Hot Flashes Caused By Menopause

Hot flashes caused by menopause are among the most uncomfortable symptoms that plague women during that time of their lives, and the methods of treatment can vary according to the advice comes from a physician or an herbalist. Since the direct cause of the hot flashes is hormonal changes, the first line of treatment is often hormone replacement therapy, or HRT. For someone who prescribes "natural" medicines, herbs are the answer.

The lowering level of estrogen directly affects the hypothalamus, which is responsible for controlling appetite, sleep cycles, sex hormones, and body temperature. The drop in estrogen confuses the hypothalamus so it raises the body temperature to read "too hot," and hot flashes caused by menopause result. The brain then responds by alerting the heart, blood vessels, and nervous system to get rid of the heat. Talk about confusion! The heart pumps faster, blood vessels in the skin dilate to circulate more blood to radiate off the heat, and the sweat glands release sweat to cool a person off even more. This means of cooling the body is an asset in the summer, but when a drop in estrogen is the cause, discomfort is the result. Skin temperature can rise as much as six degrees Centigrade during one of these episodes.

Women who have suffered from breast cancer take medications that reduce the estrogen levels, and produce the same sort of symptoms. Hot flashes not related to menopause can be more severe and last longer than those of women in the general population. The onset, duration, and frequency of these unpleasant episodes can vary from a few seconds to an hour for both cancer patients and anyone else, and it can take another half hour before the patient is back to normal. There is even a pattern as to the time of day these might occur: between six and eight in the morning, and between six and ten at night.

When the transition from regular periods to no periods is of short duration, the episodes will be more severe. Surgical or chemotherapy-induced medical menopause produces severe hot flashes not related to menopause for that very reason. Sometimes the occurrences are so severe that the patient mistakes it for a heart attack. Estrogen therapy or other, more natural, treatments can provide fairly rapid relief from symptoms.

There are often identifiable triggers that bring on these unpleasant episodes. By keeping a record of what happens or what she might have been eating just before an attack, a woman can figure out what those are for herself. Whether a person is suffering hot flashes caused by menopause, or hot flashes not related to menopause, this can be the first step in getting relief. Since stress is one of the major factors, it makes sense to counter that by taking more time to plan a task at work or make a presentation. Sometimes it's what a person has ingested, or the environment that is the culprit. Hot foods, tubs or showers, hot rooms or beds, hot weather and saunas can be the triggers that bring on an episode. Spicy food, alcohol, caffeine, diet pills, and smoking are also found to be dangerous to some women at this time. Once the cause is pinpointed, relief is as close as putting that trigger out of one's life. Scripture tells the story of one woman who had been experiencing bleeding for years when Jesus came to her town. We aren't told whether this was menopause symptoms gone awry or something else, but she had such faith that all it took was touching the hem of his garment to be cured of her affliction. It would be wonderful to have Him so near, and see our faith bring about the same results that woman had. Daily prayer can help today's woman too, but usually in a less dramatic way.

The way a person dresses can be a factor in bringing on an episode. Cool apparel donned in layers can be helpful, and drinking plenty of cold water can help, and sometimes a mild medication like Tylenol will help with night sweats. When one is suffering from hot flashes caused by menopause, another healthy habit to acquire is regular exercise. Not only does exercise help with reducing flashes, exercise also aids many other symptoms of growing older like fatigue, elevated cholesterol levels, and heart, bone and muscle health.

For the woman seeking another kind of treatment than HRT, she might consider Chinese medicine, which has a long tradition of treating hot flashes caused by menopause as well as those hot flashes not related to menopause. They have a long tradition in this field of medicine. After getting a thorough physical exam and history from the patient and performing certain tests that will determine the type of menopause one is suffering from, the treatment can include acupuncture, herbology, and vitamin therapy.

Whenever the lifestyle, nutritional, and alternative medicine methods have been tried and have not helped, stronger methods may be required, and a physician should be consulted. Blood pressure-lowering medications, or antidepressants may be needed for the hot flashes. Estrogen therapy is the most effective way to relieve these symptoms, but is highly controversial in women who have had breast cancer.

Menopause Causing Hot Flashes

What exactly is happening with menopause causing hot flashes for women is explained in many places a woman might have access to if she wishes to do the research, either before or during that time in her life. Books in the local library will have information about the subject, and her doctor probably has brochures that will explain the process. There are many online sites for the person who is computer literate that will give helpful information as well.

The cause and the most common treatment can be said in one word: hormones. Menopause hormones, or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is replacement of estrogen that has dipped below normal levels, causing the onset of this midlife phase. The slowing down and final cessation of monthly periods is evidence of the lowering of estrogen levels. This hormone deficiency directly affects the part of the brain that controls the body's "thermostat" and makes it read "too hot." Another part of the brain sends a message to the heart, blood vessels, and nervous system to lower the heat. So the heart pumps faster, blood vessels in the skin dilate to radiate off the heat, and sweat glands release sweat to cool the body off. These confused messages result in skin temperature rising as much as six degrees Centigrade sometimes during a hot flash. These can happen at very inopportune moments, so women going through this phase will make every attempt to keep them from occurring. Simply wishing doesn't restore health, but hearing good wishes from someone close can be helpful. "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." (3 John 1:2)

A very high percentage of women in the U.S. experience these symptoms shortly before and a couple of years after their periods stop. A lesser number have them for a longer period of time, but they do decrease in intensity. There is wide variation in time of onset, duration, frequency, and nature of menopause causing hot flashes. An episode can last anywhere from a few seconds to an hour, and it will take an additional half hour for a person to feel normal again. The most common times of occurrence are between six and eight in the morning, and six to ten at night.

Patients who have had breast cancer treated by either surgery or chemotherapy may have more severe hot flashes from the lower menopause hormones, but they will not be treated with estrogen to correct the imbalance. There is concern about the safety of this treatment for anyone who has had cancer. Other approaches will be considered instead to relieve the symptoms. These other treatments are often very effective for the general population of women as well, so hormone treatment is becoming a less favored treatment at this time.

When a person keeps track of the circumstances surrounding the occurrences of the menopause causing hot flashes, there are sometimes very specific triggers found to be causing the problem. The most common cause is stress, so any steps to ease the stress on the individual can make a difference to that person. Allowing more time to prepare for a task or rehearse a presentation could be a stress reliever, and keeping meetings and decision-making times to a minimum, or at least spaced well apart. Avoiding hot food, tubs, showers, beds, rooms, or weather can help, as well as avoiding alcohol, caffeine, diet pills, and spicy food. Smoking constricts blood vessels, so that isn't good during this time either.

A person can wear cotton clothes, use cotton sheets, and drink plenty of cold water to ward off the heat. Taking a cool shower before bed, and taking a mild medication like Tylenol may help one to sleep through the night, and of course lowering the thermostat helps a lot. Another tool for combating menopause causing hot flashes is exercise, and that activity is useful in combating other symptoms caused by the lack of menopause hormones. Some of the symptoms helped by exercise are: fatigue, elevated cholesterol levels, heart, bone, and muscle health, and insomnia. Psychological symptoms such as mood swings, eroded self-image, and loss of libido will improve when exercise is introduced to a woman's daily schedule.

If alternative treatments appeal to someone who suffers the loss of menopause hormones, she might wish to look into Chinese medicine. They have a long tradition of treating hot flashes. The Chinese doctor uses acupuncture and herbs as treatments. Plant estrogens that have been effective in treating hot flashes are found in ginseng, evening primrose oil, licorice root, red raspberry leaves, sasparilla, spearmint, damiana, motherwort, chasteberry, black cohosh, and wild yams. Women are cautioned not to self-treat with herbs, however, because some will not mix well with other medications she might be taking.

Some women take Vitamin E every day with good results, but if they are not helpful to an individual, then something else may be needed that can only be obtained through a physician. Some physicians treat menopause causing hot flashes with blood pressure-lowering medications that lessen the severity and frequency of hot flashes because they modify how the blood vessels respond to the brain's command to give of heat quickly. Low-dose antidepressant medications intercept the chemicals in the brain that transmit the hot flash alarm, thus producing relief.

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