All Posts in Category: Hormones

Hot Flashes

Is it Hot in Here? Hot Flashes and You.

I had my first hot flash just after my daughter was born. Actually, it wasn’t so much a “flash,” as a saga—long, drawn out, miserable. Seriously. There should have been morose violin music playing. That flash went on forever. I woke up completely drenched in sweat, had to change my clothes and bedding. And it revisited me the next night, and the next. Ugh!

But that experience let me in on a secret: hot flashes are not just for menopausal women! Younger women get them. And so do men! And sometimes even kids!

What gives?

Hot flashes are related to changes in our physiology. The part of the brain that controls our ability to adapt to shifts in temperature may be affected by fluctuations—in hormone levels, in chemicals such as electrolytes, or in the body’s ability to adapt to stress.

My patients with hot flashes find they might also be triggered by hot weather; by consuming caffeine, hot food or drink, sugar, refined flour, or alcohol; or by smoking cigarettes. Reducing or eliminating these triggers—at least for a while—can decrease the frequency and duration of hot flashes. (And we all know smoking is really bad for our health, so, please, if you quit, make it forever!)

And, as I wrote in a recent post, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone imbalance, as well as adrenal and thyroid health, can all contribute to hot-flash symptoms. But this doesn’t mean we need to take hormones!* In addition to the suggestions above, herbs, like maca can help. Maca (my favorite!) does not introduce hormones into the body, but, instead, supports the brain’s signals regarding hormone production so our hormones “play nice” with one another.

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Managing your hormone levels

What About Your Hormones?

Hormones are tricky. Levels increase and decrease over the course of a day, a week, a month—and your hormones all influence each other. Change one hormone level and they ALL change. It’s crazy town!

This is why achieving hormonal balance—whether you’re trying to manage your estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, insulin, or your cortisol (stress hormone) levels—is an uphill battle. And, unfortunately, those hormone pills, patches, and creams that promise to make symptoms more bearable in the short term don’t actually solve the problem.

So where do we start on the path to achieving true, sustainable hormone harmony? With the adrenals and the thyroid!

As women enter perimenopause—the time prior to menopause when the greatest hormonal fluctuations occur—the ovaries start to take a back seat, in terms of hormone-production. That’s exactly when our adrenals and thyroid should rally to sustain us. But, too often, our overly stressful lives have left our adrenals and thyroid gasping and in no shape to pull us out of the choppy seas of perimenopause.

Then, in menopause, when the ovaries take a permanent vacation, if our adrenals and thyroid aren’t working properly, instead of enjoying the hormonal balance they should provide us, we’re likely to experience many difficult mid-life symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, memory loss, insomnia, depression, and anxiety.

And, all too often, even much younger women experience hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms because the stress of our modern lives creates so much hormone imbalance.

Ideally, support of the adrenals and thyroid should begin in the 30s and 40s, so by the time a woman reaches menopause, these glands are ready to pick up the slack and create balance in the body. Never fear, however! Even if you are already in the throes of menopause, it is never too late to balance your hormones!

Yes, hormone balance is tricky business, but even simple dietary changes can be key. Cutting out refined foods, especially sugars and flours, can make a hugely positive impact on hormones. Incorporating leafy greens, lean proteins, and healthy fats (like olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado), every day, can create hormone-harmony magic. Finally, cutting out—or reducing—caffeine and alcohol can offer extra support for hormone balance. (And, no, wine does NOT help you sleep better!)

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