You’re sitting in bed, and all of a sudden, you wake up with a flash of heat that runs through your body. You’re not sure if you’re panicking or if something is wrong with you. This sensation leaves you breathless as you feel as if your body is on fire. Then, you suddenly realize that this is what so many middle-aged women have feared since the dawn of time; you have hot flashes.
Why is it that the bearer of life must suffer from these intense sensations that leave your body sweaty, weak, and hormonal? What is going on with you? Rest assured, what’s happening is completely normal.
You’re experiencing a shift in your hormone levels that is causing your internal thermometer to react. Hot flashes are one of the primary signs that you’re going through menopause. You’re not dying, and you will get through this, but it’s always best to get a blood test to confirm what’s occurring.
A simple blood panel can show if your body is in perimenopause or the beginning stages of full-blown menopause.
Interesting Facts About Menopause
Did you know that it’s not uncommon for you to start having hot flashes as early as 40 years of age? You may also experience spotting and cramping that would make you think you have a menstrual cycle. Don’t believe that you cannot get pregnant during this time, as you might be surprised.
• Middle-aged Pregnancies
Just because your hormones are out of whack and things are changing doesn’t mean that you’re not able to have a child. While it might be difficult, there are many “change of life babies” born each year. When your body goes into perimenopause, your periods become irregular.
You may experience heavy bleeding and then not have a period for months. The irregularity of your mensural cycles causes many to make the mistake of thinking they’re in the clear. It’s also possible to go through IVF treatments and carry a child to full term after 50.
Look at cases like Brigitte Nielsen, Janet Jackson, and Senator Tammy Duckworth. All these women carried children to full gestation after 50 years of age. While the chances of down syndrome and other congenital disabilities are higher, you’re not in the clear from a baby during perimenopause.
• Estrogen Depletion
Part of the reasons you’re feeling these uncomfortable hot flashes is that your estrogen level is low. Though many studies have been conducted on these phenomena, experts have yet to explain the exact reason. The most likely culprit is the lower hormone levels that seem to occur during this time of life.
• It Was Once Thought of as a Disease
When women went through the change of life in the early 1700s, they were said to have lost their femininity, beauty, and sophistication. Some doctors even went as far as saying they were more masculine due to the abnormal hair growth that often occurs when testosterone is out of balance. In 1710, the medical community considered menopause a disease of the worst kind.
They tried all sorts of things during the Georgian period to help a woman suffering from hot flashes and other change symptoms. They would put leaches into the cervix as well as encourage hemorrhaging from different areas of the body. One famous surgeon, Isaac Baker Brown, believed clitoridectomy could cure hot flashes, mood fluctuations, and sleep deprivation.
Thankfully, things have progressed a great deal since then, and barbaric procedures are a thing of the past.
15 Ways to Reduce the Onset (and the Severity of) Hot Flashes
You’ll be glad to know that you don’t need to have any radical procedures to combat your hot flashes. Here are 15 ways to cope or handle this intense issue that comes from “the change.”
1. Avoid Drinking Alcohol and Caffeine
Caffeine and alcohol are both stimulants. Stimulants work to speed up the heart and can cause a panic like reaction. When you’re going through the change, these substances can be a trigger that you should avoid.
2. Lighten Your Load
Stress is a trigger for so many things in life, but it can also cause you to have a hot flash. Stress gets the hormones in an uproar, which causes your body to produce an abundance of cortisol and adrenaline. When the body is in fight or flight mode, it can cause a surge of heat, triggering a hot flash.
3. Reduce Your Bedroom Temperature
Researchers warn that hot flashes commonly occur while sleeping. Fortunately, a fix is relatively easy–reducing your bedroom temperature by about five degrees. You will sleep better in a cooler room, and if the body becomes flushed, the heat from your home won’t aggravate it.
4. Sleep with A Fan
A fan is your best friend in the day or night, and you should keep one beside your bed. While a ceiling fan can help circulate the air in your bedroom, it doesn’t have the power that a box fan beside your bed does. Many say the fan helps to thwart any hot flash that occurs during the night.
5. Avoid Spicy Foods
Spicy foods are known for their ability to make the body sweat. When you’re going through menopause, the last thing you want to do is add fuel to the fire. Lay off the peppers and spices if you want to avoid soaking your clothes with sweat.
6. Wear Loose Clothes
Your body needs to breathe. If your temperature fluctuates from your hormonal shifts, you want to be wearing something light and airy. Restrictive clothing will only make you feel even hotter.
7. Use Cooling Sprays
It’s not always feasible to take off layers if you’re at the office or shopping. Thankfully, cooling sprays can help you to combat any flashes of heat and make you more comfortable.
8. Eat More Soy
Did you know that a study showed that soy is beneficial in keeping hot flashes at bay? Add some soy to your day and see if it reduces these uncomfortable sensations.
9. Add Black Cohosh Supplements
Black cohosh is an excellent supplement that can help with sweating. It’s not a long-term solution, but it can help you get through the roughest night sweats.
10. Try Primrose Supplements
Primrose is another supplement that seems to do wonders for night sweats. It should never be used with blood thinners, and it may cause some slight digestive issues. However, it’s an excellent choice to combat the terrible sweating caused by menopause.
11. Turn to Acupuncture
A combined research team from Duke University and Wake Forest University proved that acupuncture stimulates meridians and bring relief to night sweating. Other ancient practices, like cupping and meditation, are also said to be beneficial.
12. Antidepressants Medications May Help
While antidepressants have some significant side effects, they can help with mood disturbances and night sweats. The second generation of these medications has fewer side effects than first-line drugs.
The most used ones for this purpose are Paxil and Effexor. If you’ve tried everything else, it’s certainly something worth exploring as a short-term option.