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Hot flushes

General characteristics

General characteristics

Hot flushes (or flashes) can happen as a woman goes through the menopause or 'change'. Not all women experience them however. They can range in intensity from mild rises in temperature to raging infernos that leave you bathed in sweat and may come both day and night. Hot flushes can also happen during menstruation in response to hormonal fluctuations, in ageing men, men undergoing treatment for prostate disease, medications (blood pressure reducers, anti-depressants, anti-oestrogens and anti-anxiety medicines), spicy foods, alcohol, certain cancers, infections, stress, spinal cord injuries or simply being too warm. In this section we will focus on menopausal or menstrual hot flushes.

The hot flush is an exaggerated version of what the body would normally do to cool itself when it feels overheated, the blood vessels dilate and allow heat to dissipate via sweat formation on the skin surface. Some women even feel chilly after an intense hot flush as so much heat is lost.

Conventional medicine relates their occurrence to a decline in oestrogen dominance during menopause but low oestrogen levels are present in young premenstrual girls so this cannot be the only trigger of hot flushes. Higher levels of the luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) have also been suggested, as has higher brain concentrations of the hormone nor-epinephrine (a partner of adrenaline) but it seems a combination of factors, including stress and emotional excitement, are more likely.  LH and nor-epinephrine are vasodilators that increase blood flow and heart rate. They can last for a few seconds to a few minutes and carry on for a few years in some women and occur during both day and night.

The physical function and triggers of the hot flush remain unclear but many wise women suggest that they are related to an increase of female wisdom and surges in personal, female power.

Whatever their reason, it is important to remember that hot flushes are a perfectly normal bodily reaction to a womens changing hormonal cycle and as such do not need 'treatment', especially if that treatment involves taking potentially risky man-made hormones. Women who experience them may find them debilitating but there are many things that can help reduce their intensity and/or frequency and the personal distress they may cause.


Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Eat a well balanced diet based on fresh whole foods like fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, flowers, herb teas, juices and water. Eat plenty of foods containing vitamin E as they are known to reduce hot flushes, things like whole grains (entire grains), nuts, dark leafy greens, seaweeds and seeds.

Get plenty of plant based fibre, magnesium and calcium.

Drink enough water.

Green, yellow and orange vegetables have been shown to delay menopause generally as they contain high levels of potent, anti-ageing anti-oxidants.

Eat more soy products, at least a few portions a week of tofu for example. All beans and legumes have similar compounds to soya beans so have a wide variety to ensure other nutrients are ingested too.

Avoid junk and processed foods of all kinds, especially trans fats and baked, fried foods like pastries etc.

A glass of fresh carrot juice and a portion of cottage cheese or natural live yoghurt daily will provide plenty of calcium and protein.


Useful herbs

Useful herbs

As there is obviously a hormonal trigger for hot flashes it could be worth taking the tincture of agnus castus to regulate and smooth the hormonal influences on body mechanisms, especially during the early stages of menopause. Agnus castus works on the pituitary gland to regulate hormonal secretions and help to alleviate hot flushes. It can be slow to work so needs to be taken for a few months at a dose of 1 teaspoonful of tincture in water in the morning. In some women it can increase hot flushes, so start slowly and observe your patterns carefully. If flushes intensify with agnus castus, stop taking it.
Black cohosh cohosh is well known for helping to reduce hot flushes. Take 10-20 drops of tincture in water up to 3 times daily.
Dandelion root, yellow dock, barberry, gentian and the bitter herbs can help to keep the liver functioning well and ease symptoms of excess heat. Use 10-20 drops of one of the tinctures in water after meals.
Sage, motherwort, alfalfa leaf, lime blossom, and violet leaf tea (in equal parts) can help to reduce the incidences and intensity of hot flushes. Take a cup of this refreshing combination, twice daily, to help cool and calm the body.
Damiana can help ease hot flushes.
Most seeds including aniseed, coriander seed, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, caraway and cumin seed for example contain phytoestrogens and can be included in the diet or herbal tea formulas.
 
Regular nettle and oatstraw tea will also help.
 
Schisandra berries work on the hormones, liver and kidneys to alleviate stress and regulate fluid balance and can be useful  in reducing incidences of hot flushes.
 

Natural healing

Natural healing

Learn some deep breathing exercises and practice them daily. Deep belly breathing, and the relaxation it brings, seems to reduce the number of hot flushes experienced.
Cider vinegar has eliminated hot flushes completely for some women. Sip a glass (or bottle) of water to which a teaspoon or more of apple cider vinegar has been added, throughout the day. Take an hour or so before bed to help with night sweats. Some women only find relief when 2 tablespoons are taken daily in water.
Try taking an evening primrose capsule daily.
Take regular exercise to reduce hot flushes.
Smoking increases the likelihood and intensity of hot flushes as nicotine constricts blood vessels and effectively traps heat in the blood.
Wear loose, natural fibre clothes in layers so you can easily remove them.
Many studies state that Japanese women do not have a word for 'hot flush' as they do not experience them and suggest that soy consumption is the answer. My feeling is that they eat a much better diet generally, based on fresh, home cooked ingredients with little junk or processed foods. They also tend to be calmer and more spiritual as a people.
Make a refreshing and cooling mist spray by adding soothing essential oils of lavender, rose, geranium etc to an atomiser of water and carry it with you.

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