Hot flashes, experienced by many women going through menopause can sneak up on you out of nowhere, making otherwise normal situations incredibly uncomfortable. Whether it’s in the office, in the gym, or on a date (yikes), one thing’s for sure: there is never a good time for a hot flash.
If you’re struggling with hot flashes, you are far from alone. In fact, 75% of menopausal women experience hot flashes. Luckily, there are a few ways you can prevent and even lessen the severity of hot flashes so you can keep living your life.
How do I know when I’m having a hot flash?
Hot flashes happen when you feel a sudden burst of warmth throughout your body, and most intensely on your face. Your skin may become red and splotchy, and you may break out into an uncontrollable sweat and feel a sudden, rapid heartbeat. You might even feel a chill afterward. Every woman experiences hot flashes differently: for some, hot flashes may be quick and mild, while other women experience hot flashes that interrupt their entire day and require a change of clothes.
What causes hot flashes?
Hot flashes can happen at any time during your life, but they’re particularly prevalent in women experiencing perimenopause – or the transitional period several years before menopause that often begins in your 40s. The drop in estrogen that you experience during this time can cause changes in your body’s thermostat, making you significantly more sensitive to temperature changes. Other common triggers of hot flashes include alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, hot beverages, and smoking.
How do I prevent hot flashes?
First, know your triggers. Some women can enjoy a beer and feel fine, while others with a higher sensitivity to alcohol will feel a hot flash coming on almost immediately. It’s a good idea to document your triggers, in addition to where and when they happen so you can prevent them in the future. Avoiding smoking, or even being around others who smoke, can help prevent hot flashes. Stress is another big hot flash trigger, and mindful meditation and deep breathing can help prevent hot flashes if you’re prone to stress.
Finally – and this one may be obvious – but avoiding hot rooms and hot weather will help you steer clear of hot flashes. Of course, this may not always be possible. Be sure to dress in light, loose layers whenever possible should you need to shed a layer or two (tight clothing is another big trigger for many women).
What supplements work for preventing hot flashes?
There are a lot of myths out there about supplements for menopause, but there are a few ingredients you can look for that are effective for relieving hot flashes. Soy is a popular remedy for hot flashes, and there’s evidence that it can reduce the intensity of hot flashes by 50%. The problem with straight up soy is that not everyone’s body has the ability to produce S-equol from it – that’s the key ingredient that binds estrogen receptors and as a result, relieves hot flashes. Look for products with S-equol, especially if you’ve tried everything else. Other popular natural supplements for hot flashes are French Maritime Pine Bark Extract, Red Clover, and Dong Quai. Be sure to check with your doctor before trying any supplements.
How do I prevent night sweats?
Night sweats are hot flashes’ annoying cousin who just won’t leave you alone. They feel similar to hot flashes, except they happen at night and cause you to lose sleep. So how can you get rid of night sweats? First, try to keep the temperature in your bedroom low – or at least lower than other rooms in your home – if possible. Consider using a fan or keeping a portable one near your bed if night sweats creep up on you in the middle of the night. You may also want to invest in moisture wicking pajamas, or at least very light and comfortable pajamas that allow your skin to breathe. Finally, keep a large bottle of ice water near your bed if you need to cool down quickly after you have night sweats.
It’s also important to stick to a consistent bedtime and aim for a solid 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Regular, restful sleep can help with hot flashes, stress, and may reduce menopause symptoms overall.
What should I do if I feel a hot flash coming on?
Breath – literally. Relaxation breathing can help lessen the intensity or completely avoid an oncoming hot flash. Here’s how to do it: Once you feel close to a hot flash, breathe in slowly through your nose. Place a hand on your stomach, right below your rib cage and feel your stomach push your hand out as your stomach fills. Then, slowly exhale through your mouth, letting your lungs empty and feeling your stomach sink back. Do this for several minutes, in a comfortable, quiet place if you can. Not only can deep breathing save you from hot flashes, but it can also help with stress and promote restful sleep, too.
Get rid of hot flashes and live your best life
Hot flashes are annoying, embarrassing, and worst of all, they’re persistent. Use these tips to help overcome hot flashes in your day-to-day life, but be sure to consult with your doctor if your hot flashes are severe. To learn more about hot flashes and other menopause symptoms, read our blog post Menopause Mythbusters: 7 Biggest Myths About Hot Flashes.