Turning Up the Heat

Perhaps you have heard the tales; worse than the stories of having to walk uphill both ways to and from school in a snowstorm. These are the tales your mother may tell of one of the classic signs of menopause  The Hot Flash! So for National Women’s Health Month, lets turn up the heat.

Who gets them?
About 75% of women will experience hot flashes, so statistically, the odds are not in our favour. There are some risk factors that can increase the likelihood of experiencing hot flashes, which include smoking, excess body weight and stress.

Why in the world do we get them?
As we approach menopause, we enter what’s known as perimenopause. This is defined as the time before menopause or what we like to call a ‘twilight zone’ of hormones,. It can start as early as your 30s, but is typically experienced by women in their 40s. What you will notice are symptoms including changes to your period (either heavier or lighter, more frequent or less frequent), night sweats and/or hot flashes. Why you are getting these symptoms is because your egg reserve is reduced. As this happens there is a decreased chance you will ovulate and this starts the hormonal shifts. There are two main hormones involved: estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone is the first hormone that takes the drop and typically this causes the night sweats and the “on-off blanket syndrome” that is usually combined with the “window open during the middle of winter syndrome”. Estrogen drops next and this is more associated with daytime hot flashes. Although we do not completely understand how these hormonal shifts cause a change in our body temperature regulation; we do know they are involved in it.

More than just a joke?
We often laugh about our friends and loved ones stripping down in the most awkward moments, but do hot flashes have a medical impact? We know that women who report having more hot flashes and night sweats, are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, difficulty sleeping and fatigue, more challenged at work and report a lower quality of life during menopause. So it definitely has significant health impacts.

What can we do for them?
The good news is there are a variety of approaches to manage hot flashes and we have therapists that can help with each of these at The Lavallee Health Centre. Our Naturopathic team can guide you through the incorporation of a variety of options. Herbal medicines can be used to realign hormones wherever you are in the menopause transition. As serotonin levels can drop during menopause this can be addressed through serotonin supplementation or pharmaceuticals. This neurotransmitter can significantly reduce hot flashes. Another effective option to balancing hormones is the use of Bioidentical Hormone Therapy. The North American Menopause Society recommends this approach as the most effective therapy for hot flashes. Changes to nutrition and the incorporation of specific therapeutic foods that contain phytoestrogens can play a role in balancing hormones and managing body weight. Integrating mindfulness practices reduces stress which impacts frequency and severity of hot flashes. As with all treatment plans you need to discuss options with your healthcare provider to select a good fit for you and your health history.

Do you suffer from hot flashes? The Naturopathic Doctors at The Lavallee Health Centre can help walk you through the various treatment options available, discuss risks and benefits and guide you to a treatment that works for your body.