Understanding Hot Flashes – a Naturopathic Doctor’s Perspective
Menopause typically begins between the ages of 45-50 years old, most women experience symptoms around age 51.1 About 1.3 million women develop menopausal symptoms each year in the United States.1 A menopausal state is defined as a cessation of a menstrual cycle for at least 12 months.2 However, for most of the patients I see, going through menopause is so much more than not having your period. Women may experience menopausal symptoms up to 12 years!3 In my medical practice, I see many women that are poorly treated for menopausal symptoms. Some women are told “this stage will pass”, “it’s a natural occurrence” or they are given only estrogen to help support them. There are other hormones besides estrogen involved with helping women feel balanced including: progesterone, DHEA-S, testosterone, pregnenolone.
Jane came in to see me because she was having so many hot flashes, she was having to change her clothes multiple times a day. She jokingly called them her own “personal summers.” In the middle of the hottest summer of Gilbert’s history, it was starting to become a sad joke for her. The hot flashes were so unpredictable, and would come on worse when she was stressed. It was starting to interfere with the work, she worried they would come on while she was with clients or during an important presentation. To make matters worse, she was struggling to stay awake at work, was gaining weight and couldn’t sleep at night. We tested the most important hormones, evaluated her thyroid function and discovered that she was low across the board. After 2 weeks of bio-identical hormone replacement, she was sleeping better, her energy improved and her hot flashes went from 10 per day to 0-1. She finally felt like fog had lifted and felt like herself again.
What causes hot flashes?
Hot flashes are caused by an imbalance of hormones. The lack of estrogen leads to vasomotor symptoms such as night sweats, hot flashes/flushes and palpitations. More recent studies show imbalances in progesterone and testosterone may also play a role in the severity and frequency of hot flashes.4,5
Hot flashes cannot be avoided but there are triggers like stress, caffeine, alcohol, excessive meat and hormone-filled dairy foods are believed to make them more frequent and/or intense.
The frustration for patients is that hot flashes are not predictable. If you’re sweating a lot through the hot flash, it can be embarrassing when you’re with others at a meeting or gathering, or even at home with family. The good news is that there are ways to treat hot flashes naturally.
Treatment of Hot Flashes
The treatment of menopausal symptoms can include: bioidentical hormone replacement, nutritional guidance, herbal supplements and vitamin/mineral support. There are also natural approaches for women who have a history of breast, ovarian or endometrial cancers.
Other ways to lessen the severity and frequency of hot flashes include:
- Quitting smoking. Smoking is bad for you in so many ways, including perpetuating the onset of menopause. Not only that, but smoking may increase the severity of symptoms, including hot flashes.6
- Decrease stress.7 Walking, lifting weights, and yoga are all activities that release endorphins and serotonin, happy hormones.
- Eating hormone-free dairy and grass-fed/organic meat. Hormones are often given to cows, so they grow and reproduce faster. Eating beef and dairy from these cows increases the hormones in our bodies. These hormones can cause an imbalance without patients even realizing it.
- Relax. Finding ways to relax will decrease the frequency and severity of hot flashes. Start a bedtime ritual of turning off all devices and television 30 minutes before bedtime. Take a hot bath with Epsom salts. Listen to relaxing music or guided meditation.
During menopause, it is especially important to take good care of yourself in mind and body. If you’ve done all that you can and are still having symptoms, call Atlas Health Medical Group at 480-648-1534 to schedule an appointment.
- Peacock K, Ketvertis KM. Menopause. [Updated 2020 Aug 16]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507826/
- University of British Columbia. “Using progesterone for hot flashes shown safe for women’s cardiovascular health.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 January 2014. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140115172832.htm.
- Øverlie, Inger et al. “Androgens and estrogens in relation to hot flushes during the menopausal transition.” Maturitas vol. 41,1 (2002): 69-77. doi:10.1016/s0378-5122(01)00256-0
- Smith, Rebecca L et al. “Does quitting smoking decrease the risk of midlife hot flashes? A longitudinal analysis.” Maturitas vol. 82,1 (2015): 123-7. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2015.06.029
- Nosek, Marcianna et al. “The effects of perceived stress and attitudes toward menopause and aging on symptoms of menopause.” Journal of midwifery & women’s health vol. 55,4 (2010): 328-34. doi:10.1016/j.jmwh.2009.09.005