Hot flushes (or flashes) are the most well known symptom of the menopause. According to Women’s Health Concern, the patient arm of the British Menopause Society, hot flushes occur in three in every four menopausal women.
As with most things, hot flushes affect women in differing ways. Not all women experience them and for those that do, some experience them several times a day or night whilst others may only have the occasional one.
For some, a hot flush may last for just a few seconds and for others it may be several minutes but when experiencing one, it feels like they last a lot longer than what they actually do!
So, what are hot flushes, what causes them and what can be done to prevent or at least manage them effectively?
What is a hot flush?
A hot flush is a sudden feeling of intense heat. This heat may just be felt in your face, neck and chest, or the sensation can spread over your entire body. The heat appears to come out of nowhere as it creeps up on you without any prior warning.
In addition to the heat, you may also experience sweating, anxiety, reddening of your face and/or rapid heartbeat. As the hot flush begins to let up, some women have reported feeling cold and shivery.
The frequency and intensity of hot flushes varies amongst women. When asked to explain how their hot flushes feel, some women report feeling a bit too warm, whilst others say they feel burning hot. They can occur at any time during the day or night. Hot flushes during the night are referred to as night sweats and they can cause sleep disruptions. If you are experiencing night sweats you may be interested in reading ‘Help for Menopause Night Sweats’ here.
The majority of women who experience hot flushes report having them daily. The frequency can vary from just the odd one here and there, to having twenty in one day. Not all hot flushes feel the same, you may have one that is rather mild but then the next one you experience feels a lot more intense.
What causes them?
Although experts cannot agree on what specifically causes menopausal hot flushes, most believe that the change in hormone levels are to blame. It is thought that low levels of oestrogen may confuse the hypothalamus, the part of your brain that regulates body temperature.
When your brain thinks you are too warm it kicks off a chain of events in your body to cool you down, hence the sweating and racing heart that often accompany hot flushes.
According to the NHS, (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/hot-flushes/) there may be certain things that trigger hot flushes, such as:
• Spicy foods
• Thick clothing
• A high temperature
• Stressful situations
• Some medical treatments
• Certain medication
• Some existing health conditions (overactive thyroid, diabetes, and tuberculosis)
If you are experiencing hot flushes it may be worth keeping a diary of when they occur, noting the situation you were in, temperature and clothing you were wearing, plus what you had eaten or drunk before. If your hot flushes are being triggered by something in particular, this will become clear over time which can then help you manage them accordingly.
Unfortunately, you may find that there’s no rhyme or reason to them but it’s definitely worth looking in to.
Tips for managing hot flushes
Views on how best to manage menopausal hot flushes will vary amongst women and it is a personal choice for each woman to make. There is no right or wrong way to manage your symptoms, so follow the path that feels right for you.
Ways of managing hot flushes fall in a number of categories, which will be looked at in turn. One thing to note is that, as with most things, what works for one woman, may not work for another.
Smoking – If you smoke, it is recommended that you try to quit, not only to help your menopausal symptoms but also for your overall health.
Alcohol – If you can’t face cutting alcohol out full stop, you could always try to reduce your intake first and see if this helps.
Exercise – Exercise may be the last thing on your mind when you are struggling with menopausal symptoms, but regular exercise is thought to have a positive effect on hot flushes.
Sleep – Try focusing on getting a better night’s sleep as a good rest is always helpful when having to deal with unpleasant symptoms. To promote sleep adopting a sleep ritual each night before bed is helpful.
Mind-Body Practices – Yoga, meditation and relaxation breathing techniques can be used to help improve menopausal symptoms. Using relaxation breathing or meditation techniques during a hot flush can help keep you calm and less anxious.
Eating as healthy as possible including fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods into your diet can only help with your menopausal symptoms.
Reducing your consumption of caffeine (tea, coffee and chocolate) spicy foods and alcohol will also be beneficial. If you’re able to cut these out completely that would be even better but understandably that could prove too difficult for most.
If changing your diet is proving too challenging try keeping a diary detailing what you have eaten and then tracking your hot flushes to see if there are any specific foods, or drinks, that could be triggering them. This may then give you the motivation to make the necessary dietary changes.
Again, as with most things, nothing works for everyone, but a number of women have reported the following natural remedies as being effective in managing their hot flushes.
• Black Cohosh
• Red Clover
• Evening Primrose Oil
Hormone replacement therapy can be very effective at reducing the symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes, however not every woman is able to take it. If this is a route that you think you would like to explore, have a discussion with your doctor and weigh up whether it’s the right thing for you.
Tips for when you are physically having a hot flush
As hot flushes can creep up on you without any warning it’s good to be prepared! Having products on hand to help cool you down can be extremely helpful and can also help keep you calm in the situation. Some products that women have found useful are:
Carrying a handheld fan with you is a tip often given my women experiencing hot flushes and can easily be found on the high street.
Dressing in layers or in clothes made specifically to keep women cool can be really effective. Fifty One Apparel Clothing has been made with climate control technology, ensuring comfort by taking heat away from the body, storing it and then releasing it back when your body begins to cool down. The Fifty One Apparel Clothing collection can be found here.
A facial spray has also been reported as being helpful. A quick spritz of the spray on your face, neck and chest can give you a sense of relief from the burning sensation. When at home, keeping the spray refrigerated can make it even more effective.
A Facial Spritz we recommend is the Rejuvenating Facial Spritz by Palm of Feronia, a small-batch, natural, self-care brand focused on the ancient principles of aromatherapy and crystal healing.
Menomagic All in One Cooling Cream is very popular with women going through the menopause. It contains 4 essential oils to cool the skin, ease anxiety, uplift moods, aid sleep and balance hormones. So not only can it help with hot flushes, your other symptoms may be helped too.
Keeping a cool drink to hand is also another tip often recommended by women. This is made even more easier when you’re out and about by bottles that keep drinks cold. Our water bottle is designed to keep water cold for 24 hours making it an ideal item to help manage your hot flushes.
Unfortunately, hot flushes are one of the symptoms that can start during the peri-menopause, before your periods stop and often continue for several years after your last period.
If at any point your hot flushes, or any other menopausal symptoms are becoming unmanageable you should seek medical advice.
Menodelight offers a range of products that can help with hot flushes and other menopause symptoms. View their full range on their website http://www.menodelight.co.uk/.