No matter which way you slice it, hot flashes suck! I don’t normally try to offend readers with my first sentence, but if you are a woman (or man) who suffers from hot flashes, I’m sure you agree with me.
Whether you suffer from the occasional embarrassing sudden outburst of sweat or the never-ending set-your-watch type of flashes, it’s an unpleasant experience. Mine were so bad that I kept 2 extra pairs of pajamas ready in the bathroom for a quick dry change of clothes. Some nights I had to change more than once.
During the day they weren’t as bad, but they still caused me to change into a drier outfit after particularly strong flashes.
The counterpart to hot flashes isn’t nearly discussed as much. All of you fellow sufferers know that you can’t have a hot flash that isn’t followed by the chills. One minute you feel like you’re in a microwave and the next you’re in the freezer. The body temperature fluctuations are unnerving, not to mention sleep disrupting.
What Causes Hot Flashes?
When a person’s body goes through such extreme temperature fluctuations, it’s only natural to try to figure out why. After much research, I don’t have a concrete answer but I have a few really good guesses. Based on my really good guesses I instituted a natural regimen to battle and conquer my seesaw temperature fluctuations.
My really good guesses for the menopausal temperature fluctuations are as follows:
- Hormones: The most obvious is the guess of estrogen/progesterone hormone imbalance. Women in perimenopause and menopause have a deficiency of progesterone. As such the estrogen/progesterone balance is disrupted causing estrogen dominance. Further along the menopause trail, a women’s estrogen production also drops. Thus causing a situation of low estrogen and progesterone with progesterone being the lower of the two.
- Hypothalamus malfunction: The hypothalamus regulates core body temperature. If it’s not functioning properly, the body will suffer from hot flashes and chills. It also regulates the production of the hormone progesterone.
- Liver: An overwhelmed and overburdened liver contributes to the unnerving symptoms. The liver is responsible for a host of functions, one of which is to regulate sex hormones. If it’s overburdened, it won’t properly regulate hormones.
- Diet: A diet high in sugar and carbohydrates leads to an increase in hot flashes. Too much sugar leads to a host of ails, but that’s the subject of another post. Additionally, alcohol, caffeine and spices exacerbate hot flashes. Although, I’ve found coffee, alcohol and spices to cause an immediate on the spot reaction. In other words, if I had a glass of wine, a cup of coffee or very spicy meal, I could expect an immediate hot flash. This makes sense when you consider the circulatory system and the dilation of blood vessels nearest the skin. Heck, even non-menopausal folks experience temperature fluctuations after consuming one of the trio.
- Stress: Can’t you just count on a hot flash to rear its ugly head the minute you’re in a very stressful situation? Making a presentation to a room full of buyers is a great way to trigger a hot flash.
Here’s what I did and continue to do to address the causes:
The Liver: The most important factor, in my opinion, is the overburdened liver. The liver is vital to health and a compromised liver gives all types of hints that it’s in need of TLC. Unfortunately, as a society, we attribute those hints to the normal aging process and ignore the signs. In my case, I chose to give the liver some help in the form of milk thistle.
I purchase milk thistle seeds from the health store and grind them up. I take one tablespoon three times a day. I sprinkle them in my kefir smoothies. I even sometimes sprinkle them on salads. Milk thistle’s active ingredient, silymarin, protects and helps to gently detox the liver.
In addition to aiding my liver by taking milk thistle, I also do my best to minimize exposure to toxins. As such I no longer use commercial cleaning products. Additionally, I make many of my own toiletries and only purchase beauty products made with natural ingredients.
Hormones Estrogen/Progesterone: To remedy the low progesterone problem, I initially purchased bioidentical progesterone cream. I followed the instructions for a couple of months with no visible sign of relief. I realize natural remedies take time, but since the intensity and frequency of flashes didn’t change, I opted to discontinue the cream. Instead, I chose herbs.
The following 4 herbs have been extremely helpful in my journey:
- Sage: A cup of sage tea 3 times a day did much to diminish the hot flashes and sweating (within 3 to 7 days the hot flashes diminished significantly).
- Alfalfa: Alfalfa’s mild natural estrogenic properties helps to replace missing estrogen and thus reduce menopausal symptoms.
- Red Clover: Ditto the alfalfa properties.
- Chasteberry: Chasteberry (aka Vitex) works on the hypothalamus and encourages the production of progesterone. I drink no more than one cup of chasteberry tea per day. Not all health stores carry chasteberry. If you can’t find the berry, purchase the capsules and take one per day. Chaste berry is a slow worker. It takes about 3 months before it really starts to work, but when it works, it really works.
Daily I make a blend of the various herbs and have a cup of tea three times a day. Sometimes I’ll add other herbs such as dandelion root (a tonic for both the liver and kidneys) and motherwort (calming effect and stress reducer). For my evening cup of tea I add either catnip, lavender or chamomile for the relaxing and mild sedative effect.
Dietary Changes: Prior to my recent bout with hot flashes I had been on a journey to clean up my diet. I no longer eat processed foods and have eliminated white flour and sugar. Additionally, I eat grass fed beef, organic vegetables (purchased at the local farmer’s market) and eliminated chemical additives.
Stress: Along with taking calming, herbs developing an exercise routine helps. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym. Going for a daily walk in the fresh air does much to help relieve stress.
Results of Implementing Changes
Within a week, I noticed a reduction in frequency and intensity of the menopausal hot flashes. I attribute the early reduction to sage tea. Sage is known to be a fast worker at reducing sweat. Over time, however, the other herbs started kicking in. The flashes and chills continually diminished until they disappeared.
I’m no doctor, just a woman undergoing menopause and looking for a way to go through it gracefully. I’ve been battling menopause for quite some time. In the past I have made modifications that reduced menopausal symptoms for a bit, but they would later return. In hindsight, I realize I didn’t address the true cause. I pretty much placed a band-aid on a broken leg. This time I’m not looking for a quick fix. I’m looking for a permanent fix and this one seems to be working.
This post was written in November of 2013. I’ll come back in six months to update whether or not I changed my protocol. In the meanwhile, I’m enjoying great nights of sleep without a hint of a hot flash.
I prefer to take herbs in tea as opposed to capsules, but if you cannot find the herbs at your health store, below are links* to the various herbs in capsule form:
July 1, 2014 Update: I realize it’s a little more than 6 months, but here’s the update on my hot flashes. They started coming back again as I slacked off of my protocol. What I did realize, however, was as I reduced my meat intake my hot flashes diminished.
What I’m finding is as the body goes through the different stages of menopause, we have to be alert and make changes on an as-needed basis. Right now the reduction in meat is working wonderfully for me. No, I haven’t given up meat, but it plays a smaller role in my daily dietary intake. I still eat dairy products such as raw milk, eggs and butter made from raw milk.
I might have one or two mild flashes at night and maybe one during the day (usually none). I’ll check back in 6 months or so with a further update.
Disclaimer: I am not dispensing medical advice. I’m sharing my own story on how I no longer suffer from the ever so annoying menopausal hot flashes. I hope my triumph will inspire you to do your own research to come up with a regimen that works for you.