Dear Dr. Wendy,
Do you have a recommendation for what can help with Hot Flashes? I thought I was over the menopausal stage but lately, I get the flashes and night sweats that keep me from getting the sleep I need. Sometimes I get them out of the blue during the day too.
— Betty K.
Hot flashes are extremely common during menopause, impacting up to 75 percent of women. While not inherently dangerous to your health, they can be extremely uncomfortable and often interfere with your quality of life. For 80 percent of those with hot flashes, it will last two years or less. Unfortunately, they can last longer for about 15 percent of women who are having severe hot flashes caused by hormonal changes that affect the hypothalamus, which controls body temperature.
Hot flashes are likely related to the fluctuating hormone levels that occur during menopause. Both estrogen and progesterone are necessary in the female cycle, and their balance is crucial for optimal health. Many women have an imbalance of these hormones throughout life, regardless of their age. This imbalance can be further exacerbated by chronic stress.
One of the best ways to combat many of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with menopause is to implement a regular exercise regimen. It will help to optimize your insulin levels and balance your estrogen levels. Exercise also boosts serotonin levels, which improves mood, appetite and sleep. I recommend a combination of aerobic activity and weight training several times a week. Weight training helps maintain muscle mass and is important for preventing weight gain. It also strengthens your bones to combat osteoporosis. Maintaining a healthy weight is important. One study showed that for every 11 pounds an overweight woman lost, she was one-third more likely to have improvements in her hot flashes compared to women who did not lose weight.
A healthy diet can help balance hormones. Eat plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables every day. Fill up on high-fiber foods to help control appetite and improve digestion. It is best to eat fresh, locally grown organic foods that have undergone the least processing possible. Refined carbohydrates, processed and heated fats, added sugar and other “empty calorie” foods all serve to raise your estrogen to abnormal levels, which are often maintained throughout the adult lives of most American women. This is a major contributing cause of menopausal symptoms in the first place.
Many herbs contain hormone-balancing properties that can help you ease into this transition period. While there are a number of options for menopause symptoms, some seem to be more effective than others. The most commonly used herbal remedies to treat menopause symptoms include wild yam, black cohosh, licorice root (don’t use if you have high blood pressure), evening primrose oil, ginseng, St. John’s wort, chaste tree, sage, red clover and sarsaparilla. My personal favorite is Wild Yam Complex by MediHerb. It contains a combination of wild yam, black cohosh, Korean ginseng, and St. John’s Wort.
Reduce and manage stress. Many women experience increased anxiety, moodiness and even episodes of depression during the menopause years. Managing stress in your life is one important way to reduce behaviors or symptoms like emotional eating and weight gain, fatigue, getting poor sleep and low libido. Some effective ways to relieve stress include exercise, meditation, acupuncture, aromatherapy, spending time in nature, fostering close relationships, volunteering and dedicating time to spiritual practices.
Some people have success with essential oils. Clary sage is most effective for balancing hormones. It can help offer relief from menopause symptoms including increased anxiety and hot flashes. In addition, roman chamomile oil reduces stress, peppermint oil can help cool the body from hot flashes, and thyme oil can help balance hormones.
Get enough good quality sleep. Because hot flashes are so uncomfortable, they can interfere with sleep when they occur during the night, and over time may lead to chronic insomnia. Poor sleep and excessive stress are linked to higher levels of morning cortisol. This can lead to decreased immunity and increased anxiety, weight gain and depression.
As with all treatments, natural or not, what works for one may or may not work for another. You may have to try out a few different natural remedies before finding what works best for you. If you cannot find relief on your own, seek the help of a health professional with experience dealing with hot flashes.
Do you have a question to ask us? Please email them to Askcoach@haydenhealth.com.
**This Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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Dr. Wendy Cunningham is a doctor of chiropractic, certified acupuncturist, and has her master’s degree in nutrition.