Understanding Hot Flashes: Triggers, Relief, and More (2023)

Understanding Hot Flashes: Triggers, Relief, and More (1)Share on Pinterest

Overview

Whether it creeps up on you or you have forewarning, menopause is a fact of life.

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 (the time before actual menopause). Once a woman has reached menopause, she may continue to have hot flashes for 6 months to 5 years, and in some women, they may linger for 10 years or even longer, according to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

A hot flash is a feeling of intense heat, not caused by external sources. Hot flashes can appear suddenly, or you may feel them coming on. You may experience:

  • tingling in your fingers
  • your heart beating faster than usual
  • your skin feeling warm, suddenly
  • your face getting red or flushed
  • sweating, especially in the upper body

Hot flashes often come on suddenly, but how long any single hot flash lasts will vary. Some hot flashes pass after a few seconds, while a long hot flash may go on for more than 10 minutes. On average, hot flashes last about four minutes.

(Video) 6 hot flash triggers you might not know about

The frequency of hot flashes also varies. Some women experience a few hot flashes per week, while others may have several an hour. Depending where you are in perimenopause, that can change. There are a range of treatments and lifestyle changes that may help lessen the symptoms and frequency of your hot flashes.

It’s not exactly clear what causes hot flashes. Multiple studies are attempting to understand them. There is clear evidence that hot flashes result from hormonal changes in the body. Their connection to other health problems, such as diabetes, is also being studied. Obesity and metabolic syndrome are thought to increase the incidence of hot flashes. Some women barely notice hot flashes or consider them a minor annoyance. For others, the intensity may affect their quality of life in a rather negative way.

Each woman’s triggers for hot flashes may be a little different, but some common ones include:

  • drinking alcohol
  • consuming products with caffeine
  • eating spicy foods
  • being in a hot room
  • feeling stressed or anxious
  • wearing tight clothing
  • smoking or being exposed to cigarette smoke
  • bending over

You may want to start keeping a journal about your symptoms. Write down what you were doing, eating, drinking, feeling, or wearing when each hot flash began. After several weeks, you may begin to see a pattern that can help you avoid specific triggers.

Preventing hot flashes

(Video) This Is What Happens in Your Brain During a Hot Flash

You may be able to reduce the frequency of your hot flashes if you figure out your triggers, and avoid them. Although this won’t prevent hot flashes completely, you may notice that you experience symptoms less often.

No treatment is guaranteed to prevent hot flashes, but there are options that may help you manage your symptoms. The goal of treatment is usually to lessen the severity and frequency of your hot flashes. You can consider lifestyle changes, hormone replacement therapy, prescription medications, or alternative therapies. Talking to your doctor can help you decide on the best approach to help prevent your hot flashes.

Some women are able to manage their hot flashes with some simple tools or techniques. Here are some simple ways to find relief:

  • dressing in layers, even on the coldest days, so you can adjust your clothing to how you’re feeling
  • sipping ice water at the start of a hot flash
  • wearing cotton night clothes and using cotton bed linens
  • keeping a cold pack on your bedside table

Many women are turning to natural products to help with managing hot flashes and night sweats. If you take natural products or supplements, it’s important that you mention this to your doctor and pharmacist whenever you discuss your health and medications. Some products can interfere with over-the-counter and prescription medications.

While medical studies haven’t backed up their effectiveness for reducing hot flashes, some women find certain herbal products to be helpful. These include:

  • Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Cimicifuga racemosa). Do not take this if you have a liver disorder.
  • Red clover (Trifolium pratense). This herb could increase the chance of bleeding.
  • Dong quai (Angelica sinensis). This herb interacts with the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin).
  • Evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis). This essential oil may affect blood thinners and some psychiatric medications.
  • Soy. This supplement can cause mild stomachaches, constipation, and diarrhea. Women with a history of estrogen related cancer in their family may not want to take in soy.

Check with your doctor before taking any of these products. Herbs can interfere with medications and aggravate disorders, beyond what is listed here. Herbal products are not monitored for quality and purity by the FDA.

(Video) Advances in Our Understanding of the Etiology/Mechanisms of Hot Flashes

The popularity of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has waxed and waned over the years. Treatment with synthetic hormones may be an option for some women whose hot flashes are debilitating and greatly affect the quality of their life.

Estrogen supplements level out the amount of estrogen in your system, reducing the incidence and severity of hot flashes and night sweats. Estrogen is usually taken with progestin to reduce the risk of developing endometrial cancer. It can be taken by pill, through a vaginal cream or gel, or a patch. A physician can help you make decisions is you are a candidate for HRT. Many women will not be able to take hormones or bio-identical hormone and your doctor will take a full medical history.

Nonhormonal treatments

(Video) News flash about hot flashes: They can last longer than you think

Other medications have been found to help women whose hot flashes and night sweats are difficult to manage. While they weren’t developed directly for this purpose, some women find them effective. Work with your doctor to choose if these medications might be appropriate for you and your situation.

Gabapentin and pregabalin, usually given for nerve-mediated pain or seizures, offer relief for some women. Antidepressants venlafaxine (Effexor), fluoxetine (Prozac), and paroxetine (Paxil) have also been shown to be effective for treatment of hot flashes.

Acupuncture may be helpful, without the side effects of medication. One study published in 2011 found that women who had acupuncture had significantly fewer menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, than those who had sham treatments. Sham acupuncture is shallow needling that doesn’t stimulate a true acupuncture point. It’s a way to test if acupuncture is effective or not.

Another study worked with a large sample of women with breast cancer. Treatments for breast cancer often trigger hot flashes. Participants who used acupuncture had less frequency and intensity of hot flashes.

Meditation can also be very successful in helping manage stress levels. Stress is a common hot flash trigger for many women. Taking stress management training in your community might lead to numerous other benefits in your health and quality of life.

Lifestyle choices can make as much of an impact on your body as any medication or supplement you take. Living a healthy lifestyle can reduce the incidence and severity of hot flashes and help reduce the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. Be mindful of the following ways you can improve your health:

(Video) Managing Hot Flashes

  • Eat a well-balanced diet and control portion size.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Stop smoking, and stay away from secondhand smoke.

Just as no two women are alike, neither are the ways their bodies will react to treatment for hot flashes. If one method doesn’t seem to work for you, another might. Talk to your doctor if none of the common hot flash management tools are helping.

As hard as it is to imagine while in the midst of your own personal heat wave, this too shall pass. For more information on how to get the most out of your menopausal years, keep reading about menopause.

FAQs

What does it mean when hot flashes get more frequent? ›

Although other medical conditions can cause them, hot flashes most commonly are due to menopause — the time when menstrual periods become irregular and eventually stop. In fact, hot flashes are the most common symptom of the menopausal transition.

Why are hot flashes worse some days? ›

Hormone levels fluctuate during the day, rising and falling with each hour. Many women experience the worst effects of these changing levels at night, when nighttime hot flashes can make it especially challenging to sleep.

Do hot flashes have any benefits? ›

What may be happening, she says, is that women who experience flushing during menopause could have blood vessels that are responding appropriately to the change in hormone levels occurring at that time, helping them to ward off the hardening of the arteries and plaque-building associated with heart disease.

Why do hot flashes suddenly get worse? ›

Why are my hot flashes getting worse? Several factors can make hot flashes worse, including shifting hormone levels, extra stress and anxiety, diet, infection, medical conditions, and certain medications. Hot weather and warm indoor environments can also make hot flashes worse.

How many hot flushes per day is normal? ›

A single hot flash can last anywhere from one to five minutes and may occur a few times a week for some women or daily for others. When hot flashes are severe, they may strike four or five times an hour or 20 to 30 times a day, Omicioli says.

Are hot flashes every 30 minutes normal? ›

While entirely normal, hot flashes can be disruptive for women who experience them. While some women average one hot flash a day, others have one every hour all day and night.

Does your body temperature actually rise during a hot flash? ›

Hot flashes or flushes are, by far, the most common symptom of menopause. About 75% of all women have these sudden, brief, periodic increases in their body temperature.

What vitamin is good for hot flashes? ›

Taking a vitamin E supplement might offer some relief from mild hot flashes.

What is best supplement for hot flashes? ›

What are the best supplements for hot flashes and night sweats?
  • dong quai.
  • maca root.
  • red clover.
  • black cohosh.
  • wild yam.
  • chasteberry.
  • soy isoflavones.
5 May 2022

What stops hot flashes naturally? ›

Lifestyle modifications, including exercise, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods, and dressing in layers can help relieve hot flashes. Practice slow, deep breathing if you feel a hot flash coming on. Some women find relief through meditation and other stress-reducing techniques.

Do you burn calories during hot flashes? ›

Calories burned will increase during hot flashes, as it does during a fever, but not to any great degree. They would have to be occurring non-stop throughout the day in order to produce a significant increase in calorie burn (as compared to days with similar activity levels before the hot flashes began).

Does B12 help with hot flashes? ›

B vitamins may also help with insomnia and possibly even reduce hot flashes. They are also important for cognitive functions. Recommended daily intake: For B6, 1.3 mg for women age 50 and younger and 1.5 mg for those 51 and older. For B12, 2.4 mcg for all adults.

Do hot flashes ever go away? ›

Hot flashes typically start with menopause and can end when you're post-menopausal or last the rest of your life. Treatment options can include prescription medications, non-hormonal therapies and lifestyle changes.

What cancers can cause hot flashes? ›

Breast cancer and prostate cancer, for example, both affect the production of sex hormones. This is one link between cancer and night sweats or hot flashes, but not the only one. Hormonal and other treatments can either trigger or help resolve night sweats in some people with cancer.

Why are hot flashes worse when lying down? ›

During the night, hormone levels can swing even more drastically, which sometimes results in much more severe hot flashes that can leave clothes and bedding soaked. Diet – caffeine, spicy foods, and alcohol are just a few of the dietary contributing factors that can create more severe hot flashes at night.

What reduces Hotflashes? ›

Lifestyle changes to improve hot flashes
  • Dress in layers that can be removed at the start of a hot flash.
  • Carry a portable fan to use when a hot flash strikes.
  • Avoid alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeine. ...
  • If you smoke, try to quit, not only for hot flashes, but for your overall health.
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight.
13 Oct 2022

Can hot flashes be caused by something other than menopause? ›

Conditions that can cause hot flashes besides menopause include certain medications, being overweight/obese, food allergies or sensitivities, niacin supplements, anxiety, rosacea, hormone conditions, endocrine imbalances such as overactive thyroid, carcinoid syndrome, infection, cancer, and hot sleeping conditions (“ ...

Are hot flashes harmful to your health? ›

A study released at the North American Menopause Society's (NAMS) annual meeting this week found that women who experience frequent and persistent hot flashes may be at greater risk for heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular disease conditions later in life.

What fruit is good for hot flashes? ›

Cooling foods: If you're suffering from hot flashes, so-called “cooling foods,” including apples, bananas, spinach, broccoli, eggs and green tea may help you cool down, according to Chinese medicine.

What nobody tells you about night sweats? ›

There are several common reasons for night sweats – from spicy foods to warm bedrooms – but excess sweating can be a sign of a medical condition such as an infection, menopause or cancer. “Just being hot at night should not worry anyone,” says Dr.

Does Benadryl help hot flashes? ›

Sleeping medications such as Ambien, Lunesta, and Benadryl will not reduce your hot flashes but may help you sleep through them.

Can hot flashes be caused by something other than menopause? ›

Conditions that can cause hot flashes besides menopause include certain medications, being overweight/obese, food allergies or sensitivities, niacin supplements, anxiety, rosacea, hormone conditions, endocrine imbalances such as overactive thyroid, carcinoid syndrome, infection, cancer, and hot sleeping conditions (“ ...

What cancers can cause hot flashes? ›

Breast cancer and prostate cancer, for example, both affect the production of sex hormones. This is one link between cancer and night sweats or hot flashes, but not the only one. Hormonal and other treatments can either trigger or help resolve night sweats in some people with cancer.

What are the signs of coming to the end of menopause? ›

What are the symptoms of postmenopause?
  • Hot flashes and night sweats.
  • Vaginal dryness and sexual discomfort.
  • Depression.
  • Changes in sex drive.
  • Insomnia.
  • Dry skin.
  • Weight changes.
  • Hair loss.
5 Oct 2021

What are hot flashes a symptom of? ›

Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause that often feels like a sudden flare of heat, paired with sweating and flushed skin. Hot flashes typically start with menopause and can end when you're post-menopausal or last the rest of your life.

Do hot flashes ever go away? ›

Hot flashes subside gradually for most women, even without treatment, but it can take several years for them to stop.

Can thyroid issues cause hot flashes? ›

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. It can produce symptoms that are very similar to menopause transition, including hot flashes. Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism that are similar to menopause transition include: heat intolerance.

When do hot flushes stop? ›

Most women experience hot flashes for 6 months to 2 years, although some reports suggest that they last considerably longer—as long as 10 years, depending on when they began. For a small proportion of women, they may never go away.

What neurological conditions cause hot flashes? ›

Your autonomic nervous system controls things you don't have to think about, like your breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and sweating. Anything that throws off how it works can cause flushing. That includes Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, MS, and spinal injury and nerve damage.

What fruit is good for hot flashes? ›

Cooling foods: If you're suffering from hot flashes, so-called “cooling foods,” including apples, bananas, spinach, broccoli, eggs and green tea may help you cool down, according to Chinese medicine.

What stops Nightsweats? ›

Adjust the thermostat, use fans, open windows (if it's cold outside), wear breathable pajamas and use lightweight bedding. Cool yourself down. If you wake up in a sweat, uncover your feet and neck, drink a glass of cold water, place a cool washcloth on your head or run cold water over your wrists.

Does menopause belly go away? ›

Menopause weight gain often appears without any apparent behavior change. But it doesn't go away on its own. Instead, like any other weight loss, losing menopause weight requires you to expend more calories than you take in.

Do you go back to normal after menopause? ›

Some women stop experiencing symptoms of menopause once they are postmenopausal. Other women will continue to experience some symptoms. You may still experience hot flashes for one to two years following menopause. You may notice a shift in your mood and feel depression before, during, and after menopause.

Is there an end to menopause? ›

How long does menopause last? Menopause is a point in time when you've gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual cycle. The time before menopause can last eight to 10 years (perimenopause). The time after menopause (postmenopause) will last until the end of your life.

What is best supplement for hot flashes? ›

What are the best supplements for hot flashes and night sweats?
  • dong quai.
  • maca root.
  • red clover.
  • black cohosh.
  • wild yam.
  • chasteberry.
  • soy isoflavones.
5 May 2022

What helps hot flashes naturally? ›

While there is no cure for hot flashes, there are lifestyle changes and non-hormonal therapies that may help you turn the heat back down.
...
8 natural approaches to relieve hot flashes
  1. Exercise. ...
  2. Increase your fruits and veggies. ...
  3. Limit spicy and sugary foods. ...
  4. Choose water instead. ...
  5. Stop smoking. ...
  6. Try to keep cool.
24 Jun 2022

How do you get rid of hot flashes fast? ›

4 Remedies For Hot Flashes

Lifestyle modifications, including exercise, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods, and dressing in layers can help relieve hot flashes. Practice slow, deep breathing if you feel a hot flash coming on. Some women find relief through meditation and other stress-reducing techniques.

Videos

1. Treatment options for hot flashes, night sweats
(UW Medicine)
2. Relief for Hot Flashes | The Exam Room
(Physicians Committee)
3. Women can suffer menopause hot flashes for more than a decade, study finds
(PBS NewsHour)
4. A Gyno Answers: What Are Hot Flashes — and How Do You Stop Them?!
(Rachael Ray Show)
5. Her Hot Flashes Started Going Away In 10 Days | The Exam Room Podcast
(Physicians Committee)
6. Hot Flashes: Causes, Signs & Remedies by Dr. Berg
(Dr. Eric Berg DC)
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