Hot Flushes! What can I do? Can Nutrition and Lifestyle Changes help?
Hot flushes, are a common symptom of the menopausal transition, are uncomfortable and can last for many years. When they happen at night, hot flushes are called night sweats. Some women find that hot flushes interrupt their daily lives. The earlier in life hot flushes begin, the longer you may experience them.
You may decide you don't need to change your lifestyle or investigate treatment options because your symptoms are mild. But, if you are bothered by hot flushes, there are some steps you can take. Try to take note of what triggers your hot flushes and how much they bother you. This can help you make better decisions about managing your symptoms.
Lifestyle Changes to Improve Hot Flushes
If hot flushes are keeping you up at night, layer your bedding so it can be adjusted as needed. Some women find a device called a bed fan or a cooling blanket which is made from bamboo can be helpful.
Here are some other lifestyle changes you can make:
Fill a small spray bottle with water and use this to spritz yourself if you feel overheated.
Aim to move your body daily – this is important for mental & physical well-being, as well as hormonal balance.
Consider keeping a journal/using an online app to see if you can identify any symptom triggers.
Dress in layers, which can be removed at the start of a hot flash.
Carry a portable fan to use when a hot flash strikes.
Avoid alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeine. These can make menopausal symptoms worse.
If you smoke, try to quit, not only for menopausal symptoms, but for your overall health.
Stress reduction is important for all of us and is paramount during the menopausal transition.
Try to maintain a healthy weight. Women who are overweight or obese may experience more frequent and severe hot flushes.
Try mind-body practices like yoga or other self-calming techniques. Early-stage research has shown that mindfulness meditation, yoga, and tai chi may help improve menopausal symptoms.
What Should I eat?
Centre diet around plant-based whole-foods: women who follow a plant-based diet have a lower risk of heart disease and cancer. Recent evidence suggests that they may also suffer fewer menopausal symptoms.
Think “right carbs, good fats” not “low-carb, high fat” or “no fat”: complex carbohydrates (e.g. root vegetables, beans, oats, wholegrains) and plant-based fats (e.g. nuts, seeds, avocado, good quality olive oil) are essential for good hormonal health.
Eat the rainbow: fill your plate with a wide variety of brightly coloured fruit & veg. Aim to include at least ten different types of vegetable in your meals each week (aim for 30 varieties over the month) – diversity is key to a healthy gut microbiome (and good hormonal & emotional health). Leafy greens and dark-coloured berries are particularly beneficial.
Include a serving (or two) of beans/lentils/hummus in your daily diet – a fantastic source of fibre, protein and micronutrients. If you do not already regularly consume these and/or suffer with bloating, build up intake slowly and consider short-term digestive enzymes.
Drink 2 litres of water per day.
Consider switching cow’s milk for fortified soya/oat/hemp milk (more heart-healthy)
Include minimally processed soya foods in your diet: e.g. edamame beans, tofu, tempeh, miso – helpful for menopausal symptoms, heart and breast health.
Flavour your food with a multitude of herbs & spices (rich in polyphenols – plant-based micronutrients)
Minimise refined/processed carbohydrates and junk food (e.g. refined sugar, white bread, baked goods, cakes, chocolate, takeaways).
Try to buy organic animal products (meat, eggs, dairy and fish).
Aim to eat all meals within a 12-hour window (time restricted feeding) for example between 7am & 7pm. This helps with weight maintenance and hormonal balance.
Dietary supplements that may help Hot Flushes
People often assume that "natural" products like supplements can cause no harm. However, all supplements may have potentially harmful side effects, and supplements can also interact with medications you're taking for other medical conditions. Always review what you're taking with your nutritional therapist and doctor before starting on a supplementation program.
The most common supplements considered for menopausal symptoms are:
Phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) Asian women, who consume soy regularly, are less likely to report hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms than are women in other parts of the world. One reason might be related to the estrogen-like compounds in soy. Adding a couple of tablespoons of crushed linseeds to your breakfast is a good way to get some phytoestrogens in your diet or put them in a smoothie. However, studies have generally found little or no benefit with plant estrogens, although research is ongoing to determine whether specific components of soy, such as genistein, help hot flushes.
Black cohosh. Black cohosh has been popular among many women with menopausal symptoms. Studies of black cohosh's effectiveness have had mixed results, and the supplement might be harmful to the liver in rare circumstances.
Ginseng. While ginseng may help with mood symptoms and insomnia, it doesn't appear to reduce hot flushes.
Dong quai. Study results indicate that dong quai isn't effective for hot flushes. The supplement can increase the effectiveness of blood-thinning medications, which can cause bleeding problems.
Vitamin E. Taking a vitamin E supplement might offer some relief from mild hot flushes.
Mind and body approaches
A growing body of evidence suggests that certain techniques can help ease hot flushes, including:
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is a widely used type of individual or group counselling and is recommended as an effective treatment for hot flashes and night sweats. CBT doesn't typically reduce the frequency of hot flushes, but may reduce how much they bother you.
Be kind to yourself everyday. Do something you enjoy even if it's just for 5 minutes.
Hypnosis. Research indicates that hypnosis might help reduce both the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
Mindfulness meditation. This type of meditation has you focus on what's happening from moment to moment. Although not shown to relieve hot flushes, it might reduce how much they bother you.
Acupuncture. Some studies indicate that acupuncture might reduce the frequency and severity of hot flushes.
Some women may choose to take hormone replacement therapy to treat their hot flushes. Hormone replacement therapy steadies the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body and is a very effective treatment for hot flushes in women. Talk to a menopause specialist doctor if you are interested in take hormone replacement therapy.
If you want to find out more about how I can help you through your midlife journey please don't hesitate to book a free discovery call.
National institute on aging (2016) Hot Flashes [Online] Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hot-flashes-what-can-i-do [Accessed: 4 June 2012].
My Menopause Doctor (2021) Top Lifestyle Tips for a Healthy Menopause. [Online]. Available at: https://www.menopausedoctor.co.uk/resources/booklets-fact-sheets [Accessed: 6 June 2021].
Chen, L. R., Ko, N. Y., & Chen, K. H. (2019). Isoflavone supplements for menopausal women: A systematic review. Nutrients, 11(11), 2649. [Online] PubMed. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/11/2649 [Accessed: 2 June 2021].
Edalatiyan, M., Kelayeh, S. M. O., Mohammadi, S., Saadatnia, S., & Pisheh, M. G. (2020). Evaluation of the effect of oral vitamin E and omega 3 supplement on postmenopausal hot flashes. Archives of Pharmacy Practice, 1, 31. [Online] Available at: https://archivepp.com/storage/models/article/GAueNIUuvivq7Lj2Y56KMfJvT9H78wVq1jJ9AFuUuM3HnR3R2vqdShD2MSyT/evaluation-of-the-effect-of-oral-vitamin-e-and-omega-3-supplement-on-postmenopausal-hot-flashes.pdf [Accessed: 7 June 2021].