More than two-thirds of women in North America report hot flashes during perimenopause (menopause transition) and menopause.
But what are hot flashes, and is there any way to find relief?
What Are Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes – the sudden feeling of being overheated – are a common symptom of menopause.
Other symptoms of menopause that may accompany hot flashes include:
- Increased heart rate.
- Loss of libido.
- Mood swings.
- Red, flushed face.
- Sexual dysfunction.
- Weight gain.
While we don’t know exactly why hot flashes happen, some experts believe they may be related to changes in circulation.
Hot flashes also may happen when you sleep, called night sweats. They might even wake you up and make it difficult to go back to sleep.
On average, women experience hot flashes or night sweats for about seven years, though 1 in 5 women never experience them at all.
Unfortunately, there is no fix-all treatment for hot flashes during menopause. There are, however, some medications, herbal supplements, and lifestyle changes you can try to help lessen their frequency and severity. Here’s how to stop constant hot flashes.
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How to Stop Hot Flashes Fast, Naturally
Here are a few tips to help you get relief from hot flashes without medication or supplements.
Change your diet
If you’re experiencing severe hot flashes, you may want to examine your diet. Some foods and drinks naturally increase your body temperature, which can trigger or worsen hot flashes. Try to avoid:
- Caffeinated beverages.
- High-fat and high-sugar diets.
- Spicy foods.
Research has shown that sticking to a Mediterranean diet can help reduce hot flashes. The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating based on the traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. This diet is typically high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, and olive oil.
The Mediterranean diet includes:
- Leafy greens
While everyone is different, eating primarily plant-based foods has been associated with better health outcomes in general, so it’s worth it to try different diets to find what works best for you. Regularly sipping on cool beverages also can help keep your body temperature down to reduce hot flashes.
Black cohosh is a popular herb that is linked to treating hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. The root of the plant is usually found in capsules or tea at health food stores. Researchers believe it binds to estrogen receptors and simulates serotonin receptors.
Minor side effects from black cohosh include rash and stomachache. There have also been reports of liver failure, so it is important to talk to your doctor before starting a black cohosh or any supplement regime.
Foods with high amounts of isoflavones
Isoflavones are natural plant chemicals produced almost exclusively by the bean family. Soy contains a large amount of isoflavones and phytoestrogens – chemicals that act like estrogen – which may help reduce hot flashes.
While research still is being done as to soy’s effectiveness, experts suggest skipping soy supplements and instead looking for soy in whole foods, such as:
- Soy milk
These foods may help balance your estrogen levels and keep hot flashes at bay.
Daily exercise can help keep your body healthy and regulated to reduce hot flashes. Try these simple activities to decrease hot flashes:
- Walking or hiking.
- Yoga or pilates.
Change the temperature
It may seem silly, but even a slight decrease in body temperature can help reduce hot flashes. Lower the thermostat, turn on the air conditioner or fan, or open a window. Other ways to cool down include:
- Dressing in layers.
- Purchasing a cool gel pad to lie on.
- Use a “chill pillow” filled with water or gel.
- Wear cotton and other breathable fabrics.
Reduce Your stress
Stress can make hot flashes worse, so it’s important to figure out what helps you find peace when you’re stressed. This may include:
- Guided breathing.
- Meditation and visualization.
- Sitting outside.
- Tai chi.
The most effective way to reduce hot flashes is hormone therapy (HT). Menopausal HT replaces the estrogen lost in menopause and is the only treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for menopausal-symptom relief. It is also effective against vaginal dryness, night sweats, and bone loss.
If you have had a hysterectomy or don’t have a uterus, you can take estrogen alone. If you still have a uterus, you should take progesterone along with estrogen to protect against endometrial cancer.
While it is effective in reducing hot flashes, studies have linked HT to an increased risk of heart disease, blood clots, stroke, and breast cancer.
Guidelines suggest taking the smallest effective dose for symptom control, because the goal is to optimize your quality of life. Talk to your health care provider before starting HT to ensure it is a healthy method for you.
If HT is not an option for you, your doctor may recommend other medications to relieve hot flashes. Possible medications include:
A low-dose form of paroxetine (Brisdelle®) is the only FDA-approved nonhormonal treatment for hot flashes. Other antidepressants used to treat hot flashes are:
- Citalopram (Celexa®)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro®)
- Paroxetine (Paxil®, Pexeva®)
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor XR®)
While these treatments aren’t as effective as HT, they can be incredibly helpful for women who can’t use hormone treatments. Possible side effects include difficulty sleeping, dry mouth, sexual dysfunction, and weight gain.
Clonidine (Catapres®, Kapvay®)
Typically used as a pill or patch to treat high blood pressure, Clonidine can help reduce hot flash symptoms. Side effects include constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, and dry mouth.
Gabapentin (Neurontin®, Gralise®)
This antiseizure medication is moderately effective for hot flashes, but side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, and edema (water retention) in limbs.
Oxybutynin (Ditropan XL®, Oxytrol®)
While usually used to treat urinary conditions, this medication can help relieve hot flashes in a pill or patch form. Constipation, dry mouth, dry eyes, dizziness, and nausea are possible side effects.
Also an antiseizure medication, pregabalin can be effective in reducing hot flashes. Side effects include concentrating difficulty, dizziness, drowsiness, and weight gain.
While there is no magic pill to cure all menopausal symptoms, you can take some simple steps to reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes. To learn more about menopause, talk to your health care provider or gynecologist.
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