Sometimes it is the simple everyday things we do that can make a difference, and the more you take preventive action the more likely you are to get your flushes under control faster. Not all of these may apply to you, but they may help you – or someone you know.
1 Balance your hormones
The fluctuating hormones in perimenopause and menopause are ‘helped’ by HRT as the high doses flatten out the hormones so that the surges do not take place in the same way. However there is often a high price to pay for this method and many women prefer to turn to bioidentical hormones to help with their symptoms.
Progesterone is effective for the majority of women when trying to get their flushes, sweats and other menopausal symptoms under control. However some women prefer a small amount of oestrogen as well as progesterone and this combination is effective for more severe symptoms, and for women with a history of being on HRT or who have had a hysterectomy.
2 Reduce stress
This is one of the biggest issue for many women and there are ways you can get control of your stress without necessarily resorting to medication. First really notice what stresses you, whether it is something at home, or someone you encounter regularly or something you regularly have to do that you find difficult. Then talk to someone about it and see if you can come up with a plan to minimise the stress it is causing you.
There are many excellent, proven, techniques to reduce stress and relaxation is certainly top of the list. According to one study by taking up yoga, meditation and other stress-reducing techniques you could cut your hot flashes in half.
A further study has indicated that when a flush starts you may be able to control it by practicing controlled breathing techniques and muscle relaxation (such as in yoga) regularly during a hot flush could cut down how often you’ll get them. Try deep, slow abdominal breathing (six to eight breaths per minute). Practice deep breathing for 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes in the evening and when a flush starts.
Another proven stress reducer is exercise, just make sure it is pleasurable and not too taxing so you will maintain it on a daily basis. Walking, swimming, dancing, bicycling and Tai Chi are all good choices.
3 Keep your cool
This applies to both your environment, and to you too. If you get night sweats then keep your bedroom cool by turning down the thermostat – it is healthier, and more economical – and use natural fibres for sheets, not synthetics. There have been a number of new products on the market in the last few years to put under your mattress or in your pillows like the Chillow which will at least make your face feel cooler.
Dress in layers so you can shed clothes when you feel too warm and keep your clothing loose and of natural fibres. Use a fan in the room to keep the air circulating or carry a small one in your bag with you to cool you down.
Carry cooling wipes with you as they can be very effective when used on the back of the neck, forehead and wrists to instantly make you feel cooler. Make your own with peppermint oil and put a few drops and a small amount of water in a little spray bottle – the type you buy for travel. As the spray evaporates on your skin the peppermint oil will provide a soothing, cooling effect. If your skin is sensitive just carry a damp flannel in a plastic bag or some handy wipes.
4 Dietary help
Head for fruit such as strawberries, pineapple, melon, apricot and mango, as well as a standard Mediterranean diet as these have been shown to decrease the number of flushes, when compared to women on diets high in fat and sugar. Try to lose some weight if you are carrying a few extra pounds as weight loss has been shown to improve flushes too.
5 Supplement help
In addition to using bioidentical hormones there are many herbal supplements available, but their effectiveness has been called into question. Some herbs can have interactions with medications, such as black cohosh for example which is not appropriate for anyone with liver disease and some studies have shown actually increases the frequency and severity of hot flushes but can be helpful in the short term.
Other products women have found helpful for hot flushes include soy products for their plant oestrogens, evening primrose oil (but not if you are taking blood thinners) red clover and flaxseed. Ashwaganda is a herb increasingly used in the USA to help with flushes and also to reduce anxiety that is also a common feature of menopause.