Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms of menopause. They are often accompanied by a range of other troublesome symptoms, including chills and cold feet. Such unpleasant menopausal side effects can be difficult to manage on a daily basis and often require treatment.
What Are Hot and Cold Flashes?
Hot flashes can be defined as a feeling of intense heat in the upper body, usually accompanied by an increased heart rate and flushing of the face, neck, and chest. As the body begins to cool down, women often experience chills, have cold feet, and begin shivering. Nearly 75% of women experience hot flashes and cold chills as they transition through menopause.
What Causes Hot and Cold Flashes?
The main trigger of hot and cold flashes is thought to be a decreased level of estrogen. This hormonal imbalance affects the overall function of the body specifically that of the hypothalamus - the part of the brain that regulates body temperature. The hypothalamus falsely detects an increase in body temperature, so it releases chemicals that dilate the blood vessels near the skin and allow heat to be released for the body to cool down.
Hot flashes and cold chills can also be caused by poor blood circulation, which can make their feet cold. Other less common causes of hot and cold flashes unrelated to the menopause include:
The flu or a bad common cold can leave a person feeling alternately hot and cold.
A fever is more serious and is associated with a variety of conditions. It is the body's response to an illness and results in very high body temperature followed by severe chills.
In very rare cases, hot and cold flashes may be linked to thyroid problems and it should also be noted that those who have had breast cancer are more likely to suffer from hot and cold flashes.
How Can I Manage Hot and Cold Flashes?
There are several ways to manage these symptoms. Certain lifestyle choices can alleviate or help prevent hot flashes and cold chills, including:
Regular exercise such as a brisk walk or short cycle have been shown to decrease the impact of menopausal symptoms such as hot and cold flashes.
Staying hydrated by drinking two liters of water every day helps prevent the body overheating.
Phytoestrogenic foods are also helpful as they help to regulate the amount of estrogen in the body (an imbalance in this hormone is often the cause of hot and cold flashes). Examples include things such as soybean and flax seed. Although many other nuts and seeds contain these phytoestrogenic compounds as well.
If the hot flashes and cold chills are particularly prolonged or are causing other issues it is best to talk to a medical practitioner. Click here to find out more about alternative remedies and to learn about the different treatments for hot flashes.
- Sikon, Andrea and Holly Thacker M.D. "Treatment for Menopausal Hot Flashes". Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. July 2004: 71 (7).
- "Hot flashes ... in January". Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2004: 170 (1).
- Miller, Heather and Rose Maria Li, M.D. "Measuring Hot Flashes: Summary of a National Institutes of Health Workshop". Conference report. Mayo Clinic. June 2004: 79.