What are Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes are a common menopausal symptom where women experience extreme discomfort with a feeling of heat coming out especially from the upper part of the body. This is sometimes associated with redness of the face and upper body, and could be followed by excessive sweating and shivering.
What are the Causes of Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes are caused by hormonal changes around the time of menopause. During this stage, the ovaries stop functioning. Therefore, the levels of hormones estrogen and progesterone that are normally produced by the ovaries decrease, resulting in hot flashes.
Home Remedies for Hot Flashes
There are several approaches for treating hot flashes. Some women prefer to take medication. However, hot flashes can be controlled at home with simple measures:
- Wear soft cotton clothes to make you feel comfortable during the attack. If the weather is cool, consider wearing a coat or a sweater, which you can remove when a hot flash begins.
- Hot flashes are usually triggered by stimuli like spicy food, coffee, alcohol etc. You may have to avoid the specific substance that triggers your hot flashes.
- Smoking can also trigger hot flashes. Therefore, avoid smoking if possible.
- If you feel like experiencing a hot flash, sit under a fan and relax yourself. Take slow deep breaths while you wait for it to pass.
- Eat a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly. This could help you keep your weight under control. Excessive weight could also result in hot flashes.
- Stress can also cause hot flashes. Therefore, methods to reduce stress like yoga and meditation may help to control hot flashes.
Alternative medicine has many treatment options for hot flashes.
- Black cohosh is another herb that is used to treat hot flashes due to its estrogen-like activity. It is found in North America and is used for several other hormonal conditions like menstrual irregularities and premenstrual syndrome. Several studies have been conducted on the use of black cohosh in hot flashes. However, some of the studies have not been well conducted, and the overall results are mixed. More studies are required before it can be concluded for sure that it is effective in the treatment of hot flashes. It can cause headache, gastric discomfort, and probably liver disease as side effects.
- Soy is a common dietary supplement that is used for hot flashes. Soy contains phytoestrogens, which could produce an effect similar to estrogen in the body. Though its exact benefit is not known, instead of taking it as a supplement, it would be more advisable to include soy in the regular diet as tofu, soy milk or soy chunks. Soy is a good source of protein as well.
- Wild yam also contains estrogen-like substances. It is sometimes applied as a cream locally to reduce hot flashes, but appears to be ineffective when used this way.
- Dong quai is another herb that is used for menopausal symptoms but its usefulness has not been well established. It can result in bleeding in women taking warfarin, a blood thinning drug. Therefore, it should not be used in these women.
- Red clover is a legume, which contains estrogen-like substances. It is used for hot flashes, and breast pain associated with menstrual cycles, among other uses. Though it appears to be safe when used for short term, its effectiveness in menopausal symptoms has not been conclusively proven.
- DHEA is a dietary supplement that is converted to hormones in the body. However, there is not much evidence to prove that it is useful in hot flashes.
- Several other substances like flaxseed oil and valerian root have been tried out for hot flashes, but with doubtful efficacy.
Thus, most of the plant products that are used in hot flashes are because they contain substances called phytoestrogens. These probably result in an estrogen-like activity in the body, and therefore relieve symptoms caused by estrogen deficiency. However, in most cases, there are no well-designed clinical trials to establish that they are indeed effective in the treatment of hot flashes. Also, it should not be presumed that they are completely safe because they are natural products. In some cases, they could interfere with medications that you are already taking. Therefore, they should be taken only after approval from your doctor.