A woman’s hormones change with aging and sometimes medications or surgery cause a dysfunction of the body’s thermostat mechanism in the brain. The body’s thermostat suddenly reads too hot, triggering a response in the nervous system to get rid of the heat. The body then works hard to cool itself when it shouldn’t, causing uncomfortable symptoms: feeling hot, sweating, increased heart rate, nausea, dizziness or headaches. The symptoms vary from person to person and can be followed or preceded with a significant chill.
In the United States, 75 percent of women experience hot flashes as they approach menopause and for another two years after their period stops. Some 20 – 50 percent of these women have hot flashes that persist more than two years beyond their period stopping.
Several environmental factors can trigger hot flashes but it’s also possible to naturally alleviate your symptoms by identifying and avoiding these triggers. Potential triggers can be: alcohol, caffeine, food that is spicy hot or hot in temperature, a hot environment, smoking, stress, and diet pills.
Be aware of your clothing choices. Avoid wool and synthetic clothing and instead choose breathable fabrics like cotton, linen and rayon. Dress in layers so you can adjust to varying environmental temperatures. Sleep in cotton pajamas and use cotton bedding. Take a cool shower before bed. To further alleviate symptoms, adjust your thermostat if possible for cooler temps. Portable personal fans also can come in handy. Keep ice water nearby to sip on.
Increased stress usually equates to increased hot flashes. Stress affects the hormones in your body that directly affect the temperature regulating centers in your brain. Stress management tools can help reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes, including regular exercise, yoga, massage, aromatherapy, guided relaxation or mindfulness.
Recent studies have shown that acupuncture treatment has significant benefit with hot flash symptoms. Many of the patients at Avera Medical Group Integrative Medicine Sioux Falls have experienced good success treating hot flashes with acupuncture. On average, hot flash reduction requires six to 12 sessions, depending on how chronic the hot flash symptoms are.
Embrace this chapter in your life — it provides an opportunity to care well for yourself.