Women's Health, Menopause | September 5, 2016 | Author: Naturopath
Hot flushes affect up to 80% of women and is a common symptom accompanying menopause. Most women enter menopause sometime in their 40’s and 50’s, with the average age being around 51 years. Women report to have hot flushes that last for on average 5.5 years. However some women will continue to have symptoms until their 60’s and 70’s.
With menopause the ovaries slow their production of oestrogen and progesterone, reducing the monthly cycle of egg release (ovulation). In peri-menopause an egg is released in fewer cycles until eventually the ovaries stop releasing eggs. When this occurs menstruation ceases.
Hot flushes are related to the fluctuations in hormones during this time, specifically the drop in oestrogen. During a flush the blood vessels dilate near the surface of the skin, usually on the face and chest, causing redness, warmth and sometimes perspiration.
Essentially, hot flushes are a heat loss mechanism to allow the blood to cool and lower core body temperature. In menopausal women the loss of thermoregulation can occur due to low DHEA (as a result of chronic stress) and neurotransmitter imbalances, including increased nor-adrenaline and corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) and low GABA and serotonin.
A hot flush usually lasts from 30 seconds to 5 minutes and may occur multiple times a day or as infrequently as once a month. Most women find the hot flushes, especially when they occur at night, uncomfortable and disturbs their sleep. This can lead to feelings of fatigue and irritability. In addition, some women find the flushing with sweating uncomfortable and embarrassing when in the presence of others.
A study has shown that a diet high in meat, sugar and fats (particularly trans fats) increased the risk of women suffering from hot flushes and night sweats.
Increase fruit and vegetables to include:
Lifestyle factors such as increased caffeine and alcohol use and smoking are also linked to worsened menopausal symptoms.
B group vitamins are important in the body during menopause to support a healthy nervous system, methylation and hormone synthesis.
Vitamin E and essential fatty acids from evening primrose oil and fish oil help reduce hot flushes. Food sources of vitamin E include wheat germ, sunflower seeds, olives, egg yolks and sesame seeds. Omega 3’s are found in chia seeds, linseeds, walnuts and fish.
Evening primrose oil contains 10% gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which is an acid that helps to reduce inflammation and enhances the production of oestrogen and testosterone.
Evidence suggests that having an excessive body mass index (BMI) increased the likelihood of hot flushes, while dietary and exercise measures that lead to BMI reductions reduced menopausal hot flushes. One study showed that women who were obese were 2 times more likely to suffer from severe or moderate flushes compared to women with a healthy BMI. A similar study showed that an intensive behavioural weight loss program improved hot flush symptoms by 2.23 times compared to a control group.
Other suggestions include:
Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that have mild oestrogenic effects in the body. There are three main types of phytoestrogens; isoflavones, lignans and coumestans can be found in high concentrations in foods such as soybeans, linseeds, alfalfa and mung bean sprouts. Herbs which can help with hot flushes include:
A systematic review of 17 trials showed red clover to be an effective herb for reducing hot flushes in menopausal women. Black cohosh was also found to be beneficial for hot flushes in a 2005 review of 12 clinical trials conducted. Hops was also demonstrated to improve symptoms of hot flushes over a 12 week period, even at low doses.
If sleep disturbances are related to anxiety, these herbs may help.
A proper diet, herbal and nutritional supplements, exercise and by maintaining a healthy BMI the unpleasant side effects of menopause can be minimized.
Sarris, J. & Wardle, J. (2010). Clinical Naturopathy, Churchill Livingstone, Australia
Beers, M. (2003).The Merck Manual of Medical Information (2nd ed.), Pocket Books, United States of America
Herber-Gast GC and Mishra GD. Fruit, Mediterranean-style, and high-fat and sugar diets are associated with the risk of night sweats and hot flushes in midlife: results from a prospective cohort study. Am J Clin Nutr 2013;97:1092-9 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23553160
Balch, J. & Balch, P. (2000). Prescription for Nutritional Healing (3rd ed.), Penguin Publishing, United States of America
Whitman MK, Staropoli CA, Langenburg PW, et al. Smoking, Body Mass, and Hot Flashes in Midlife Women. Obstet Gynaecol. 2003; 101(2): 264-72 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12576249 Huang AJ, Subak LL, Wing R, et al. An intensive behavioural weight loss intervention and hot flushes in women. Arch Intern Med. 2010; 170(13): 1161-7 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20625026