Hot Flash Survival Guide
by Bonnie Church, Certified Life and Wellness Coach
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Estrogen is the hormone that defines women as women. It gives us our curves. It makes us feel sexy. It plays an important role in the conception of our offspring. It lifts and stabilizes our moods. It helps to keep our minds sharp and our hearts strong.
During menopause, women experience a decrease in estrogen. This can lead to low sex drive, memory problems, fatigue, depression and irritability. It can also lead to osteoporosis and heart disease.
One classic annoying symptoms associated with this dip in estrogen is known as the ‘hot flash’. Though not as deadly as porous bones and plaque-encrusted arteries, hot flashes can make life miserable.
Hot flashes originate in the portion of your brain that controls the perception of heat, cold, pain and pleasure. A dip in estrogen causes the internal core temperature to see-saw. First it drops and then it rises. There is a flash of heat, followed by a flushed face and perspiration in the upper body. Some experience an ‘aura’, dizziness, a racing heart or anxiety. The flash will last approximately 5 minutes.
For many, hot flashes can be managed with a few minutes of fierce fanning. For others hot flashes come in unrelenting waves of heat, tempting its victims to strip naked and jump in a freezer.
Unfortunately there is no way to predict whether you will be plagued by these ‘blow torch’ moments for weeks, month or years. But it is possible to find a safe and effective way to control them—and get on with your life! Here are some things you might try.
AVOID THE TRIGGERS: Reduce the things you need to reduce anyway: smoking, eating sugary foods, drinking coffee or alcohol in excess. These bad habits can trigger hot flashes. [Note: Some good things like spicy foods and sex also trigger hot flashes. ]
CULTIVATE SERENITY: Stretching and slow, deep breathing exercises relieve stress, and also decreases the incidence and duration of hot flashes.
GET POKED: Acupuncture [the pain-free use of needles] has been shown to curb the severity of hot flashes and the mood swings of menopause.
TAKE HERBS: Some herbal blends might be helpful including: Dong Quai, chaste-tree berry, black cohosh, red clover, American ginseng, and milk thistle. Herbal supplements can react negatively with some medications, so consulting with your health professional is important.
DRINK WATER AND WEAR COOL CLOTHING: Keep a glass of water by the bed; drinking water can cool down night sweats. Dress in layers. When you sense an impending hot flash, peel off some clothes.
If your hot flashes persist, you might want to discuss hormone replacement therapy (HRT) of bio-identical hormone replacement therapy [BHRT] with a knowledgeable health care professional.
Don’t lose heart. Hot flashes can be managed, and in time, they will subside.
Bonnie Church is a certified life and wellness coach. She is the co-author of the TLS Shape Up [a family wellness program system] and Coach Lydia’s No-Nonsense Guide to Getting Off Your Butt, Our of Your Rut and On with Your life.