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!
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.