"Help! I’m burning up!"
"I feel like someone is pouring hot water over me!"
85% of women have hot flashes during peri-menopause and menopause. They can best be described as a wave of heat passing through the body causing much discomfort and ‘flushing’ of the face, neck and chest. One woman succinctly described it as “a feeling like a blow torch being held to my face. Another called them “my own private summers” as she tried to put a positive spin on the experience.
What do they feel like?
You do not have to wonder whether or not you have had a hot flash - when you have one, you’ll know what it is! First you might get a feeling that something unusual is happening to your body. That is because your internal temperature is dropping abruptly. In response to this, your skin begins to sweat to give off heat and you will experience a tremendous flash of heat which usually starts at the top of the head and extends throughout the body. You will feel like you are “on fire” and you may have one flash after another.
What are night sweats?
When you have hot flashes at night, they are called “night sweats”. They will wake you up abruptly and you may bolt upright in bed, hot and sweaty and, “on fire.” Then you may get so chilled that you will feel like you need a down comforter to get warm. In the meantime, your bed clothes and sheets and hair may be soaked with perspiration. Some flashes last 15-30 seconds and others can last about 5 minutes.
What causes hot flashes & night sweats?
As hormone levels drop significantly at menopause our thermostat (the hypothalamus) begins firing repeatedly, trying to tell the pituitary to tell the ovaries to ovulate. The ovaries cannot respond because its supply of eggs is depleted. The inability of the ovaries to respond is due to a final depletion of eggs and their surrounding follicle cells. This over activity of the hypothalamus and pituitary signal begins to affect the vasomotor area of the brain which controls capillary dilation and sweating mechanisms. You now experience a hot flash. They may also be due to low serotonin levels as women age.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Use a natural progesterone crème (ProHELP or Menopause Moisture Crème). This is an enormous help.
A study found that 83% of women had a decrease in frequency and/or severity of their hot flashes while using natural progesterone. This was printed in Dr. Christiane Northrup’s book The Wisdom of Menopause. Other studies have indicated that progesterone can eliminate up to 75% of all hot flashes in many women.
How to Use?
Menopausal women: ¼ tsp twice daily for 25 days of the month.
Menstruating women: 1/4 tsp. Day 12-26 of menstrual cycle
Women with severe hot flashes have increased their dose as needed and then down-regulated it after they became more comfortable.
If you have access to your crème during a flash, you can rub some crème on every 15 minutes until the flashing subsides. Because the palms of the hands are a good absorption spot, you can rub the crème there; acting like it is a hand crème if you are in a workplace or other venue where you do not wish to advertise the fact that you are having hot flashes. If you are already using a progesterone crème, for extra help I really like a product called Flash Pause. It contains USP micronized progesterone, Vitamin B-12, Black Cohash, Dong Quai, Siberian Ginseng, Acai, and Maca. Maca has been shown to be beneficial for hormonal problems including PMS and hot flashes.
Another Great Supplement
Garden Rhubarb extract has been used in Europe for menopausal complaints since 1993. This phytoestrogenic extract has been shown to offer fast and effective hot flash relief and is perhaps the only natural approach shown to provide consistent and significant symptom reduction comparable to conventional Hormone Therapy. A good one is called Estrovera by Metagenics.
HOW LONG WILL I HAVE HOT FLASHES?
Typically, hot flashes cover about a 2 year span, but for a small percentage of women, they come and go over a 5-10 year period. For other women, they last only about 2 months and some women say they have never had a hot flash. Thinner women seem to have more hot flashes since fat cells convert hormones secreted by the adrenals into estrogen.
Remember: You will get through this! Hot flashes are not life-threatening. No one has ever died from a hot flash, but synthetic hormones have caused deaths by heart attack, stroke, breast cancer and blood clots. HRT works because of the high estrogen levels they produce, but this is what causes the harmful side effects.
See the compilation of tips for other ways to deal with hot flashes and night sweats; these tips come from hormone experts and your fellow “flashers.”
Caution: Did you know that many mainstream medical doctors are now prescribing antidepressants to control hot flashes? This can be dangerous in terms of addiction, but in light of the concerns about synthetic hormones, the doctors have turned to alternative drugs. Don’t fall for it! These are natural preventions.
NATURAL WAYS TO CONTROL HOT FLASHES
1. Use progesterone crème. Use ¼ teaspoon twice daily. For severe episodes, you may increase your dosage to ½ teaspoon twice daily.
2. When actually having a hot flash, apply 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of crème every 15 minutes for 1 hour during and following the episode. If you use progesterone directly following the first flash, you may prevent a wave of flashing.
3. Take Vitamin E. Vitamin E has a long history of reported benefit in women experiencing hot flashes. The dose that has the most effect for women is 800 IU per day, tapering to 400 IU when flashes subside. I find that about 60% of women find Vitamin E very helpful. It may take about 2 weeks to notice improvement.
4. Evening Primrose Oil or Borage Oil. Look for an oil that contains Gamma-linolenic Acid from Borage Oil in the amount of 240 mg.
5. Black Cohash: This herb has been heralded as being effective for hot flashes and I personally believe that it works as so many women have used it successfully. Take a break from it about every 6 weeks.
6. Decrease your consumption of caffeine, spicy foods, hot drinks, alcohol, sugar, and large meals during periods of increased hot flashes. Spicy foods ALWAYS set me off because I love hot foods, I would “grin and bear it”.
7. Keep a thermos of ice water on your night stand or in your refrigerator and sip it during hot flashes.
8. Sage Tea: Sage has been found to have anti-hidrotic properties, meaning that it can stop sweating. It has a long history of being used for hot flashes and night sweats and also is found to calm the nerves. Drink several cups daily. Use 1 tablespoon of sage for 1 cup of water. Infuse for 20 minutes.
9. Wear cotton night clothes and use cotton sheets. No BLENDS - Your night sweats will increase.
10. Keep your room temperature at home at 65 degrees, especially at night.
11. Use deep breathing techniques-slow abdominal breathing, 6-8 breaths per minute. Do this when you feel a flash coming on and also 15 minutes twice daily. Hard to do in the middle of a flash, but it works.
12. Do some light exercises, as exercise has been shown to increase the amount of estrogen circulating in the blood. It also raises endorphin levels which drop during a hot flash. As little as 20 minutes 3 times per week can lower the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
13. Ladies have told me that sucking on a piece of hard candy during a hot flash can either make it less intense or head it off entirely. Worth a try!
14. Pycnogenol (French pine bark extract) has been helpful for some women. It can be found online or in health-food stores. Use 50mg in morning & 50mg at night.
15. The more vegetables you eat the less hot flashes you will have.