What’s up with Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes and night sweats are fairly common, especially as women go through perimenopause and menopause. These vasomotor symptoms cause changes in skin temperature or colour. The amount of blood passing through a particular body part is controlled by the internal diameter of blood vessels. Up to 80% of women experience these symptoms at some point and it’s good to pay attention to what the body is saying. Vasomotor symptoms can point to increased chances of developing cardiovascular disease later in life.
Thriving In Your 40’s & 50’s
Depending on the frequency and intensity of hot flashes women may seek support for these symptoms. Unfortunately conventional care is largely ineffective and I’ll explain why. But this doesn’t mean women shouldn’t reach out for support. Hot flashes may put you at higher risk of bone fractures, cardiovascular disease and cognitive changes including mood fluctuations.
Conventional treatment includes antidepressants, the pill or estrogen treatment. Both the pill and estrogen can increase estrogen at a time in life when progesterone is naturally declining. There is no evidence that taking estrogen prevents the estrogen surges that characterize perimenopause. In fact, it makes sense that this approach may further exacerbate the hormone imbalance.
Get the Right Support
Hormones are rarely tested unless a woman is trying to conceive. This can only be a relic of patriarchy that needs to change, which is why I offer it. A woman’s health is closely tied to hormone balance and metabolism throughout her life. For instance, estrogen has cardio-protective qualities and reduces insulin resistance. It also helps build and maintain muscle mass which is one of the most important ways to increase your health span. Knowing how your body metabolizes estrogen is preventative for cancer.
In terms of hot flashes specifically they can last up to ten years if they begin in perimenopause. When hot flashes start after your last cycle they are likely to last only a couple of years. By attending to these vasomotor symptoms and their underlying causes early reduces other risk factors.
There is a link to the stress response. For instance, taking magnesium is often helpful because it calms the brain, promotes sleep and regulates the HPA axis. Taurine is an amino acid that gets depleted by estrogen and has a similar effect. These can be taken together along with B6 which supports estrogen metabolism and boosts GABA. Black cohosh and sage are herbs that can also alleviate hot flashes.
The Stress Response
An upregulated stress response has a downstream impact on all hormones. By attending to our stress levels we are taking care of our health in a fundamental way. Enough movement, social interaction and downtime are essential. Purpose and passion can transform stress into a positive force. Herbal combinations like Relora and adaptogens like ashwagandha or rhodiola help stabilize the stress response. Prioritizing time for yourself is perhaps one of the best ways to regulate the HPA axis.
What About Progesterone?
Micronized or natural progesterone works to improve sleep by reducing anxiety in both men and women. It can relieve hot flashes by modulating the hypothalamus and helps with mood by boosting GABA. A capsule works best and I often start with herbal support that mimics natural progesterone. If this doesn’t have the effects then there are pharmacies that compound progesterone or you can seek the brand Prometrium. The herbal route is more cost effective and if a woman is still cycling we will time it with her cycle. Hormone testing helps determine if estrogens also need to be cleared.