The Causes of Hot Flashes & Night Sweats Explained

Hot FlashesIt’s impossible to predict who will suffer from hot flashes and night sweats, or whose episodes will be more severe or last longer.  But some experts suggest that you will be more likely to have a problem with hot flashes and night sweats if:

  • You’ve had surgical menopause – removal of the ovaries, in particular, causes an abrupt decline in hormone levels that can bring on severe hot flashes.  Removal of the uterus has similar but lesser effects.
  • You’re under a great deal of stress – increased stress levels translate to more hot flashes.
  • Your mother suffered from hot flashes
  • You don’t perspire easily – perspiration is the body’s main cooling mechanism, so if it’s not working efficiently, your body will send more blood to the skin to cool itself off.
  • You’re sedentary – women who don’t exercise have three times the risk of experiencing hot flashes.
  • You smoke cigarettes – cigarette smoking causes a drop in estrogen and progesterone levels and premature menopause.

Then there are other causes of hot flashes and night sweats that have nothing to do with menopause:

  • Drinking alcohol shortly before going to bed
  • Taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs or other medications used to treat depression.
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Tuberculosis

In general, you want to:

  • Keep your body cool
  • Set the thermostat in your home a little lower than usual to keep the place cool, and use the air conditioner when you’re in your car
  • Keep your environmental cool
  • Avoid excessive heat
  • Wear “cool” clothing made of cotton or other natural fibers that absorb perspiration.  Avoid polyester and other synthetic materials.
  • Keep your skin dry by wearing absorbent clothing
  • Avoid stressful situations
  • Avoid excess exposure to the sun, so you won’t get sunburned
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing that holds in the heat.
  • Dress in layers so that you can quickly shed articles of clothing when things heat up, then put them back on if you become chilled.
  • Try taking a cool shower or standing in front of an open refrigerator when a hot flash strikes.
  • Make sure your nightclothes and bedding are 100% cotton, it’s absorbent and it breathes
  • Keep ice cubes, cold drinks, or cold foods (like ice cream) nearby whenever possible; sucking ice chips can cool your face in the middle of an episode.

Diet – As with most conditions, what you eat can make a difference in both the frequency and severity of your hot flashes and night sweats.

Soy or Soybeans, Did you know that the Japanese have no word for “hot flashes”?  That’s because only about 25% of Japanese women ever experience this phenomenon, compared to up to 85% of North American women.  Many researchers believe that this is because of the high intake of soy and soy isoflavones in Japan -125-150 mg of soy isoflavones per day, as opposed to the average American intake of about 1 mg.

In Summary:

  • To reduce hot flashes, consume up to 150 mg of isoflavones in food from every day.  Do not exceed 150 mg, the upper limit found in the Japanese diet, and avoid taking isoflavone supplements as their safety has not been confirmed.
  • Exercise regularly.  Even if it doesn’t directly help reduce the number or severity of your hot flashes, it may help by improving your self-image and feeling of control.  And both of these can give you a more positive attitude toward menopause, which could help reduce the severity of your symptoms.
  • Stay Cool.

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