Do you find yourself dreading summer months in a way you never used to? As the temperature is rising, are you experiencing your own internal heat wave? If so, you are not alone. More than 70% of women in peri-menopause and menopause experience hot flashes and night sweats, which can cause excessive sweating, flushing and chills.
What Causes Hot Flashes?
Although the exact biological mechanism of hot flashes is unknown, there are multiple influences, including neurotransmitter imbalances, such as serotonin, and a decline in estrogen production by the ovaries. Low estrogen, combined with extremely low progesterone, signals the hypothalamus (brain’s temperature control area), causing rapid elevations in body temperature and dilation of blood vessels, resulting in a hot flash. Hot flashes can cause interruption of daily activities, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, feeling out of control or helpless, and lack of intimacy. However, you don’t have to hibernate all summer long. Here are a few ways to beat the heat:
Dietary Tips to Reduce Hot Flashes:
–Avoid refined and highly processed foods. Eat real food!
–Eat vegetables, fruits and flax seeds (2 tablespoons) daily, this ensures adequate fibre intake to support elimination of toxic estrogens.
–Limit consumption of dairy products, red meats, peanuts and shellfish, as they increase prostaglandins, which affect hormones.
–Avoid alcohol, sugar, spicy foods and caffeine.
–Avoid excess consumption of inflammatory foods like nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, potatoes), and any foods that you know you are sensitive to (e.g. gluten) as these tend to exacerbate hot flashes.
–Ensure proper hydration, as there is a chance of electrolyte imbalance and dehydration when experiencing hot flashes.
–Soy isoflavones have been shown to ease hot flashes. Eat 20 grams of organic soy protein a day from tofu, soy milk, tempeh or soy protein powder. That’s equivalent to ½ cup tofu plus 1 cup soymilk, which together contain 58 mg of isoflavones.
–Eat ‘cooling’ foods such as, mung beans, string beans, black beans, aduki beans, kidney beans, lentils, tofu, wild rice, millet, barley, parsley, asparagus, seaweed, red raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and watermelon.
–Decrease acidity in the body by eating an alkaline diet.
Lifestyle Factors to Reduce Hot Flashes:
–Consider a gentle liver detoxification program to help take the burden off the liver. If the liver is constrained it will cause heat in the body and contribute to hot flashes. Speak to your naturopathic doctor (ND) regarding an appropriate cleanse for you.
–Reduce aggravating triggers, such as stress and smoking.
–Exercise at least 40 minutes per day. Regular exercise helps improve general health, promotes liver function and burns off excess heat.
–Acupuncture can help improve circulation and reduce energetic blockages of Qi (energy) and balance hormones. (Licensed ND’s are trained in acupuncture)
–Nourishing your adrenal glands is especially important during menopause, because they are responsible for the small amount of estrogen production after ovarian function declines.
–Routine, restful sleep (most women require 8-10 hours to function optimally) and stress reduction help to support adrenal health. Meditation, yoga, deep breathing, tai chi, biofeedback, acupuncture or massage will help to lower your stress levels.
–Trifolium pretense (red clover) – contains phytoestrogens that can help decrease the dramatic drop in estrogen.
–Actea racemosa (black cohosh) – supports estrogen levels and activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
–Salvia officinalis (sage) – can decrease sweating associated with hot flashes.
For a more personalized treatment plan speak to your naturopathic doctor. Menopause is not a disease, but a shift in your hormonal status. Mild to moderate menopausal symptoms can be successfully addressed with non-hormonal treatment options. Salivary hormone testing, offered by most ND’s, can help determine where you are in your menopause journey and the right approach can be taken to balance hormones. In my practice, which is mainly focused on women’s health, I noticed that the thyroid and adrenal glands play a big role in menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes. Ovaries, thyroid and adrenal glands are like the three musketeers, if one is imbalanced it will affect the function of the others. Addressing the root cause of your hot flashes will help to beat the heat not only in the summer, but year-round, and give you your quality of life back. Wouldn’t that be nice?
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