When it comes to perimenopause, hot flushes are probably one of the most commonly known symptoms, and yet it’s something not many could tell you much about. What causes them, why they happen, how to manage them… perhaps it’s because we don’t really talk about menopause enough? Or perhaps it’s because, as with many women’s health topics, hot flushes- and the menopause in general- is seen as something that women should just put with and get on with in private?
As ever, here at WUKA we refuse to stay quiet! We think that having these conversations and asking these questions is so important. We want to empower you with the knowledge about your own body, about what’s happening and why- throughout all life stages. Including menopause!
We spoke to Meera Bhogal, menopause expert and founder of Don’t Pause for Menopause. Meera is passionate about helping women to become educated about what their body needs, and what works best for them. She believes in working with your body, not against it- and we are 100% in support of that approach!
What are hot flushes?
So let’s start with what exactly hot flushes are. If you’re already experiencing perimenopause symptoms, chances are that you’ve already felt them. That sudden feeling of overwhelming heat in your body, coming from nowhere and increasing in intensity no matter how you try to cool off? That’s a hot flush.
So what causes them?
What causes hot flushes?
Meera told us,
“Hot flushes happen to us because the ‘thermostat in our brain has stopped working’ and this is happening because of the loss of sex hormones, in particular oestrogen. Oestrogen plays a significant role in helping our brain to regulate our temperature. Because of this, some women may experience cold flushes too.”
Hang on, cold flushes too? Yep. Cold flushes, according to the NHS can come hand in hand with hot flushes, with some women experiencing both extreme of temperature almost at the same time. Not fun!
How to manage hot flushes at night
Although hot flushes can happen at any time during the day, lots of women report them taking place at night, which can certainly impact on sleep. So we asked Meera for her tips on managing hot flushes at night.
She told us,
“The best way to manage hot flushes is to reduce consumption of spicy food, caffeinated drinks, alcohol and refined sugary foods. All of these can be a trigger.
At night, night sweats can be really difficult to manage. They can disturb sleep and cause poor concentration. The best thing to do is to eat plenty of protein rich whole foods during the day, balanced out with lots of colourful plants and vegetables. Getting a balanced meal is vital!
Things to avoid are drinking coffee or tea in the afternoon, as well as consuming too much water close to bedtime or high alcohol consumption (as this will impact sleep and your body’s temperature regulation).
Have a regular bedtime routine and wear cool slip or cotton clothing. Be ready with a change of pyjamas and sheets if needed, and keep the window open or have a fan, as well as a light duvet or sheet. Finally, make sure you have been active and spent time outdoors during the day- and practise some short meditation before bed.
For menopause in general, some of the best advice I could give would be to exercise and love each day, get outside to walk (or even just sit) – this helps on many levels, and make time for yoga or meditation.”
What treatments are available to manage hot flushes?
Lifestyle changes are one thing, but you might be wondering about treatments to deal with hot flushes. Sadly, it seems there’s not much out there right now.
“Unfortunately, there are no treatments currently available in the UK,” Meera told us, “however there has been approval of some treatments in the USA. The best thing to do is to look at lifestyle and food choices mentioned above and my three top tips below. These small changes can make a real difference.”
Top 3 tips to manage hot flushes
So here are Meera’s top three tips for managing hot flushes:
“To ease hot flushes, you could try the following three things:
1. Avoid common triggers, including too many hot drinks and too much alcohol. Alcohol can dehydrate you and it’s really important to stay well hydrated through the day.
2. Start with what’s on your plate. It’s important to build in protein, fibre and fat into each meal if you can.
3. Dress practically. Wear layers of clothing so you can remove layers as you get hot. Carry a spare change of clothes and some deodorant with you!”
We’d like to add in a tip of our own here too our period pants! They’re comfy, soft and breathable, so you’ll stay dry and odour free even if you’re sweating, and possibly even leaking little. Yes, menopause and incontinence is a thing too. But we’ve got you covered.
WUKA Stretch high waisted period pants are perfect for proving gentle support, with a moisture-wicking gusset ready to absorb any of life’s little leaks. They’ll grow to accommodate any bloating too, so make sure you have a pair to hand during this time.
When it comes to other clothes, go for fabrics that are breathable, such as Tencel and organic cotton. We use these fabrics because they’re so kind to the skin, no chemicals, eco-friendly- plus they’re soft, durable and lightweight too.
Can you prevent hot flushes?
So we know how to manage them, but can we prevent them? Sadly, there is no sure-fire way to ensure you don’t experience them- but as with anything, its not guaranteed that you will get them when you go through perimenopause either.
Our advice is to follow Meera’s guidance and adopt few lifestyle changes that could be beneficial in easing the symptoms a little.
If you do find that hot flushes are having an impact on your usual activities, speak to your doctor for advice on potential treatment that might be available to you, such as hormone replacement therapy. We’re all different, and just as we experience our menstrual cycles differently, our journey towards menopause will be unique too. Make it your mission to learn as much as you can about this time, and know the options that are out there for you.
And remember that you’re not alone. This can be a pretty overwhelming time, but you don’t need to navigate these waters alone. Talking about how you feel can be hugely beneficial, and reaching out to support services could make all the difference. The NHS has some resources here that might be useful, and check out UK charity Menopause Support too.
What stops hot flushes naturally?
Hot flushes are a common perimenopause symptom, caused by fluctuating hormones. Lifestyle changes can help to ease them, so maintaining a healthy, balanced diet, prioritising sleep and avoiding caffeine, alcohol and processed foods can be beneficial.
Staying hydrated can also help, so drink lots of water and make sure you speak to your doctor if you find that hot flushes are interfering with your normal everyday activities.
Is there a way to stop hot flushes?
There is no way to prevent hot flashes from occurring, but remember that not everyone will experience them. The best course of action is to take steps to ease perimenopause symptoms as much as you can. Follow a healthy, balanced diet, exercise regularly and avoid processed foods, alcohol and caffeine. Sleep is important too, so take steps to ensure you get enough quality sleep. Keep your bedroom cool and avoid blue light for at least an hour before bedtime.
What age do hot flushes stop?
Most people find that hot flushes ease off once menopause has occurred, which can be at any time from the age of 45-55.
Perimenopause is the transition towards menopause, which is reached when you go 12 consecutive months without a period. For some, it can be as long as 10 years before this happens, but for most the average is four years. So the age at which hot flushes stop depends entirely on when you begin perimenopause and when your periods stop for good.
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