patients to begin their search for quality information on hot flashes and night sweats.
Dr. Jen Gunter, Twitter’s resident gynecologist, is teaming up with our editors to answer your questions about all things women’s health. From what’s normal for your anatomy to healthy sex and clearing up the truth behind strange wellness claims, Dr. Gunter, who also writes a column called The Cycle, promises to handle your questions with respect, forthrightness and honesty.