When it comes to menopause, hot flashes are the most common side effect that more than half the women in their late 40s or early 50s will experience. From night sweats to sporadic flushes throughout the day, hot flashes occur as a result of the hormonal changes taking place in the body during menopause that can mess with your body’s natural thermostat. However, thankfully, there are a variety of ways to help reduce the intensity and frequency of hot flashes that you can do on your own or with the help of a doctor. And in this article, we’re going to talk all about them.
From medications to your diet, here’s our complete guide to menopause hot flashes, what they are, and how you can help to ease their symptoms.
What are Menopause Hot Flashes?
To start, menopause is the time in a women’s life when her menstrual cycle comes to a stop, and her ovaries stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone. With this happens, a variety of hormonal changes take place in the body that can throw off the balance of hormones and cause a series of uncomfortable side effects, with the most common side effect being hot flashes.
Hot flashes are abrupt feelings of warmth that make your skin flush and make your body break out in a sweat. While the exact cause of hot flashes during menopause is unknown, it is believed it may have to do with the changes in hormone and estrogen levels. When a hot flash is coming on, there are a few signs you may experience leading up to it. This usually includes, but isn’t limited to:
- An abrupt feeling of warmth spreading through your body, but mainly in the chest, face, and neck
- A flushed appearance with red skin
- A rapid or quickened heartbeat
- A chilled feeling as the hot flash subsides
- Sudden feelings of anxiety or stress resembling the feelings of a panic attack
- Excess sweating
The intensity and number of occurrences of hot flashes vary among women, and hot flashes can be either mild and last only a few minutes or so intense that they disrupt your sleep and or your daily activities. Around 85% of women report experiencing hot flashes at some point during menopause, making it the most common side effect of the menopause cycle.
How long will you have hot flashes?
Now, when it comes to the question of how long hot flashes last, unfortunately, there isn’t a solid answer, as the intensity and length of hot flashes vary from woman to woman. However, on average, women have hot flashes and or night sweats between 20 and 30 times a day for around seven years, with a small percentage of women having them longer or not having them at all.
In terms of length per hot flash, a hot flash can last anywhere from around 30 seconds to up to 5 minutes on average. However, as mentioned above, the length and frequency of this is entirely unique to the individual.
Cause of Menopause Hot Flashes
Now, when it comes to the causes of hot flashes, while there is no definite answer as to what exactly causes them, most commonly, hot flashes can be tied back to the changes in hormone levels. Research suggests that hot flashes occur when decreased estrogen levels cause your body’s thermostat to become more sensitive to changes in temperature. When this happens, there are certain things that can trigger your hot flashes as well as make them worse. Common triggers include:
- Spicy foods
- Tight or heavy clothing
- Excess heat
- Smoking/secondhand smoke
- Various medications
While these may seem like simple things, these triggers are believed to potentially make your hot flashes worse and may even increase their occurrences. However, triggers may also come from different sources than the ones listed above. Talking to your doctor about possible triggers for you individually may be able to help you decide on the best approach to easing your hot flashes.
Ways to Treat Menopause Hot Flashes
Now, when it comes to treatment options for hot flashes, doctors typically don’t recommend medications right off the bat and often recommend that women try a few lifestyle changes first. However, if lifestyle changes aren’t showing any signs of improving your hot flashes after a few months, there are a few other things you may want to talk to your doctor about. Here’s a brief overview of some of the best ways to ease hot flashes in regards to menopause.
The first way to help ease the symptoms of hot flashes is to try taking supplements to combat their effects. Here’s a list of a few of the most common supplements taken for menopause hot flashes.
The first supplement recommended for hot flashes is known as phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are known as a type of plant compound that has similar properties to estrogen. Several studies suggest that phytoestrogens may reduce the frequency of hot flashes without having any serious negative side effects. In addition to that, phytoestrogens may also help to improve vaginal atrophy symptoms, which is another common side effect of menopause.
You can read more about the effects of phytoestrogens for women in menopause here on pudmed.gov.
2. Black cohosh
Next, another popular supplement often recommended for menopause that may help to reduce symptoms of hot flashes is black cohosh. Long used as a tonic for women’s reproductive health, studies suggest that this supplement may help to reduce the frequency of hot flashes, and may even help to ease sleep issues related to menopause, as well as vaginal dryness. However, more research is needed to determine the true effectiveness of this herbal supplement and other botanical treatments and should therefore be discussed with a doctor prior to taking.
3. Soy isoflavone
Next, research shows soy isoflavone may also be useful in reducing hot flashes. Research on the subject published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women who took soy isoflavone supplements had around a 30% reduction in daily hot flashes as well as improvements in vaginal dryness.
Additionally, a study from Sweden also suggested that women who took higher doses of soy isoflavone experienced a higher reduction success percentage at around 57%. These benefits are believed to come from the estrogen-like effects of soy isoflavones, which are commonly found in soybeans and or soy products.
However, as mentioned above, it is important to talk to your doctor ahead of time before trying or taking supplements or increasing their dosage.
Next, antidepressant medications can also be used to reduce hot flashes and night sweats, although they are not as effective as hormone therapy. However, they are believed to be a good option for women who cannot receive hormone therapy. Although, on the other hand, dizziness, nausea, and sexual dysfunction are very common negative side effects of antidepressants and are important to consider prior to taking.
5. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Next, the treatment believed to be the most effective in relieving menopause hot flashes is hormone replacement therapy. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is where women take certain medications that contain estrogen to help better regulate hormone levels and relieve their menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes. On top of this, HRT is also believed to also be effective in reducing vaginal dryness and can be taken in the form of creams, pills, or patches.
However, make sure you make an appointment to talk with your doctor about using hormones to treat menopause symptoms, as they do bear many risks and can only be should only be used at certain points during the menopause cycle.
Now, while hormone therapy is believed to be the most effective therapy for hot flashes, there are also plenty of non-hormonal/non-supplement options available for women who aren’t considering hormone therapy or cannot do hormone therapy for medical or health-related reasons. With that said, here’s a brief overview of some of the non-hormonal lifestyle options available to you.
1. Daily exercise
First, daily exercise can help to fix many other problems associated with menopause, including insomnia and anxiety. However, it is also believed to be able to relieve hot flashes. A few simple exercises to try might include:
- Light yoga
- Daily walks
- Aerobic exercises
No matter what you choose, exercise and physical movement will always help your body to maintain health, and may even help with reducing the intensity of hot flashes. On top of that, exercise can also help to reduce stress in the body, which is often a common trigger for hot flashes.
2. Diet change
Next, during menopause, you’ll also want to watch what you eat, as certain foods and drinks can increase your body temperature, which can trigger or worsen hot flashes. This typically includes spicy foods, high sugar or high-fat diets, alcohol, and caffeine. For that reason, you may want to try to change your diet to something more natural and more green if you are experiencing hot flashes.
It is believed a diet rich in fruit, fresh vegetables, and whole grains may help to reduce hot flashes. However, it is also important to find what foods or drinks may trigger hot flashes for you individually, which may require help from a doctor beforehand in order to make proper dietary changes.
3. Bedding change
And lastly, while it may seem simple, you can also try changing your bedding to help relieve your symptoms. As we’ve talked about in our Guide to Menopause Insomnia, changing your bedding material to something lighter and cooler may help you to reduce the chances of hot flashes. This includes using only sheets rather than a duvet and changing the material from synthetic fibers to something more breathable, such as silk. You can also invest in a mattress or pillow full of cooling gel to help further.
And finally, on top of the other adjustments mentioned above that you can make to try to help improve your hot flashes, here are a few additional tips and tricks that may also help you out.
1. Try to stay cool
The first tip is to do your best to stay cool at all times. Whether it’s day or night, you’ll want to do everything you can to help keep your body temperature down to help eliminate any triggers for a hot flash. This includes simple things such as wearing loose-fitting clothes, drinking cold water, and having the fan on as often as possible during the day.
At night, try keeping a wet rag at your bedside. You’ll also want to regulate the temperature in the room the best you can to keep it nice and cool at all times. Sipping on cold beverages throughout the day can also help with keeping your overall body temperature down.
2. Try deep breathing exercises
Another good tip for helping to ease the effects of menopause hot flashes is to try deep breathing exercises. Oftentimes, hot flashes are accompanied by anxiety and stress-like symptoms, which can prolong hot flashes and make them feel more intense. Therefore, practicing deep breathing throughout the day and when a hot flash occurs is a great way to help reduce its intensity.
3. Stop smoking
Next, as we mentioned above, one of the biggest triggers of hot flashes is smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke. For that reason, if you’ve been looking for a reason to quit smoking, now more than ever is the time and may even help you to lessen or reduce your hot flashes. Living a healthy lifestyle with proper exercise, nutrition, and mindful practices overall is believed to be helpful with hot flash reduction.
4. Try mindful practices
Next, relaxation practices are also highly recommended for women going through menopause. While hot flashes can happen at any time, they’re much more likely to happen during times of high stress. Therefore, taking part in mindful practices daily may help to decrease the frequency of hot flashes. For this, you may want to consider some mentally soothing exercises such as yoga or meditation to help. These calming techniques are also useful for helping to improve your sleep quality, which is also commonly thrown off during menopause.
5. Do activities that make you tired
Next, another common problem with hot flashes is when they happen at night, which can make it difficult for you to get to sleep. Therefore, taking part in activities that help you exert get more energy during the day as well as practices to help you slow down in the evenings are highly recommended. Daily exercise, drinking calming herbal teas, and taking at least 30 minutes to wind down before bed are prime examples of this.
6. Take colder showers
And lastly, believe it or not, something as simple as taking a hot shower can be enough to trigger a hot flash in some cases. Therefore, to help reduce the chances of this, you may want to try taking a cold or even lukewarm shower to help. This is especially true if you shower in the afternoon or evenings close to your bedtime, as this may help to reduce the chances of triggering hot flashes overnight.
Overall, hot flashes are one of the most common side effects of menopause and can leave you feeling uncomfortable, irritable, and exhausted on a regular basis. However, since a large majority of women going through menopause are bound to experience them, it’s best to research ways to help ease it as soon as possible, as well as talk to your doctor about proper treatment options for you personally. No matter what you choose to do, we hope this article has given you some insight into how to combat the straining side effects of hot flashes and help to make your menopause cycle run as smoothly as possible.