What triggers hot flashes?

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.
Hot flashes during menopause can be triggered by environmental factors, foods and lifestyle. When a woman transitions into menopause she has less estrogen. Although we don’t totally understand hot flashes, we think that when a hot flash occurs something with the thermoregulatory center in the brain is triggered that increases the body's core temperature very quickly. In an effort to cool you down, the body dilates blood vessels in the skin and you begin to sweat. Then you get cold when the air hits your wet skin and your core body temperature is reduced.

Many women say that hot flashes and facial flushes come more frequently when they are hot, overdressed, or after eating spicy foods or drinking hot liquids. Alcohol, caffeinated beverages or tobacco smoking can also cause you to have more of them -- so if you are getting frequent hot flashes, avoiding triggers is a good place to start.

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.

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.

Hot flashes can result from restrictive clothing, warm temperatures, spicy foods, caffeine, or alcohol. Smoking can also be a trigger for hot flashes as can keeping rooms too stuffy. Fluctuating hormones can cause disruptions to the hypothalamus in the brain which in turn triggers temperature surges. These surges are known my millions of middle-aged women as the all too familiar “hot flashes” of menopause.


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.

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.

The term “hot flash” describes a sudden onset of reddening of the skin over the head, neck, and chest, accompanied by feelings of intense body heat and sometimes ending with profuse perspiration. It may be rare occurring or occurring every few minutes. They tend to occur more frequently at night and in times of stress. They tend to be less severe and less frequent in cooler environments compared to warmer ones. Women who are overweight tend to report more hot flashes, as well.
Hot flashes from perimenopause and menopause are often triggered by what I call the big bad four; Sugar, Caffeine, Alcohol and Stress! If you reduce the triggers you may reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, naturally! Healthy diet effort, regular exercise, meditation with deep breathing thru the day as mini mental breaks are just a few easy things to implement on your own. You can also consider support programs, such as the Personal Program for Hormone Imbalance at, which offers nutrient packets, dietary guidelines, and a great herbal blend designed to help!  Learn more here:

If you are not sure why you are having hot flashes, certainly talk further with your trusted health care provider for reassurance no other cause is a factor, such as diabetes or thyroid issues.

Continue Learning about Menopause



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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.