Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms of menopause, and many women consider them to be the most difficult to handle. Sudden increases in body heat, excessive sweating, and redness of the face, neck, and chest can make it hard to focus on daily tasks and can get in the way of something as simple as going out to dinner.
The severity and frequency of hot flashes will cause most women to seek solutions. There are many remedies available, so it is important to be educated about your options and talk with your doctor before choosing which route to take.
Purpose of the Medication
A root cause of altered body temperature regulation during menopause is a decrease in sex hormones, especially estrogen. One of the main medications used to treat hot flashes is called hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This requires that you take one pill (or more, depending on a physician's instructions) every day to help boost your estrogen levels. These pills are synthetic hormones made in a lab and are extremely potent. For this reason, it is advised that you take them only for a short time to avoid adverse reactions.
Problems with HRT
Although HRT has provided some notable results in the area of hot flashes, it can also take a toll on your body. While one problem is relieved, it can trigger mood swings, causing nervousness, depression, and a reduced ability to manage emotions. This is counterproductive, since anxiety is a potential trigger for hot flashes.
There have also been more serious reactions to HRT like fever, fatigue, diarrhea, and vomiting. It has even been found to be linked to breast cancer, which is the main reason many women are turning away from this option.
Many women are coming to appreciate the benefits of herbal supplements for just about every aspect of their menopausal life. Herbs have been used for gynecological purposes for thousands of years. Among the most popular for treating hot flashes is a North American plant called black cohosh. Like HRT, this plant helps restore lost estrogen in the body. It naturally contains a high phytoestrogen content, which is received by estrogen receptors and helps regulate your body temperature. Other plants containing phytoestrogens are dong quai and red clover. This is a way for you to manage hot flashes, and since it is less potent than HRT, it produces fewer side effects.
Many times, overcoming hot flashes is a matter of eliminating triggers. There are several factors that frequently induce hot flashes among women. The biggest culprits are cigarettes, excessive alcohol consumption, spicy food, and high levels of stress. It is best to reduce these as much as possible, and incorporate meditation, deep breathing, and exercise into your daily schedule.
While medications can help fight hot flashes, for some women they can bring more harm than good. Herbal supplements are found to be effective and generally have a lower risk of side effects. It is also important to try to reduce triggers. Some women find that eliminating triggers is sufficient, and no further treatment is needed. If you have tried adjusting your lifestyle and taking herbal supplements, and your symptoms remain severe, talk to your doctor about other options.
For more information about hot flashes and treatments, follow the links below.
- National Institutes of Health. (2010). Estrogen and Progestin (Hormone Replacement Therapy). Retrieved April 23, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a601041.html
- University of Maryland Medical Center. (2011). Black cohosh. Retrieved April 23, 2014, from https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/black-cohosh