It’s about self-care, self-healing and taking control.
The most reported symptom of menopause is Hot Flushes (Night Sweats are included with this too). The NHS report that 75% of women experience hot flushes at some point during peri-menopause (the years leading up to their last period and through menopause itself. Some women report them continuing on into their post-menopause years. On average hot flushes will last for 10 years.
Your oestrogen production declines from your mid 40’s onward, and it is this that affects the hypothalamus in your brain. The hypothalamus is responsible for controlling our temperature; with the glitch happening as our hormones change.
Declining oestrogen also affects blood vessels, with skin temperature rising as a result by 5-7 degrees (Fahrenheit) during a hot flush. When your blood vessels dilate, sweat glands open up and flushing starts. You will notice that your heart rate increases, your face reddens, and you feel the heat. Once the sweat evaporates you often feel chilly. This cycle of feeling on fire and then feeling cold is often embarrassing and uncomfortable. I became nauseous and dizzy at times, which is not unusual. Most women say that they get very little notice of them coming on and unfortunately they often become worse before they start to get better, which is due to hormone fluctuations.
Menopause is not a sickness or disease that requires drugs and medication for 10 years or more. But it can cause you some medical and clinical problems.
This is a normal stage in your life and I personally believe in dealing with it in a natural way. But it is important to understand that individual symptoms can be debilitating for some women. Chemical Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is recommended by NICE and the NHS – but may not be your choice until you’ve explored natural options (as HRT is not without risks as well as benefits).
Awareness of your body and it’s changes means you can start dealing with symptoms early and not have to make big changes when you are really suffering.
If you can identify your personal flush triggers, then you’ll go some way to being able to deal with them. A way to do this is to keep a journal, notebook or diary and log what happens, when and what you were doing and what you have been eating or drinking.
- For some women hot flushes are worse in the summer months and hot sunny days can be a major trigger. Changes in environmental temperature – going from inside to outside & vice versa for example can also cause issues.
- Junk foods including too much sugar, salt, processed foods and spicy foods – all make flushes worse.
- Blood sugar can spike and crash randomly during menopause and cause hot flushes
- Low magnesium and insufficient vitamins and minerals.
- Low iron
- Lack of general fitness
- Insomnia, poor sleep
- Clothing that’s too tight
- Incorrect breathing technique
- Your home is filled with chemicals
- You have an undiagnosed thyroid issue along with other health problems that have started at this time too, such as joint pains and digestion problems. These can cause stress and inflammation to systems in the body and contribute to hot flushes.
Once you’ve identified your triggers let’s take a closer look at what’s available to help:
1. Menopause specific complexes – supplements
Bio-identical hormones are not a quick fix for hot flushes and night sweats. Take a long, hard look at your lifestyle first to see your personal ‘bigger picture’.
The hormones your body normally makes are replicated in the creams and gels of Bio-Identical Hormones. They bypass the liver and therefore ‘avoid’ the synthetic effect of usual HRT.
Maca – balances out hormones.
Ginseng – Ginseng substitutes human hormones with phytoestrogenic hormones. Keeping these hormones ‘topped-up’ helps to reduce the amount of your hot flushes.
Black Cohosh, Sage, Red Clover and Agnus Castus are all traditionally used herbs in menopause. There is much research on how these herbs can have similar effects to HRT and may help with the symptoms of menopause.
Black Cohosh comes from roots and leaves of the snakeroot plant and has been used for many years for the treatment of hormonal imbalances. It copies oestrogen and as long as you don’t have liver problems you can use it to treat your flushes and sweats. It can be taken as tablets (my choice), extracts or as a tea.
“In a study of 120 women with the menopausal symptoms, black cohosh was more effective in relieving hot flashes and night sweats than the antidepressant fluxetine (Prozac).” (University of Maryland Medical Center, 2018)
Sage tablets – in one study sage tablets were shown to reduce hot sweats. I swore by these pills along with Black Cohosh for reducing my hot flushes and night sweats. Red sage is known to keep you cool.
Red Clover – often cited as a benefit – but be aware this can raise your risk of suffering from a bleeding disorder. You can buy sprouting red clover seeds and eat them as ‘micro greens’. They have high levels of Isoflavones, vitamin A, B, C and E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc and other trace elements which all contribute to a healthy range in your diet.
Dong Quai – known to decrease severity of hot flushes but you are advised not to take this if you take blood thinning medications.
Agnus Castus (also known as Chasteberry) – there are reports of a decrease in symptoms.
Cayenne pepper – this is a stronger concentration in tablet form than you would use in cooking and is reported to support the body in dealing with flushes.
General menopause supplements such as Menopace are very popular. This comes in a range of products such as Original, Botanicals, Calcium, Night, Red Clover and Max Strength. I can’t comment on the effectiveness of any of these (as I didn’t try them) but they have won Boots Vitamin Awards 8 times since 2007.
You can see from this example of Menopace Original that the formula contains the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that I’ve indicated earlier are vital to help cut down the number of hot flushes and their severity that you suffer daily:
The formula for Menopace –
One-a-day vitamin, mineral and nutrient tablets
|Nutritional Information||Average per tablet||% EC NRV*|
|Vitamin A (2500 IU)||750 µg RE||94|
|Vitamin D (as D3 200 IU)||5 µg||100|
|Vitamin E (Natural Source)||30 mg α-TE||250|
|Vitamin C||45 mg||56|
|Thiamin (Vitamin B1)||10 mg||909|
|Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)||5 mg||357|
|Niacin (Vitamin B3)||20 mg NE||125|
|Vitamin B6||10 mg||714|
|Folic Acid||400 µg||200|
|Vitamin B12||9 µg||360|
|Pantothenic Acid||30 mg||500|
|Soya Isoflavone Extract||20 mg||–|
|*NRV = Nutrient Reference Value, µg = microgram
mg = milligram, IU = International Units
A general Menopause Support is available from A. Vogel. This can be used with HRT if you wish or on its own. It is made from soya beans and contains magnesium and hibiscus making it suitable for all stages of menopause.
They also have Menoforce Sage Tablets which are a licensed herbal remedy for Hot Flushes and Night Sweats.
I found prices reasonable at Holland and Barrett and chose their Sage Tablets and Black Cohosh Supplements I really appreciated the fact that (combined) they both worked reasonably quickly for me. The flushes and night sweats didn’t go completely but they significantly reduced. So if it is important for you to use natural products I can say they were my favourites. Although to be fair to other products, once I found these two suited me, I refused to come off them and try something else.
It is important to note that if you self-prescribe supplements (as I did) that you can interfere with other medication you take. Buy your supplements from reputable sources unless you are confident that you understand the amounts you need. There is a possibility that you could overdose. Always take advice from your GP, Practice Nurse or Pharmacist if you are in doubt.
Also if you decide to take advice or recommendations from an assistant in a health food store then do not be afraid to ask if they have undergone appropriate training.
Regular meals are a must, and I found changing my meals to eating ‘little and often’ helped hugely. It seemed to stop the blood sugar spikes that contributed to the flushing. Take care that you eat sensibly and make sure your snacks are healthy and not processed foods (or foods with little nutritional value). I also found that not eating late (for me I had to have my last meal before 7.30pm) reduced the amount and severity of my night sweats.
Overeating and large meals can generate a lot of extra heat in the body as can spicy foods (although ginger is beneficial).
- Flaxseed has many benefits known to help with many menopause symptoms.
- Refined sugars are becoming known to influence our health in many ways, not least during menopause years.The GAPS Diet is said to help curb sugar addiction.
- Eat plenty of serotonin /tryptophan inducing foods within your evening meal to help you sleep and not wake with night sweats.
Turkey, lettuce, Mushrooms, green veg such as spinach and kale, cauliflower, celery, aubergine, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, quinoa, oats, rye, bananas are all known for containing the nutrients, vitamins and minerals you need for sleep to be less interrupted by sweats.
- Probiotics and gut health research is still in its early stages but is believed to be more important to overall health and hormone production than previously thought..
- Eating spinach, swiss chard, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocados, figs, yogurt, and bananas will increase your magnesium levels.
- Having too many carbohydrates in your diet (one of my problems) can affect the amount and severity of your hot flushes. It is recommended that you avoid ‘white’ foods such as rice, pasta, potatoes and bread and convert to whole-grain versions instead. These even out those low sugar moments that contribute to the flushing.
- Contrary to media hype we need fat in our diets. Healthy fats are coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado. Fat is in nuts and seeds, snack on a small amount of almonds if you feel peckish.
- Eat more fibre and protein – beans, pulses, raw veggies, washed fruit with peel on and wholegrains. You’ll feel fuller for longer so will keep away from sugary biscuits and chocolate. Here’s a lovely Quinoa recipe that I’ve tried and it’s delicious.
- Vitamin B in eggs contributes to the functions of your adrenal gland. A balanced adrenal gland promotes oestrogen and progesterone stability, which greatly reduces the chances of hot flushes. Eggs have many other health benefits too.
- Mushrooms contain a mineral called selenium. Low levels of selenium have been found in women suffering from stress. If you have high stress levels in your life this in turn triggers a rise in epinephrine, which then triggers hot flushes to occur. The highest levels of selenium are found in maitake and shiitake mushrooms.
- Peppers contain lots of vitamin C and are hormone stabilising. Eating peppers evens out your blood sugar and this balance reduces hot flushes.
- Salad greens (including micro greens) stabilise your hormones.
- Garlic contains phytoestrogens. Some women however, find that garlic (and chillies) along with other ‘hot’ spices, make their menopause symptoms much worse.
- Strawberries contain plenty of vitamin C and phytoestrogens so include these in your diet. Eat seasonally for maximum benefit.
- Pineapples have vitamin C and help by containing phytoestrogens.
- Melon, as well as containing vitamin C, is a cooling food, which is great for when you are going through a hot flush.
- Many women swear by raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. I tried it but was unable to stomach it. I didn’t like the taste and it also had me running to the toilet each morning with extremely loose bowel motions. It is said that apple cider vinegar helps regulate toxins. Your body will try to get rid of these through your sweat. This certainly seems a good choice for those of you who like to embrace the act of flushing toxins from your body. To take it daily, you mix one or two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water, vegetable juice or fruit juice.
- Liquorice – The plant root contains very specific compounds and these activate oestrogen receptors, which in turn boost hormone levels. In a 2012 study (small scale) women taking capsules containing liquorice root extract displayed less severe, less frequent and shorter lasting hot flushes.
Liquorice root also contains other compounds – some of which could interfere with medications or prescription drugs you may already be taking. Have a word with your G.P. or practice nurse if you want to try liquorice as a support for hot flushes. Interestingly, my body craved liquorice during peri-menopause. I hadn’t eaten any for years but ate it often. Unfortunately I didn’t research it at that time so ate the ‘sweet’ version instead of the root extract, taking on unnecessary calories.
Phytoestrogens are plant-based oestrogens that are believed to have oestrogen-like effects on the body. You can find them in soy foods, lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans. To get enough you will need to eat these several times a day. Plant oestrogens are whole-grains, peas and beans.
However, soy products (and some plant oestrogens) have raised concerns amongst women at risk of suffering from cancers that are sensitive to oestrogen such as breast cancer. Research has not proved this to be the case. There are many reports supporting the benefits and you will find many discrediting soy products too. Have a chat to your GP or health professional if you have concerns or consider yourself to be in a cancer-risk category.
In addition, there are conflicting reports regarding digestive problems in some women eating a diet with large amounts of soy products. Discuss these discrepancies with professionals if you have concerns.
As well as trying flaxseeds, add chicory, endive and celery to your diet, too, as they contain a fibre called lignin which is a major phytoestrogen.
In 2012 a review of plant oestrogens (in particular isoflavones) found that taking these for 6-12 months reduced the severity of hot flushes and the amount of times per day that they happened.
Weight Loss is crucial at menopause as your metabolism seems to slow down and you process your food less efficiently. Following a good, balanced diet will help to keep things on an even keel.
Smoothies and green juices count towards your 5 a day. Juicing also gives you lots of other health benefits.
Herbal teas aren’t really tea at all. ‘Real’ tea is made from Camellia leaves but herbal teas are made from flowers, spices and herbs as a rule and should be taken in moderation. Teas, both herbal and infusions are said to relax the body and the mind and help you to cope with some of the more severe symptoms of menopause.
Matcha tea, even though it contains caffeine, releases it in a balanced way.
Camomile tea has anti-inflammatory properties that help keep the body balanced and is used frequently to aid sleep. It is also known to help with pre-menstrual problems.
Peppermint, Ginger, Echinacea, Sage, Lemon & Rosehip are all pleasant tasting teas and whilst studies haven’t shown benefits for hot flushes in particular they make a pleasant change from hydrating with plain water.
Some women find that high levels of natural plant oestrogens (phytoestrogens) soothe their symptoms. But did you know that Pomegranates contain one of the widest selections of plant oestrogens, plus vitamin C?
It is claimed that some women have successfully reduced frequency and severity of flushes by having more phytoestrogens including Pomegranate juice. It is well known to be anti-inflammatory.
On the subject of hydration, still, plain water (not fizzy) can cool you quite quickly when a flush starts.
Most of us drink insufficient water anyway and during peri-menopause you need to increase your daily consumption. Alcohol, tea, coffee, squash, canned drinks and other soft drinks do not count.
B vitamins, such as B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12, can help treat and reduce the severity of hot flushes. They are invariably taken as a B-complex supplement but you can address B shortfall by improvements to your diet.
B vitamins are vital for stable and balanced hormones (Oestrogen and Progesterone). Another plus is that they keep the membranes in the vagina healthy and contribute to lessening other menopause symptoms.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) is found in milk and eggs.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) is found in fish, whole grain bread and cereals, avocados, nuts, bananas, eggs and legumes. Also you’ll get B3 from dark green leafy vegetables and beans.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) is found in mushrooms, eggs, oily fish, chicken and turkey. Also in sunflower seeds and avocados.
Vitamin B6 is found in pork, chicken, turkey and fish.
Also in wholegrain cereals, bananas and eggs.
Vitamin B12 is found in meat, cheese, eggs, milk and some soy based meat substitutes.
You need to have these water soluble B vitamins (and vitamin C) every day as they’re easily absorbed into the blood stream. B1 (Thiamin), B7 (Biotin) and B9 (Folic acid) are also needed daily.
Vitamins are split into water soluble and fat soluble types.
Fat soluble vitamins are the ones we are most likely to be deficient in and are vitamin A, D, E & K. They aren’t moved through the body as efficiently as the water soluble vitamins and it is possible to have too much if taking them in supplement form. They can be toxic when stored in the body so need a protein carrier to move them through.
Amongst benefits of these vitamins are their blood-clotting abilities and the formation of healthy blood cells. Your doctor can confirm if you are deficient in any way. Keeping good overall health can support you through the worst of your menopause symptoms.
Vitamin A can be obtained from yellow, red and orange vegetables such as peppers, carrots and sweet potatoes. Also mango, papaya and apricots.
Vitamin E has oestrogen and can effectively reduce hot flushes and night sweats. It also replaces electrolytes that you lose through sweating. You’ll need to increase your vitamin E for 3-6 weeks before you’ll notice a difference. Vitamin E is found in almonds and almond oil, sunflower seeds and sunflower oil, hazelnuts and hazelnut oil.
Taking vitamin D in high levels, or being deficient in vitamin K2, can lower the magnesium levels within your body and make you deficient.
Eat tuna, mackerel and salmon, egg yolks, cheese and food that has been fortified with vitamin D.
90% of your vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight. So make sure you get outside for short periods several times a day from late March to Late September in the UK. The NHS recommend that you have direct sunlight on your forearms, lower legs and hands with no sunscreen so make sure you don’t overdo it and burn. (From October to March there isn’t enough UVB in the sunlight to make the amount of vitamin D that we need).
You’ll need to take calcium with your magnesium supplements for maximum benefits and absorption. Luckily there are lots of fruit and vegetables you can eat to ensure sufficient levels of vitamin C.
Try broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, spinach, cabbage, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. If you love fruit then eat oranges, kiwis and strawberries.
Potassium is mostly eaten in the form of bananas. You need potassium for nerve and muscle function and without it you’ll get blood sugar spikes – known to be a trigger for flushes. Eat sweet potatoes, watermelon, beets, beans (including edamame), butternut squash, chard and yogurts.
Omega 3 can come from fish oil and flax oil. You need this in your diet as it can halve the frequency of hot flushes. It is said that Omega 3 can provide relief for other menopause symptoms too.
As always check with your health professional regarding dosages.
Chelated minerals are minerals that have been bound to an organic molecule that helps with absorption and are believed to be the best form.
Magnesium is an important mineral that contributes to the maintenance of normal bones and the nervous system functions. It also contributes to maintaining muscle function, including your heart muscle. Magnesium is also increasingly recognised as a nutrient that contributes to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue – great when you suffer from lack of sleep due to night sweats.
You need slightly more magnesium during menopause as modern food processing removes a large proportion of it. As a result official data states that 72% of women and 42% of men in the UK fail to consume sufficient dietary magnesium.
Generally, multivitamin supplements provide nowhere near enough of your required daily magnesium requirements.
Magnesium also has the benefits of helping your muscles to relax, allows better and restful sleep and helps with your bowel motility.
Amino acids are important to control hot flushes too, particularly when combined with isoflavones.
Herbal hormones known as phytoestrogens are able to support you in dealing with health issues associated with the ‘change’.
Phytoestrogens are found in goji berries, green tea, and linseed/flax seed. However, it is unlikely you will get all you need from these foods so a supplement is generally recommended.
L-Carnitine is an antioxidant that helps get rid of toxins and alleviates menopause symptoms. Red meat, whole milk, poultry and fish are the best sources to obtain this in your diet.
Arginine improves your blood circulation and is found in turkey breast and pork loin. You can also find it in pumpkin seeds and spirulina.
Tyrosine is needed for thyroid health. In addition it is known to improve fatigue and memory loss in menopause.
Lysine controls your cholesterol levels and in menopause it helps with reducing hot flushes when combined with arginine. Find this in beef, cheese, chicken, fish, nuts, seeds, eggs, lentils, quinoa and beans.
Selenium is protective and can be found in Brazil nuts, mushrooms, shellfish and sunflower seeds.
Zinc promotes a healthy immune system.
If you take in too little iron you can become anaemic.
You can boost your healthy gut bacteria with probiotics (taken in milk and yogurts as a drink)
Blood sugar balance is key to managing menopause symptoms. For best results change your diet to your body’s peri-menopause needs because during menopause you may become more sensitive to carbs. Reducing processed carbohydrate rich foods (white bread, white pasta, white rice, sugar, alcohol) will help greatly.
The mineral Chromium can really help with ‘sugar cravings’ which will lead to more stable blood glucose levels. But you don’t need large amounts of this.
(A high carbohydrate diet could lead to insulin resistance and stubborn, unhealthy fat around your middle).
Stress and hot flushes are closely linked. You need to deal with your stress as it can compromise your healthy immune system and not only lead to increased hot flushes but to other chronic illnesses too.
The Journal of The North American Menopause Society has conducted a study and found that Anxiety and Hot Flushes are interlinked in severity and frequency. They indicate that more research is needed.
The jury is out whether exercise can reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats.
But it can help you maintain a healthy weight and it is known to relieve stress. Exercise helps with your circulation and having an efficient circulatory system helps you cool quicker after a flush.
Exercise doesn’t need to involve joining a gym. You can try yoga, pilates or tai chi.
If you haven’t previously done much in the way of exercise then in your mid 40’s start with gentle exercise such as swimming, brisk walking or cycling. These are all recommended to keep you flexible and mobile with the added bonus of helping with hot flushes. It might seem counter-intuitive as you’ll be getting hot to stop getting hot!
Yoga. Hatha Yoga focuses on breathing. Other types such as ‘Hot’ yoga can be quite intense however.
You don’t have to take a huge chunk of your day travelling to classes, try a DVD at home or a video from websites. Aim for at least 15 minutes 2 or 3 times a week.
Poses to try are ‘Downward Dog’, ‘Dolphin’, ‘Extended Triangle’ and ‘Head to Knee Forward Bend’.
When you warm up you may bring on a hot flush. Think about the fabrics you wear for your exercise and layer them so you can take something off as you heat up. Sip water when you need to so that you don’t get dehydrated.
Don’t exercise less than 2 hours before bed as this may interrupt your sleep pattern and give you night sweat problems.
8. Alternative Therapies
It is estimated that if women tried Acupuncture as a natural therapy for hot flushes then they could reduce them by half. As a relatively low cost treatment it is one you may wish to try, but there are no long term studies to refer to that will give a definitive answer.
Aromatherapy Essential Oils can be very useful with your flush issues.
Make sure you use natural, pure grade oils and not the chemical type.
(It is not widely known that artificial fragrances and candles contribute to an incorrect hormone balance in the body).
Thyme and basil are lovely to inhale or to massage your feet (absorption is quicker this way). It’s equally relaxing to put a couple of drops in your bath. Some oils are so strong that they need to be used with a carrier oil so check carefully which ones you are buying.
Try clary sage, thyme, peppermint or chamomile: rub a couple of drops onto palms of hands, back of neck or feet. If you’re out and about and haven’t a chance to do this then a drop or two on a tissue and inhaled will allow your mind to help you cool down quicker.
You can make your own spritzer to cool you down. Add 3 drops of peppermint oil to 50ml of water. Shake it up to mix and store in the fridge. It’s a great cooling spray round your neck and wrists. Avoid contact with your eyes.
If you don’t like the smell of peppermint then try it with hazel instead. Failing these just run your wrists under cold water to cool you down quickly.
Reflexology Acupressure has various points around the body and can be done by yourself at home if you don’t want to go to a trained therapist. Make sure you have researched this fully before trying so that you know you applying pressure to the correct places.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps you to change how you react to events. Understanding that the way you think about a hot flush affects your response means that you can retrain yourself so that your response calms your body and mind.
A 2012 study published in the journal Menopause, found that a staggering 65% of women reported a fall in the number and intensity of their hot flush symptoms after using CBT. Worth considering?
Belinda Carlisle, a singer, suffered from dreadful hot flushes in her forties. She thinks that wearing a magnet in her underwear reduced her hot flushes to virtually none!
The tiny device (about the size of a 10p coin) had to be attached to her underwear and worn night and day. The manufacturer, LadyCare, says that when more than 500 women tried it, 50 to 70 per cent reported improved sleep, and more than a third said they had fewer hot flushes after a month of wearing the magnet. You’ll need to be aware that there are some negative reports against using this magnet, mostly based on the positioning of it.
British Nutrition Foundation have information on their website Link https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/lifestages/menopause.html if you feel you need to know more about what your body needs during the ‘change’.
Hypnotherapy is increasingly gaining support as a method to relieve hot flushes. The North American Menopause Society reviewed clinical studies and concluded there was evidence that both clinical hypnosis and cognitive behavioural therapy were beneficial. One study showed that women who had hypnotherapy five times a week had a dramatic reduction in the number and severity of hot flushes.
You may be able to access Cognitive Behavioural Therapy if your flushes and night sweats are severe. It looks at the physical symptoms you describe, how they connect with your thoughts about them, what your feelings are and what you do about them. Then it will aim to change your thoughts, feelings and reactions to reduce the distress you feel.
I can’t stress strongly enough that in my experience (and in discussion with my own G.P.) not all G.P. surgeries have a suitably qualified menopause expert, nor one who specialises in women’s hormones.
10. Self care
This isn’t selfish!
The earlier you start looking after yourself the better you will feel going through the peri-menopause years. It really will make a difference. But remember it is better late than never.
Massage can give you some me-time and an opportunity to relax. Massage increases blood circulation and a specific massage can encourage lymphatic flow in your body. You will need to research masseurs in your local area to see if any deliver specific massages for menopausal symptoms. Be honest with what your symptoms are so they can tailor a massage to suit you.
Relaxation is different for different women. You might like to get out in the garden, watch TV, listen to music or sit and read a book. Whatever your choice try and regularly include something you like and want to do.
Mindfulness helps with tackling your negative thoughts. You train your brain to put less focus on the flushes themselves by focusing on something specific to you. This is thought to be most useful when dealing with night sweats. They often seem to be blown out of proportion during the night time and difficult to cope with. Mindfulness helps this frame of mind allowing you to cope.
Meditation involving calming music, walking meditation or a guided meditation mp3 all help by talking you through it. Meditating and calming yourself reduces your perception of the severity of the flushes. Worrying can cause you even more anxiety and stress. This can turn into a vicious cycle.
The mindset you’re aiming for is one of positivity. It is so easy to fall into the trap of labelling yourself as ‘old’, ‘unattractive’, and ‘past your sell-buy date’.
Many women just want to hide away until it’s all over and they then lose self-confidence. In the western world we tend to give menopause a negative slant. Changing your mindset means you are the person who defines yourself as the person you want to be.
A personal or life coach can help you with your mindset if you want to pursue this line or if you lack the self confidence to change your mindset on your own.
A hormone imbalance between oestrogen & progesterone can cause Sleep Issues along with a decrease in the hormone serotonin (this is used to create melatonin, which is know as the ‘sleep’ hormone).
If you don’t have a good bedtime routine then address this first. Have a set time to go to bed and get up – even at weekends. You need quality sleep otherwise flushes and sweats will keep happening due to the incorrect hormones your body just keeps on producing.
- Go for a calm and relaxing bedroom environment with NO TECH as the blue light disrupts sleep. Have a window slightly open to keep a flow of air.
- Sleep naked – to keep your heat levels down.
- Try not to nap in the day.
- A glass of warm (not hot!) milk can help
- Avoid eating within 2 hours of bedtime
- Avoid caffeine, smoking and alcohol before bedtime
- Have a lighter tog duvet or if you have sheets and blankets then choose lighter versions made from natural fibres.
- Try out deep breathing and relaxation techniques when you first get into bed.
11. Clothing and Furnishings
There are some clothing items in the marketplace now that have such potential to make a difference in how you cope with hot flushes and how you feel about yourself.
Natural fibres are vital. Choose cotton and linen fabrics as these will whip moisture away from the body quite quickly.
Go for layering. Long sleeves often cause a problem with heat – you just need to look at the fashions aimed at women in midlife to know what sells. There are a lot of 3/4 sleeve tunic tops, blouses, jumpers and dresses. Likewise there are not so many high-necked items of clothing either.
Look for loose clothing in suitable fabrics, if you are suffering from sweats several times of day. You can still be stylish in middle-age.
I haven’t tried the products listed below but understand some women are finding relief:
There’s a Cool Cami by Become that features (in their words) ‘patent-pending Anti-Flush Technology™’
The material has been designed to regulate temperature during hot flushes and night sweats. The Cooling Cami-Top is made from a lightweight fabric, described as ‘intelligent’ and breathable. It regulates temperature when body heat rises and prevents the cold feeling you get when you rapidly cool down. Heat is immediately drawn back.
The material is anti-microbial, and moisture-wicking which keeps you dry. It is important to be comfortable all day, and know that even if you have a lot of flush incidents, you’ll stay fresh and odour free.
The longer and flattering design features a lace neckline with thin shoestring straps so you are summer ready.
Silentnight’s Geltex pillow has a layer of flexible memory foam that offers good support for women who suffer from night sweats and disturbed sleep as they go through menopause.
There’s also a Gel’O Cool Pillow Mat that disperses heat away from your head in bed. You put it in either the fridge or freezer for 30 minutes or so before bed and it keeps cool for a few hours. You can even buy one of a larger size that you may use on your bed.
Ice cubes wrapped in a small towel or ice packs from the fridge or freezer at home are such a comfort, particularly in hot sunny weather.
However, you may like to try Menopod You charge it via a USB, press a button, put it on the back of your neck and it starts a cooling cycle. I haven’t tried it myself but if you like the idea of something small and portable then it may be worth a try.
Baby wipes are great for when you are out and about and make a quick ‘mop-up’ as unobtrusive as possible. I always had these in my bag.
Cooling neck scarves work through crystals hidden in the middle of a cotton scarf. These crystals have been developed to retain water.
You soak the scarf in water so the granules turn into a gel. (I believe the soaking up aspect is a little like that available in sanitary towels). The cotton fabric absorbs water from the gel and the water evaporates for a cooling effect.
The scarves stay cool and moist for hours. You just need to refresh them in water from time to time.
Fans come in all shapes and sizes and I made no bones about commandeering an oscillating fan at work. I couldn’t have functioned without it. There’s a huge choice in the marketplace ranging from a small handbag fan (I didn’t go anywhere without one) to large traditional round fans and tower products. It is worth investing in one for your home and persuading your employers to buy you one for employee well-being.
Give up smoking! There is significant scientific evidence that smokers have different hormone levels than non-smokers.
Smoking is a big factor in causing hot flushes. In addition the NHS suggest that smokers start menopause 13-18 months earlier than non-smokers. High levels of second-hand smoke also seems to have the same effect. Doctors advise that you Quit Smoking to help you cope with your symptoms.
Breathing exercises are recommended to reduce flushes. Take time to practice slow, controlled, deep breaths each day, and combine it with meditation.
You would think that by the time we reached our mid-40’s to early 50’s we would know how to breathe – but a nurse practitioner told me I was one of many that she saw who doesn’t take ‘proper’ breaths.
Shallow breathing is becoming a big problem as we hunch over desks and our phones. This restricts our ability to take deep breaths as the lungs become squashed. Taking deep calm breaths are important to reduce the intensity of flushes and to calm our minds whilst experiencing one.
It will help if you try breathing exercises when a hot flush starts. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. (I still do this exercise when I get into bed and my bouts of insomnia are now few and far between, as are my night sweats).
Don’t be too ‘intense’ with this breathing technique otherwise you’ll find your neck becomes tense and tight. If you aim to make a lowish “whoosh” sound you’ll have got it right.
Count to 5 for breathing in. Hold your breath for a count of 7 then breathe out for a count of 8. I was so grateful to the nurse who shared this with me as it really helps to ‘control’ the hot flush whilst it is happening.
Breathing proper, slow breaths in and out for 15 minutes, whilst concentrating on seeing or feeling the rise and fall of your tummy will help as it’s this deeper breathing from the stomach/diaphragm area that’s most beneficial.
I understand it may be difficult to do this when you are at work, but if you can, lay on a cool floor at the same time. This will stave off a flush or shorten the length of it, whilst you are doing the controlled breathing exercise.
14. Home Environment
Most of us have many hormone disruptors in our homes that we don’t even think about them and have no idea what they are doing to us.
If you are going through a hormone ‘crisis’ such as menopause, then seriously think about getting rid of the chemicals you use for cleaning, those you put on your body as lotions and creams, those you wash your body with and what you apply as make-up. There are many suitable organic and eco alternatives these days that are much better for your hormones!
Xenoestrogens are chemicals, which are not produced in the human body, but have oestrogen-like effects. By the way, not all Xenoestrogens are toxic or harmful but some have got some very bad press.
Synthetic xenoestrogens are manufactured chemicals that have (to some extent) oestrogen activity, (so therefore put more oestrogen into our body). These can be present in pesticides, food crops, insecticides, plastics, cosmetics and fragrances.
The ones we see most often are those in plastic bottles, cans and food packaging, wall and floor coverings and those in cosmetics and perfumes.
I think it is probably safe to say we don’t want more exposure to anything that isn’t good for us and our hormones – so avoid plastics. Mass produced meat has hormones added which is clearly going to add to your own hormones. Try to choose grass fed meat and dairy wherever you can.
15. Deal With Your Other Medical Issues
Hot flushes and night sweats are not always the result of peri-menopause and menopause. It’s bad enough that you can have several each day and night for 10 years or more due to your hormones never really stabilising.
However, your flushes may be worse because you haven’t addressed your other underlying health issues.
What you may need checking by your G.P. (or a specialist) are your vitamin D levels, thyroid (overactive thyroid) and iron.
If you already suffer from Multiple Sclerosis you may suffer from hot flushes.
Side effects of medication you’re already taking could also be a cause. Antidepressants, some of the opioid family of drugs and some drugs prescribed for osteoporosis all list hot flushes amongst side effects.
If you’ve tried ‘chemical’ HRT (or even for some women bio-Identical hormones) coming off them can cause severe flushes whilst your body copes with a sudden hormone drop. Speak to your healthcare professional about how best to manage this.
Not everything to do with your health is the responsibility of your doctor. You have to take on the huge responsibility to keep your body on an even keel as much as you can.
Learning early in life what is ‘normal’ for you can pay you dividends as you age, as you can spot problems (and deal with them) before they become too severe.
I’d really advise keeping a hot flush/menopause journal. The notes you make will be useful in highlighting your personal triggers as these are not the same for everyone. Any correlation between what you were doing/eating/drinking before the flush started will be so helpful in your discussions with your G.P. Make sure you get the most out of your doctor’s appointment
Your notes may show that you’re not drinking enough water, or that your blood sugar is dropping at a certain time of day. You can easily up your water levels and look at your meal ingredients and the times you eat as these may need adjusting.
Oestrogen declines over a number of years and not all in one go. As the amount produced falls and your body starts to get used to the lower levels you may find that what helped you in the earlier days no longer has the same effect. Be open to the fact that you will need to keep track and make adjustments as you go through this phase in your life.
Keep active, mobile and flexible and if you don’t have a healthy diet already then make lots of nutritional changes for the benefits this will give you.
Hot flushes will almost certainly be in the forefront of your mind, so learning to deal with the stress or anxiety related to them is crucial. Dwelling on them doesn’t help and it is vital that you keep a positive mindset. Thinking “what can I take to make this better?” isn’t helpful. However, thinking “what changes can I make to my lifestyle?” is taking control and is empowering in managing your hot flush and night sweat symptoms.
Remember that what works for one woman may not work for you. I tried lots of so-called “sure things” before finding what was right for me, so don’t be tempted to give up on trying natural cures. Allow time for benefits to show themselves, as 30-90 days is not uncommon for you to see positive results.
However, I’m certainly not advocating suffering needlessly as menopause symptoms can feel as if they have taken over your life. There is so much over-sharing of ‘horror’ stories and scare-mongering about drug regimes such as HRT that sometimes it just seems overwhelming and you don’t know who to trust.
There are some things you need to do for yourself and finding what’s best for your symptoms is down to your research and chats with medical professionals.