Question

Menopause

What triggers hot flashes?

A Answers (8)

  • AMehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology, answered
    You remember the first time you suffered hot flashes. Now, do you remember what started the symptoms? That is one of your triggers. Common culprits include stress, red wine, chocolate, coffee, and hot rooms (although it's hard to tell after the flash has started).
  • AMichael Roizen, MD, Internal Medicine, answered

    Your body temperature is controlled by a thermostat in your brain called the hypothalamus. When the hypothalamus’s normal processes are disrupted, extreme surges in temperatures result. Now, researchers aren’t sure exactly what causes the disruptions, but waning estrogen may put you more at risk. Apparently, the estrogen stabilizes blood vessels. When estrogen levels fall, blood vessels expand and contract in a more unpredictable fashion, and the rush of blood is associated with a hot flash or flush. These flushes occur especially when you surround yourself with or indulge in triggers like stress (no surprise), hot temperatures, spicy food, caffeine, alcohol, tight synthetic clothing, and smoking. However, triggers aren’t the same for everyone, so keep a diary so you can figure out what you need to avoid like the plague.


  • AJudy Caplan, Nutrition & Dietetics, answered on behalf of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

    Fluctuation in hormone levels can trigger hot flashes. In menopause estrogen levels are diminishing causing all kinds of symptoms, one of which are hot flashes. Alcohol, chocolate, exercise, coffee, and overheated rooms can trigger a hot flash. Even stimulants like tea can set off a hot flash. Sometimes hot flashes come on for no apparent reason other than a woman is going through menopause.

  • ARealAge answered

    Hot and humid weather, hot drinks, alcohol, stress, smoking, chocolate, spicy foods, and foods with a high-acid content (e.g., citrus, tomatoes, or strawberries) are all known triggers of hot flashes during menopause.

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  • Hot flashes are triggered by fluctuating (changing) hormones during menopause. During this stage of life, a woman’s body makes less of the sex hormone estrogen, which affects the hypothalamus (this gland regulates your body temperature).

    During menopause, while your estrogen level decreases, the hypothalamus gets confused and thinks your body is too hot. That signals your body to circulate more blood, and your sweat glands to produce more sweat to get rid of the heat.

    Try to figure out what brings on your hot flashes, whether it’s certain drinks such as coffee or tea, the weather (maybe it’s hot outside), stress, or spicy foods. If you can identify the trigger and avoid it, that might help.

  • AJulia Schlam Edelman, Obstetrics & Gynecology, answered
    Hot flashes can arrive hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly. Although hot flashes may occur in a cyclic pattern, they don't always appear on cue. We don't understand exactly why hot flashes occur, but there are common triggers -- behaviors, circumstances, or substances that commonly induce hot flashes. Hot or spicy foods were once thought to induce hot flashes; research does not support this idea. On the other hand, caffeine and alcohol definitely can trigger hot flashes. So can an upcoming period.
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  • ASarah LoBisco, Integrative Medicine, answered

    Hot flashes occur as a result of fluctuations of various hormones within the bloodstream. It's these changes in hormonal levels that signal the hypothalamus, the body's thermometer, to adjust the body’s temperature. If the fluctuation is pronounced, hot flashes can occur.

    Various triggers exist. They differ depending on the woman. Some of these include stress, spicy foods, nutritional deficiencies, food sensitivities, neurotransmitter levels, and imbalanced hormonal ratios.

    Every woman has a specific ratio of hormonal levels related to her health status. Stress is a big player in this ratio.  The adrenal glands, responsible for the output of the stress response, also help support hormonal balance when the ovaries begin to decrease in production of estrogen. If one is chronically stressed, the possibility for large fluctuations in hormonal patterns and therefore hot flashes can occur. This is because the adrenal glands are producing less estrogen and more of the stress hormone, cortisol.

    More information on a holistic model of hot flashes can be found on my homepage (www.dr-lobisco.com).

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  • For something that occurs so frequently, we really do not clearly understand what causes the hot flashes associated with menopause. It is known that they are related to the withdrawal of the female hormone estrogen, but the exact mechanism is still under study.
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