You’re in your 30s and you suddenly feel like you are bathing in sweat…
In your 40s, 50s and maybe into your 60s, the sudden onslaught of heat and sweat are unfortunately common.
Perimenopause and menopause don’t usually last for 30 years, but the span in which women begin and end experiencing hot flashes can occur anytime within this window. Yes, perimenopause can begin in your 30s, and yes, you may not be post-menopausal until well into your 60s.
Hot flashes are the most common symptom of menopause and perimenopause. More than two-thirds of women in the U.S. report having hot flashes. However, some may never have them, about 2 in 10 women never get hot flashes. Others have hot flashes for only a very short period of time. While, others can have them for 11 years or more. On average, however, women get hot flashes or night sweats for about 7 years.
A hot flash is a sudden feeling of intense heat that comes from inside the body, rather than from external sources and is often followed by the body attempting to cool down by sweating.
Not all women experience them the same way. Some feel a tingling in their fingers when they start up. Others notice that their heartbeat has sped up. Others feel their skin becoming warmer, and their face becoming flushed.
And some sweat profusely.
Every woman experiences them in her own way. And two variances of hot flashes that are also common are night sweats and flushing.
Night sweats are when you sweat so much, your bed clothes, and maybe even your sheets, become damp and may need to be changed.
Flushing is the sudden rise in body temperature that can cause your skin, especially in your face and neck area to become red in appearance, and is a common system of hot flashes.
The Cause of Hot Flashes
It’s been widely accepted that this rapid and exaggerated heat response is associated with dropping estrogen levels, but that is not necessarily the sole cause.
The exact cause of hot flashes is unknown though research has validated drops in estrogen are a factor. However, there are other hormones, genetics and lifestyle factors that may also be involved.
According to Dr. Carolyn J. Crandell; “We hypothesized that variation in genes might be linked with higher risk of having hot flashes or night sweats,” as reported in a study, which was published in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society.
One of the risk factors for hot flashes has been known to be ethnicity. More African-American women report menopausal hot flashes than do women of European descent. And hot flashes are even less common in women of Japanese and Chinese descent. This indicates a high probability that genetics are indeed a factor.
Note, two other well-known risk factors are smoking and obesity.
Low Sex Drive
One of the common complaints that my clients express is their lack of sex drive. As your sex hormones drop, so too will libido. But again, there are other factors to include hot flashes. Hot flashes can affect your sex drive a number of ways:
Simply being sweaty or the idea that you will sweat can be a turn off, and body heat produced by being close can trigger hot flashes.
More insidious is the lack of self-esteem and confidence.
No matter how hot flashes affect you and your life, I believe the most difficult to contend with is how they affect your self-esteem and confidence. Everyone I see in my practice struggles with maintaining their self-identity and self-assurance, and going through perimenopause and menopause makes it even harder.
Mood swings, knowing you can no longer have children, low libido and just a sense of who you are as a woman come into question. It can be a sad time for many.
Hot flashes do not help. When you are in the middle of asserting yourself in any way and you begin to feel flush, uncomfortable and sweat – these are all traditional signals you are not comfortable. And, though it may be out of your control, and though you may have felt confident before you began, once a hot flash begins – you’re not so much anymore. And the people you are engaged with, they may question whether or not you are – or at least you may feel they are.
Another interesting discovery concerns night sweats. Although, another one of the most reported symptoms is sleep disturbance and night sweats, this has not been found in most laboratory studies. One study, “found no differences among age-matched premenopausal women, postmenopausal symptomatic women, and postmenopausal asymptomatic women on any sleep measure, performance test, or questionnaire measure. Additionally, hot flashes did not appear to trigger awakenings or arousals based on analysis of whole-night data.”
And subsequent studies have found that women during this age range, whether they are experiencing perimenopause, menopause or not, they do have more sleep disturbances during the second half of their sleep cycles. However, rather than perimenopause or menopause as the cause, their “findings emphasize the importance of detecting primary sleep disorders, such as apnea and periodic limb movements which are highly disruptive of sleep and can have serious medical consequences.” Source
It’s good to know more about the cause of hot flashes, so we can find appropriate and effects ways to manage them. However, regardless of the cause of hot flashes they are uncomfortable, inconvenient and can disrupt your life.
One thing I have found, is that many of the women I see with night sweats have a sluggish liver for one reason or another. Often, hot flashes are associated with lower estrogen, but if your hormone replacement therapy isn’t helping to reduce your hot flashes and night sweats, check your liver function.
Your liver performs a lot of different functions to include filtering your blood coming from your digestive tract, detoxifying toxins and metabolizing drugs. A lot of the work happens while you sleep and being such a large organ doing a lot of work, it generates quite a bit of heat.
In addition to a heavy workload, your liver may be struggling for other reasons. Being that it’s so important to your health and vitality, it’s always good to check the health of your liver.
What You Can Do
Avoiding things that trigger your hot flashes can significantly lower the frequency and intensity of your hot flashes. Start by noticing what was happening or the environment before the onset of your hot flashes. Writing them down in a journal can help you identify patterns which can help you avoid specific environments or conditions that set your off.
Additionally, you may be able to avoid them by avoiding the more common triggers:
- Hot rooms or outside in hot weather
- Hot or spicy foods
- Smoke, or smoking
- Tight or constricting clothing
You can also try dressing in light, loose layers. This can help you feel less constricted and, you can take off layers as needed.
Learn how to manage stress. I have a guide with 5 strategies to include a breathing exercise that can help you calm your hormones and relax in just a few minutes. Click here to grab a copy.
Drink lots of water. This is a healthy habit to take up at any time and can help with temperature regulation.
At night, try a “chill pillow” filled with water or other cooling material to stay cooler or use sheets that wick moisture. Often cotton is recommended, but many of my clients have found loose clothing made from the same material exercise clothing is made from helps a lot. There are a lot of materials made to wick moisture away from the skin and dry quickly.
Finally, though it might sound counter-intuitive if you want to avoid over-heating, exercise and being active can help. Try longer, slower forms of exercise where you have fun. Walking, hiking, swimming and bicycling comes to mind, but you could try something a bit more active like dancing as long as you enjoy it.
Need Additional Help?
You can consider hormone therapy, but you do need to speak with your health practitioner. There are a lot of benefits to hormone therapy when done skillfully, but it’s likely not going to be a total solution. And though hormone therapy is currently considered the most effective treatment, sometimes antidepressants are prescribed to try and reduce the frequency of hot flashes as well.
There are food and herbal remedies that many recommend too, but there’s not a lot of research on many of these alternatives. If you try them, it’s going to be an experiment just like anything else you do. And, if you do try alternatives such as adding more soy or using Black Cohosh, I still recommend that you consult your health practitioner.
Before you include hormone therapy, antidepressants, herbal remedies, supplements or use food as a form of supplementation, have broad spectrum hormone testing done. You want to test not only your estrogens, progesterone and testosterone but also multi-point cortisol, melatonin and DHEA as a minimum.
Additionally, check your gut and liver function and I recommend checking your detoxification pathways for nutritional deficiencies as well.
Your hormones do not work in isolation, and if all you do is address hot flashes you may be missing a root cause that can show up in other ways.
If you don’t know where to begin, I invite you to contact my office. I can help point you in the right direction, provide you some clarity and even perform the necessary diagnostics for you. In my practice, we start by going in-depth into your health history. We won’t just look at what’s going on today, but rather we want to search for long-standing patterns. Additionally, we will compare how you feel today with how you used to feel, when you were at your best.
Together we determine what testing needs to be done and then when the results arrive, I correlate your test results with what you are experiencing to help determine the best course of action.
Whether you are interested in working with me, just curious or want some clarity, click on the button below and schedule your Hormone Trouble Shooting session at a time that is convenient for you.
You can feel like yourself again and avoid much of the discomfort of menopause by supporting your body naturally in a way that truly works for you.
Your partner in health,
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