Hot flushes and night sweats are the most commonly experienced symptom in the peri menopause and menopause, affecting around 80% of women. Hot flushes can be very mild and only happen occasionally, coming and going quickly, but for some women they can be intense, prolonged, frequent and debilitating. They usually come on suddenly, often affecting the face and chest area and sometimes are accompanied by sweating. They may also be accompanied with dizziness and palpitations. Night sweats are also common and can cause women to wake in the night, sometimes drenched in sweat which can be very disruptive to sleep.
What causes hot flushes?
The cause of hot flushes is still not fully understood, although it is thought to be caused by multiple factors. It is thought that fluctuations in hormones are one of the primary causes, causing the brains thermoregulator to react differently. The brain registers that the body is too hot and starts a reaction to cool it down, i.e. flushing and sweating. Or in other words our thermostat becomes faulty and the central heating randomly comes on! Hot flushes are also thought to be affected by lifestyle, stress, mood disorders and diet.
Can I do anything to help relieve my hot flushes?
Happily, there are things we can do to help manage hot flushes. Here are some of my top tips to managing your hot flushes.
Reduce stress: Factors such as low mood, anxiety and increased stress have been shown to increase hot flushes. So finding a way that works for you to reduce stress is really beneficial. For me a bath and a good book is always a winner but we all have our own way of de-stressing. Whether it is meditation or mindfulness (I love the Headspace and Calm apps), reading a book, having a bath, belting out a song (this has evidence to show it is an amazing stress reliever – bring on your inner Beyonce!), dancing round the kitchen (my husband’s favourite!), baking, gardening, walking the dog or just sitting quietly. Whatever your personal stress reliever is try to prioritise time each day to do it. If this is difficult why not book it in your calendar each day or set a reminder on your phone?
Reduce alcohol: I’m not saying you have to give it up (unless you want to of course) but reducing alcohol can have a big impact on hot flushes. For a lot of women, wine has the worst effect on hot flushes, so it may be worth keeping a diary of your personal trigger then avoiding it.
Reduce caffeine: Caffeine causes the body to release stress hormones, it also causes the blood vessels to dilate, which can trigger hot flushes. If you can’t do without your caffeine, try to reduce caffeinated drinks or swap them for decaffeinated tea or coffee especially after 2.00pm, as caffeine after this time can disrupt sleep. Or try green tea, which although it can be caffeinated (decaffeinated is available), has a source of theanine which can be calming.
Avoid spicy foods: Try to avoid or reduce spicy foods which have been shown to trigger hot flushes. You may like to keep a food diary and see which types of spices effect you, then avoid the ones which trigger your hot flushes.
Stop smoking: I know this is difficult to do but as well as the obvious benefits, you reduce your chances of having hot flushes. Research supports there is a 60% increased risk of hot flushes if you are a smoker.
Go for natural bedding and night wear: Opting for cotton or linen bedding will allow the skin to breathe. Avoiding synthetic materials and opting for cotton or silk nightwear can be beneficial for night sweats as they also allow the skin to breathe. Also, if you have a partner who is fed up you throwing off the duvet and then quickly hogging it, you could try having 2 single duvets and perhaps try a lower tog for yourself. I know clients who have tried this and it has worked really well for them.
Try yoga: There is evidence to support that regular yoga can help reduce the occurrence and intensity of hot flushes, whilst also reducing the stress hormone cortisol. While at the minute yoga classes may be difficult to attend, some are being taught via zoom and there are lots of free classes on YouTube. My particular favourite is yoga with Adrienne.
These tips are just a few of the things which may help you. Having a well balanced diverse diet, balancing blood sugar levels, making sure you have all the nutrients you need and prioritising sleep are some additional things you may want to consider.
If you are struggling with menopausal symptoms and feel you need more help, please do get in touch so we can arrange a call to have a chat about working together. But until then, do try some of the above tips which will hopefully help keep you a bit cooler!