Do you sometimes feel that you are giving off enough heat to fuel a sky full of hot air ballons?
Hot flushes and night sweats (also known as vasomotor symptoms) are the most commonly known symptoms and a national study by the British Menopause Society in 2016 found that 79% of women with menopausal symptoms suffered from hot flushes and 70% night sweats. However, they are not always the symptoms that are most bothersome or concerning for women. Due to disrupted sleep as a result of the hot & cold experience you feel extremely tired leading to an overall daily fatigue, low mood and decreased cognitive function ultimately leading to low self-esteem.
What’s the cause of Hot flushes?
Hot flushes and night sweats are due to lack of oestrogen circulating through the body. During peri-menopause women experience hot flushes and night sweats just before their period, due to oestrogen levels dropping, but hot flushes and night sweats can be at their worst post menopause, when periods have stopped completely.
Women often describe a hot flush as a creeping feeling of intense warmth that quickly spreads across your whole body and face.
What can women do to reduce their hot flush & night sweat symptoms?
- Lose and avoid gaining weight – Numerous studies have shown losing weight decreases hot flushes and night sweats.
- Choose a way of eating that reduces inflammation – reducing consumption of any food that finally breaks down into sugar is a good start. Choose vegetables over fruit, and more protein over carbs. Keep fat to that which comes in food naturally over adding extra. Avoid manufactured foods that are high in fibre (eg cereal) over naturally grown fibre such as greens and avocados. Stick to foods that don’t come in a packet and have one single ingredient eg. fish, eggs, brocolli.
- Increase Vitamin B6 intake through eating oily fish – also protects the cardiovascular system.
- Exercise – a recent study found that resistance training ( using light weights to strengthen muscles) can alleviate hot flushes and night sweats by 40%.
- Alcohol – Drinking more than recommended guidelines or 1 or 2 small glasses of wine a day increases night sweats in particular.
- Smoking – recent studies have found that smokers have worse hot flushes and night sweats than non-smokers. They also have an increased risk of Cardiovascular problems and Osteoporosis.
- CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy by combining individual and group psycho-educational sessions can lead to better stress management, paced breathing and mindfulness.
- Natural remedies can help however because they are not regulated it is difficult to decide what dose is safe. For example Black cohosh can help but can also cause liver problems and can interact with other medications. Phytoestrogens have been shown to be better than nothing to help reduce hot flushes and night sweats and they are safe to take with few side effects.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is the GOLD standard in treatment of hot flushes and night sweats.
- However in women who cannot take HRT antidepressants known as SSRI’s can help particularly Venlafaxine 75mg but there is evidence that Citalopram and Fluoxetine can help but only for short term periods.
- Acupuncture has also been shown to help hot flushes and nigh sweats
General Ideas to reduce Hot flushes and Night Sweats
You can try these tips to ease your symptoms:
• cut out or reduce coffee and tea
• stop smoking
• keep the room cool and use a fan (electric or handheld) if necessary
• if you feel a flush coming on, spray your face with cool water or use a cold gel pack (available from pharmacies)
• wear loose layers of light cotton or silk clothes so you can easily take some clothes off if you overheat
• have layers of sheets on the bed, rather than a duvet, so you can remove them as you need to
• cut down on alcohol
• sip cold or iced drinks
• have a lukewarm shower or bath instead of a hot one.