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How can I deal with hot flashes during menopause?

Several treatments have been shown to have benefit for hot flashes during menopause. These include hormonal therapies, certain antidepressant medications, Neurontin and clonidine (a blood pressure medication). Plant-based estrogens are also available over the counter but have been shown to be of varying effectiveness.

Staness Jonekos
Health Education Specialist

Weight gain, irritability, skin changes and hot flashes are all symptoms of fluctuating hormones. Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms and possible treatments. Once you decide on a program to treat your symptoms, you will hopefully start to feel better. Going through physical changes can be stressful. Second, menopause usually happens as the natural aging process kicks in. If you've practiced a lifetime of poor eating choices and lack of exercise, it's unforgiving during menopause. Now is the time to start eating nutritiously, exercising regularly, and dedicating time to pampering.

There are a number of ways to deal with hot flashes during menopause. Try dressing in layers (of cotton, not wool or synthetics), so you can quickly take off a layer of clothing when a hot flash comes on. You can try deep, slow breathing when you get a hot flash. Relaxation techniques you learn through yoga, meditation or tai chi can help. Keep ice water handy, to drink when you get a hot flash.

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

Keep a fan nearby and make sure the temperature in your house or office is cool enough. For hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, some women find relief by going to an acupuncturist, getting enough exercise, drinking plenty of water, not smoking and avoiding certain types of foods and drinks (such as spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine). Soy products are good to incorporate into your meals, because they might prevent or decrease hot flashes and other menopause symptoms.

Some women use herbal remedies for their hot flashes as well, though you should discuss this with your doctor first.

You can also talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for hormone replacement therapy (HRT), since hot flashes happen when your sex hormone levels fluctuate. HRT replaces the estrogen (and maybe the progesterone) that your body stops making during menopause. This can help with symptoms of hot flashes.

Not all women are candidates for HRT, however, and the drugs come with a long list of possible side effects. Ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of HRT. Some antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, blood pressure medicine and mild sedatives also help with hot flashes. Talk to your doctor about whether those would be appropriate for you.

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Hot flashes can be treated through diet, exercise, reduction in stimulants, and by taking medication. While medication is by far the most effective there are concerns about increasing the risk of breast cancer. If you choose this route, be sure to talk to your OBGYN about your individual risk. Diet can help decrease the intensity and frequency of hot flashes but not as effectively as hormone replacement therapy. Reducing stimulants like coffee, tea, alcohol and chocolate can also help. Some studies say increasing soy products can help reduce hot flashes. In general it is important to remember that this is not a permanent condition and that it will pass.

Dr. Suzanne B. Gilberg-Lenz, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

A hot flash can strike at any time, so it pays to be prepared with cooling wipes, peppermint aromatherapy spray or moisture-wicking clothing. Watch as OBGYN specialist Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, MD, details a few clever tricks for easing hot flashes.

Dr. Julia Schlam Edelman
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

In the past women were told: "Hot flashes are all in your head." This suggested that women could control or suppress their hot flashes using willpower. Some of my patients have the idea that they should be able to banish their symptoms of menopause—that is, conquer them through sheer will. Hot flashes may be triggered by anxiety, and they often are made worse by stress, but this does not mean they are imaginary.

Many women in previous generations were told to "Just tough it out, the hot flashes will go away on their own." Now we know this is not always possible. While it's true that some women never have night sweats or hot flashes, this is not due to their willpower. Their bodies simply do not have the precipitous drops in estrogen that trigger these symptoms. Some women's hot flashes are milder and less frequent, and therefore more tolerable.

Boston Women's Health Book Collective
Administration Specialist

There are several effective, natural ways to cope with hot flashes. Wearing layers of clothing that can easily be removed when the heat becomes intense is an option. Many women opt to wear lighter fabrics like cotton—even in winter—because cotton absorbs perspiration.

While some women find such coping strategies effective, others may want to adopt a more preventive approach. Several options exist, including lifestyle changes, paced respiration, complementary health practices and prescription medications, including hormone treatment.

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause

More About this Book

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause

FROM THE EDITORS OF THE CLASSIC "BIBLE OF WOMEN'S HEALTH," A TRUSTWORTHY, UP-TO-DATE GUIDE TO HELP EVERY WOMAN NAVIGATE THE MENOPAUSE TRANSITION For decades, millions of women have relied on Our...

There are a variety of strategies for coping with hot flashes, ranging from short-term hormone therapy (estrogen alone or estrogen plus progesterone for approximately two to three years and no more than five years) and other medical options to herbal remedies, but lifestyle strategies may be the easiest and quickest changes to try first:

  • Dress in layers that may be removed if you find you're getting too warm.
  • Sleep in a cool room.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Avoid hot foods such as soups, spicy foods, caffeinated foods and beverages and alcohol, which can trigger hot flashes.
  • Try to decrease stress.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Breathe deeply and slowly, if you feel a hot flash starting; rhythmic breathing may help to "turn down" the heat of a hot flash or prevent it from starting altogether.
  • Use a hand-held fan.

Wearing layered, cotton clothing, drinking cold fluids at the start of a hot flash, and keeping a glass of cold water by the bedside may help alleviate hot flashes during menopause. Smoking, caffeine, spicy foods and being overweight have a tendency to worsen symptoms. There is some evidence that exercise, acupuncture, taking black cohosh and engaging in various forms of relaxation therapy (e.g., meditation, yoga or breathing exercises) may be helpful in alleviating symptoms, or at least improving mood and sleep to help you deal with them. A handheld fan might be helpful. Keeping a journal helps track symptoms and helps identify personal, hot flash triggers.

Pharmacologically, estrogen and/or progesterone can minimize the sensation of hot flashes, as can clonidine, a medication sometimes used for blood pressure control. Lifestyle changes that have been reported to help include a diet high in anti-oxidants, strengthening exercises, smoking cessation and decreased alcohol intake. Some individuals find counseling helpful in dealing with the stress of menopause.

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Hot flashes can be minimized in some women by avoiding hot beverages, spicy food, alcohol and caffeine and trying to minimize stressful situations. Some women find that adding soy to their diet diminishes hot flashes, but it's probably best to limit soy to only one or two servings a day, since some studies indicate that too much soy might promote some types of breast cancer. Hormones or nonhormonal medications are available if symptoms are debilitating, but most women can get by with simple lifestyle measures.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Avoiding spicy foods is one way to reduce hot flashes from menopause.

Watch the video to learn more ways to reduce the hot flashes during menopause, from Dr. Oz.

Hot flashes occur because of decreasing estrogen levels, which is the principal hormone change at menopause. Anything that increases estrogen will decrease hot flashes. Simple things that cool you will help, as will ingesting foods with phytoestrogens such as soy, black cohosh, etc. For severe symptoms, estrogen replacement is the best treatment.

The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nor does the contents of this website constitute the establishment of a physician patient or therapeutic relationship. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.