Women who ride the hormonal heat wave of a hot flash know all too well the drill – the not so subtle sensation of intense heat flushing the face and neck, sweat forming on the brow and upper lip and the rapid drumbeat of your heart fluttering in your chest. Menopausal hot flashes can happen anytime of the day or night leaving a woman burning up in her own sweat seeking any kind of cool relief.
You would think after thousands of years of women having to endure these heated episodes, it is surprisingly not known what causes them to occur. Most likely there are several factors including the changes in reproductive hormones, the body’s thermostat or hypothalamus becoming more sensitive to slight changes in body temperature, genetics and even ethnicity playing a role in their development.
Not every woman who goes through the change of life will have hot flashes and those who do will experience them in varying degrees. For some women they are a minor inconvenience while for others, hot flashes rule their everyday lives.
To help reduce or at the very least, bring cooling calm to a headstrong hot flash, here are some tips that help a woman manage the unbearable warmth when a hot flash strikes:
· Dress in layers
Since hot flashes don’t give you much advanced warning, dressing in layers is a must so that you can peel off clothing when a hot flash hits. Wearing a light tank top under a blouse or jacket allows you to remove the outer layer when one strikes.
Invest in many of the newer fabrics that wick away perspiration or wearing 100% cotton can tame a hot flash in progress. Avoid wearing socks or stockings or tight clothing. Choose loose fitting clothing allowing air circulation and wearing sandals can keep you feeling comfortably cool.
· Keep your thermostat set on cool
The indoor temperature of your home will make a difference in how you handle a hot flash. Keeping it below 70 degrees during the day and around 65 degrees at night can provide needed comfort. Open up windows or use a fan to allow a cool breeze to sweep across your overheated skin. When sleeping at night, use light weight covers and sleep in a sleeveless shorts set pajamas, shorty nightgown or less.
· Sip a cold drink
The simple act of reaching for a cold beverage when feeling a hot flash coming on can bring relief. This can lower the body’s temperature while also keeping you hydrated throughout the day.
· Practice deep breathing
When you feel a hot flash rising, don’t panic. Instead learn to relax by practicing deep breathing. Deep breathing techniques can shorten a hot flash and lower their intensity. Start by breathing in slowly and deeply when a hot flash begins. Breathe in as deeply as you can, holding the breath for a moment before slowly letting it out. Slow, deep breathing can trigger the parasympathetic nervous system to calm you down which helps regulate body temperature.
· Avoid spicy foods and certain beverages
One of the last things you want to do during a hot flash is to eat spicy foods and or sip on a hot drink. These can be hot flash triggers making life unbearable. Alcohol can be another thing that can switch on the hot flash button so avoiding it for a while is recommended. Once menopause has passed, you should be able to enjoy these foods once again.
· Hormone therapy and prescription medications
If you have tried everything under the sun or your hot flashes are making life miserable, it may be time to consult with your healthcare provider on their suggestions. Estrogen is one of the most effective ways to reduce or eliminate hot flashes. However, if you are considered to be in a high-risk category for hormone therapy, this may not be recommended.
Several medications have shown to be helpful for when the heat is on. Again, check with your medical provider to research what is best for you.
· Flaxseed for hot flashes
A small study conducted by the Mayo Clinic showed that women who used 40 grams of ground flaxseed had a significant decrease in hot flashes. It’s worth a try and at the very least it’s a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and various phytochemicals.
· Lose weight if necessary
Women who are overweight tend to experience more hot flashes. The theory is that excess fat traps heat leading to more sweating and flushing to cool the body. Research has found that for every 11 pounds of weight lost it resulted in a 33 percent reduction in hot flashes. So losing some weight could potentially reduce hot flashes or even eliminate them.