When hot flashes come out of nowhere, fight back with some simple tips. Everything from the clothes you wear to how you breathe can help you weather those flashes. Don’t be at the mercy of your unpredictable hormones, learn how to manage the temperature surges and “flash floods” of menopause.
1. Dress For Success
Two Words: Layers & Wicking
You know that dressing in layers is important if hot flashes sneak up on you. A light tank top, with a blouse over it allows you to drop the blouse if you suddenly start to heat up. There are many newer fabrics that will wick the perspiration away from your skin. Try shopping in outdoor supply stores or travel catalogs for easy care fabrics that can take the heat.
Capri pants, no stockings and loose fitting clothes are also helpful in letting air circulate to keep you on the cooler side.
Find a comfy style that will allow you to shed the outer layers when you are in a warm room, or in a high stress meeting. A little planning can make your wardrobe work with you during the flashy years.
Deep Breathing Shortens the Flash
Deep breathing techniques can shorten hot flashes and make them milder. Teach yourself to start slow, deep breaths as soon as you feel a flash coming on. Take as deep a breath as you can, and hold it a moment before letting it out slowly. Expanding your rib cage can help trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms you down and helps regulate temperature.
If you practice deep breathing techniques, like yoga breathing or Pilates breathing, before you actually need them, they will come more naturally during the stress and embarrassment of a hot flash episode. Train ahead of time, and then breathe through the heat. Relax, and let your breath shorten the flash.
3. Cool the Room
Keep your environment as cool as possible.
Turn down the thermostat, open the windows, or use the air conditioner or fan. Keeping your indoor temperature below 70 during the day, and about 65 degrees at night will help your body temperature stay on the low side. Try sleeping with several light covers so you can choose how many you need, and keep one leg outside the bed clothes.
The goal is to keep as constant a temperature as possible, so that you don’t trip your sensitive inner thermostat into overdrive.
4. You’ve Got it Made in the Shade
Avoid the Hot Spots
Stay away from hot outdoor places if possible. Don’t sunbathe, avoid hot tubs, and do your best to stay off hot asphalt. Again, the goal is to find cool spots with a relatively constant temperature so that you don’t cue the internal floodgates that are waiting to cool you down.
5. I’ll Drink to That
It’s always important to get plenty of water during the day, but if you are prone to hot flashes, it is paramount. Your body’s cooling system is operating within a thin margin of error during menopause, and a critical component of managing that system is providing enough water to keep the system cool. Keep a glass of water by you all day long, and refill it often. Try to get 48 ounces a day, to keep you from overheating and to replenish after a flash moment.
Your body needs water to function well anytime, so menopause is a great time to get into the water glass habit.
6. Eat to Beat the Heat
Turn Down the Spices
When you are in menopause and your internal cooling system is finicky, you need to go easy on the hot foods. Anything that can raise your body temperature even a little can trigger a hot flash. So hot and spicy foods may be flash makers, so might hot drinks and even alcohol.
Pay attention to your own food triggers, and avoid eating or drinking anything that trips your flash button. Once your hormones even out, you will probably be able to eat those things again. But for now, leave the spicy dishes for others.
7. Do You Need Some Hormone Help?
Hormone Therapy to the Rescue
Estrogen is still the most effective way to decrease or eliminate hot flashes. Check with your medical provider and see whether you are in a high risk category for hormone therapy. If not, a low dose for a short time might get you through the worst of your hot flash years. Especially if hot flashes are severe, are keeping you from sleeping, or are disrupting your ability to work, you might want to try a short course of menopause hormone therapy to control the flashes while your body adjusts.
8. Prescription Meds that Help
Other Medication Possibilities
There are several medications that have proven helpful for hot flashes during menopause. There are blood pressure medications, antidepressants, anti-seizure medications and others that are effective for some women in reducing flashes. If you are already being treated for any of these conditions, ask your doctor about a medication that could do double duty and treat the hot flashes. If you are not being treated for any of these conditions, but would like to try a prescription treatment for hot flashes, check with your medical provider about the best choice for you. Like estrogen, sometimes a short course of one of these meds can be a life saver during the hot flash years.
9. Flaxseed for Flashes?
Flaxseed May Help
A small pilot study done by the Mayo Clinic found that women who took 40 grams of ground flaxseed a day noticed a significant decrease in hot flashes. And surprisingly, flaxseed had the added benefit of reducing joint and muscle pain for some of the women. If you are looking for a hormone alternative, this one looks promising.
10. Herbal Hot Flash Remedies
Herbs and Vitamins
There are many vitamin,plant and herbal remedies with a reputation for helping hot flashes. Vitamin E, yam phytoestrogens and black cohosh have all been used for many years as menopause treatments. Studies on these alternative remedies usually show them to be only as effective as placebo. Black cohosh has the best reputation for helping flashes, and is quite safe. There are plenty of women who swear by these treatments, but so far the science doesn’t yet support them.
Kate Bracy, RN, NP
Former Menopause Guide at About.com