Is it hot in here, or is it just me?
If this is a question you ask yourself on a day to day basis, you’re not alone.
Age is just a number right? Yet plenty of women in their late ’40s to early ’50s will tell you it also identifies as the permanent celsius their body temperature loves to live in. 80% of women in Britain report experiencing hot flushes as a symptom of menopause. And if you’ve just experienced your first one, I’ve got some bad news, hot flushes can last for the next ten years.
Yes, ten years! But the good news? There is help you can get if you find yourself turning into a weather forecast, here to help are tips on what a hot flush feels like, hot flush treatment and natural remedies for hot flushes.
Imagine you’re getting on a packed central line tube in the London underground… during peak time… in August. And you’re wearing a jumper.
That’s a reasonable description, right? But instead of this heat coming from other commuter bodies rubbing against you, it comes from inside your body, like the heartburn man in the Gaviscon ad. The heat can come from anywhere: your head, torso, or even the back of your knees (sexy). Some women say it feels like being sandwiched inside a sunbed. If you’re one of the lucky ones, it will be mild discomfort for a few minutes. But for the unlucky 10-15% of women, they have symptoms so severe it disrupts their daily lives.
Doctors describe hot flushes as a feeling of heat, almost like a fever but with no other fever-like symptoms. For most women, the heat leaves your face and neck making way for a surface you could cook an egg on (only yolking!). It seems your upper lip will welcome the world with a moist, sweaty moustache all the while Ben, the new intern takes to asking you awkwardly if you want to borrow his desk fan.
Hot flushes can happen at any time of day and usually appear almost out of nowhere. Being most common at night it leaves many women sadly tossing, turning in sweaty sheets. It is not uncommon to start experiencing hot flushes in your 40s during perimenopause, picking up when you reach the menopausal stage in your 50s. While this may seem like a long timeline, most extreme hot flushes happen during the first two years after menopause arrives.
But when does it end? Unfortunately, like that overly drunk guest, the party isn’t over just yet. Many women will continue to experience hot flushes after menopause. On average, feverish flushes last for 10-15 years of your life. However, the episodes usually decrease in both frequency and severity as time passes.
Hot flushes begin when the blood vessels near your skin’s surface begin to widen in an attempt to cool down. But the reality is that no one in the medical world is entirely sure why your blood vessels need to do this in the first place. Some researchers believe that women’s brains experience changes in the thermoregulatory centre beginning in their 40s. Your thermoregulatory centre controls your body’s heat production and heat loss. Why would your body’s temperature regulator change during perimenopause? It’s deeply influenced by your hormones (largely oestrogen and progesterone), which are also, it seems, on their own fully-paid package holiday at Alton Towers during menopause. If the hypothesis is true, then the reason hot flushes subside in your sixties is that your hormones also settle down around then. No more swinging sixties, thank god.
When you reach perimenopause, your hormones start changing dramatically. Many GPs tell you that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the best way to get rid of hot flushes completely. And for some women, HRT is the best way forward. But for breast cancer survivors and those who have the breast cancer gene, HRT is too extreme for your symptoms, considered to be dangerous.
It may be that HRT isn’t the right choice for you or that despite HRT you are still seeing symptoms. For this there are several different natural options around diet, lifestyle and supplementation you could give a try straight away, in your diet, lifestyle and supplements.
Whether your hot flushes are severe or infrequent, the role of vitamin B6 cannot be overstated among menopausal women. The whole of the vitamin B group helps your body’s enzymes enable your metabolic pathways. It’s crucial for the nervous system, and when you go through menopause, your body experiences malabsorption of vitamin B.
Menopause is a good time to kickstart a vitamin B supplement regardless of your symptoms. Insufficient levels of the B group can lead to cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and cognitive decline that leads to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. As a female, in life, we aim to avoid it, but when it comes to your diet, don’t cut the B.
Isoflavones is another helpful compound. Around 80% of women in Western countries deal with hot flushes. Meanwhile, Chinese women want to know “What does a hot flush feel like?” That’s right, only 20% of Chinese women get the joy of dancing with the volcanic gods.
Some say the difference is a diet rich in isoflavones, which is a compound that comes from soy. It may be that tofu and soy products are the reason Chinese women report hot flushes at much lower rates.
A review of clinical trials has shown that among women who supplement isoflavones, 30-54% per cent experienced a decrease in their menopause symptoms, including and especially hot flushes. It’s also thought that increasing your soy product intake in your diet may help relieve your symptoms. Do we need another reason to put corrie on and grab the takeaway menu?
So, if you’re a new member of the Spice Girls, welcome aboard! Menopause spices up your life, but there are ways to tell it to stop right now (thank you very much). Either speak to your doctor or adopt the ideas of the alternative route, there are solutions out there to help you.