From the Studio of Dr. Toni Harrison, MD – Managing Hot Flashes without Medication.

Hi everyone, today I wanted to talk a little bit more about hot flashes. Hot flashes are one of those disturbing aspects of perimenopause or menopause that a lot of women experience and is just frustrating-it’s a conversation that I have quite a bit. 70% to 85% of women will experience hot flashes at some point in their life. Hot flashes typically will last a year, but they can go on for many years. Normally we think about hot flashes as just being a low estrogen state, but it’s not that simple. Of course, the human body is never that simple.

So, what is a hot flash? It feels like a sense of warmth all of a sudden comes over your whole body, and it can progress into a really uncomfortable intense heat. And you can break out into a sweat which can be unprofessional if you’re in the middle of having a conversation with your colleagues, and all of a sudden you break out into a sweat and start getting armpit stains and cleavage stains and your face is red and sweating, it can be professionally embarrassing. Because hot flashes are a change in the diameter of your blood vessels, it can cause an increased heart rate; you can start getting palpitations. That can be a stressful event in its own, because a person starts to wonder what is going on with my heart? Am I having a heart attack? What’s happening here? You can get hand tingling, you can have a crawling sensation in your skin, you can get nausea. After the hot flash is over you can then get chilled, because you’ve got all this perspiration on your body that needs to evaporate. So, you’re going back and forth between being too hot and being too cold. Hot flashes can end up disturbing a person’s sleep, of course, because you’re too hot so you kick off the covers, and then you’re too cold and you wake up to try and grab the covers- you just go back and forth all night. It’s typically worse at 3:00 to 4:00 AM.

Hot flashes for no apparent reason? Regular exercise is the way that your body metabolizes stress hormones. It might actually be your stress hormones that have peaked and you haven’t been aware of that hormone change within your blood system.  If stress is a factor in your hot flashes, then regular exercise can help. I would add flaxseed to my diet. Flax seed has some phytoestrogens so it can give you a slight estrogen benefit. And that might help with the hot flashes. Meditation can really help. And I know that it sounds like woo-woo crazy, but the way meditation help, is it lowers your cortisol, it lowers your epinephrin, your norepinephrine, so it lowers your stress hormones and then that helps to diminish the hot flash. MEN can also have hot flashes too! Men can also have hot flashes because it can also be a thyroid or a cortisol problem. Cortisol indicates stresses the body; psychological stress, running late for work, trying to deal with the kids, traffic jams, not having your project or assignment ready, bills. Anything that adds to our typical lifetime stress will also increase cortisol levels.

Most people, even medical providers, often think that it’s simply low estrogen causing hot flashes. Hot flashes can be caused by low estrogen, estrogen that’s too high, low progesterone, low thyroid, and high cortisol levels. The knee jerk reaction is just to add more estrogen is making the problem worse. I have had many clients that come to their first visit with me and I discover that they were over prescribed estrogen as a way to try and manage hot flash symptoms. And yet they are still miserable.

Bioidentical hormone replacement can certainly help, because you’re improving the low estrogen state. Monitoring should make sure that you’re not in a high estrogen overprescribed state, and adding on bioidentical progesterone can improve a low progesterone state.

The best thing to do to help yourself with hot flashes is do some experiments with your diet. Eliminate sugar and fast carbs. Anything with white flour, white sugar, eliminate those out of your diet. White rice, white bread, eliminate all of that. Eliminate coffee, try and maintain a consistent blood sugar prior to going to sleep. You want to have a snack that’s got protein and slow burning carbs to it.

As far as herbal therapies, you want to consider Black Cohosh, Chase Berry, Dong Quai, and possibly Licorice. And Ashwagandha 500 mg; if you haven’t heard me talk about it before, is a great herb to help with stress. We have a lot of people that do great on Ashwagandha.

The products from Metagenics : Black Cohosh Plus 80 mgs, Mother Wart and Lemon Balm in it. Another product is called Chase Berry Plus; Chase Berry at 100mg. I would also consider Selestr, with soybean, and it’s got black cohosh back at 80 milligrams. The way that soybean is helpful is it’s got isoflavanoids, and isoflavanoids have a vital estrogen benefit to them. Phytoestrogen just means that it’s an estrogen effect from a plant source. So, soybean can help. And then also they’ve got Serenagen, and that is a calming herbal formulation that’s from the Chinese traditional medicine approach. And that’s got the Dong Quai in it. That can help especially if your hot flashes are stress triggered.

I just wanted to give some ideas on hot flashes, what they are, what causes them, and possible treatment approaches that might help. Do something today that makes you healthier tomorrow. Talk to you later. Have a Great Day!!


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