What Causes Hot Flashes And Sweating During Menopause
Ellen Sarver Dolgen, Coronado, Calif.-based author of Shmirshky: The Pursuit of Hormone Happiness, found her life thrown upside down when perimenopause began in her late 40s. Her first hot flash happened while she was in a business meeting with all men.
âI felt a flush of heat come over me but I didnât want to pay much attention to it,â she told WebMD. But when she stood up she felt sweat dripping down the inseam of her pants. âThank goodness I carry a big purse because I think it makes my hips look smaller,â she says. She used her purse to hide the wet mark on her pants as she left the meeting. âIt was absolutely mortifying.â
Doctors think hot flashes and night sweats are a result of fluctuating or decreasing estrogen levels. When menstrual cycles finally stop, estrogen levels drop fairly dramatically, Omicioli says.
The drop may impact a part of the brain that regulates body temperature. We all have a thermal neutral zone, which means our body temperature stays stable even when the temperature around us changes slightly. Theoretically, a drop in estrogen levels may narrow the thermal neutral zone, so that small changes in outside temperature cause a rise in body heat.
There are a couple of other theories about why menopause and excessive sweating tend to go hand in hand.
Utilize Supplements And Herbs
Many people use black cohosh, a large plant from the buttercup family, to reduce hot flashes, although little evidence exists as to how effective it actually is. Still, some swear that black cohosh root provides effective relief from these and other symptoms of menopause, including headaches, heart palpitations, and anxiety.
According to the North American Menopause Society, despite the lack of definitive evidence, “it would seem that black cohosh is a safe, herbal medicine.” Some other herbs with anecdotal evidence of helping hot flashes include red clover, dong quai, and evening primrose oil.
Treating Dry Skin And Hair
Dry skin and hair are common. And because of it, there are a lot of remedies available.
Your first line of defense is to protect your skin from sun exposure with sunblocks and hats. Use moisturizers and hair conditioners, especially in the dry winter months. There are plenty of effective moisturizers that wont break the bank.
Treatments For Hot Flushes
Many women learn to live with menopause-related hot flushes, but if they’re really bothering you and interfering with your day-to-day life, talk to a GP about treatments that may help.
The most effective treatment for hot flushes is hormone replacement therapy , which usually completely gets rid of them. Your doctor will talk to you about the benefits and risks of using HRT.
If you have had a type of cancer that’s sensitive to hormones, such as breast cancer, your doctor will not recommend HRT and will talk to you about alternatives.
Other medicines have been shown to help, including some antidepressants and a medicine called clonidine.
Eat Foods Rich In Calcium And Vitamin D
Hormonal changes during menopause can cause bones to weaken, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Calcium and vitamin D are linked to good bone health, so its important to get enough of these nutrients in your diet.
Adequate vitamin D intake in postmenopausal women is also associated with a lower risk of hip fractures due to weak bones (
Additionally, calcium-fortified foods are also good sources, including certain cereals, fruit juice or milk alternatives.
Sunlight is your main source of vitamin D, since your skin produces it when exposed to the sun. However, as you get older, your skin gets less efficient at making it.
If you arent out in the sun much or if you cover up your skin, either taking a supplement or increasing food sources of vitamin D may be important.
A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is important to prevent the bone loss that can occur during menopause.
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Other Physical And Mental Changes At Midlife
Some common midlife changes that are often attributed to menopause are not necessarily related to the fluctuating or decreasing hormone levels of menopause. The four most commonly reported changes include mood changes and depression insomnia or other sleep problems cognitive or memory problems and decline in sexual desire, function, or both. Other physical changes that crop up in the middle years include weight gain, urinary incontinence, heart palpitations, dry skin and hair, and headaches. For these, a hormonal link is possible, but has not been proved. Consider the fact that men, who don’t experience a dramatic drop in hormone levels in their early 50s, often notice many of these same symptoms!
Causes Of Hot Flashes
Its understood that hormonal imbalance is the most common cause for hot flashes. However, theres little research that pinpoints exactly how hormone changes link to these heated episodes.
In any case, most research points to drops in estrogen levels as the leading culprit. When estrogen levels decrease, they trigger the hypothalamus to overly react to changes in body temperature.
Next, a 2015 study suggests that severe and frequent hot flashes can also be a result of ongoing stress. In addition, risk factors such as smoking and excess weight are noted for increasing the likelihood of hot flashes.
Yet despite hormonal imbalances and known risk factors, the science is still unclear as to why some women experience hot flashes and why others dont.
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Severe Hot Flashes: Important Things To Know
If your hot flashes are especially severe, you might be wondering if there’s something wrong with your body. The good news is that there’s not likely to be an underlying problem, but the bad news is that you may simply experience more extreme hot flashes – and continue to do so until they abate. Keep reading to learn about some important things to know about severe hot flashes.
What Are Hot Flashes And How Long Will I Have Them
Hot flashes are one of the most frequent symptoms of menopause. They can be explained as a brief sensation of heat. But they arent the same for everyone.
Also called vasomotor symptoms, hot flashes may begin in perimenopause or they may not start until after the last menstrual period has occurred. On average, they last three to five years and are usually worse during the year following the last menstrual period.
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Uterine Bleeding: What’s Normal What’s Not
One concern for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women is knowing whether irregular uterine bleeding is normal. Most women notice normal changes in their cycle as they approach menopause. Periods are often heavy or more frequent, and they may stop and start. But abnormal uterine bleeding may be a sign of benign gynecologic problems or even uterine cancer. Consult your physician if any of the following situations occur:
- You have a few periods that last three days longer than usual.
- You have a few menstrual cycles that are shorter than 21 days.
- You bleed after intercourse.
- You have heavy monthly bleeding .
- You have spotting .
- You have bleeding that occurs outside the normal pattern associated with hormone use.
When you report abnormal vaginal bleeding, your clinician will try to determine whether the cause is an anatomic problem or a hormonal issue. He or she also will investigate other possible causes. In addition to identifying the cause, he or she will help you manage any excess bleeding, which sometimes leads to anemia.
On rare occasions, postmenopausal women experience uterine bleeding from a “rogue ovulation,” which is vaginal bleeding after a hiatus that may be preceded by premenstrual symptoms such as breast tenderness. Presumably, the ovaries are producing some hormones and maybe a final egg.
Eat More Foods That Are High In Phytoestrogens
Hot flashes are the worst and sometimes they can set in motion a cold flash.
Did you know that in many Asian countries like Japan, menopausal women rarely experience hot flashes? It’s believed this is because they eat phytoestrogen foods which are naturally occurring plant compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen. Example of these foods are soybeans and soy products like tofu, tempeh, beans, sesame seeds, flaxseeds and linseeds.
One small randomized study supported these findings and found it reduced cholesterol levels, blood pressure and hot flashes.
Studies have found that natural sources of phytoestogents work better and are safer than processed foods with added soy protein.
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Hot Flashes: What Can I Do
Hot flashes, a common symptom of the menopausal transition, are uncomfortable and can last for many years. When they happen at night, hot flashes are called night sweats. Some women find that hot flashes interrupt their daily lives. The earlier in life hot flashes begin, the longer you may experience them. Research has found that African American and Hispanic women get hot flashes for more years than white and Asian women.
You may decide you don’t need to change your lifestyle or investigate treatment options because your symptoms are mild. But, if you are bothered by hot flashes, there are some steps you can take. Try to take note of what triggers your hot flashes and how much they bother you. This can help you make better decisions about managing your symptoms.
Mood Swings And Depression
Studies indicate that mood swings are more common during perimenopause, when hormonal fluctuations are most erratic, than during the postmenopausal years, when ovarian hormones stabilize at a low level. No direct link between mood and diminished estrogen has been proved, but it is possible that mood changes result when hormonal shifts disrupt the established patterns of a woman’s life. These changes can be stressful and may bring on “the blues.” Mood swings can mean laughing one minute and crying the next, and feeling anxious or depressed. These changes are transient, however, and do not usually meet the criteria for a diagnosis of clinical depression, a more profound dysfunctional emotional state.
Over their lifespan, women have more depression than men. But there is no evidence that decreased estrogen alone causes clinical depression. Although women who have had previous episodes of depression may be vulnerable to a recurrence during perimenopause, menopause in and of itself does not cause clinical depression. The incidence of depression in postmenopausal women is not any higher than at any other time in life.
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Hot Flushes And Night Sweats
These are the symptoms most commonly associated with menopause.
You can reduce the impact of hot flushes if you can identify and avoid anything that may trigger them, for example, hot drinks, hot weather, stressful circumstances, spicy foods. Some women find it helpful to dress in layers to help them cool down more quickly. Some find a fan helpful. Stress reduction techniques such as mindfulness or meditation might also help ease this symptom.
Night sweats that disturb sleep are one of the most troublesome symptoms of menopause. Wearing light breathable bed clothes or sleeping naked might help ease this symptom. Some women use separate bed covers from their partners to avoid over-heating at night. A bedroom fan may also help.
What Triggers A Hot Flash
There are quite a few normal things in your daily life that could set off a hot flash. However, theres no definitive reason that they happen.
Some things that can contribute include:
Stress and anxiety
Heat, including warm weather, can also trigger a hot flash. So, be careful when working out in hot weather.
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Treating Memory And Concentration Problems
While there isnt a clear cause for memory and concentration problems, there are some things you can do to help prevent them. Staying physically active and scheduling at least 150 minutes per week of dedicated exercise may be the best way to maintain brain health.
Brain and memory experts also recommend that people work to keep their brain functioning at its peak by taking on new and interesting challenges.
Do crossword puzzles. Learn a new musical instrument or sport. Play chess. Read more books. Learn a new language. The idea is to find something that challenges your brain in new ways.
The Most Common Menopause Symptoms
Women can experience a variety of symptoms and conditions related to changes in sex hormone levels and aging. Some of the most common menopause symptoms include:
- Irregular periods: As perimenopause begins , periods can come and go, plus get heavier or lighter at times. This can sometimes continue for several years during menopause
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Mood swings, irritability, anxiety or depressive symptoms
- Vaginal dryness and decreased sex drive
- Increased abdominal fat and weight gain
- Insomnia and changes in sleep quality
- Thinning hair and dryer skin
- Going to the bathroom more often
- Breast changes
- Changes in the uterus, ovaries and cervix
- For some, a higher risk for certain other age-related diseases
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What Are The Risks Of Using Hormones For Hot Flashes
In 2002, a study that was part of the Women’s Health Initiative , funded by the National Institutes of Health, was stopped early because participants who received a certain kind of estrogen with progesterone were found to have a significantly higher risk of stroke, heart attacks, breast cancer, dementia, urinary incontinence, and gallbladder disease.
This study raised significant concerns at the time and left many women wary of using hormones.
However, research reported since then found that younger women may be at less risk and have more potential benefits than was suggested by the WHI study. The negative effects of the WHI hormone treatments mostly affected women who were over age 60 and post-menopausal. Newer versions of treatments developed since 2002 may reduce the risks of using hormones for women experiencing the menopausal transition, but studies are needed to evaluate the long-term safety of these newer treatments.
If you use hormone therapy, it should be at the lowest dose, for the shortest period of time it remains effective, and in consultation with a doctor. Talk with your doctor about your medical and family history and any concerns or questions about taking hormones.
What Is A Hot Flash
A hot flash is a sudden sensation of warmth in the upper body. Its typically felt on the face, neck, and chest. A persons face may appear red during a hot flash, and they may sweat and feel anxious.
Hot flashes are temporary, generally lasting from one to five minutes.
Hot flashes can occur both day and night. Night sweats is the term used to describe nighttime hot flashes, which can disrupt sleep.
Some people only experience occasional hot flashes, while others have them frequently throughout the day. Even though hot flashes are a normal response to the changes occurring in the body, they can be uncomfortable and unsettling.
Symptoms that can occur with hot flashes include:
- Flushed appearance
- Warmth spreading across the upper body
How Does Acupuncture Treatment Work Acupuncture For Menopause
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese holistic treatment in which the body is pushed and prodded by thin needles at specific points.
The concept of classical Chinese acupuncture is that our bodies contain channels of energy that go from one part of the body to the other in regular patterns all over its surface. These energy channels are also known as meridians. These are more like rivers flowing through your body, they are important to your body as they irrigate and nourish your tissues. The flow of the meridian lines sometimes is obstructed either by emotional or physical trauma, almost like a landslide that forms an obstruction to the flow of a river.
You can restore the regular flow of energy or Chi through the meridians when very fine needles are inserted into acupuncture points along the meridians. This regulates the energy flow and unblocks obstructions or stagnantes the energy. This stimulates the bodys natural healing and ends up correcting the imbalance of your bodys systems.
According to modern scientific explanation, needling or using acupuncture points to stimulate the nervous system has its benefits. It helps release chemicals in the spinal cord, muscles, and brain.
Memory And Concentration Problems
During perimenopause, women often complain of short-term memory problems and difficulty with concentration. Study results looking at the relationship between falling hormone levels and cognitive function have been inconsistent. Some women do believe that low dose estrogen after menopause helps them think. But the research has not supported this. Stress likely plays a more important role in memory and thinking compared to hormonal fluctuations.
Treating memory and concentration problems. Just as it isn’t clear what causes memory and concentration problems, there is no obvious remedy. Staying physically active and scheduling at least 150 minutes per week of dedicated exercise may be the best way to maintain brain health. Brain and memory experts also recommend that people work to keep their brain functioning at its peak by taking on new and interesting challenges. Use your mind in many different ways. Do crossword puzzles. Learn a new musical instrument or sport. Play chess. Read more books. Learn a new language or how to use the computer. The idea is to challenge your brain in new ways.
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