Hot flashes are characterized by a sudden feeling of heat often accompanied with a reddening of the face and profuse sweating. For some, it is as mild as a brief warm flushing of the face and skin. For others, it is experienced as an intense heat on the face and upper body with intense sweating. Sometimes hot flashes are also accompanied by an increased heart rate, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, weakness or a feeling of suffocation.
Physiologically speaking, hot flashes are the body's reaction to a decreased supply of estrogen. Typically this occurs when a women approaches menopause. Every woman's experience of this important life change is different, unpredictable and highly individual and they all follow their own pattern. In some production of estrogen decreases gradually, producing few flashes. In others, the ovaries stop abruptly or start and stop before production ends completely. For these women, hot flashes can become tricky.
Dropping estrogen levels confuse the hypothalamus (the part of the brain that controls appetite, sleep, sex hormones and temperature), where it makes the body think it is too hot. This activates the body's heat releasing mechanism where it causes the blood vessels in the skin to expand, increasing blood flow to help dissipate heat. At the same time, the sweat glands begin producing sweat in an effort to cool the body off even more.
Not all women experience hot flashes, but more than half of them do. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 85% of all women in the US experience hot flashes in one way or another. Hot flashes often begin before a woman notices a change in her menstrual cycle and can start as early as her late 30's and early 40's. It is typically the first sign that menopause is approaching.
Usually experienced for a short period of time, some women complain of them all the time for a number of years. Most women begin to experience hot flashes 1-2 years before menopause and they end within a year of their last menstrual cycle. Some women can experience hot flashes up to and sometimes more than 5 years after their last menstrual cycle.
While estrogen therapy is the traditional solution to hot flashes it is good to try a less drastic measure first. Below are some things you can try to help reduce the heat of hot flashes.Recommendations For Wellness
- Dress in layers so you can peel off a layer if you start to feel warm.
- Stick to cottons, linens and rayon and avoid wools and synthetic blends.
- Try to keep some ice water on hand to sip on and cool down your insides.
- Turn down the thermostat, buy an air conditioner or a ceiling fan to help keep your environment cool.
- Silly as this may sound, many women report sticking their heads in the freezer when a hot flash hits.
- Try to identify what is triggering your hot flashes. Keep a record of when they occur, what you're are eating or doing and how you're feeling at the time a hot flash strikes.
- Incorporate massage, meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and other techniques to help you reduce your stress level.
- Herbs such as black cohosh, chaste tree, wild yam and don quai have historically been used to relieve menopausal symptoms including hot flashes.
- Talk to your health care provider about natural bio-identical hormone replacements.
- A menopause homeopathic may also help to alleviate hot flashes, relieve pain and hyper-sensitivity.
© Copyright Body, Mind & SoulHealer 2005. All rights reserved.
By Dr. Rita Louise, Ph.D.
All rights reserved. Any reproducing of this article must have the author name and all the links intact.