If you are a woman in your late thirties, forties or early fifties, then you may be starting to experience waves of feeling hot, sweaty or clammy. If hot flushes happen at night, this can have a knock on effect of disrupted sleep which can lead to symptoms like fatigue and brain fog which is not fun at all. I experienced my fair share of hot flushes until I learned some clever hacks to ameliorate those embarrassing clammy episodes.
You are certainly not alone if you are experiencing menopausal hot flushes and night sweats, as these can affect around 80% of women in the Western world during their mid-point years. However in Asian cultures, only a small percentage of women experience problematic menopause-related symptoms and apparently there is no Japanese word or term for hot flushes. Research has found that this does not boil down to genetics, as when Japanese women adopt a more Western style of diet, they can start to experience more perimenopausal symptoms. Diet and lifestyle can both really count if you are bothered by hot flushes, so read up on my seven top tips to help prevent that familiar burning feeling!
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What are hot flushes?
Hot flushes also known as hot flashes are formally called “vasomotor symptoms” and are thought to be caused by declining oestrogen levels during the perimenopausal years. Lower levels of oestrogen are likely to cause the hypothalamus (your body’s thermostat) to become more easily reactive to slight changes in body temperature.
The main symptom of a hot flush, is a sudden feeling of being very hot, which lasts any time from 1-10 minutes. You can start to sweat, your skin may flush and then you might get a chill towards the end. A hot flush can also bring on feelings of anxiety, faintness as well as fatigue. You might experience hot flushes a few times a week or up to ten times a day.
Hot flushes often happen at night and are called night sweats, and they can be so bad that your bed sheets and pyjamas are soaked through every night. Hot flushes can creep up on you during the day too, and this can literally make you stop in your tracks for a minute or two until the heat passes. If you are not getting full-on flushes yet, you may have a generalised feeling of being warm and glowing, and start to feel the need to peel off layers of clothes even during the cold winter months.
What can you do to help alleviate hot flushes?
Here is the low down on how to reduce your symptoms:
1) Histamine intolerance
Are you someone who feels they have become more allergic to foods and the environment since hitting your perimenopausal years? Since becoming perimenopausal myself, I have become much more sensitive to high histamine foods and drinks and this means that when I consume too many foods like tomatoes, oranges and avocado I get more hot flushes. Drinking red wine can be the worst trigger if I don’t take precautions, and within a couple of hours of drinking a glass or two I can start sneezing violently, get itchy eyes and start to have a wave of hot flushes as well as a headache – these things never happened when I was younger! At some points it felt like the top of my back was about the explode with heat in the early hours of the morning, and I had to grab flannels soaked with cooled water to help relieve myself from the punishing heat. Thankfully I have learnt how to prevent these symptoms most of the time via a low histamine approach and my nights are now rarely disrupted by hot flushes.
As well as cutting down on high histamine foods and drinks, you can also help your system cope with the histamine by drinking plenty of filtered water. Eating quercetin-rich foods such as red onions, red peppers, apples and pea shoots can also help. You can easily purchase quercetin supplements which are often paired with vitamin C and that also helps to dial down histamine intolerance. Nettle or Tulsi (Holy Basil) teas are also helpful if you have a tendency to hot flushes linked with being in a high histamine state and these can also be found in supplement form. Ensuring you are getting enough Vitamin B6 can also help with histamine intolerance and histamine-led hot flushes.
2) Reduce caffeine
Some women report that caffeine in coffee and tea can be a trigger for their hot flushes. This may be because caffeine can block the ability to break down histamine naturally residing in some foods. So, consider histamine intolerance if you experience other histamine intolerance symptoms as described above.
Even though the research on whether caffeine does exacerbate hot flushes or not is not clear cut, it is something to consider if you are struggling to get on top of your hot flushes. You may want to switch to herbal tea or decaffeinated hot drinks for a couple of weeks and see if this makes a difference. You should know quite quickly.
3) Live in an even temperature
During the perimenopause, the body has a narrower range of temperature that it perceives as comfortable. When you go out of that comfortable zone quickly, eg. out of an air-conditioned building into the hot sun, or out of a hot bath into a cold room; you might experience a hot flush. If hot flushes are the bane of your life, then do your best to keep at an even temperature in your home, car and workplace.
4) Reduce stress
If you fall easily into a fight or flight adrenal stress state, you may well experience more hot flushes than someone who is in a more zen-like chilled state. Scientists have found that working on your stress levels through practicing yoga, breathing exercises, mediation and mindfulness can help to reduce hot flushes and night sweats. These relaxation techniques may also provide some support for other perimenopausal symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety and feelings of panic.
5) Isoflavones and lignans
It is thought that a traditional Japanese diet rich in plant-based oestrogen hormones, such as soya isoflavones, lignans and other polyphenols helps to smooth this mid-life transition. These include soya products such as edamame beans, tofu, tempeh, miso and tamari soya sauce as well as flax seeds which contain lignans. Members of the cruciferous and turnip family such as broccoli, pak choi, kohlrabi and Chinese leaves may also play a role. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and swede are also in these families and may be more familiar to you.
There are herbal remedies which contain similar isoflavones. Popular herbs used to reduce hot flushes and night sweats include black cohosh and red clover which are often found in blends specifically created for the perimenopausal and menopausal woman. There is more research supporting the use of red clover specifically for reducing hot flushes.
6) Take calming hops
Hops are usually thought of as an ingredient in the beer making process to help to keep beer fresher for longer. Hop flowers from the Humulus lupulus plant are also very calming and have been used in many traditional remedies to help with sleep and anxious feelings. Several studies have found that taking hops can help to reduce the duration and severity of perimenopausal hot flushes. This is most likely as hops contain a flavonoid called 8-prenylnaringenin which is classified as a phytoestrogen which mimics the activity of oestrogen in a similar way to isoflavones and lignans.
7) Cooling sage
Sage, also known as Salvia officinalis, is a delicious herb that might well be growing in your garden. This leafy herb that looks like velvety bunny ears, can be helpful for some women who experience hot flushes and can reduce the frequency of the flushes, according to research. A further study found that not only can sage help with hot flushes and night sweats, but it can also help with panic attacks, fatigue and concentration problems associated with the perimenopausal years. It is thought this is because it is naturally rich in antioxidants.
Women who are perimenopausal can enjoy drinking sage tea made from dried sage leaves or take a tincture or sage in a capsule. It can take time for sage to make a difference, and you might need to be taking it for 4-6 weeks and then consistently after that to see a difference.
If you often feel hot and bothered with hot flushes and night sweats, then I hope this blog provides some relief for you. If you feel your journey through perimenopause or menopause is causing quite a bit of havoc and you would really value some one-to-one support from a menopause expert, then book in with one of our NatureDoc Nutritional Therapist specialists who can run full hormone and nutritional tests to get an understanding of why you are experiencing so many troublesome symptoms.
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- Hot Flashes
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- Hot Flashes: What Can I Do?
- Equol Improves Menopausal Symptoms in Japanese Women
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- The effects of psychological interventions on menopausal hot flashes: A systematic review