Hot flushes, hot flashes, whatever you call them. They can be anything from a mild irritating symptom to something that’s completely debilitating. So in this blog (or video if you prefer), we’re going to look at what causes them, how to prevent them, as well as some tools to use in the moment when a hot flush strikes. Treating hot flushes naturally is possible!
Menopausal Hot Flushes
The research suggests that at least 75% of women will experience hot flushes at some point in their menopause transition and they can happen at any time in the peri to post-menopause years. They can take many different forms:
- They ca be felt all over the body or just on singular parts like the torso, the neck, or the head.
- They can feel like they’re coming from the internal to the external
- Moving from an upwards to downwards position or from a downwards to upwards position
- They could have internal heat with external chills.
- There could be sweating or you have heat all over with no sweating.
- You could be hot, then cold or hot with redness and sweat.
- They could start with a preceding symptom like palpitations or prickly skin, or they can come on completely out of the blue.
- They can last for a few seconds or for as long as 30 minutes
- They can occur just during the day, just at night. Or both day and night.
The truth of the matter is there’s no right or wrong way to do a hot flush. It really depends on the individual.
What causes hot flushes?
The science says we don’t know, but it’s probably down to fluctuating hormones. But what we do know is two things underpin most of your menopause symptoms.
- The state of your metabolic health, i e blood sugar balance; and
- Stress levels.
Oestrogen is involved in over 400 different functions in the body, and two of those very important functions are keeping your insulin levels and cortisol levels in check. Insulin is all about your blood sugar balance, and cortisol is all about your stress levels.
So as we lose oestrogen, we become much more sensitive to these two hormones. The result of that sensitivity leads to menopause symptoms such as anxiety, weight gain, depression, fatigue, insomnia, and of course hot flushes.
In addition to that, there are some known triggers for hot flushes which include:
- Spicy foods
- Hot drinks
Top tip: keep a journal of when you get hot flushes and see if you can identify any triggers.
But I would also add to that list of triggers, strong emotions. A lot of ladies in clinic tell me that they get hot flashes when they feel themselves getting flustered. So maybe they’re trying to get out the door, they’re running late, they’ve got three people trying to talk to them all at once, they can’t find the word they are searching for to answer one of those people and they can feel the stress levels rising and then wham, along comes a hot flush. Maybe you can relate?
Treating Hot Flushes Naturally
Hot Flush Prevention
Prevention starts with blood sugar balance and managing stress levels.
Eating to balance blood sugar levels is all about metabolic health and this needs to be our focus, both for a better menopause experience and also for long-term health. Eating to balance your blood sugar levels involves reducing or eliminating sugar and refined carbohydrates.
When we eat those foods, we end up on a blood sugar rollercoaster, and in each high, of that rollercoaster, the pancreas releases insulin. However, due to our lower levels of oestrogen, we become less sensitive to the message of insulin. As a result, we have too much insulin in our system. And in the lows of the rollercoaster, we have a stress response. We release cortisol to deal with the stress and again we end up with too much cortisol in the system.
So instead, what we want to be doing is removing those foods, the highly sugared foods, and the refined carbohydrates from our diet. We want to be eating three proper meals a day that are protein-rich, fibre-rich and full of vegetables.
And the beauty of eating like this is that we don’t have cravings because we naturally feel satisfied. The protein and the fibre keeps us feeling full and sends messages to our hunger hormones that we have had enough to eat, so we have fewer cravings. And when we eat to balance our blood sugar levels, we also have less stress and less inflammation in the body, and when we have less and less inflammation then we have fewer hot flushes.
So we can reduce stress by eating to balance our blood sugar levels, but we should also be looking to do daily self-care. We naturally have higher stress levels in menopause, so we can reduce those stress levels through food and through daily self-care practices that help to quieten down the stress response. That could look like:
- Yoga Nidra.
- Walking in nature
- An afternoon nap
The key is, it doesn’t really matter what we do. We just want to be doing it every single day. And even if you can only manage five or 10 minutes a day, that will have some benefit. In fact, if you’re really busy, just doing some breath work would be a huge benefit.
But the truth of the matter is menopause is your time. You need to be your number one priority. You need to start setting better boundaries and saying no to people and no to the things that do not light you up. And no to the things that do not serve you.
Herbs for Hot Flushes
In addition to balancing our blood sugar levels and reducing stress levels, we can use herbs like Black Cohosh which is fantastic for reducing hot flushes. And Ashwagandha is also a great herb because it helps to reduce stress levels. I cover both of these herbs in a lot more detail in this blog here.
Natural Fibres for Hot Flushes
Natural fibres work with the body’s natural temperature. That is, when we are hot, the fibres open up to let more air in, and when we are cold, the fibres close together to keep us warm. Choosing clothes made from natural cotton or linen is ideal and one of my lovely clients told me that she got through her hot flushes by sleeping with wool blankets which is another natural fibre.
With these preventative measures, we do have to make this our focus. We really want to be trying to eat to balance our blood sugar levels and working on reducing stress every single day. So it’s not a case of I tried it for two weeks and it didn’t work for me.
We do have to be committed to these lifestyle changes for the long term, but if you make these changes, it will go a long way to helping you manage not just hot flushes, but all of your menopause symptoms.
Tools for When a Hot Flush Strikes
Breathwork is shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flushes. Personally, I like the 4 x 4 breath where you breath in 4, hold for 4, out for 4, hold for 4 and repeat that 4 times.
You could also use a yogic breath called Sitali breath. It involves rolling your tongue and breathing cool air through your tongue as if it were a straw. Here’s a demonstration.
Homeopathy for Hot Flushes
There are tons of homeopathic remedies to cover hot flashes, but these are my three favourite and most used remedies.
As always, homeopathic remedies have to be matched to your state. If they don’t match your symptoms, then they won’t work. You can order all of these remedies from a Helios Homeopathic Pharmacy and I’d recommend a 30 C potency.
In its healthy state sepia has lots of energy, and they’re very caring. They do everything for everyone but it’s this that wears them out. So when we see the need for sepia, the woman is usually very worn out, dragged down, and you see that dragging maybe in the period pains they might be described as dragging and their energy is quite dragging. They want to be left alone or they may want to escape their family and they always feel better from vigorous exercise.
They’re generally a very chilly person. And when a hot flush strikes, they might describe it as very hot as if ‘water being poured all over them’. They may get anxious with their hot flushes and they may get sweat with their hot flushes usually on the chest, and they may feel weak and exhausted after a hot flush. Generally, they’re worse before their periods.
This is a fantastic menopause remedy and covers ‘never been well since menopause’. Their menopausal state might include jealousy, suspicion, even paranoia and emotional outbursts. They’re can be quite spiteful.
They have incredible flushes of heat with lots of congestion and they might have cold feet with it. It tends to be an ascending heat and they might also get palpitations or bursting headaches or even high blood pressure. A keynote of Lachesis is they don’t like tight clothing, particularly around the neck.
It covers general aggravations at menopause and they tend to be angry and irritable and very busy, and therefore very impatient. They get severe hot flushes with sweating and perspiration. The perspiration might have a sour odour to it, and it tends to be the upper parts that are affected the most. They can get flushes on eating hot food and it can be worse overnight.
With each of these remedies, you could take them when a hot flush strikes. The idea in homeopathy is we only take a remedy when the symptoms are there. So if you’re having a cluster of hot flushes, you could take the remedy every 15 to 30 minutes, up to three or four doses, and that should resolve the issue. If you’ve selected the wrong remedy, don’t worry, you can’t do any harm. It simply won’t work. At that point, you would stop and review the symptoms and look for a better-matched remedy.
My approach to treating hot flushes is to start with prevention – i.e. get blood sugar and stress in check. Then look at what individualised support is required with homeopathic remedies and herbal supplements.
If you need help with any of that book a call to discuss my 1:1 menopause programme.
P.S. Not ready to commit to a programme? That’s cool, grab my free download ‘Ultimate Guide to Thriving in the Menopause’ instead.