Two of the most common complaints about menopause are hot flashes and night sweats. This uncomfortable symptom affects approximately three quarters of all women in perimenopause or time before menopause already declared. Once you reach menopause, you can continue having hot flashes for six months to five years, according to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
A hot flash is a feeling of intense warmth, which is not caused by external sources. Hot flashes can occur suddenly or gradually may be triggered. You may experience:
It is unclear exactly what causes hot flashes. However, they are probably the result of hormonal changes in the body. Some women barely notice hot flashes or considered a minor annoyance. For others, the intensity can affect their quality of life in a rather negative way.
These factors may vary from woman, but the most common are:
You may want to start keeping a journal about your symptoms. Write down what you were doing, eating, drinking, or using when hot flashes started. After several weeks, you may begin to see a pattern that can help you avoid specific triggers.
Alternative treatments for menopause that have been studied in well-designed trials include phytoestrogens (plant estrogens, isoflavones), black cohosh, and vitamin E.
Isoflavones are chemical compounds found in soybeans and other plants (such as chickpeas and lentils) which are phytoestrogens, or plant estrogens. Red clover is another source of isoflavones that has been used in some women in an attempt to relieve hot flashes. Isoflavones have a chemical structure that is similar to the estrogen produced naturally by the body, but its estrogenic effectiveness is much less than the true hormones.
Some studies have shown that these compounds may help relieve hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. In particular, women who have had breast cancer and do not want to make hormone replacement therapy (HT) with estrogen sometimes use soy products for relief of menopausal symptoms. However, some phytoestrogens may actually have anti-estrogenic properties in certain situations, and still have not determined the general risks of these preparations. There is some concern that these products are selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), which can stimulate the growth of breast cancer or limit the antitumor effects of tamoxifen (Nolvadex) in some susceptible women.
Black cohosh is a herbal preparation that has been popular in Europe for relief of hot flashes. This herb is increasingly popular in the US, and the North American Menopause Society supports short-term use of black cohosh for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. The recommended use is up to six months due to its relatively low incidence of side effects. There is some concern about the potential effect of black cohosh estrogen in the breast, and is not recommended as a safe therapy for women with breast cancer or who are at high risk of breast cancer.
Vitamin E can cause hot flashes relief, especially in women whose menopausal symptoms are severe or do not alter their quality of life.
There are many supplements and substances, including ginseng; licorice; evening primrose oil; dong quai; sauzgatillo; and wild yam, which have been advertised as natural treatments for menopause; but still it needs more research.
The North American Menopause Society recommends that women try to change certain behaviors, such as trying to reduce body temperature to help relieve hot flashes. Other modifications include regular exercise, yoga and meditation. Several studies have demonstrated a beneficial effect of exercise on hot flashes, possibly because exercise raises the core body temperature and can, in fact, trigger hot flashes. However, regular exercise has significant benefits in the prevention of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other conditions.
Relaxation therapy and interventions for stress management does not appear to be effective in treating hot flashes, according to scientific studies. However, these interventions may be beneficial for women in maintaining general health, physical, emotional and well-being during the menopausal transition.