Welcome to the hot flash sisterhood! Most women (about 80%) experience hot flashes and night sweats to some degree, and for some of us they become bad enough to negatively impact our lives. The good news is that we can do something about them. The choices are many and there are pros and cons to everyone. In a nutshell, your options are: Natural and herbal remedies, Hormones of some form or another or Lifestyle changes
Natural and Herbal Remedies
There are numerous natural and herbal remedies for hot flashes. Some plants contain Phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogen) that mimics the activity of the estrogen our body produces naturally.
Soy, Black Cohosh, Red Clover and some others are well-known and readily available. Most supplements for the treatment of hot flashes contain a combination of these herbs (i.e. Black Cohosh, Licorice Root, Dong Quai, Wild Yam, Chaste Berry). A well researched and popular supplement is Remifemin. It contains standardized Black Cohosh and has been used in Europe since the 50s. It is now available in the US.
Maca Root is also popular for the treatment of hot flashes. It works on balancing the system in your body that regulates the hormones. A popular product in this category is MacaFem.
A downside of herbal remedies is that it may be several weeks before you can feel the benefits. Additionally, not every herb or supplement will work for every woman AND what may work during peri-menopause may not help with post-menopausal hot flashes.
Be sure to use only standardized supplements from resources you trust. Several investigations have shown that the supplement market is rife with products that either don’t contain what they claim or worse, are contaminated with substances that may be dangerous.
Hormone Therapy is still the most effective and fastest way to treat hot flashes. We have come a long way since the media reported results from a study that showed an increase in breast cancer and heart problems with the use of Estrogen. Now we have not only better guidelines for the use of hormones, but also many more options. The guideline for any kind of hormone treatment is to treat for the shortest time in the lowest dosage that is effective.
Traditional Hormone Replacement Therapy with conjugated estrogen (sometimes together with progesterone) was the standard hormone treatment for decades. It is still widely prescribed by doctors despite the possible side effects.
Bioidentical hormones are a new, and many claim a safer, way to use hormones. They are available by prescription in many forms (patches, creams, suppositories, pills). They can be either compounded (made to your specification by a compound pharmacy) or they are available from your pharmacy in standard dosage.
By far the safest option to deal with your hot flashes are lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, this option requires the most commitment and time to implement. Some of the easier changes are:
– Wear layered clothing
– Use special sheets and night-wear (using fabrics that wick the moisture away from the body)
– Use a fan and lower the temperature in the room
– Drink plenty of fluids, especially non-sugar, non-carbonated drinks
– Do deep breathing exercises to help relax
– Avoid hot flash triggers such as spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine
Exercise has been proven to reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes. Regular exercise will also help to maintain a healthy weight. Women who are overweight have a harder time with hot flashes.
A healthy diet with lots of vegetables and fruits, low in processed foods and sugars, will help with your symptoms. Vegetables and fruits contain chemical substances (Isoflavones, Lingans, certain vitamins) that will help with your hot flashes. However this is a long- term change that requires a lot of commitment.
If your life is negatively impacted by hot flashes, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor. There are doctors that specialize in menopausal women and you can find a list at the American Menopause Society Website.
Menopause can be a time of resetting our priorities, and this may be a great chance to start leading a healthier life. Plus it will help with our hot flashes as well. You may start with trying some of the herbs or supplement together with some lifestyle changes and see if this will work for you. There are lots of options to deal with your hot flashes that range from simple lifestyle changes to hormone therapy.