Hot flushes, also known as hot flashes, are one of the most common symptoms of menopause. Caused by changing hormone levels, hot flushes involve a sudden intense feeling of heat, accompanied by excessive sweating. Hot flushes can be uncomfortable and distressing, but there are steps you can take to help reduce their impact.
Here we look at what causes menopause hot flushes, how different foods and natural remedies can affect hot flushes, and some common misconceptions about hot flushes.
Why do women get hot flushes during menopause?
Hot flushes during menopause are caused by changing hormones. As a woman begins to approach menopause - known as perimenopause - levels of the hormone oestrogen start to fluctuate. This can cause the part of the brain that controls body temperature (the hypothalamus) to become confused, triggering a heat response which aims to cool the body by increasing blood flow and causing you to sweat.
This heat response can result in a reddening of the skin (flushing) and excessive sweating. A hot flush often begins with a sudden, intense sensation of heat in the face, chest or elsewhere in the body, which then spreads, together with a rapid heartbeat.
Hot flushes are also associated with night sweats, a form of excessive sweating during the night, which can be very uncomfortable and disruptive.
Can hot flushes not be due to menopause?
While hot flushes are very common during perimenopause and menopause, there are a number of other conditions which can cause similar symptoms. These can include:
- Thyroid issues - for example, hyperthyroidism can cause hot flushes and sweating
- Some cancers - some tumours secrete hormones which can interrupt the body’s systems, resulting in hot flushes and sweating
- Emotional stress - if you’re suffering from stress, you may experience sudden periods of heat when your body releases the ‘fight or flight’ hormone, adrenaline
- Medications - some medications can cause hot flushes as a side effect
If you’re suffering from hot flushes, your doctor can perform a blood test to see if your symptoms are related to menopause.
Are there natural remedies for hot flushes?
Many women find that taking natural herbal remedies can help them to manage hot flushes.
Isoflavones are naturally occurring plant oestrogens, which act in a similar way to the oestrogen we produce in our bodies. Taking isoflavones may help to support hormonal balance, reduce hot flushes and maintain health and vitality during menopause. Plants such as red clover and maca are particularly high in isoflavones.
The Live Better With community also recommend Lindens Menopause Formula Tablets, which combine extracts of natural botanicals including red clover, sage, Siberian ginseng and liquorice to help combat hot flushes, into a single tablet:
"Brilliant for hot flushes, been taking for 3 months and my hot flushes have gone." Live Better With community member
When it comes to taking any dietary supplements, you should always proceed with care. Talk to your doctor first, to make sure they won’t interfere with any existing conditions or medications. You should always ensure that any supplements come from a reputable source.
You can see the Live Better With range of menopause vitamins and supplements here. And for more information on menopause supplements, read our Beginner’s Guide.
For a range of natural solutions to help combat menopause hot flushes, including organic creams and cooling sprays, see the full range of Live Better With products to help with hot flushes and night sweats here.
What foods make hot flushes and menopause symptoms worse?
When it comes to eating and menopause, hot and spicy foods are known to trigger hot flushes.
Caffeine and alcohol can also bring on and exacerbate hot flushes, so it can help to opt for herbal teas or decaffeinated coffee and low alcohol drinks.
By having lighter meals, and by reducing or eliminating triggers from your diet, you can help to reduce the impact of hot flushes.
Eating a healthy and well balanced diet, which includes plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains, can help you to stay healthy and regulate your weight (which will also help with hot flushes).
Make sure your diet also includes plenty of isoflavones, which can be found in a range of foods including soy-based foods, chick peas, lentils, linseeds, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and ground flaxseed.
You can read more about the best foods to manage your menopause symptoms here.
Common misconceptions about menopausal hot flushes
'Hot flushes only last for a few months'
As with many symptoms of menopause, hot flushes can sometimes last for years. They commonly start a few months or years before menopause, and continue for several years afterwards.
'Hot flushes are just a rush of heat'
Some women experience hot flushes multiple times in a single day. A hot flush lasts on average between 3 and 8 minutes, and the excessive sweating can be followed by a sudden chill and a feeling of dampness as your body quickly cools down. This may sometimes require a change of clothes, which can be embarrassing and inconvenient. Hot flushes can also become worse in hot weather or warm environments.
'Hot flushes are just a bit of an inconvenience'
While not every woman suffers from the effects of hot flushes, for a great many women they can be extremely uncomfortable and disruptive, and can have both a physical and emotional impact on their lives.
As well as the discomfort and embarrassment of sudden excessive sweating and blotchy skin, hot flushes can also cause palpitations and feelings of anxiety. For some women, they are so debilitating that they can affect their personal relationships and even their careers.
Meanwhile, night sweats can cause difficulty sleeping (insomnia), which can lead to fatigue, irritability, problems with concentrating, and depression.
Have you experienced problems with hot flushes? Do you have any tips, or are you looking for advice? Why not visit the Live Better With Community Forum.