For many women entering or experiencing menopause, hot flashes and their nocturnal cousin night sweats are a source of discomfort, annoyance, and even depression. While a rise in body temperature may seem trivial, any woman can tell you they’re no joke.
Clinically described as vasomotor symptoms (or VMS), Hot flashes can be frightening, but there is hope: herbal therapies, lifestyle changes, and even the passage of time can reduce the severity of hot flashes – and even lead to the cessation of symptoms all together.
What are Hot Flashes (and for that matter, Night Sweats)?
Typically, a “hot flash” starts in your chest, and spreads throughout your body, rising strongest to the neck and face. They can range in frequency and severity, from several times a day to only once or twice during the entire onset of menopause … though most women experience some median between the two extremes. Hot flashes can last for a few moments up to 30 minutes, and can range in severity from mildly annoying to discomforting and even scary.
Night Sweats are the nocturnal version of a hot flash. Usually accompanied by markedly increased perspiration, “Night Sweats” are simply a hot flash that occurs at night. Women approaching, experiencing, or who have recently finished the natural menopause process may experience one, the other, or a mixture of both forms of “hot flash” symptoms.
Cool off with Sage – Sage supports a strong anhidrotic (absence of sweating) and cooling effect on your system. Sage is also a key ingredient in our Hot Flashes & Night Sweats Natural Menopause Relief!
The Anatomy of a Hot Flash
It is thought that a hot flash begins when estrogen levels in your body begin to fluctuate. This is a frequent occurrence during menopause, for several reasons. At the onset of these hormonal imbalances, your estrogen levels will wax and wane. This prompts the body (through the hypothalamus in your brain) to “request” that the ovaries release more estrogen via ovulation.
If your ovaries cannot comply (again, as is often the case during menopause) with the request to produce/release more estrogen, your body repeats its request by flooding your hypothalamus with adrenalin. This causes your heart rate to increase, your blood vessels to dilate, and your body temperature to skyrocket.
Eventually, your body becomes at peace with the lower levels of estrogen hormone. This re-calibration or balance causes hot flashes and night sweats to decrease in frequency, duration, severity; and will usually lead to this particular symptom of menopause to subside altogether.
Balance Hormone symptoms with Black Cohosh – Black Cohosh is a staple of feminine health remedies because of the plant isoflavone formononetin, which binds to estrogen receptors and mimics its effects.
Most women who experience symptoms of menopause will live through a hot flash at some point. It is possible that a woman’s menopause will come and go without a single hot flash or bout with night sweats – it has been theorized that the reported lower instance of hot flashes in Asian cultures is because of the relatively high dietary amount of soy, a plant rife with phytoestrogens, a plant compound we’ll talk more about later.
The average age for hot flashes is the average age of menopause: for most women, the change occurs between one’s late 40’s to early 60’s. Other factors such as hysterectomy, previous illness and surgeries, and even smoking can lead to the onset of menopause (and therefore the potential for hot flash symptoms) at an earlier age.
Health Concerns for Hot Flashes / Night Sweats
It is important to remember that even though they can be disconcerting, Hot Flashes and Night Sweats are a natural part of your body’s coping process during this turbulent time in your life’s journey. That doesn’t mean you simply have to suffer in silence! There are numerous things you can do to ease your journey through menopause – and especially in regards to VMS.
Depression – while it is not officially linked, there are some studies that show the potential for a link between women who experience frequent and severe hot flashes with depression. There are many different reasons why this could be the case – and any link between the two is far from proven.
No matter why you’re feeling depressed, make sure you speak to someone. Whether it’s a family member, trusted friend or a health care provider, make sure you address your issues, rather than hiding them away. Remember – depression is real, whether or not the link between such ill feelings and hot flashes has any merit.
Sleep – Night sweats can wreak havoc on your healthy sleep habits, an absolutely essential part of making your transition through menopause as painless as possible. Try not to use herbs or other sleep aids to knock yourself back out; instead, change your sheets, have a cup of tea (non-caffeinated) or take a quick shower. Anything to get you back to your bed and your beauty sleep!
Hot flashes may seem random (and for all intents and purposes they are) but there is strong evidence to support the postulation that there are environmental triggers that can set your body off when you least expect it.
Heat – both emotional and environmental heat can cause a “hot flash” reaction. This can come in the form of a temperature change from indoors to outdoors, a warm room, or (in the case of night sweats) a warm body beside you.
Food – anything that acts as a “vasodilator” or, a substance or ingredient that causes your blood vessels to dilate, can be a trigger. Specifically: caffeine or warm coffee, capsaicin, other spicy foods, and alcohol are all potentially capable of triggering a hot flash.
Smoking – Lighting up can also increase your susceptibility to hot flashes. If you smoke, consider the onset of menopause as an excellent time to quit. There are a multitude of health reasons to quick smoking – use the potential for increased hot flashes as the one that motivates you!
Herbal Remedies & Nutritional Tips for Hot Flashes
Herbal remedies for Menopause Hot Flashes have two goals: the first is to reduce your blood vessels sensitivity to the variations in hormone levels during your change. The second is to ease the natural transition to lower hormone levels by delivering isoflavones and phytoestrogens – potent plant compounds that bind to estrogen receptors, mimicking the effects of estrogen hormone.
Black Cohosh – Black Cohosh is a staple of herbal menopause and female health remedies. Because it is packed with isoflavones and phytoestrogens, this herb promotes a healthy response to your menopause symptoms. Phytoestrogens bind with estrogen receptors in your body, mimicking the effects of estrogen hormone. Black Cohosh is a key ingredient in our Blessed Herbs Hot Flashes & Night Sweats.*
Stinging Nettle – Packed with nutrients and used traditionally to help reduce stress and promote a healthy inflammatory response within your body – which in turn may help you avoid hot flashes. You can use dried nettle leaves to make a nourishing tea.*
Eleuthero – Traditionally taken to prevent infections and reduce the impact of stress-related illnesses, Eleuthero may promote energy and can potentially reduce fatigue. Eleuthero has been utilized as an anti-nausea treatment, something that may come in handy too.*
Motherwort – Motherwort has strong relaxing properties, promoting a healthy biological response to stress. Motherwort has active plant compounds that support cardiovascular health, and can encourage a lessening in sweating as well as other hot flash symptoms caused by menopause.*
Licorice – The plant compounds found in licorice can promote optimal liver function, an organ that is instrumental in processing all the different hormones flying around your system during menopause. It can also stabilize your adrenal glands by supporting a healthy response to stress and other factors.*
Eat foods high in Vitamin C, such as fresh citrus and sweet bell peppers. You’ll want to try and get strong doses of Vitamin E as well. If you cannot consume any of the above for whatever reason, do your best to start taking a supplement.
Avoid spicy foods, such as cayenne pepper or other spices. These are “triggers” and can cause the frequency and severity of your hot flash symptoms to increase. Instead, go with cooling flavors and as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible.
Try not to ingest caffeine. If you’re one of the many who simply cannot function without a dose of caffeine in the morning, switch to an herbal green tea instead of coffee. Also, if you can help it try and avoid drinking your beverages hot – as this can also cause hot flashes.
The Bottom Line
Going through menopause means you’re going to be susceptible to hot flashes and night sweats. But that doesn’t mean these inconvenient signs of your body’s attempts to even out its hormonal “bumps in the road” have to slow you down or make you more uncomfortable than you need to be.
There are options such as hormone therapy – but those kinds of treatments have their own risks. For those seeking a more natural solution, there are plenty of herbal remedies that should help you cope with vasomotor symptoms of menopause as well.