Hot flushes affect about three-quarters of menopausal women and are likely to be as individual as the women who have them. Most women will agree that flushing is uncomfortable and at times embarrassing, and can interfere with your ability to concentrate and carry out activities. The way that a flush can feel will vary with the woman. Most women will experience episodes of heat which vary in intensity, often accompanied with perspiration. Other symptoms include headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, anxiety, ‘butterflies in the stomach’, confusion and palpitations.
It is thought that hot flushes are related to the changes in your hormones, in particular oestrogen. Hot flushes are not caused solely by oestrogen withdrawal. An increase of luteinising hormone (LH) commonly causes the symptoms that are associated with a hot flush. Thyroid disorders can also aggravate menopausal symptoms.
Most of the time the period when you experience hot flushes lasts for about 1-2 years, but some may experience these for up to ten years. Rest assured that you have the ability to lessen this time and to reduce the severity of your symptoms with natural methods such as diet and lifestyle modifications. There are also several herbal preparations that are effective at relieving uncomfortable menopausal symptoms, however it is important that these be sought from a qualified naturopath or herbalist as most over-the-counter preparations will not have the same quality, and a herbalist can design a tonic that is specific for your needs. Sage tea may help to reduce sweating.
Risk of Hot Flushes Occurring increases with:
A maternal history of hot flushes, early menopause, cigarette smoking, early menarche and alcohol use are considered to be risk factors for more severe hot flushes.
Improvement may be felt with any or a combination of the following natural remedies. These suggestions do not take the place of advice and treatment that would be obtaines from a consultation with your chsen health professional.
Phyto-oestrogens are structurally similar to the oestrogen molecule and because of this they can bind to the body’s oestrogen receptors. The effect that the phyto-oestrogens have is varied, but recent studies have shown that the oestrogen levels of the woman will determine what sort of action the phyto-oestrogens will have. In a postmenopausal woman who has very little oestrogen, then phyto-oestrogens will exert a pro-oestrogenic effect, whereas a woman who has an oestrogen dominant condition would experience an anti-oestrogen effect. In short, the phyto-oestrogens have a balancing action on oestrogen status.
Studies have shown that cultures with a high intake of soya products have significantly less menopausal symptoms than western cultures. Asian diets are high in soy based foods (40–100 mg per day of isoflavones in Asian diets as compared to ❤ mg per day in western diets), and most women in these countries express minimal menopausal complaints. Several other studies have shown that soy can improve menopausal symptoms, in particular hot flushes. They suggest an intake of 10-15 g of soy protein or 60 mg isoflavones (range of 30-100 mg) per day.
There are several types of phyto-oestrogens and these are isoflavones, coumestans, lignans, flavones, flavonols and flavanones. Isoflavones are responsible for the cardio-protective activities, improving bone density and protecting against breast cancer. They are found mainly in soya products and legumes. Coumestans are the main phyto-oestrogen studied for menopausal symptoms, and these are found in legumes such as soya products, peas and beans, and are highest in sprouted legumes such as alfalfa, mung bean or snow pea. The western diet is generally very low in these foods, but it is not difficult to include them in your diet.
Increasing phyto-oestrogen intake can be easy. 100g of tofu per day has been shown to reduce hot flushes and vaginal dryness and can be prepared in many ways. You could also use soya milk, add miso and tempeh to your cooking, eat more alfalfa and snow-pea sprouts, or add 2 tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseed to your muesli or cereal every morning. It is possible to take soya supplements, however it is preferable to eat soya in its whole food form as this provides a synergistic blend of the protein and soy germ.
Several studies have shown that vitamin supplementation can reduce menopausal symptoms, including hot flushes. Vitamin E supplementation has shown a statistically significant advantage over placebo in reducing hot flushes over four weeks at a dose of 400 IU twice daily. It has also been shown to reduce other common symptoms of menopause including fatigue, dizziness, palpitations, and nervousness9.
Vitamin C and flavonoids may also be of assistance in reducing hot flushes because of their ability to improve vascular integrity. One study performed in the early 1960s showed that supplementation with the flavonoid hesperidin and vitamin C completely relieved hot flushes in 53% of the 94 women studied and reduced them in 34%9. Further research into this area is required.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil comes from seeds which contain the oils alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA; omega-6 fatty acid), both precursors of eicosanoids, which are constituents of cell membranes. The biochemical pathway for metabolism of dietary GLA eventually leads to an anti-inflammatory prostaglandin. This is a very popular supplement for the treatment of hot flushes which many women swear by, however the evidence to support this is limited. Dosages required are between 1-3g daily and need to be taken over long periods of time3.
Some foods may aggravate hot flushes, and these should be avoided. These foods include alcohol, spicy foods, and coffee.
Observational studies have shown regular aerobic exercise lessens the frequency and severity of hot flushes#. It has several other positive effects, such as an improvement of mood, memory, libido, energy and weight loss#.
Performing relaxation exercises every day, such as meditation and breathing exercises, can help to reduce the intensity of hot flushes.
It may be helpful to wear loose fitting clothing made from natural material such as cotton. Wearing outer layers that are easily removed allows you to easily cool down when you’re experiencing a flush.
Many women will experience night sweats that require them to change the sheets. By placing a towel under them, they can simply remove it if it becomes wet and this saves the trouble of changing the sheets every morning.
Stress and anxiety can bring on and worsen hot flushes therefore steps should be made to reduce stress in your life. Meditation, counselling and herbal medicine can help to reduce stress.
The Herbal Approach
Your Naturopath can create a treatment plan to ease your menopausal symptoms. The treatment may be a combination of hormone modulating, cooling and calming. A naturopath will also assess your adrenal and liver health as these are common underlying factors. An individual formula will not only be of high quality, it will be tailored to your specific needs.
B.App.Sc (Nat Stud), Post Grad.Dip.(Nat) MATMS MNHAA