Hot flashes are a “hot” topic in my practice (sorry for the pun). It’s a transition that all women will go through to varying degrees in their reproductive life. The average age for menopause is 52, but many will enter perimenopause much sooner than that, often as early as 35-40 (more about that HERE). Hot flashes however, don’t usually appear until a woman is close to true menopause, but can last for many years after that. We used to tell women that they should expect to have hot flashes for up to 2 years after their last period. Recent research suggests that hot flashes and night sweats can go on for up to 11 years or more!
As I often say, menopause isn’t a disease that needs to be treated. But, neither do you need to suffer through this transition. Many women are opting not to take hormone replacement therapy due to concerns about safety. While hormone therapy is often effective at relieving hot flashes, longer-term treatment carries an increased risk for breast cancer, and women at older ages have higher risks of stroke, blood clots, and other health problems.
Non-hormonal treatment options for hot flashes and night sweats
1. Diet: Alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods and hot beverages top the list of common culprits. Try cutting these out for 2-3 weeks and note any changes. Phytoestrogens such as those found in flax are also important, especially if you’re no longer having a regular period.
2. Herbal Medicine: Most women I see with persistent hot flashes and night sweats will opt to try herbal medicine. There are several herbs including red clover, black cohosh and dong quai that can be used to reduce these symptoms. Most women I see will report a 75% improvement within 6-8 weeks, greatly improving their quality of life, with few side effects.
3. Stress Management: As I’ve written about before, stress and menopause don’t mix. Acupuncture is one of the treatments that can be used to manage the shifts in hormones that accompany stress, helping to reduce the frequency and severity of most menopausal symptoms.
Remember that menopause is a natural, normal transition. But you can choose to take the paved road and enjoy a smoother ride.