Hot flashes 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 to have one.
If you’re struggling with hot flashes, you are far from alone. In fact, 75 percent of menopausal women experience them. Luckily, there are a few ways you can prevent or lessen their severity.
What is a hot flash?
A hot flash is a sudden wave of heat throughout your body, most intensely on your face. Your skin may become red and splotchy. You may start to sweat and your heart may start to beat more rapidly. You may be chilled once it passes.
Every woman has a different experience. For some, hot flashes may be quick and mild. For others, they may interrupt their day and require a change of clothes.
Hot flashes can happen at any point in your life, but they’re particularly prevalent in perimenopause. The drop in estrogen experience during this time causes changes in the body’s thermostat, making a person significantly more sensitive to temperature changes.
How to prevent them
First, know your triggers. Common triggers include alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, hot beverages, and smoking — and every woman is different. Some women can drink a beer and feel fine, while others with a higher sensitivity to alcohol will feel a hot flash coming on almost immediately.
Stress is also big trigger, and mindful meditation and deep breathing can help prevent them.
Finally, avoiding hot rooms and hot weather will help you avoid hot flashes. Of course, this may not always be possible, and one person’s idea of hot may not be another’s. Your best bet is to dress in light, loose layers, so you can shed a layer or two if you need to. (Also: tight clothing is a trigger for many women.)
It’s a good idea to document your triggers, in addition to where and when they happen, so you can avoid them in the future.
Night sweats are hot flashes’ annoying cousin. They feel similar to hot flashes, except they happen at night and cause you to wake up in a puddle and lose sleep. Try to avoid night sweats by keeping your bedroom cool. Using a fan or invest in moisture-wicking pajamas. Keep ice water on your nightstand in case you need to cool down quickly.
It’s also important to stick to a consistent bedtime and aim for a solid seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Regular, restful sleep can help with hot flashes, stress, and may reduce menopause symptoms overall.
Supplements for menopause symptoms
There are a lot of purported natural remedies for menopause symptoms, but there are a few that are proven. Soy is a popular remedy for hot flashes, and there’s evidence that it can reduce their intensity by 50 percent. Other popular natural supplements are French maritime pine bark extract, red clover, and dong quai.
Always check with your doctor before adding a supplement to your regimen.
What to do if you feel a hot flash coming on
If you know you’ve triggered a hot flash, stop and breathe. Relaxation breathing can help lessen the intensity or even derail an oncoming episode.
Here’s how to do it: Once you feel a hot flash creeping in, pause and 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. Feel your stomach sink. Do it again. Keep going for several minutes. Remain calm, focus on your breath, and hopefully the hot flash passes.