Hot Flushes: Treatments and Triggers

Hot Flushes: Treatments and Triggers

A hot flush, or ‘hot flash’ as they’re known by our sisters in the US, are perhaps the most dreaded menopause symptom among women, with up to 80% of women experiencing perimenopause and menopause suffering from them.

If you’re in this number, you’re not alone.

They can be annoying and embarrassing, not to mention hot and clammy and so very tiresome if you’re experiencing night sweats, too. But the good news is, it’s possible to still live well while experiencing them.

By demystifying this common menopause symptom and with some easy adjustments, we’re certain you’ll go on to live your best years with clarity, confidence and a little more calm.


What are hot flushes?

Hot flushes result from the relationship between our brain and our hormones—particularly our sex hormone, estrogen. As it naturally declines, our bodies struggle to regulate temperature. This means our body can react severely to the slightest variation in temperature, making our core rise to inferno levels. 

With a sudden burst of heat across your body and in the face, usually lasting a few minutes, your skin may turn red while sweating uncomfortably. Your heart may also begin to beat quickly, and you may feel nauseous.

When your hot flush is over, it is common to feel chills, shivery sensations and experience headaches. As with all things menopause related, hot flushes are different for everyone. For some women, they’re barely noticeable; for others, they creep in several times a day, leaving us feeling anxious and downright uncomfortable.

That’s quite a cascade of extreme reactions in just a few minutes. No wonder it can make us feel powerless.


Are night sweats different to hot flushes? 

Hot flushes that happen when you’re in bed at night are known as night sweats. They can cause you to wake up drenched in sweat, often needing to change your clothing and bedding. This leaves you tired and irritated and can lead to insomnia, exacerbating other symptoms, including daytime hot flushes. Not fair, right? 

The problem commonly happens at night for a variety of reasons. If you suffer from anxiety or high blood pressure, if you’ve been drinking alcohol or experiencing stress, and of course, your fluctuating hormone levels may make you more prone to night sweats.


What’s happening in our bodies when we go through a hot flush?

A hot flush causes a wave of physiological reactions in a short space of time. This can make us feel all sorts of things emotionally, and for some women it can be extremely uncomfortable.

While hot flushes tend to be shortlived, experiencing frequent recurring night sweats can affect our health in the long term.

Prolonged sleep disturbances can lead to insomnia, a major symptom experienced by many women - you can read more about menopause insomnia and what can help here. And then there’s the resulting brain fog, lack of energy and irritability we feel the next day, all contributing to our wellbeing and outlook on life. This may also cause anxiety and a rise in stress levels, all leading to one dreaded, vicious cycle.

If you’re in that cycle, fear not. 

Thankfully, there are things you can do so you don’t have to have your life ruled by recurring hot flushes.

Is there anything we can do to minimise the severity of a hot flush?

While there’s still a lot we don’t know about the symptoms of menopause and why they affects some of us more than others, we do know there are ways to support your body through this time.

1. Find your inner peace

We all deserve to find a little piece of calm for ourselves. If that’s regular meditation, yoga or taking yourself to the movies, go for it! If you are a woman who can’t keep still, perhaps a regular walk with an audiobook is for you. Deep breathing, confiding in friends, and making regular time to connect with yourself can bring greater clarity, reduce stress and send you to bed feeling more relaxed.

2. Practise good sleep hygiene

Watch your ambient temperature and create a pleasant sleeping environment. Opt for loose, cotton sleepwear and breathable cotton sheets, and avoid heating your room. If you have air conditioning or a fan, don't be afraid to use it if it makes you feel cooler and more comfortable.

Try to keep a regular bedtime and avoid mindless scrolling on your phone before bed. Swap Facebook for a paperback, a mindfulness app or something that is quiet, calm and allows you to unwind. Rest is best, so even if you frequently wake up, keeping calm and comfortable is important to how you feel in the morning.

3. Sweat your way

Leading an active lifestyle is the best thing you can do for your menopause symptoms. Doing what you enjoy and breaking a sweat is the key to releasing all those feel-good, happy hormones while encouraging strong bones, better rest and a more positive outlook on life. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

4. Make healthier food and drink choices

Caffeine is a stimulant, so try to avoid it after midday if possible, as it can worsen your hot flushes. The last thing you want is more of them because you can’t get enough sleep (remember those vicious cycles we mentioned earlier?)

Alcohol can raise your body temperature, impair your judgement and exacerbate your perimenopause and menopause symptoms, so it’s best to avoid it completely if you’re suffering from debilitating hot flushes.

Leafy greens, fruits and foods high in calcium are recommended to provide your body with all the nutrients it needs to get you through. Remember lean protein and healthy fats, too. 

5. Find a treatment option that works for you

Only 20 to 30% of women experiencing regular hot flushes seek help from a trusted medical professional, but it doesn't have to be that way. 

In the case of regular hot flushes, prescribed medications, along with targeted supplements that can support you through your unique variety of symptoms, can often be the ‘missing piece of the puzzle’ to help you feel like yourself again. Your doctor will also be able to help you rule out other health problems that may be contributing to your symptoms.

Do remember that what might work for your friend may not have the same effect on you because we are all wonderfully different, there's no right or wrong, just whatever works for you.




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    This article has been reviewed by our expert advisory team. 



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