Natural Remedies for Hot Flashes During Menopause
At least 60 percent of women in North America will experience hot flashes at some point leading up to, or during, the menopausal period. Consisting of episodes of flushing that can last from a few seconds to a few minutes, hot flashes are often accompanied by increased heart rate, blood flow, and skin temperature leading to a “flash” of heat. This uncomfortable feeling can leave sufferers sweaty, red-faced, and totally frustrated!
Although widely known and very common, we still don’t fully understand the physiology of hot flashes and why symptom-severity and duration are experienced differently from person to person, or the role played by other factors, including culture and geographic location. While we know that hot flashes result from hormonal changes in the body, and that they appear to be a response to a sudden decrease and reset of the body’s thermostat (regulated by the hypothalamus), their connection to the decline in estrogen production and how this influences the presence of hot flashes remains a bit of a mystery.
What are the causes of hot flashes?
There are many common triggers that might be aggravating your hot flashes. If you’re not sure what your specific triggers are, try keeping a journal to track what you’re eating and what you’re doing when they occur. Common triggers include:
Hot beverages, alcohol, caffeine
Red meat, shellfish, dairy
Histamine-containing foods (red wine, cheese)
Stress, worry, overwork, exhaustion
Extreme weather (hot or cold)
Pharmaceuticals including tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors
Planning a menopause diet
While you may not be able to eliminate the symptoms of menopause (and peri-menopause), you may be able to lessen their severity and frequency with a few tweaks to your diet, a couple of effective supplements, and some simple lifestyle changes!
Sugar-free Avoid excess refined sugars and highly processed foods. Prioritize your intake of dietary fibre and focus on lean meats, legumes, lentils, nuts, and seeds as sources of protein.
Soy-full Increase your intake of foods containing isoflavones like soy. Isoflavones are phytoestrogens that may limit some of menopause’s side effects by mimicking estrogen. With any soy product, it’s important to stick to organic!
Fibre-packed Freshly ground flax is full of fibre, making it an amazing support for helping to both treat and prevent constipation while clearing excess toxins from the bowel. Flax also contains a good amount of lignans, a dietary source of phytoestrogens! Try to include 1–2 tablespoons of freshly ground flax in your diet, daily.
Friendly fats Coconut oil, butter, nuts, seeds, hemp, and fatty fish are great sources of healthy omegas to help keep blood sugar stabilized, reduce inflammation, and help ensure healthy hormone production.
Forget these fats While our bodies produce prostaglandins (fatty acid compounds that help with healing inflammation and hormone production), too much of these can throw the body out of balance, potentially increasing the severity and frequency of hot flashes. Limit your intake of foods high in prostaglandins like red meat, dairy, shellfish, and peanuts.
Drink well Avoid excess caffeine and alcohol and add in one or two cups of sage tea each day which is high in both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, to help reduce the frequency of both hot flashes and night sweats.
Hot Flash Friends!
Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) is one of the most well-researched herbs for menopausal support, especially in the reduction of hot flashes, and has been widely used as a natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in menopause. Black cohosh can help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, calming the mind and the body.
Dosage: Capsule 40 mg 2–3 times daily Tincture 2 mL (1:5 concentration) twice daily.
Siberian Rhubarb (Rheum rhaponiticum) has been shown to have a significant effect on many menopausal symptoms and contains only a minor activation of estrogen receptors, making it a safe treatment option for the reduction of hot flashes. Happily, unlike other medicinal rhubarb species, Siberian rhubarb does not contain anthraquinones, which tend to have a laxative effect.
Dosage: Capsule 4 mg 1–3 times daily.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid supplementation can help decrease hot flashes by reducing prostaglandin production and inflammation, and by increasing EPA and DHA levels which can help improve depressive symptoms commonly associated with menopause.
Dosage: At least 1000 mg of EPA and 600 mg of DHA per day, with food.
Natural treatment for hot flashes
Sleep in a cool, dark room and maintain a regular sleep routine at both bedtime and wake-up time.
Exercise regularly for at least 40 minutes each day to help balance neurotransmitters, regulate the hypothalamus, control thermoregulation, and increase blood flow and circulation.
Deep breathing once or twice daily can help relax the nervous system and improve sleeping patterns.
Reduce stressors and try to find ways to minimize and manage stressful events or interactions. Consciously summon positive thoughts and find things to be grateful for daily.
Acupuncture can be beneficial in treating and preventing hot flashes, with multiple studies citing symptom improvement compared to those women who did not have acupuncture. It has also shown to help calm the central nervous system, reduce the body’s response to stress, and improve sleep.
Visit your healthcare provider to ensure your adrenals and thyroid are balanced, as hormonal fluctuations in either can greatly impact the frequency and severity of hot flashes. Also, discuss the option of bio-identical hormones (plant hormones that mimic human hormones), which may be a safer choice for you than traditional HRT.
Hot flashes are not a guaranteed feature of menopause, nor are they always debilitating, but it’s wise to be prepared for them! These simple suggestions may not only relieve hot-flash misery, they can support other conditions and discomforts you may experience—with or without menopause. With any new medicine or lifestyle change, it’s important to speak with your healthcare practitioner to ensure it’s right for you and your specific situation.
Want to learn more? Check out more EcoParent, including why tracking ovulation is important and myths and facts about hormones and the menstrual cycle.