Home Remedies for Menopausal Hot Flashes

Hot flashes are probably the most common of the menopausal discomforts. They are primarily brought on by falling estrogen levels and have to do with rapid changes in the blood vessels. The vessels dilate, or widen, suddenly and blood rushes toward the skin, heating the body. Women sometimes ask, "Am I having hot flashes?" If you have to ask, don't worry! When the flashes are for real, you will know!

Mild flushing, a feeling of warmth which does not cause sweating or other disruptions, will simply make you aware you are warm when no one else around seems to be warm. Moderate flushing may bother you at work or while sleeping but does not interfere with your ability to function. Severe flushing will keep you from completing daily tasks or interrupt your sleep badly enough to interfere with your ability to function. Although some women do experience disabling hot flashes, most will only have nuisance flashes. For mild flushing, common sense and a little preparation is all you need.

Dress for August

Light, loose-fitting clothes can help keep your body temperature down.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Light, loose-fitting clothes can help
keep your body temperature down.

Perhaps the single most effective way to cope with hot flashes is to dress properly. You need to plan your wardrobe with flashes in mind. Layer your clothing so you can shed a sweater or suit coat when you feel the heat. Make your outer layers easy to remove; a cardigan will be less cumbersome to take off than a pullover.

In general, layers of loose clothing, such as blouses that button down the front, are better than turtlenecks, which can leave you trapped in a flash. If you plan your wardrobe right, you can use your layers to control your body temperature like a thermostat.

Carry a Personal Fan

When those big flashes strike, simply removing a sweater may not cut it. You need to cool down, not just keep from getting hotter. Try carrying a hand fan with you; there are several types. The traditional oriental folding fan is one. You can even collect several of these and coordinate them with your different outfits. A fan can be quite a fashion statement and quite a relief when your internal thermometer goes through the roof. You can also purchase a personal electric fan. These battery-powered fans come in several models and silently direct a stream of cooling air so that only you can feel it.

Remember, hot flashes are not dangerous; they are just a nuisance. The important thing is to keep yourself comfortable, and if that means shedding a sweater and fanning yourself while everyone else in the room shivers, then so be it. Very few people notice the flashes as much as you do. Don't sweat it.

Go Natural for Night Sweats

When hot flashes strike at night, they can be particularly bothersome. Oddly enough, sometimes you wake up because of the chill. During the flash, you kicked off the covers, and now that it has passed, you wake up cold with your pajamas and pillow damp. Welcome to night sweats.

Keeping a clean cotton T-shirt next to the bed to replace a damp top can help you get comfortably back to sleep without too much disruption. You may also want to keep an extra pillow with a cotton pillowcase handy so that you can switch pillows easily. It may add to the laundry, but sleeping on a damp pillow night after night can ruin the pillow.

Cotton is the best fabric for the T-shirt and pillowcase; it's more absorbent and more comfortable next to your skin. The "dry clean only" satins can wait a couple of years.

Keep the Thermostat Down in the Winter

Even when you've dressed for the occasion, it can be tough to cool down from a hot flash. What good does it do to remove a sweater and still be in a 75-degree room? Set the thermostat at home, and in your workplace if you can, at a lower temperature, and cooling down will be a breeze. If the air temperature is cool enough, your body's surface heat will dissipate more quickly, and the flash may pass without too much discomfort.

At night, most of us keep the thermostat low anyway, but for a woman with hot flashes, this practice is essential. Many women simply turn the heat off. A cool room temperature will allow you to kick off the covers and recover quickly from a nighttime flash. You may find that you get a better night's sleep, and you'll probably save money on heating bills in the process.

Keep It Cool in the Summer

Hot flashes are bad enough on their own, but when the summer heat is all around you, a hot flash can be almost unbearable. There seems to be no escape. You have to find a way to dissipate the heat. This is where the air conditioner comes in. Don't be afraid to set the temperature low.

Considering the money you're saving on heating bills in the winter, a little extra air conditioning in the summer is worth the indulgence. Even if you keep only one room well air conditioned, you're in good shape. At least you will have a sanctuary from the heat everywhere else. That room can be your escape.

Figure Out What Your Hot Flash Triggers Are

Alcohol, among other substances, can be a hot-flash trigger.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Alcohol, among other substances,
 can be a hot-flash trigger.

Many stresses can trigger hot flashes. Stress itself, climate changes, and various foods and medications may make you flash. There is quite a bit of trial and error here, and every woman should try to be alert as to what her personal triggers are. Unfortunately, avoiding some of them can be difficult.

Common hot flash triggers include alcohol, nicotine, spicy foods, caffeine, fatty foods, and chocolate. Individual triggers may also include certain kinds of cheese or certain flavorings.

Most women find that their flashing is worse during the summer, and you can consider a hot, humid day a trigger to be avoided. Stressful events and sleep deprivation can aggravate flashes, which is a problem, since sleep deprivation can also result from hot flashes, creating a vicious cycle.

Some activities can bring on a fierce hot flash or exacerbate a mild one. You may find that doing the laundry, for example, is a chore that is almost always accompanied by a flash; pulling hot clothes out of the drier or standing over a steaming iron can be nearly unbearable. Try passing this duty on to someone else.

If your triggers are not obvious, try keeping a hot flash diary. When you have a flash, record what you were doing, what you ate or drank recently, and even what you were thinking or worrying about at the time. If you are still menstruating, record the time of the month. A written record might reveal a pattern or uncover some likely suspects.

Relax When You Feel the Flash

Perhaps the most important coping technique for hot flashes is to relax! They are rarely noticeable to the people around you, and simply taking some slow deep breaths and consciously trying to relax will head off or at least minimize any embarrassment. Getting uptight will only make it worse and attract unwanted attention.

When possible, getting up, moving around, shedding that extra layer of clothing, or taking a cold drink of water will break the cycle of flushing. Don't be intimidated into inaction; take the time you need to feel more comfortable even if it is a little disruptive.

When dealing with hot flashes, try to keep the whole process in perspective. Many women outgrow hot flashes within a year or two of menopause. The flashes are not dangerous, only uncomfortable. A sense of humor can go a long way toward helping you accept this natural event for what it is.

We've already discussed how hot flashes can disrupt a good night's rest, but there are other sleep disorders that can be caused by menopause. In the next section, we'll offer you some home remedies getting the sleep you need.

For information on the topics covered in this article, try the following links:
  • To see all of our home remedies, visit our main Home Remedies page.
  • Menopause that befalls women in their forties or fifties, and causes such unpleasant symptoms as hot flashes and insomnia. Learn how to alleviate these conditions in Herbal Remedies for Menopause.
  • To learn more about menopause and how it affects the body, read How Menopause Works.
  • Osteoporosis is another common ailment that develops in later years. To learn how to cope with this condition, read Home Remedies for Osteoporosis.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.