Is it hot in here, or is it just me? Or is it a hot flash?
Symptom No. 1
You are going on with your day, minding your own business when this uneasy feeling of heat starts. It is rising from deep inside you and is spreading so quickly as if a heat bomb had just exploded. That is how most women experience hot flashes.
Research has shown that 80% of all women in perimenopause experience hot flashes.
How long will they last?
“Women who had their first hot flashes before their menstrual periods ended had hot flashes for an average of nine to 10 years. When hot flashes didn’t start until after the last menstrual period, the average duration was only about three and a half years. But even on the short end of the spectrum, that’s a long time to deal with hot flashes and night sweats.” Nancy Ferrari Harvard Medical School
What are hot flashes?
Hot flashes, also called vasomotor symptoms, are sudden sensations of intense heat usually radiating from the abdomen and moving up the chest, neck, and face. A hot flash can also cause increased sweating and the appearance of a red, flushed face and chest.
A hot flash can last anywhere from 10 seconds up to 10 minutes. They can happen a few times a week or a few times every hour.
Why do hot flashes happen?
When hormones start fluctuating during perimenopause, the “thermostat” in the brain, the hypothalamus, becomes overly sensitive. It reacts to any signs of temperature change in the body. When the hypothalamus senses that your body is “overheating”, it triggers a cascade of metabolic processes that cause rapid release of heat, creating very real sensations of a hot flash.
What Triggers Hot Flashes/Flushes
Many things can trigger a hot flash apart from being in a warm environment. They can be:
- Spicy foods
- Caffeine drinks
- Tight clothing – especially turtlenecks
- Hot and stuffy rooms
What helps hot flashes?
Eat healthy – We know you are rolling your eyes and thinking, “Tell me something I don’t know.” or maybe you are thinking, “Easier said than done..!” but we want to ask you to give it a try and see how you feel. Start with just one day of eating healthy meals, and then maybe a week.
An added bonus to healthy eating can also be losing weight that creeps up on you in this phase in life. Hot flashes love to feed on fast food, junk food, sugar, ice cream.
Lower the number of caffeinated drinks – This is another one of those almost unthinkable sacrifices. How can you give up coffee or tea, especially if you have night sweats on top of insomnia?
You are not getting enough sleep and feel tired non-stop, and now we are telling you not to have your life-saving beverage, the only thing keeping you awake and functioning?
We are saying that you should try to reduce the number of coffees or energy drinks, or other drinks that have caffeine because they are proven to cause both hot flashes and night sweats and interfere with your sleep if you drink them after 2 pm.
Drink less alcohol – Yes, we know that for some of you, that glass or two of wine helps you unwind after a day of stress caused by hot flashes, fatigue, mood swings, irritability, and brain fog. We understand that a cocktail may be the one thing you look forward to in the evening, helping you fall asleep.
Yes, alcohol relaxes you and does make falling asleep easier, but the way the body digests alcohol creates byproducts that wake you up in the middle of the night and keeps you awake.
Alcohol disturbs your sleep rhythm, so if you also suffer from insomnia, try and drink only on special occasions.
The worst thing is that your hot flashes are likely to be worse the next day.
Eat less spicy food – If you like spicy food, this can also be a challenge as you may be used to strong tastes, and without the spice, food can taste bland. Try to gradually decrease the amount of “hot spices” every day and experiment with milder spices, herbs, or even new cuisines.
What to wear and what to do about hot flashes/flushes?
When you are considering what helps hot flashes, try to do as many of the below as possible:
Wear layers of clothing, preferably made of cotton or other breathable materials – this one is self-explanatory. You can take off one layer at a time to make yourself feel cooler.
Exercise to be in good shape and lower your stress – This is another difficult thing to start if you are not a person who exercises regularly, but the benefits are so great that you should at least try and go for a short walk today!
Just take a fifteen-minute walk at first and then build on that. Small steps like that stack up and make you feel better in so many ways.
Stop smoking – If you are a smoker, we know how difficult it can be to quit. Try hypnotherapy or acupuncture. They have helped many people.
Learn to meditate, do yoga, or TaiChi – These skills are scientifically proven to lower your stress levels. The lower your stress levels, the easier it will be for you to deal with the discomfort of hot flashes, and for some, it will help with the frequency and intensity of the hot flashes.
Try natural remedies before opting for medication – However, our philosophy is that you should begin by getting a medical professional’s diagnosis on the menopausal symptoms you are experiencing to ensure no serious underlying conditions. We also think that you need to make an informed decision on what you put in your body and what the effects and side effects may be. Always check with your physician.
Keep a journal – To see what is triggering your hot flashes keep a journal of what you eat, drink or do. This way, you can know how to experiment and see what kind of changes to introduce to make the hot flashes less frequent and less severe.
Try and use our MiMa: Menopause & Hot Flashes app – The app we have created for you is easy to use and is free. We wanted to give you a tool on your phone which would help you find what triggers your hot flashes. It also introduces new self-care routines which can make the hot flushes less frequent and intense.
Read more about perimenopause symptoms here: