Hot Flashes & Night Sweats

sun photoHaving hot flashes and night sweats?

Does it feel like a heater is radiating deep inside your body? Do you experience night sweats that leave your drenched? You’re not alone.

For some women, hot flashes and night sweats are infrequent and manageable. But for others, they can be intense and interfere with quality of life.

Women experience these symptoms due to an imbalance in their hormone levels. Previously, it was thought that being too low in estrogen was the problem. But today, we understand the cause may also be too much estrogen and too little progesterone, or other hormone imbalances in your body that come from the adrenals, ovaries, thyroid pancreas or gastrointestinal tract. There’s a fine dance to keeping all these systems in balance, which becomes especially challenging as women go through midlife changes. But there are several things you can do to help maintain that delicate balance.

Learn how to recognize your triggers

Although it may feel like your symptoms occur randomly, if you take time to listen to your body, you’ll discover what triggers them. The next time you have a hot flash, take note of the circumstances surrounding it.

  • What time of day is it?
  • What have you had to eat or drink in the last hour?
  • Did you get enough sleep last night?
  • Have you gotten any exercise today?
  • Are you feeling anxious or stressed?

After a while, you’ll recognize a pattern and learn what triggers your hot flashes and night sweats. Although it varies from woman to woman, here are some common culprits that may be on your list:

  • Spicy foods
  • Foods high in sugar and starches
  • Smoking
  • Caffeine
  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Lack of exercise

Solutions: What you can do to ease your symptoms

There are many steps you can take to prevent an internal buildup that leads to hot flashes and night sweats. You can make some of these lifestyle changes today discuss the others with your health care provider.

  • Layer your clothing and skip the turtlenecks. As soon as you feel a hot flash coming on, remove a layer or two.
  • Avoid flannel sheets and flannel pajamas. Sleep on cotton sheets and look for pajamas made of moisture–wicking fabric.
  • Use a fan to keep the air moving in your office and your bedroom.
  • Eat a healthier diet, free of processed foods. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where the most nutritious foods are found. Check the labels and avoid foods that are loaded with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), refined carbohydrates and sodium (salt). All can contribute to more imbalance symptoms.
  • Practice portion control. Honor your cravings, but do so in moderation.
  • Eat at least five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit each day. The more colorful ones are packed with valuable nutrients. Dark green and leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and collards have been shown to help in memory recall and other mental functions.
  • Choose organic whenever possible to avoid preservatives, pesticides, hormones and other substances that disrupt hormone balance.
  • Whole foods are healthiest, so pick the orange instead of the orange juice. You will get more hormone rebalancing nutrients and fiber to keep you healthy.
  • Limit your caffeine intake; drink less coffee and soda.
  • Drink more pure water and green tea.
  • Load up on berries that packed with anti-oxidants blueberries, blackberries, cranberries and strawberries. Fresh or frozen, they reduce oxidative stress which assaults the cells of the body. So, “berry up” to reduce inflammation and improve your brain cell signaling.
  • Avoid saturated and trans fats and choose olive oil and canola oil instead.
  • Choose foods high in Vitamin C red peppers, oranges, pine nuts, roasted sunflower seeds. Great for skin protection, leading to fewer wrinkles and less skin dryness overall.
  • Boost your omega-3s a beneficial fatty acid found in oily fishes, walnuts, canola and flaxseed oils.
  • Spice up your diet with herbs that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties turmeric (also known as curcumin), garlic, rosemary, and cayenne.
  • Go for a walk, take the stairs and park farther away. Exercise gets your endorphins moving and helps alleviate symptoms associated with menopause.
  • If you’re a smoker, seek the support you need to quit. On average, women who smoke experience menopause symptoms two years earlier than non-smokers. And smokers’ symptoms are often stronger and more troublesome.
  • Chemical disruptors can also throw off your balance, so avoid perfumes and go fragrance-free.
  • Make time to do the things you love, whether it’s relaxing with a good book or pursuing a favorite hobby.
  • Get your life in order; getting rid of clutter can reduce your overall stress.
  • Reduce your stress with massage therapy, join a yoga class or meditate.
  • Get more rest and a better night’s sleep. For tips, see the Trouble Sleeping symptom page.
  • Talk to a Chinese medical practitioner about herbal therapy.
  • Ask about black cohosh, an herb that has helped some women with hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. To learn more, see the Vitamins, supplements and herbs page.
  • See your health care provider for a comprehensive exam and full assessment of your overall physical, mental and emotional health.
  • Discuss over-the-counter progesterone options with your health care provider.
  • Ask your provider to evaluate your hormone levels, thyroid and adrenals.
  • Also seek assessment of brain neurotransmitters, which are hormones in the nervous system (such as serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, GABA and dopamine) that regulate mood and sleep.
  • If hormone therapy is recommended, consider bioidentical therapy which matches your body’s hormone structure.
  • Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about adrenal support vitamins. Increasing your intake of B & C vitamins, particularly vitamins B5, B6 and B12 can be very helpful. Health food stores and compounding pharmacies are also good places to look for adrenal support vitamins specially formulated for your needs. Don’t be tempted to buy cheap products, invest in yourself.
  • You are unique, so your provider should create an individualized plan for you detailing the type, timing and dosage of your therapy.