Whether you are already going through menopause or are nearing that stage in your life, you probably know that one of the top symptoms of menopause is hot flashes. Up to 85 percent of women experience these at some point during menopause, so let’s take a look at why menopausal women struggle with this issue.
How to Stop a Hot Flash
The New York Times wrote an article titled, “How to Stop a Hot Flash” where they delve into the causes and therapies for hot flashes.
Here’s where they go wrong.
The author starts off by suggesting hot flashes happen when the brain becomes aware of a temperature change in the environment. More specifically, “the brain becomes acutely sensitive to minor increases in environmental temperature and responds in an exaggerated manner.”
There are still physicians who believe that the hot flash represents a rise in body temperature caused by a sudden increase in heat production. The true cause of hot flashes is not slight changes in room temperature, but rather an increased production of cortisol. Estrogen stimulates the adrenal cortex, both directly and indirectly through the brain and pituitary, increasing the production of cortisol. Cortisol, by increasing protein turnover, can increase heat production. There is more evidence that supports cortisol and estrogen as a main cause of hot flashes, not an estrogen deficiency.
During menopause, there are a number of hormonal changes that occur that can influence hot flashes, including:
Less progesterone production.
A decline in thyroid function.
An increase in activity of the estrogen-producing aromatase enzyme.
Too little testosterone. Men that have testosterone deficiency can also experience hot flashes.
Estrogen dominance. While estrogen production may decline, progesterone production declines more severely
Iron. As we age, we accumulate more iron in our tissues and this may drive hot flashes.
The NYT article goes on to say, “The most effective treatment for hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause is estrogen replacement.” Many experienced clinical providers now understand that estrogen replacement is not the best answer for hot flashes because many menopausal women are not deficient in estrogen. If estrogen deficiency was the cause of hot flashes, then it would make sense that women who suffer from hot flashes would be more deficient in estrogen than those who do not. But that is not the case!
Estrogen and Hot Flashes
Our clinical experience confirms what the top researchers in the world say: there is no evidence that women who experience hot flashes are deficient in estrogen. However, there is evidence that hot flashes begin when the first menstrual period is missed, which coincides with the body not producing a normal amount of progesterone.
So why do some doctors say estrogen helps hot flashes?
Menopausal estrogen treatment is known to lower temperature. This does give the sensation that hot flashes are resolved. It’s important to keep in mind that while estrogen replacement might lower temperature, it accompanies a list of known side effects including:
● Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
● Autoimmune Diseases
● Thyroid Disease
● Blood Clots
How Do We Treat Hot Flashes?
● Bioidentical hormones. Bio-identical hormones are fully endogenous hormones from plant derivatives, and are far safer than synthetic hormones. They help to balance the hormones, especially the ratio of estrogen to progesterone.
● Support the thyroid. The thyroid controls metabolism, growth, and many other bodily functions. Some patients take a thyroid replacement to support their thyroid during this time.
● Remove stress. Often called the “stress hormone,” cortisol causes an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. As noted, high cortisol is involved in hot flashes.
● Eat nutrient-dense foods. Food impacts hormones on all levels.
● Minimize exposure to estrogens. Exposure to plastics, using chemically-laden cookware and personal care products, eating PUFAs, drinking alcohol, drinking tap water, etc. all increase our estrogen.
● Natural sugars may help. Sugar reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. As stated, cortisol is implicated in hot flashes. Make sure it’s naturally occurring sugar like fruit and honey.
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Increased cortisol level: a possible link between climacteric symptoms and cardiovascular risk factors. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21037488/
Corticotropin-releasing hormone causes vasodilation in human skin via mast cell-dependent pathways. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14602784/
Hot Flashes in Men. https://www.bodylogicmd.com/for-men/hot-flashes/
Menopausal hot flash frequency changes in response to experimental manipulation of blood glucose. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14501548/