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Hot flashes can be described as the sudden onset of intense heat and sweating experienced in the torso, neck and face that often disrupts your quality of life. Beginning in the years leading up to menopause, known as perimenopause, hot flashes can last for 5 to 10 years after menopause occurs.

Menopause is the permanent end to menstruation and fertility in women, a time when estrogen and progesterone, the key female hormones are significantly diminished. For most women, hot flashes and night sweats tend to be the most uncomfortable of all the symptoms experienced during this transition.

Hot flashes can cause sweating, flushed skin, tingling of the hands and feet and an increase in heart rate. For some women hot flashes are a mild and short-lived phenomenon and for other women it can be quite intense, long lasting and socially embarrassing. The frequency, length and intensity of hot flashes may be reduced by removing your triggers and with the help of natural remedies.

Avoid Your Triggers

Food and Drinks

Caffeine – A common trigger for hot flashes is the food and beverages that contain caffeine, alcohol and spice. Caffeine can be found in chocolate, coffee, tea as well as prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements. As a central nervous system stimulant, coffee can trigger an increase in blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. These increases can trigger and worsen hot flashes. It is also important to note that any hot temperature beverage can trigger a hot flash. You may wish to opt for cold or iced-beverages instead.

Alcohol – Alcohol can also increase the severity and frequency of hot flashes in much the same way as caffeine and hot beverages do and furthermore, if you regularly consume alcohol with dinner, you may be more prone to night sweats, a severe form of hot flashes that can require you to wake up, drenched in sweat to change your bed sheets and clothing.

Spicy foods – You may find that hot and spicy foods can trigger a hot flash as certain spices, such as hot peppers increase your internal body temperature. For the same reasons as above, it may be helpful to reduce the consumption of foods that contain spices if you are attempting to determine what your triggers are.

Stress

Prolonged periods of stress as well as acute stressful situations can trigger a higher number and intensity of hot flashes. When your body experiences stress, the hormones cortisol and epinephrine become elevated. These hormones lead to an automatic increase in your pulse rate and blood pressure which can trigger the onset of a hot flash.

Look for ways to reduce stress in your life. Therapies such as acupuncture, hypnotherapy and massage therapy can be helpful. You may want to try mindfulness meditation which has been shown in studies to reduce blood pressure, increase endorphins and promote a general feeling of calm and empowerment.

Natural Treatments

Sage

Sage is a common treatment recommended by herbalists and naturopathic doctors. It may not be completely clear as to how sage helps with hot flashes, however when taken regularly, it has been shown in studies to reduce and in some cases completely eliminate hot flashes. It is believed that the essential oil is the main active constituent in sage preparations. From preliminary studies, scientists have concluded that it is a safe herb for general use.

Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa)

The Native Americans are known to use black cohosh for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep disturbances and mood changes. Black cohosh is also widely used in Europe. As one of my go-to herbs for women’s health complaints, I often recommend black cohosh in combination with other herbs to help reduce hot flashes.

Hot flashes are the most common symptom of menopause. The cause of hot flashes is still up for debate however, there are natural treatments that can improve the frequency, intensity, including understanding what your triggers are. Before trying any new treatment, please consult with your health care professional as herbal remedies can interact with medications.

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Dr. Olivia Rose
About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences and in 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

In addition to her private practice, Dr. Rose is the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a mobile service that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination at Toronto fertility clinics. Her special areas of interest include infertility; children and teen health; stress management; weight loss; heart disease; digestive and immune health; skin rejuvenation and pain management. She is a birth doula and has additional training in cosmetic acupuncture and needle-less therapies for skin rejuvenation and joint pain.

Dr. Rose is a sought-after lecturer for community organizations; a freelance writer and mentor to new graduates. She has been interviewed by various media outlets including Global Toronto’s, “The Morning Show”, “News at Noon” and “News Hour”. In her free time, she unplugs at the spa and she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, son and tea-cup Yorkie. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and special events, please visit - www.oroseND.com