Hot flashes can be stressful, and the majority of women going through menopause experience them. It can be a dreadful experience, but knowing the causes can help you address them.
During menopause, your sex hormone levels fluctuate. Estrogen, which has played a part in the body since puberty, becomes less abundant. Without the regulation provided by estrogen, your testosterone and cortisol levels are also off, causing unnecessary increases in body temperature and anxiety. As a quick remedy, eat foods rich in phytoestrogens, such as flax, soy, almonds, avocado, and blueberries.
If you are stressed often, you are three to five times more likely to experience severe and frequent hot flashes. Stress releases high levels of cortisol, a hormone that initiates the “fight or flight” response, into the bloodstream. This can increase your heart rate and make your breathing shallow. A technique to tame this is to practice deep, slow breathing for at least 20 minutes every day.
Although tempting, avoid adding red chili, black pepper, cayenne, wasabi, red pepper, and hot mustard to your supper. These spices are known triggers for hot flashes. Consumption of these foods sends heat throughout the body, raising your body temperature. Therefore, try to avoid spicy cuisine like Indian, Thai, and Mexican, or opt for their mild options.
Fatty and Sugary Foods
Studies have found that women who are overweight are considerably more likely to have hot flashes. Upon losing 10 pounds, their symptoms went down by 89%. Upon losing 20 pounds, their symptoms nearly disappeared. Eating is whole grains, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and beans is suggested to help maintain a healthy weight, as weight gain is another symptom of menopause.
Research consistently links cigarette smoking to hot flashes. Women who smoke are 60 - 85% more likely to experience intense, unpleasant hot flashes. In addition, cigarettes reduce lung capacity and make it harder to find that deep breath to help calm you. Now is a great time to follow through with ending this dangerous habit.
Caffeine quickens your heart rate and causes your blood vessels to dilate. These are symptoms of hot flashes as well, which caffeine can intensify. Replace your coffee, soda, and black tea with herbal infusions and natural juices.
Alcohol has a heating effect on the body, which will be very unpleasant if you are prone to hot flashes. Regular consumption throws off estrogen levels. They can become suddenly high and then quickly and drop, triggering a hot flash. It would be best to reduce your consumption of wine, beer, and spirits.
Hot flashes are a side effect of many prescription medications. Medications can sometimes cause the worst hot flashes, so make sure to read through the labels to verify that hot flashes will not be triggered.
Inactivity may lead to poor circulation and moodiness. Exercising up to 30 minutes daily improves circulation of oxygen and blood and releases endorphins to make you relaxed and happy.
Nothing will make you feel hotter than hot weather. Your internal body temperature will increase significantly, causing further sweating and redness. Make sure to stay in cool rooms in the summer, or hop in the pool. In the winter, keep your windows cracked if necessary.
Knowing the causes for hot flashes is half the battle in combating them and regaining control of your body. While hormonal shifts are the main underlying cause during menopause, other factors and habits can contribute to the experience.
- BreastCancer.Org. (2013). All About Hot Flashes. Retrieved January 21, 2014, from http://www.breastcancer.org/tips/menopausal/facing/hot_flashes
- Gallicchio, L. et al. (2013). Change in Body Mass Index, Weight, and Hot Flashes: A Longitudinal Analysis from the Midlife Women's Health Study. Journal of Women's Health, 23(3), 231-237. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2013.4526
- Schilling, C. et al. (2007). Current Alcohol Use, Hormone Levels, and Hot Flashes in Midlife Women. Fertility and Sterility, 87(6), 1483-1486. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1949018/
- Whiteman, M. et al. (2003). Smoking, body mass, and hot flashes in midlife women. Obstetrics and gynecology, 101(2), 264-272. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12576249