January 15, 2021 6 min read
Hot flash triggers can vary from substances we ingest, such as spicy food, red wine, caffeine and nicotine, to environmental factors – for example, hot weather, or wearing clothing likely to make us perspire more.
Feeling emotional can have a similar effect and even having a hot bath – an activity usually considered ‘relaxing’ - can bring on the feeling of prickling warmth spreading around the body that so many women describe.
Hot flashes (or flushes) and the menopause in women is an area in medicine which hasn’t seen a lot of research over the past couple of decades. It’s only in recent years that female ‘transition’ has once again become a focus.
This hardly seems fair when you consider up to 80 percent of women will experience hot flashes during their menopause symptoms for around five years. And those are the lucky ones; around one third of women will suffer the effects for an additional five years.
Stress isn’t always easy to avoid but for menopausal women it’s certainly something worth learning to tackle. When we become stressed adrenaline surges through the body. Our heart beats faster and blood flow speeds up, leading to a rise in temperature. A hot flash is our body’s cooling down process.
The response manifests itself by not only making us feel hot, but also red-faced. Some women experience tingling in their fingers, prior to flushing.
The ironic thing is, it’s not just typically ‘negative’ emotions, such as anger, envy and anxiety that can prompt a hot flash –even happiness and arousal can do it.
So, what can be done to prevent this “emotional flashing?’.
Well, one way to try and cope with it could be using relaxation techniques and deep breathing. Practicing Mindfulness, for instance, is a massively popular past-time right now and there’s no shortage of material on how to work towards it. Meditation is another, as is Tai Chi and Yoga.
A severe fall in oestrogen, together with a decline in progesterone during the menopausal years, causes hot flashes and sweating. This results in disrupted sleep. A drop in the sleep hormone melatonin exacerbates the situation. Often symptoms of anxiety and depression are also present.
With regard to the latter, it is believed that disrupted sleep could be the cause of this in the first place. Oestrogen-loss can also lead to joint aches and bladder problems and which is another contender for the cause of waking during the night.
A cooling pillow can help with hot flushes by cooling down the neck area. Our own Moona pillow pad and device goes one better by regulating your body temperature during the night. It achieves this by monitoring your individual sleep patterns and acting accordingly.
Drinking alcohol can cause your blood vessels to dilate, meaning you are more likely to suffer hot flashes. And, because most people drink alcohol during the evening, flushing and night sweats can develop while we’re sleeping.
One study showed that drinking alcohol caused hot flashes and night sweats to worsen amongst 36% of menopausal women who took part. The biggest culprit seems to be red wine.
For those women who enjoy their wine, here’s a nice compromise. Drink moderately and your tipple may actually help reduce the number of hot flashes you experience. A 2015 study showed that one drink a day could actually help reduce hot flashes.
Not only does it ‘pump up the gas’ on your nervous system, but caffeine can also interfere with the absorption of magnesium – a mineral known to help prevent stress. The latter’s role in triggering hot flashes, we’ve already discussed.
The palpitations caused by caffeine and anxiety can then result in night sweats, resulting in disrupted sleep.
There are plenty of fruit tea alternatives out there, or even decaffeinated coffee. You could also try making your own juice from fresh fruits (add water to cut back on natural sugars).
Just like alcohol, spicy food can trigger hot flashes. Whether it’s Thai, Indian, Chinese or Mexican you’re enjoying, there’s a good chance the dish gets its kick from chillies or hot peppers, thanks to capaicin. This compound expands your blood vessels and causes your body to heat up.
The result is an instant hot flash, sometimes accompanied by palpitations.
The good news is, it’s still possible to enjoy spicy food while cutting out capaicin completely. That’s because you can use tasty alternatives such as cumin, turmeric, ginger, mustard seed powder, horseradish and wasabi root.
Whether you’re at home in the UK or enjoying a holiday abroad, hot weather can exacerbate hot flashes. That’s because it causes our hypothalamus to work extra hard to cope with the additional heat. We also get more dehydrated in hot weather which – guess what – can also lead to hot flashes.
The best solution is to drink plenty of water and stay in the shade (if you can bear to). You could also use a small hand-held fan to cool you down when it really heats up. Wearing layers of light silk clothing allow you to remove items as the day wears on. And, talking of clothing…
Too-tight clothing can make us feel warmer than we need be while made-made fabrics such as nylon, polyester and spandex will prevent heat from escaping through your skin. The result is a hot flash (or several).
Wear light, cooling natural fabrics such as linen or cotton in white or pastel shades. It’s possible to get exercise t-shirts and items of outdoor clothing these days which can wick-away sweat. It’s a good idea to wear one of these t-shirts at night in bed too if you suffer from night sweats.
If you think a hot bath is relaxing, you’re not menopausal. Or, if you are, then you don’t suffer from hot flashes. Otherwise, you wouldn’t willingly be submerging yourself in warm water – heating yourself up both inside and out.
Opting for a quick shower instead of a long soak in a hot bath is far better for preventing hot flashes. Or try dipping in to a lukewarm bath. Avoid saunas and steam rooms completely.
Prescribed drugs are known for having side-effects. Unfortunately, these can include hot flashes, especially if you take medicine for blood pressure, osteoporosis (raloxifene) or pain relief (tramadol). Steroids can alter your hormone levels, including reducing oestrogen.
Ask your doctor or healthcare provider if there are any alternatives to the current medicine you are taking if you feel it triggers hot flashes. Alternatively, maybe you could try taking a lower dose.
Intensive cardio-vascular exercise can lead to more frequent and severe hot flushes. That’s because as your heart beat rises, so does your body heat.
Exercise can, however, help beat obesity. And studies show that obese women have an earlier onset of menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats. Conversely, women who have a lower body mass experience the symptoms at a later stage than usual.
Interestingly, the results of a 15-week long Swedish clinical trial published in 2019 found that weight bearing exercise could help with hot flashes. After three weekly 45 minute resistance training exercises, the number of hot flashes women experienced almost halved.
If you do want to do some cardiovascular exercise – and you certainly should for it will help reduce stress and keep your weight down, then do low-impact activities such as walking or a little cycling.
It makes your heart beat faster and heats you up. No, it’s not the first stages of falling in love, but rather smoking. Yes, contrary to what many people believe, inhaling nicotine (which constricts our blood vessels), sparks the body into life, rather than relaxing it.
There’s an easy answer – but obviously, a more difficult solution for those who have already attempted to kick the habit. But if you want to decrease your hot flashes, then you’ve no choice really but to stop smoking for good.
We hope the above helped if you’re currently experiencing hot flashes yourself...
Other tips for combatting hot flash triggers could be to eat more tofu and drink soya milk. Why? Well, studies have shown that Chinese women are far less likely to suffer hot flashes during their menopause than their western counterparts.
The reason for this is because soy contains high levels of plan oestrogen (isoflavonesis). This can bind to human oestrogen in the body.
Meanwhile, if you’re feeling down about the number and intensity of hot flashes you’ve been experiencing recently, then don’t. That’s because a study has shown that women who experience hot flashes during menopause have better brain cognition in later years, than those who skipped through menopause flash-free.
The reason to relate to glucose delivery, where a hot flash triggered the central nervous system to administer blood sugar to the brain.