If you've had one, there's no mistaking it: the sudden, intense, hot feeling
on your face and upper body, perhaps preceded or accompanied by a rapid
heartbeat and sweating, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, headache, weakness, or a
feeling of suffocation. Some women experience an "aura," an uneasy feeling just
before the hot flash, that lets them know what's coming. The flash is followed
by a flush, leaving you reddened and perspiring. You can have a soaker or merely
a moist upper lip. A chill can lead off the episode or be the finale.
What Causes A Hot Flash?
Hot flashes are mostly caused by the hormonal changes of menopause, but can
also be affected by lifestyle and medications. A diminished level of estrogen
has a direct effect on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for
controlling your appetite, sleep cycles, sex hormones, and body temperature.
Somehow (we don't know how), the drop in estrogen confuses the
hypothalamus—which is sometimes referred to as the body's "thermostat"—and makes
it read "too hot."
The brain responds to this report by broadcasting an all-out alert to the
heart, blood vessels, and nervous system: "Get rid of the heat!"
The message is transmitted by the nervous system's chemical messenger,
epinephrine, and related compounds: norepinephrine, prostaglandin, serotonin.
The message is delivered instantly. Your heart pumps faster, the blood vessels
in your skin dilate to circulate more blood to radiate off the heat, and your
sweat glands release sweat to cool you off even more.
This heat-releasing mechanism is how your body keeps you from overheating in
the summer, but when the process is triggered instead by a drop in estrogen,
your brain's confused response can make you very uncomfortable. Some women's
skin temperature can rise six degrees Centigrade during a hot flash. Your body
cools down when it shouldn't, and you are miserable: soaking wet in the middle
of a board meeting or in the middle of a good night's sleep.
Beating the heat naturally
The best way to beat a hot flash is naturally .
Hot flashes have a lot to do with the low levels of estrogen in your body, but
other factors can cause your temperature control to go out of whack. Recent
studies show that medication is not always helpful. Instead of estrogen therapy,
look at less drastic measures first, partly because estrogen therapy is not
known to be safe for women with a history of breast cancer—but also because you
should always begin with the least aggressive approach to treating your
If you can identify the things that trigger your hot flashes, you've made the
first step in getting the upper hand. Keep a record of when they occur and what
you were eating or doing, or how you were feeling at the time. Many women find
that stress tops the charts as a trigger. Was that hot flash in the boardroom a
random hit, or were you feeling under pressure at the time? Was it a full day of
pressure without a break?
Solution: Ease the pressure. Give yourself more time to plan your work, to
rehearse your presentation, to deliver your assignments, to arrive where you're
going. If you are doing a series of presentations, give yourself a chance to
relax and cool off between sessions. And plan your schedule so you avoid
meetings or decision making when you're most likely to be in a sweat.
Other hot flash triggers:
Progesterone & Hot Flashes
A study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1999
found that natural progesterone cream significantly reduced hot flashes in about
80% of the women that were experiencing this "vasomotor symptom". This study
included a small number of women but the results were significant. The women in
the progesterone group experienced the disappearance of lumps and bumps in their
breasts, were less depressed (experienced greater feeling of well-being), had
less hot flashes. In the book "The Wisdom of Menopause", Northrup says
that natural progesterone skin cream works in about 85% of perimenopausal women.
As little as 20mg of this real/natural progesterone per day can ease hot
Dr John Lee (author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause)
"So, I learned that every time I added progesterone to a woman already on
estrogen I had to tell her to cut her estrogen at least in half. Then later
she could cut it down even more because the progesterone was handling so
many of her problems. She didn't need all that much estrogen. Then I had
some ladies who kept cutting it down, cutting it down and pretty soon they
weren't taking any, and they were doing fine. No hot flashes, no vaginal
dryness, no problems, they were doing fine and I said, 'how can this be? I
was taught in medical school estrogen goes to zero.' (However it only drops
around 35% so a women still has over 60% of estrogen...estrogen that they had
before menopause. Progesterone on the other hand drops significantly.)"
Safe Products and Safe Progesterone