The top three lifestyle habits women do that can bring on hot flashes in a hurry and contribute to excessive problems with this menopausal symptom.
Hot flashes are a common and sometimes debilitating symptom of peri-menopause. In severe cases, it may continue for years once full-fledged menopause occurs as well.
A reader recently emailed me for help with this problem. She writes:
Sarah, I am having a terrible time with hot flashes. I’m having to get out of bed multiple times a week in the middle of the night to go stick my head in the freezer for relief. Can you suggest anything that might help me?
As a matter of fact, there are definitely some very simple things a woman can do to avoid hot flashes potentially never experiencing them at all. Some women turn to natural alternatives like maca to help stabilize hormones. While helpful, these alternatives are frequently not enough to alleviate bothersome symptoms. The advice below comes from my trusted doctor of many years who is both a Doctor of Chinese Medicine as well as a board-certified Medical Doctor. This broad expertise gives her the very rare and valuable perspective of both mainstream and alternative medicine.
Hot Flashes a Dreaded Symptom of Menopause
Perimenopause is that period of time when a woman’s body naturally transitions toward a nonfluctuating hormonal state known as menopause which concludes the fertile phase of her life. Women start perimenopause at widely varying ages. Some women notice “The Change” coming on as early as their mid-30’s while others are well into their 50’s before any noticeable transition begins to occur. This phase can be just a few months or as long as a decade in length.
Interestingly, wearing a lot of makeup is linked to early menopause … up to 15 years earlier than women who don’t wear much. Researchers have theorized that this is likely due to the ovarian disrupting effect of the toxins widely found in conventional makeup.
One has to wonder if the use of toxic tampons, pads and other personal care products along with excessive makeup wearing habits for many years starting as an adolescent might also contribute to uncomfortable perimenopausal symptoms decades later.
The hallmark of perimenopause is an uneven rise and fall of the main female hormone estrogen. Some women experience no symptoms at all from these fluctuations. In the Japanese language, there is not even a word for “menopause”, an indication that this journey which all women eventually go through is not considered a big deal or traumatic occurrence. For others, “The Change” can trigger terribly uncomfortable symptoms.
These complications can include occasional or frequent hot flashes, probably the best known and most dreaded (peri)menopausal symptom of all.
Hot Flashes Greatly Affected by Lifestyle Choices
What many doctors won’t tell patients that are suffering from hot flashes is that this symptom is greatly affected by lifestyle choices. Even worse, they might be far too quick to suggest the health-destroying, long term effects of hormone replacement therapy or just tell them to buck up and get through it because “it won’t last forever.”
This type of advice is not in any way helpful to a woman simply trying to get a decent night’s sleep or afraid to go to a social gathering for fear of an embarrassing hot flash coming on.
The truth is that there are some simple things a woman can avoid doing that will greatly affect the frequency and severity with which she experiences hot flashes.
Below are the three major things that a woman should avoid doing as these habits can bring on problems with hot flashes in a hurry according to my doctor and her experience of several decades treating women with hormonal imbalances during The Change.
Sugar Consumption Triggers Hot Flashes
First of all, she suggested to drastically cut back on sugar in the diet as this is a common problem for women who experience hot flashes. Given how much sugar Westerners eat today, this is probably not a big surprise. The average American consumes a whopping 180 lbs/81.6 kg per year of refined sugars (this does not even include fruit and other natural sugar sources), which is a 27% increase just since 2003 when refined sugar consumption was 142 lbs per person per year.
Be aware that too much fruit or refined carbs like pasta can be a problem too. Yes, you can eat too much fruit and pasta is not a health food! Most people have absolutely no idea how much sugar they are really consuming until they sit down and really take a look at it in detail. My guess is that most women who have a problem with hot flashes would almost invariably also have a problem with too much sugar in the diet.
A realistic goal if this is a problem for you would be to only allow natural sugars in the diet that combine to total no more than 36 grams per day. One medium banana contains 14 g, for example. A single can of soda, a Starbucks latte, or a “healthy” bottle of fruit juice would put you over the daily limit in a hurry.
According to Tom Valentine of Search for Health, research has shown that significant immune system suppression begins to occur above 36 grams (for adults, less in children) so this is the manageable cut off point that seems reasonable to shoot for.
Alcohol and Hot Flashes
My doctor suggested that the second thing that will bring on a hot flash in a hurry is drinking alcohol. Alcohol tolerance varies widely among people, so it is very important to know what will trigger a problem for you.
For some people, a single glass of wine occasionally consumed at a party might bring on a hot flash. For others, it might be a couple of drinks every night for a week that results in a problem.
Consequently, if you already have a problem with hot flashes, it seems advisable to go cold turkey off the booze until you get the situation under control. At that point, if you feel comfortable, reintroduce a drink here and there and observe the effects to understand what your personal metabolic limits are.
Note that going off alcohol will frequently cause difficulty controlling sugar cravings and too much sugar is also a trigger for hot flashes. Recovering alcoholics, for instance, are in great danger of becoming sugar or ice cream-aholics instead. This tragically was the experience of my late uncle who eventually succumbed to liver cancer.
The solution for some is to enjoy fermented beverages like kombucha which are naturally very low in sugar and non-alcoholic, according to Nourishing Traditions.
Exercise and Hot Flashes
Many women might be surprised to learn that exercise can also bring on a problem with hot flashes. While exercise is certainly beneficial and can greatly assist with hormonal balance (see the linked article for details on how interval training helps hormones), suddenly starting on an exercise program and going overboard with it is a recipe for hot flashes in a hurry!
The key is to build up to any new exercise program slowly giving the body time to adjust appropriately. As always, it is best to consult with your practitioner before initiating any exercise program anyway – especially if you are a perimenopausal woman already experiencing hot flashes or other complications.
In summary, keeping sugar and alcohol consumption to a bare minimum (or none at all) and ensuring that any exercise program is sensible and moderate will avoid the three most common things that bring on hot flashes during perimenopause and menopause. This advice comes from a practitioner with both a holistic and conventional background who has helped hundreds of women in her career deal with “The Change” in a non-medicated, life-embracing fashion.
Two teaspoons of apple fiber, stirred into my morning kefir, is what finally freed me of hot and cold flashes. My guess is that the fiber is carrying excess estrogen out of my system. Thank you for all of the interesting, informative articles!
Maybe I should email this question… but in case it helps someone in a similar situation, here goes:
I got a deadly fast autoimmune disease- GPA, as a teen, and had to take 2 rounds of chemo to survive. So at 28, I went through “the change.” my question is this… I am being tempted by HRT cream (NOT systemic oral) just because I am a young wife, I want a family (yep… a miracle) and I can feel body is lacking all that stuff that it’s supposed to have right now. Honestly I want to replace what I lost from that unnatural treatment… but I don’t want to do the wrong thing. Any comments and opinions would be welcome regarding natural local-only replacements? I know Sarah you advise against all this but what about the Source Naturals Brand (bioidentical + glycerine etc.)?
Homeopathic work great for this … Try Joette calabrese.com
Progessense Plus and EndoFlex essential oils applied to the bottom of my feet have been helping for the last two weeks. I haven’t been doing it long enough to know it works for sure, but once it works for a whole month then i’ll be convinced.
Some Jamaican friends of mine introduced me to moringa. I crush the leaves and add the powder to my salad dressing and it takes care of my hot flashes. We can grow it here in Florida, but you can buy the powder if you can’t grow it in your area. It has a lot of health benefits.
The two things that consistently bring on day time hot flashes for me ….. stress and heat.
In fact, if it isn’t super hot out and I hot flash, I actually think about what I’m feeling at that moment because there is something stressing me.
Night sweats are another story……… I’ve done all the health pieces and mine are getting better than they used to be, but I still get them.
I was reading a small study that showed that women who used a sauna had fewer hot flushes (we use that word in the UK) than those who don’t. It was only a small study and needs to be replicated, but as I like saunas myself, I’m willing to continue in the hope that it has an effect. Maybe the sauna flushes out toxins or something.
For me, homeopathic progesterone drops got rid of the hot flashes. Everyone is different, so this will not work for everyone. I would suggest reading up about the different types of menopause based upon your symptoms. Your levels of the various sex hormones have a direct effect on your symptoms. There is no “one size fits all” unfortunately. But your doctor will probably not even know or care, so research it on your own and make empowered choices for yourself.
Very useful suggestion about how to deal with hot flashes. I’d like to show it to my mom who is experiencing a menopause. Thanks for post.
Sage tea bage work for me, I make a large jug and cool it in the summer with some lemon wedges and mint, it has a homon balancing effect and sometimes I get shivers with is pleasant and a relief
When I turned 50, periods basically just stopped. I’d had about 6 years of reduced toxins, natural cleaners, and whole foods by then. Have never had a problem.
I belonged to a group of women who were bemoaning and dreading the coming of menopause. I tried to tell them that they can make choices NOW that will effect their fertility and problems with their periods and later “the change” (most of these women are younger than I), but they wouldn’t listen. They dismissed me saying I obviously have a different system/genes that allows me to not have to experience these issues. They WOULD NOT LISTEN. Most people don’t want to change.
Yes, when you don’t have symptoms, you are simply labeled as “lucky”. What a shame that more women don’t realize that some of the time (not all, I realize!) lifestyle choices are to blame.