Hot flashes can be a real pain, but unfortunately, it’s a reality that 75% of middle-aged women in the United States will have to endure for the best part of a decade (or longer, in some cases) as they transition into the menopause.
Thankfully, advances in medical science over the decades have paved the way for many innovative treatment options to help relieve the pesky symptoms of the menopause, including those infuriating hot flashes. And while these techniques can be extremely effective in providing some much-needed respite, sometimes it’s best to go back to basics.
So before you resort to more drastic measures like hormone replacement therapy or prescription medications, all of which come with their own set of side effects, you may want to think about simpler and safer lifestyle changes to relieve the redness, sweating, and overall discomfort associated with a hot flash.
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While lifestyle changes require more patience and perseverance than conventional treatments (doctors suggest following through with them for at least 3 months), they can have you well on the way to improving your general health and wellbeing – minus the scary side-effects – which is better for your overall quality of life.
Discover 10 simple yet effective lifestyle changes that can make your life that little bit easier as your body goes through its own set of changes.
Dressing in layers
A simple trick to help stop a hot flash in its tracks is to dress in layers so you can remove items of clothing, and it doesn’t hurt to carry a portable fan with you to use when it does decide to strike. It’s also a good idea to wear light, breathable fabrics like cotton or linen to allow the skin to breathe while avoiding wool and synthetic fabrics that trap heat.
Reducing room temperature
Having the room at a cool temperature can be effective in keeping a flash at bay, especially at night when sweating can keep you from getting decent sleep. An ideal temperature is 17-18 degrees Celsius, so try lowering your thermostat, cracking open a window, or using a fan to circulate the air in the room, and see if it helps.
Managing your weight
Several studies have found that overweight or obese women experience worse menopausal symptoms than women who have a healthy body mass index. Furthermore, those who shed their excess weight through healthy eating and daily exercise are able to significantly reduce the frequency and severity of their hot flashes and night sweats, as well as other unpleasant symptoms.
Evidence suggests that women who quit smoking are likely to experience far fewer and less severe hot flashes than their counterparts that continue the habit. The reason for this trend is that the chemicals from cigarette smoke lower estrogen levels even further and therefore worsen menopausal symptoms. So it’s best to quit for the sake of your already-depleting female hormones, not to mention your overall health and wellbeing.
Limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption
While hot flashes may not be triggered in all women by drinking caffeine or alcohol, these likely culprits cause an increase in heart rate and the speed at which the blood flows through the vessels, thereby causing the body’s temperature to rise. If you’re having trouble cutting them out of your life completely, at the very least try to limit your intake of these substances.
Stress-reduction and self-calming practices have helped many women find relief from their hot flashes. Even if they don’t soothe the onset of a sudden flash, there’s no harm in trying these techniques to help you relax during the day and sleep better at night. Whether it’s mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai chi, or deep breathing, give them a go and see which one floats your boat.
Taking a cool shower
It always helps to take a relaxing shower just before bed to lower your body temperature and keep you cool during the night. But with the endless errands you have to run during the day, you may not always have the time to take a shower, in which case, running your face and wrists under cold water will do the trick.
With the excessive sweating that comes with hot flashes, it’s easy to become dehydrated, which in turn, triggers a stress response from the nervous system and causes more hot flashes and night sweats. Drinking at least 2 litres (or 8 glasses) of water a day can help regulate the body’s temperature and reduce the onset of hot flashes; to help prevent night sweats, keep a glass of water by your bedside to sip on as and when needed.
Avoiding hot and spicy food
When you eat anything hot or spicy, it raises your body’s core temperature, which can bring on a bout of sweating. Think about swapping foods like curries, chilli con Carne, or jerk chicken for a Mediterranean diet that is rich in cooling fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains. If you simply cannot do without spicy cuisines, eat them in moderation.
Trying natural supplements and herbs
Although they lack scientific-backing, more women are increasingly turning to alternative natural remedies to relieve their hot flashes due to the mounting anecdotal evidence of their effectiveness in balancing hormones and relieving troubling menopausal symptoms. For instance, plant-based supplements like soy or evening primrose are popular due to their high estrogen content; other options include black cohosh, ginseng, Dong Quai, and vitamin E.
However, just because these products are natural, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re free from harmful side-effects, and many aren’t FDA-approved. It’s best to always run it by your doctor before taking any new products to help with your hot flashes.
As a woman enters her menopausal years, she will face a new (and often nerve-wracking) set of challenges in this new stage of life. Living a healthy lifestyle can help you cope with these changes better and reduce the intensity and severity of your menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes.
Try mixing and matching the methods until you find the ones that work best for you. Always talk with your doctors if your symptoms become particularly problematic and the above techniques don’t appear to be helping.
- DeNoon, D.J. 2004, Hot Flashes Treatment: Try Lifestyle Changes, Web MD, viewed 22nd September 2020, https://www.webmd.com/menopause/news/20040116/hot-flashes-treatment-try-lifestyle-change
- National Institute on Aging 2017, Hot Flashes: What Can I Do?, viewed 22nd September 2020, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hot-flashes-what-can-i-do