If you’ve ever experienced a hot flash, you probably remember intimately the first time that it happened to you. The sudden feeling of heat, and warmth that pass through your body and make your face feel as if it’s beet red, followed by a chill after the flash passes. Hot flashes can also make your heart beat rapidly, and can bring on intense perspiration as your body struggles to process the sudden burst of heat.
Hot flashes are typically considered a female issue, although that’s not actually accurate. Both men and women are vulnerable to hot flashes. They’re most commonly associated with menopause, but they are common among heavy smokers, as well as people that are chronically obese. One unusual statistic is that African-American women are the group who report the most frequent hot flashes, followed by women of European descent, and then finally Japanese and Chinese women, who typically have them infrequently.
If you suffer from regular hot flashes, it can be an embarrassing and unpleasant experience. Here are some ways to ease hot flashes naturally.
Although caffeine may seem like one of life’s necessities, it acts as a stimulant to our sympathetic nervous system, which can bring on a hot flash if we’re in the middle of a, particularly hormonal period. Studies have shown a positive correlation between hot flashes and caffeine intake. If you want to limit your caffeine intake to see whether it will help with your hot flashes, a good way to start is by switching from coffee to herbal tea every morning. You’ll still have your morning ritual, you’ll just be replacing the beverage with something less caffeine-heavy. Also, you should definitely stay away from Red Bull and other energy drinks, which contain a shocking amount of caffeine.
Experiment with natural sources of estrogen
If you’re troubled by hot flashes on a regular basis, one treatment that your doctor may suggest is estrogen therapy, which involves you taking a small dose of synthetically produced estrogen to replace the hormones no longer being produced by your body. A lot of women choose to avoid taking synthetically produced estrogen by upping their intake of soy products, which contain estrogen-like compounds which can help alleviate some hot flashes. Researchers posit that this is why Asian women are much less likely to suffer from hot flashes — their society as a whole eats a lot more soy products than the average American or European woman.
Practice deep breathing
Another way to help minimize the effect of a hot flash while it’s occurring and help prevent future hot flashes is to regularly practice deep breathing. A common way to do this is through meditation, which puts an active focus on the breath in order to move away from discomforts like elevated temperatures and rapid heartbeat. It can also help our sympathetic nervous system from kicking our body into the fight or flight response, which will help keep us calm and cool. There are some great apps out there that can help introduce you to the concept of deep breathing or meditation, including Headspace, as well as some great YouTube videos that will walk you through a brief introduction to meditation.
Practice yoga and stay active
If you’re having hot flashes as a response to menopause, it’s tempting to stay at home until the discomfort passes. However, one of the best things you can do for your body is to continue to maintain your normal exercise routine, including exercises that strengthen both body and mind like yoga and tai chi. If you’re not sleeping well because your hot flashes wake you up at night, aim to get outside and enjoy the sun for at least 40 minutes every day — it will help keep your circadian rhythms in check and ensure you sleep better at night. Yoga is great particularly because it encourages you to release stress, which will help improve your transition into menopause.
Dress in layers to keep your core body temperature cool
Another way that you can help your body avoid hot flashes is to do as much as possible to keep your core body temperature regulated. This is more difficult to do in summer, but you can definitely influence the frequency and intensity of hot flashes by keeping your core body temperature as cool as possible. Dress in layers no matter the weather, in case you need to take something off, and use cool drinks, fans, and cold compresses to bring your body heat down, even during a hot flash. When you go to bed, err on the side of using blankets rather than pajamas to keep warm, so you can push them off with ease if you get too hot during the night. Look for clothing and textiles made of all-natural fabrics like wool, linen, and cotton.
Avoid hot, spicy foods
Depending on how comfortable you are with spicy food, just the act of taking in spice may trigger a hot flash. If you’re comfortable with spice and heat, you can still continue to enjoy the foods that you did before, but be aware that if your internal temperature elevates, it may trigger a hot flash. This warning also applies to foods that are hot in temperature — when in doubt, just wait a few minutes until your dish is a bit cooler. The more you notice when your hot flashes are being triggered, the better you’ll be at avoiding the dishes that bring on these uncomfortable feelings in the first place.
Another daily habit that is notorious for triggering hot flashes is smoking. Studies have found that women who smoke have more hot flashes during menopause, especially if they tested positive for a certain gene, which was linked to estrogen metabolism. This gene increased the subject’s susceptibility to environmental toxins, increasing their regular hot flashes. African-American women were more likely to have this gene than any other subjects surveyed. This led to an astounding statistic — African-American women who smoked were 84 percent more likely to experience hot flashes than their non-smoking counterparts. If you smoke, it’s very important that you quit before reaching the age of menopause, otherwise, you leave yourself vulnerable to uncomfortable, frequent hot flashes.
Keep to a low-fat diet
Another way that you can help minimize the impact and frequency of your hot flashes is by sticking to a healthy, low-fat diet, and losing any excess weight if your doctor recommends that you do so. In a study published in the journal Menopause, around 26 percent of women who took part in the study had hot flashes, and those who followed a low-fat diet were three times more likely to lose weight, which helped them get rid of their hot flashes within a year. Even people who followed the low-fat diet and did not lose any weight reported fewer hot flashes. The less fat present in the body, the easier it is for our bodies to dissipate heat without needing to sweat it out.
If you’re suffering from hot flashes, and willing to try any method to get some relief from your chronic symptoms of menopause, many women have had positive results by turning to acupuncture. This alternative treatment, when used on its own or in conjunction with electrical stimulation, has been shown to help treat moderate to severe hot flashes. In one study, electroacupuncture was compared to the drug gabapentin, which is often used to treat symptoms of menopause, and came out as the most effective method. There were 120 women who took part in the study, and even after the 16-week study ended, the women who had been given electroacupuncture were more comfortable than any other section of women surveyed.
Experiment with herbal remedies
There are a number of herbal supplements and remedies that have been used by women for decades to help alleviate uncomfortable hot flashes. If you would like to investigate the possibility of using herbal remedies yourself, please consult a trained naturopathic doctor. They may recommend supplements like black cohosh, red clover, and evening primrose oil, but you should always use these treatments under the supervision of a trained professional. Although they are all natural, you risk potentially serious health complications if you take too much, or if they interact with other medications in a negative way.