When it comes to hot flashes night sweats, I meet many women who are suffering and who are not offered very much in the way of advice or relief from standard medical practitioners other than hormone replacement therapy.
In actual fact, there is quite a body of research and anecdotal evidence that finds a whole raft of strategies helpful for different women. The trick is to listen carefully to your body examine your diet and lifestyle and find out what works for you!
The bad news first! Let’s talk about how you can help yourself out by giving up or avoiding some of your favourite things! We are talking Sugar, Alcohol and Cigarettes.
There is some research to demonstrate that hot flashes are related to blood sugar balance (J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2007 May–Jun; 36(3): 255–262.) and that both hot flashes and night sweats increase with low blood sugar and blood sugar spikes.
You may want to cut down on the amount of sugar that you consume daily and YES! alcohol metabolizes as a sugar in the liver.
Smokers have also recorded that they experience more hot flashes and a greater severity in hot flashes than non-smokers.
It is the liver that metabolizes all excess peri-menopausal hormone so that it can be easily removed from the body. It makes sense to me as a nutritionist that if your liver is working hard to handle excess sugar, alcohol and the heavy metals found in cigarettes, de-conjugation of excess peri-menopausal hormone is going to be at the bottom of the livers to-do list. This leaves hormones circulating the body causing annoying symptoms.
One food to include to support the liver would be the common beet. Beets are rich in betaine which supports the liver in the three stages of the detoxification process. If you are plagued by hot flashes try my Hormone Helper Smoothie which contains beets coupled with healthy fats and fibre or simmer up a big batch of Borsht to sip on during the week.
Now let’s find out strategies to help ourselves out when we are suffering from embarrassing and awkward hot flashes or wake in the morning with the sheets drenched from night sweats.
High stress can be a trigger for hot flashes and night sweats and in fact stressful situations during the day can be a trigger….which only makes the hot flash more awkward.
Research has shown that if we spend time each day practicing paced or deep diaphragmatic breathing then we can reduce our incidence of hot flashes, possibly by reducing stress. Menopause. 2013 Feb;20(2):179-84. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e31826934b6.
This makes practices such as yoga and pilates appealing to women in their middle years, as the breathing aspect of these more mindful practices creates similar results.
Benefits have also been found in exercising for 30 minutes each day just to breathlessness. i have my gorgeous dog sara to help me out with this one!
The tip here is to get moving daily and to try and find time to centre and breathe daily…all good stuff regardless of your age!
I find that fibre is my friend during peri-menopause and that nothing causes me to feel unpleasant symptoms from hormonal imbalance more that a bout of constipation.
This is because de-conjugated excess hormone is no longer being eliminated efficiently from the body and continues to circulate around the body causing havoc, making me weepy and moody and inducing hot flashes. (Nothing constipates me more than plane travel so I do all of this in a new place on a weird schedule with new people……which is lovely!)
My fibre of choice is ground flax seed because it is also a phytoestrogen. Ground Flax offers a very gentle plant based hormone replacement within my diet. I usually eat ground flax with my nuts and seeds at breakfast. Other high fibre phytoestrogens that you might want to include in your diet include chickpeas, edamame beans and soy beans.
Try making my Super Nutrition Nut and Seed Mix or making a batch of hummus weekly. My recipe for Beet Hummus does double duty with chickpeas providing fibre and phytoestrogens and beets to support the liver.
Soy provides the greatest concentration of phytoestrogens and it so strongly mimic female hormones in the body I do not generally recommend the consumption of soy on a daily basis. Soy can also slow the thyroid gland, is hard on digestion and most products contain GMO.
However, for peri-menopausal women,, a lot of relief can be found from snacking on edamame and even drinking soy milk…just be sure to choose organic brands.
Fibre can always be increased by consuming more leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds including chia seeds and hemp seeds. All ingredients I include in a smoothie.
I no longer juice my vegetables but choose to drink all of the vegetable and fruit fibre in a smoothie. In this way fruit sugars are released slowly into my bloodstream and to increase the amount of hormone helping fibre I consume.
There are also supplements that have been shown to help a mother out with hot flashes and nights sweats.
800mg of vitamin E in a capsule have been shown to reduce night sweats when taken just before bed.
Magnesium citrate or Magnesium malate 2 x 250 mg capsules taken at night an also be helpful. They also help to reduce stress, prevent constipation and relax tense muscles.
Two other supplements that are recommended for unpleasant hot flashes and night sweats are the phyto-oestrogen herb Black Cohosh and Rhubarb Extract.
Black Cohosh can be drunk as a tea or taken in capsule form. This herb directly replaces estrogen to relieve symptoms so follow the instructions on the label and test, tweak and try to see if this is something that is beneficial to your body.
The mechanism of how rhubarb extract works in your body to reduce hot flashes is not clear, but trials have found it to be beneficial. Look for Metagenics brand called Estrovera, often available form chiropractic offices.
There are many strategies, foods and supplements available that may work to reduce your uncomfortable hot flashes and night sweats, I suggest using a food and mood diary or journaling daily, testing and tweaking to deduce what is working best for you!
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