Hot Flashes

Sweat breaks out on your neck, trickles down your back, you feel your face turn red, sweat starts dripping off you chin and winds up rolling down between your breasts.  Did someone turn the thermostat up?  No, it’s only 65 degrees in here. What month is this…August?  No, it’s still spring.  You fan and fan and fan yourself to no avail. Something’s wrong.

Could this be hot flashes? Hot for a moment and then gone: a flash in the pan, an enlightening thought, a lightning bolt…you wish!  If you’ve ever had hot flashes you’ll know they can last as long as five minutes and leave you wet, weak, and depleted. Think wet noodle.

Menopause hot flashes

Normally, hot flashes are the precursor to menopause – indicators that your hormone levels are beginning to fluctuate and lessen. But hot flashes can go on interminably. My mother is 85 and still has them, poor woman. You can continue to generate hormones at this decreased level for the rest of your life. You get stuck with a broken thermostat.

According to the Harvard School of Medicine, hot flashes are the main complaint of women in perimenopause and that’s saying something because we all know how much we like to complain about one thing or another! There are the lucky few who never even know they are in perimenopause and never experience a hot flash, ever.  I’m red with envy. But they are in the minority. Some women experience a slight hot flush which adds a beautiful blush to their cheeks. Others become purple, embarrassingly dripping wet, dizzy, and so hot they might get burn blisters on their heads. (I really do know someone with scars on her head from hot flashes.) You can often look to your mother for what to expect for yourself. If she had them, you probably will too. So maybe you shouldn’t look! If you’re lucky, your hot flashes will eventually become less frequent and finally fade away.

What causes hot flashes

We are not sure what causes a hot flash. Some research indicates that an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone is the culprit. We know that diminishing and fluctuating estrogen levels are playing hide-and-seek with each other. Yet studies have shown that women with similar estrogen levels can experience completely polar symptoms of hot flashes. Hormone levels are not the only influencing factor.

Scientist Robert R. Freedman, who has studied hot flashes for 25 years at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, talks about a “thermoneutral zone” which varies in humans. Women with a wide or large zone experience fewer or no hot flashes while those with a narrow zone are less adaptable to changes in their core body temperature and are much more likely to experience hot flashes. No one knows why one person has a wide zone while another has a narrow zone. Kind of like why one woman has large hips and another, none. Hysterectomy, medications, cancer treatments, and environmental factors are all influencing factors.

I often experience a hot flash during or after eating or drinking. When I give my body energy (food and alcohol), it creates heat, or during especially emotional moments (while having sex), or times of stress (during an argument). I’ve also noticed that as soon as I get totally horizontal, I get a hot flash. Just sitting up curtails it. Any physical contact with another person is a hot flash waiting to happen. Heat is exponentially created with two bodies. I Love Lucy comes to mind with their two single beds. Did menopause cause the breakup between Desi and Lucy?

And if you smoke. Well, smoking makes hot flashes more intense and more frequent. And it kills you. That should stop your hot flashes!

We’ve got another post on all of the ways to alleviate your hot flashes that you may want to check out.  Buy yourself something nice. When the sweat trickles down your chest, you can pull that beautiful hand fan out of your purse, pretend you’re a Geisha, and put menopause at bay for just a few moments. And then here comes a trickle running down your back…



4 thoughts on “Hot Flashes

  1. When I was first experiencing hot flashes, I would get anxiety attacks as well. I never connected the two, and was fearful that I’d have to start taking anxiety medication, when a good friend told me that she always had an anxious feeling before a hot flash. After that, whenever I felt that old anxiety, I’d say to myself, “oh, I guess I’m about to have a hot flash,” and then I’d get hot! And I just took deep breaths through the warning anxious feeling, and voila! Forgot about meds, and got through it, just fine.

    • So glad you found a way to understand that your anxiety was part of your hot flashes and not due to your cobbler burning in the oven! There’s an interesting technique called paced breathing that is very easy and helpful for lessening and getting rid of anxiety and hot flashes. But it won’t do much about your cooking! (I happen to know what a fab cook you are which has nothing to do with this but…)

  2. Love your newsletter and and oh so timely. Dandelion root tea (available in health food stores) has been shown to be highly effective for hot flashes. I’ve just started taking and it is working. Liver support appears to be key to hormone stability/or clearing out of bloodstream? I’d like to know more about Macca; estrogenic vs. nonestrogenic food/supplements.

    Brilliant idea ladies. I began having daytime hot flashes about three weeks ago. I was absolutely incredulous, and have been saying “why aren’t women really talking about this.”

    • Elise – I’m wondering in what key your liver harmonizes? Thanks so much for the good info and we will follow up on some of your ideas. Sharing this info with everyone else is great!

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