Review on October 23, 2008
Hot flashes can put such a strain on daily activity that menopausal women naturally seek out ways to rid themselves of these troublesome bouts. While hormones are one invasive and more risky option, several natural approaches can also work effectively. According to the director of Duke Integrative Medicine and OB-GYN, Tracy Gaudet, MD, "many women have success with a whole-body approach" to hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. A whole-body approach is centered on changes in lifestyle, which often take discipline and drive to implement, but are the safest and easiest ways to curb your hot flashes.
Here is a look at five natural ways to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
Numerous studies have been conducted across America to test the effects of a regular yoga practice on women's experience of hot flashes. A recent study from the University of California indicates that a weekly yoga practice can reduce hot flash frequency by 30 percent. A Penn State study found that women who regularly undertook yoga or walking experienced less bothersome hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. A Washington State study also recently found that Hatha Yoga practice significantly reduced subjects' reports of hot flash severity.
Yoga experts recommend that women experiencing hot flashes incorporate cooling and restorative poses into their practice. Using props, blankets, and blocks during one's practice can also help to support the whole body and prevent gripping or tension that can contribute to hot flashes. For women who are new to yoga, studios abound in many areas across the nation. It may be a good idea to ask friends or family for recommendations or give that new studio down the block a try. Many studios offer a free initial session to allow people to find a class that best suits them.
2. Deep Breathing
Learning to control and work with one's breath can have numerous advantages in cultivating wellbeing. According to several studies, slow, controlled breathing can also do wonders to reduce the intensity of hot flashes. At the start of a hot flash, experts recommend that women take a series of slow, deep and controlled breaths, with the goal of reducing the breathing cycle from 16 to 8 sets of inhalation-exhalation per minute. This can both reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes. Experts believe that because such breath work reduces stress it also has a calming effect on the physiological functions which get riled during a hot flash.
According to the co-author of best selling menopause book Is it Hot in Here? Or is it Just me?, Barbara Kantrowitz, it can be extremely illuminating to record what triggers one's hot flash episodes. Taking the time to record foods eaten, environmental conditions, moods, and activities can help a woman to pin point the triggers that seem to set off hot flashes for her. Because a woman's hot flashes often follow a pattern unique to her, she can learn to recognize what triggers her hot flash episodes and avoid them in the future. Kantrowitz notes that red wine, hot rooms, and spicy foods are common hot flash triggers for many women.
4. Get Creative with Cool Down Techniques
Fortunately, there are several little tricks that menopausal women have long been using to manage hot flashes naturally. For example, dressing in layers and removing layers to adjust to your "internal thermometer" can be an excellent way to beat the heat. Cool drinks, a cold compress, icing your wrists or other pulse points, and room fans can also help a woman avoid or reduce the severity of hot flashes.
Women have long used herbs to combat hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. While the research is not definitive, some studies indicate that black cohosh (considered an estrogenic herb) might help to reduce hot flashes. While several herbs may prove beneficial, many experts recommend non-estrogenic herbs, such as South American wonder herb maca, which help to nourish and support the body's own production of hormones, assisting the natural processes of the body and helping to regulate menopause symptoms, including hot flash reduction. To learn more about natural hot flash treatment, please click here.
- Hervik, J and O Mjaland. "Acupuncture for the treatment of hot flashes in breast cancer patients, a randomized, controlled trial." Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. (Sept 2008), pp. 1-6.
- Huang, Mary I., et al. "A randomized controlled pilot study of acupuncture for postmenopausal hot flashes: effect on nocturnal hot flashes and sleep quality." Fertility and Sterility. 86 (2006), pp 700-710.