Hot flashes, also known as hot flushes, are a sudden, transient sensation of warmth or heat that spreads over the body, creating a flushing, or redness, that is particularly noticeable on the face and upper body. The experience of hot flashes can range between delicate flushes and a sensation of engulfing flames.
Hot flashes result from the body’s reaction to a decreased supply of the hormone estrogen, which occurs naturally as women approach menopause. Not all women experience hot flashes, but more than half do. For some women, estrogen production decreases gradually, producing fewer hot flashes. But for others, the ovaries stop estrogen production more abruptly; for these women, hot flashes can be a rollercoaster ride.
What Are Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes are a vasomotor symptom of menopause. This means that hot flashes can disrupt the normal functioning of the vascular and motor systems of the body, causing intense heat, perspiration, and other symptoms ranging from mild to severe.
The duration and frequency of hot flashes varies from woman to woman. Hot flashes can occur at any time of the day or night, though they are often called night sweats when they happen during sleeping hours.
Women with menopause-related hot flashes will usually experience a consistent and unique pattern of symptoms. Some women experience mild symptoms of hot flashes infrequently, while others experience more severe symptoms multiple times each day.
Signs and Symptoms of Hot Flashes
The following are the most common signs and symptoms of hot flashes:
- Sudden, intense feelings of heat. In the face, neck, arms, torso, and sometimes the whole body.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat and pulse. Including heart palpitations.
- Flushing or reddened face and neck, particularly in lighter skinned women.
- Perspiration. Ranging from mild to profuse.
- Cold chills. Often follows hot flashes, though sometimes women only experience the chill.
- Sleep disturbances. They occur at night, and are also known as night sweats. Estrogen levels are often lowest at night, which is why women often experience nocturnal hot flashes.
- Other symptoms. Nausea, dizziness, anxiety, and headaches.
Causes of Hot Flashes
The most common cause of hot flashes in menopausal women is changing levels of estrogen in the body. Diminished amounts of estrogen have a direct effect on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for controlling appetite, sex hormones, sleep, and body temperature.
Lowered levels of estrogen confuse the hypothalamus, causing it to inaccurately sense that the body is overheating. This provokes an internal chain of reactions that women experience as “hot flashes”.
In addition to these completely normal hormonal causes of hot flashes, other medical conditions can also cause hot flashes.
Diseases that can cause hot flashes:
- Panic disorder
- Thyroid disease
Managing Hot Flashes
Thankfully, women who experience hot flashes during menopause have several ways to manage it in order to reduce their frequency and/or severity. In many cases, simple steps can be taken throughout the day to prevent or allay hot flashes. Also, avoiding the common triggers of hot flashes is another important way to combat them.
Simple daily changes that can greatly help a menopausal woman manage hot flashes include:
- Considering air conditioning, ceiling and floor fans, and even small personal handheld fans.
- Avoiding being rushed, since it can quickly raise the body’s temperature and trigger a hot flash.
- Keeping ice water or another cold beverage on hand during the day and night.
- Taking a cool shower before bed.
- Using cotton sheets and avoiding silk or synthetics.
- Keeping a cold pack under or near the pillow and turning the pillow often can also help keep a woman cool and minimize hot flashes.
In addition to making these simple changes, avoiding hot flash triggers can significantly help a woman manage hot flashes.
- Warm environments (i.e., hot weather, saunas)
- Heat makers (e.g., fireplaces, hair dryers, heaters)
- Hot and spicy foods and drinks
- Smoking cigarettes
- Overconsumption of caffeine, alcohol, and sugar
Making minor daily changes and avoiding triggers can make a huge difference for many menopausal women who are trying to manage hot flashes. While these measures often help to reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, they are unable to treat the root of the problem, which is a hormonal imbalance.
Hot Flashes Treatments
If the simple management techniques outlined above are not bringing about the desired level of relief and a woman is still suffering from hot flashes, there are other treatment measures that can be followed.
It is most logical, as well as safest; to begin with the least invasive lifestyle changes first, and then progress on to other measures if these are not working. Due to the fact that at heart, hot flashes are a hormonal issue, it is most effective to address the problem at the hormonal source.
Natural and alternative remedies are a safe and easy way to nip this problem in the bud, particularly in conjunction with lifestyle changes to promote overall health.
Plant derived estrogens, called Phyto-estrogens, is regarded as the most safest and easiest of non-intrusive substances you can use to help increase estrogen levels to counteract menopause related symptoms. The Manna Menopause Support is such a supplement, which already helped thousands of women to deal with menopausal symptoms.