7 top tips to survive hot flushes
It can appear suddenly, or you may feel it coming on. Your face gets red and you start sweating. Feelings of almost unbearable, intense heat, commonly known as hot flushes, are among the most common and uncomfortable symptoms of the menopause.
Caused by low levels oestrogen, hot flushes affect three out of every four menopausal women.
We asked the experts to give us tips on how to survive them…
1. Use bedclothes made from cotton and layers rather than a big duvet
“Avoid clothes made from synthetic fabrics and wear layers instead so you can adjust your clothing to how you are feeling,” says Shona Wilkinson, nutritionist at superfooduk.com.
2. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and spicy food
“Hot drinks before bedtime can often trigger night sweats or even make them worse,” says Dr Marilyn Glenville, nutritionist and author of Natural Solutions to Menopause (marilynglenville.com). “Try to stay away from caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods. Remember that caffeine can be found in both food and drink (chocolate, caffeinated soft drinks, energy drinks, coffee and tea). It can cause your blood vessels to expand making you sweat more, which can increase the hot flushes. You can also sip a cold drink during the day. If you feel a hot flash coming on, this can help lower your body’s temperature.”
3. Get moving!
“Although it may make you feel hotter and sweatier in the short term, women who exercise regularly seem to have fewer flushes” explains Dr Glenville. Getting active will also help combat weight gain, another common side effect of the menopause. Strength training or weight-resistance programmes help build muscle mass and improve your metabolism. Strength training also helps maintain bone mass, which you lose as you age. Aim for two or three times a week. Examples of strength training include weight machines, dumbbells, exercise bands, yoga and even gardening!
4. Get enough Vitamin C
Vitamin C is known for its beneficial effect on the immune system and for its role as an antioxidant. As well as being good for health in general, it also has specific benefits at the menopause. Giving women vitamin C with bioflavonoids has been shown to help reduce hot flushes.
“Bioflavonoids help to strengthen the capillaries, improving blood flow and so reducing hot flushes,” says nutritionist Cassandra Barns. She recommends Effervescent Vitamin C from Quest Vitamins (qnutrapharma.com). Bioflavonoids also enhance the action of vitamin C.
5. Destress by deep breathing
Going through the menopause can cause mood swings and create stress. Work on steadying your breathing. Pilates guru Lynne Robinson says, “Pilates improves your breathing, which will help your stamina and endurance as well as ensure that your core muscles are fit for purpose, which can help prevent back injuries. Pilates can also help to improve the stability and mobility of your joints so that your body moves efficiently and without strain, restoring balance”.
6. Take a liquorice root extract
Liquorice root extract contains substances that have a similar structure to the adrenal cortex hormones. Dr Glenville says, “It is one of the herbs that can act as an ‘adaptogen’ – assisting your adrenals as ‘shock absorbers’ to cope better with stress, preventing a trigger-happy reaction of excessive adrenaline release.”
7. Try the herb black cohosh
Generations of women have relied on the gnarled root of black cohosh to relieve various ‘female problems’ from PMS and menstrual cramps to menopausal symptoms.
“What’s important is that it does not increase oestrogen levels and has no effect on cells in the vagina or womb,” says Dr Glenville. “This is vital because these are the risks with HRT, which increases oestrogen levels and stimulates tissue in various places in the body (including the womb and breast) and therefore can increase the risk of cancer. It acts as a SERM (selective oestrogen receptor modulator) promoting it in organs where oestrogen is needed, such as the bones, while acting as an ‘anti-oestrogen’ in organs where unnecessary oestrogen can be dangerous, for example the breast and womb. She recommends NHP’s Black Cohosh Plus (£19.97, naturalhealthpractice.com).