When we think about menopause, one of the first things that come to mind is hot flashes. Hot flashes, as well as night sweats, are perhaps the most common complaints. Hot flashes are likely to occur from several months to several years after a woman has reached menopause. Considering the fact that it could last for so long – some women have them for as long as ten years – it is important to understand how to manage them properly. While for some it can be a minor annoyance, for others it can be debilitating and really affect their quality of life.
How do you know it’s a hot flash?
Before we go into how to manage and relieve hot flashes, let’s first delve into what is commonly experienced.
Hot flashes are defined by feeling an intense heat which does not come from an external source. Typically, you might start feeling very warm, flushed, and sweaty. You may also notice that your heart is beating faster than normal or experience a tingling in your fingers.
The duration of hot flashes varies – it varies from woman to woman and from hot flash to hot flash. It may only last a few seconds or it may go on for over ten minutes. The average length is about four minutes. It can of course also depend on where exactly you are in the menopause process.
Prevention and relief
While it is not completely clear what causes hot flashes, studies suggest that it is due to the change in hormones that your body is experiencing.
Some women might notice certain triggers for hot flashes. It is important to track your hot flashes and write down what you were eating, drinking, doing or feeling when each one occurred. Hopefully after a few days or weeks a pattern should emerge, allowing you to avoid those triggers. Things to look out for include alcohol consumption, spicy foods, stress/anxiety, smoking, bending over or simply being in a hot room.
If you can pinpoint your triggers you may be able to prevent them or at least experience them less often.
When those hot flashes do strike though, many find it beneficial to sip on ice water, wear loose, layered, cotton clothing, and keeping an ice pack close by.
In addition to this, depending on the severity of your symptoms, you might want to consider supplements, alternative remedies, hormone replacement treatment, and medications that can help with hot flashes.
Always talk to your doctor before taking any new supplements. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it is safe or safe for you in particular. Some supplements can interfere with existing medications. Common herbal supplements that can often ease hot flashes include: plant estrogens (like soy), ginseng, dong quai, vitamin E and black cohosh.
Hormone replacement therapy
This is an option to consider for women who experience debilitating hot flashes or other menopause symptoms, or which seriously affect your quality of life. Hormone replacement therapy can be very effective in combating common menopause symptoms, yet it needs to be tailored for your needs and medical history. Always discuss with a doctor before proceeding with hormone replacement therapy.
There are medications you can take that, while they aren’t directly intended for the purpose of easing hot flashes, have been seen to actually help, such as antidepressants and certain anti-seizure medications.
Acupuncture is a common alternative therapy used in treating menopause symptoms and specifically hot flashes. It can be an effective method without side effects. There is no solid proof showing it works but there have been many anecdotal cases.
Mindfulness or meditation is useful for relieving stress and anxiety, and while it won’t cure hot flashes, it can help you feel less bothered by them.
Menopause is a big deal for your body and for you. But you don’t have to suffer in silence through these uncomfortable symptoms. Explore, together with your doctor, which option might be the most effective one for you.