By Dr. Amy Day
“Is it hot in here or is it just me?” Whether you think of them as power surges or a pain in the neck, hot flashes are a very common sign of changing hormones.
No one knows exactly what causes them but hot flashes and night sweats are among the most common symptoms of menopause. The body’s temperature regulation system gets out of balance when our hormone levels are fluctuating. Once you are a few years past your last menstrual period, things will usually calm down on their own, but in the meantime here are some steps you can take to cool things down when your hormones are acting up.
Eat lots of vegetables and raw foods, especially cooling foods such as cucumber, fennel, parsley, celery Soy (organic, non-GMO), cruciferous vegetables,
broccoli sprouts, raw ground flax seeds, and wild salmon are all great choices. Quality proteins and good fats will provide the building blocks for your hormones (Caution if you have hypothyroidism: both raw crucifers and soy should be in limited quantities. Instead, add seaweed and fish for extra iodine.)
AVOID: spicy foods, deep fried foods, hot beverages, processed sugars, alcohol, caffeine and cigarette smoking – all can trigger hot flashes
Step 2 – Stress Management
Get regular exercise and go to bed early enough to allow for 8-9 hours sleep
Keep your cool: Feeling anxious, irritable or nervous can trigger sweats
Practice deep breathing – try for 5 minutes at a time, several times per day to teach your nervous system how to calm.
Practice mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or try acupuncture – your body will be less likely to get triggered.
Take care of your adrenals so they can help produce hormones when you need them.
Step 3 – Sleep Comfort
Wear light clothes or wicking exercise shirts to sleep in.
Dry off quickly if you are woken in a sweat, in order to avoid the chill that can create a cycle of sweats/chills.
Keep a window ajar for fresh air that will naturally cool over the night and leave a fan on to keep the air moving.
There are many products on the market such as gel pads and pillows (ie The Chillow) that stay cool through the night.
Black cohosh is by far the most well studied herb for controlling hot flashes. An extract providing 20-40 mg twice per day will decrease the frequency and severity of hot flashes for many women. Soy, kudzu and other beans/legumes provide isoflavones which have
a balancing effect on estrogen receptors and can help with hot flashes. Red clover, sage and shatavari (an Ayurvedic herb) are other herbs to consider. I have also been using a newer herbal option, an extract of Siberian Rhubarb (ERr731), with great success.
Step 5 – Hormone Therapy
If your symptoms are severe and persistent, you might be considering bioidentical hormones. Most women (and doctors) think that hot flashes are due to low estrogen. While this can certainly be true, usually in the earlier stages of perimenopause, it is the lower levels of *progesterone* that lead the temperature instability and trigger the heat. Working with a hormone expert will help you discover how best to balance your hormones directly if needed, but the above lifestyle changes and natural remedies will do the trick in most cases.
Dr. Amy Day is the resident Naturopathic doctor at Namaste. She is on a personal mission to empower women to find effective solutions to their health problems.After eight years practicing at San Francisco Natural Medicine, she now has her own practice in Berkeley where she lives with her husband and son. She enjoys cooking with natural foods, spending time outdoors, hiking and yoga.