The 3 Main Reasons Women Get Hot Flushes – and What to Do About It

August 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Womens Health

It seems that hot flashes are the bane of many women’s lives during menopause – and they have quite an effect on those around them too. Hot flashes come on without any warning and can range from being mildly uncomfortable to downright unbearable. Symptoms range from just a slight redness of the face to a full body sweat that leaves you wringing wet and generating enough heat to boil water. Plus the dreaded night sweats that can seriously disturb your sleep.

It’s estimated that around 30% of menopausal women will get some form of hot flashes. How affected you are will depend on several factors, including where you live and what you eat. Some lucky women never get them at all and they are certainly very much more common in the Western world. There is no word in Japanese for instance to cover this phenomenon because they do not seem to suffer from it – unless they have switched to a predominantly Western diet. If you are unlucky enough to suffer from hot flashes this article will help you learn why they occur. If you’re not yet a sufferer, then it will help you gauge whether or not you are likely to become one.

The Reasons Why
Although some lucky women escape completely, there are some very good reasons why we experience the heat that we associate with menopause:

1 – Blood Vessels
Hot flashes occur when the blood vessels below the skin dilate. This causes more blood to rush to the skin’s surface, and that is what makes you look red and flushed, and feel that tell-tale rise in temperature. The body’s normal response to this is to try and cool you down, and it does this by making you sweat. What is unique about hot flashes is that this mechanism kicks in when the outside temperature can be very low and you do not have any signs of fever.

2 – Fluctuating hormones
Well you know all about this during menopause, and in fact the changing levels of your hormones are the prime cause of hot flashes. When your hormone levels fluctuate they cause the temperature control mechanism in the body to be disturbed. The centre which controls this is in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus and it seems that it is changing levels of oestrogen and FSH (follicular stimulating hormone) that can upset this delicate balance and cause hot flashes.

Women having hot flashes usually have decreased oestrogen levels and increased FSH levels, but it is important to remember that it is the changes and fluctuations in the hormone levels – rather than the actual amount of hormone being produced – that produces hot flashes.

3 – Surgical menopause
It is to be expected that menopause symptoms come naturally when a woman’s childbearing years are coming to a close and the menopause or perimenopause is under way. However, women who have a hysterectomy or their ovaries removed at an age when they would not normally be going through menopause are more likely to experience more severe and frequent hot flashes after the surgery than in a natural menopause transition.

Even if the ovaries are retained it is no guarantee that an early menopause will not occur, as their effectiveness at producing progesterone will be affected and will diminish over time.

What Can Help
Those are some of the reasons behind hot flashes, but you also need to know what can help.
Herbal help seems to be the most popular, particularly those that act as a natural oestrogen modulator to help regulate hormone levels.

Black Cohosh is a herb native to North America and which over the last 50 years has gained an excellent reputation amongst western herbalists for its efficacy at easing menopausal symptoms. Modern clinical trials have confirmed just how effective Black Cohosh is at balancing the hormones in menopausal women and subsequently reducing the associated side effects, when taken on a regular basis. A recent review of the different natural remedies available found the herb…, “the most effective botanical.”

Sage is also popular and anecdotal evidence from herbalists has found it particularly effective at helping to ease the sweating associated with hormonally induced over-heating, which makes it effective for women suffering from hot flashes and night sweats.

If you want more immediate relief then again many women turn to acupuncture as it seems to bring a quicker result, though you may need to have regular sessions. If you want other suggestions for dealing with hot flashes you will find them in my downloadable booklet at

Feeling the heat in cancer treatment and menopause

October 7, 2008 by  
Filed under Natural Medicine, Womens Health

Hot flushes are the bane of many menopausal women’s existence, but they also commonly occur in breast cancer patients who have treatment-related vasomotor symptoms. This is when there is an increase or decrease in the diameter of a blood vessel, which can regulate the amount of blood travelling to a particular body part.

Hot flushes or night sweats that result from the sudden opening of the blood vessels close to the skin, usually due to hormonal fluctuation, can be very uncomfortable- whatever their cause. There are a couple of natural alternatives that can be an effective alternative to drug therapy with fewer side effects.

The first is acupuncture, as was reported at the recent meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology. The women in their study had reported a minimum of 14 hot flushes a week, and half the group had twice weekly acupuncture treatments weekly for the first four weeks, followed by weekly sessions during the final eight weeks. The other half of the group were given drugs to control the flushes and received the standard daily dose usually given to manage vasomotor symptoms.

The study found that not only was acupuncture effective in reducing or eliminating the hot flushes, but it had no adverse effects. What did surprise them was that the therapeutic effects of acupuncture persisted long after the treatment. To quote them:

“Women who took the drug therapy started to have an increase in the number and intensity of hot flushes within two weeks of discontinuing the drug therapy, whereas women who had acupuncture didn’t start to have an increase in the number or severity of hot flushes for 14 or 15 weeks after discontinuing therapy.” They also observed that the acupuncture group not only reported no treatment-related side effects, but said they had improvement in energy, clarity of thought, sexual desire, and overall sense of well-being

Herbal Remidies to Tame Flushes and Night Sweats

Herbs have long been used in many cultures to help with hormonal disturbance and one of the oldest in use is sage. An Australian study in 2005 found that it reduced severe hot flushes by 60% – that’s worth trying isn’t it?

To make sage tea, take ten fresh leaves, or one and a half teaspoons of dried sage if you can’t get fresh leaves. Pour hot (not quite boiling) water over the leaves and add a spoon or two of honey to sweeten it. That way you get some B vitamins to help lift your mood as well! Let it cool slightly and drink about an hour before you go to bed.

Another popular herb for hot flushes and night sweats is black cohosh. In my experience this seems to work well for some women – but I would have to say not for all but dong quai seems more effective for the majority. A comparative study between HRT and dong quai, done in 2003, showed a huge 30% reduction in hot flushes after a month. The suggested dosage for hot flushes is 600mg a day, BUT there is however a strong contra-indication if you are taking medication such as warfarin, as dong quai is known to act as a blood thinner. Hot flushes seem to be variable from woman to woman so you may have to do a bit of experimenting to see what works, and when you are reduced to sleeping naked in a cast iron bath to cool down – and yes that is the voice of personal experience speaking – then you don’t always feel that patient! If trying individual herbs doesn’t work for you then try one of the combinations that several supplement companies make – and also watch to see if you have any triggers for your flushes. Stress can be a major one, as can certain things like coffee – might be worth keeping a food and mood diary to see if you can pin it down.