Hot flashes in summer? No thank you.
Hot flashes are one of the most common, debilitating, and underestimated symptoms of menopause.
They range from annoying or embarrassing inconveniences, to life-altering events. And for some women, they last for years – or even decades.
But hot flashes are not something you just have to put up with. Nature may have saddled us with them, but nature could also hold the cure. These natural strategies are proven to help reduce the frequency & severity of hot flashes, or stop them in their tracks.
1. Avoid Triggers
It may seem obvious, but if you’re prone to hot flashes, one of the best ways to avoid them is to stay away from sources of extra heat. These include:
- warm or stuffy rooms
- warm or constricting clothing
- hot food & drinks
Women who suffer from hot flashes have a lower tolerance to excess heat than those who don’t. Your body wants to stay within a smaller, cooler temperature range. So, to stop hot flashes, work with your body, not against it.
If you’re in a room that feels too warm, don’t wait for your body to sound the alarm with a hot flash – open a window, or get outside int he fresh air. If the weather demands warm clothing, dress in layers that you can remove. Eating or drinking hot food or drinks heats you up from the inside, so unless you need to warm up, opt for cooler options.
And you know that warm, cozy feeling you get from drinking alcohol? Yeah, that’s not what your body needs right now. Same with caffeine, smoking, and stress. All of these things can raise your internal temperature, setting off an unpleasant reaction.
While this is one of the simplest methods of preventing hot flashes, it may be easier said than done. Particularly when it involves changing our diet, or giving up a substance we’ve come to depend on. If you can’t do it alone, that’s what your naturopathic doctor is for – providing support and guidance through changes in life.
2. Stay Cool
Again, this may seem obvious. But staying cool is more than just avoiding heat – it involves actively dissipating the heat your body naturally produces.
Keep it Light
Wear light, breathable clothing and pyjamas
Use light, layered bedding that can be easily removed during the night
Keep the air moving around you: open windows or use a fan in your room, especially at night
Keep a cold pack under your pillow – turning it over frequently will refresh the cool side. Or, try a chillow pillow.
Drink cold water
Take a swim, or have a cool foot bath
You don’t need to freeze in order to stop hot flashes. All you need is something cooler than your body to be in contact with your skin or your internal organs, (e.g., your digestive tract) to absorb any extra heat you’re generating. Moving air or cool water are both wonderful for this. You might be surprised how effective simply dipping your feet or hands in cool water can be.
3. Manage Stress
Stress is a necessary part of life. It can’t always be avoided – but it can be managed. Your naturopathic doctor may be the perfect sounding board for coming up with ideas, and may have some specific recommendations for your particular situation. But the following is a list of practices proven to help many people deal with stress – and reduce hot flashes, in the process.
- regular exercise
- gratitude journalling
4. Stop Hot Flashes with Paced Respiration
Stop a hot flash in its tracks with paced respiration:
- slow, deep abdominal breathing
- in through your nose, out through your mouth
- pacing: 5-7 breaths per minute
It may sound simple – and it is. But simple can be very effective.
5. Weight Loss
While even women at a healthy weight can have hot flashes, women who are overweight tend to have more. So if you’re carrying a few (or a few dozen) extra pounds, achieving a healthy weight may reduce or even eliminate the problem.
Losing weight isn’t easy, though. If it were, half our country wouldn’t be overweight or obese. The advice to “eat less, move more” hasn’t fixed the problem, because the reasons behind the obesity epidemic are complex. You are not a number on a scale, or a machine that can be fixed by inputting the right amount of calories. You are much more than that. And you deserve better.
If you want to lose weight – whether to reduce hot flashes, or any other reason – a naturopath like me can help find what works for you.
Walk into any health food store, and you’ll find bottles, pills, and teas galore, promising to make all your hot flashes disappear.
You may have tried them. And they may have worked. Or they may have not.
The truth is, there is not one herb for all hot flashes. There are many herbs that may affect hot flashes in different ways. But finding the right herb, or herbal combination, for you, is both a science and an art. Because your hot flashes may not be the same as someone else’s hot flashes.
You can spend time and money trying different remedies on your own. Or you can spend some time and money with a naturopath who is familiar with the properties of the various herbs available. Who knows you and your health history, and therefore can make a recommendation specifically for you – and stay with you to monitor and advise.
7. Bioidentical Hormones
Hormone replacement therapy is the last tool in the naturopathic toolbox for treating symptoms of menopause.
It’s not something we jump to, except in certain circumstances. The decline in estrogen and other female hormones with menopause is a natural process. Usually, we want to ease this transition into a new phase of life, not delay or circumvent it.
However, some women need supplemental hormones – for example, those going through menopause earlier than normal, or whose symptoms can’t be controlled through gentler means.
There are both risks and benefits to hormone therapy. It isn’t the best choice for everyone. Bioidentical hormones must be prescribed by a medical or naturopathic doctor who knows you and understands the effects of these hormones. Having a naturopath on your side is, in my opinion, the best way to know if hormone therapy is right for you.