Hot flashes refer to sudden and intense hot sensations on your face and upper body. Often hot flashes are preceded or accompanied by other symptoms, such as a rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, headache, weakness or a feeling of suffocation.
Hot flashes are most common in women going through menopause, the time when the menstrual periods stop and many hormonal changes are occurring in the body. The decrease in estrogen in the body that accompanies menopause is the main cause of hot flashes.
Factors like obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, excessive stress, warm baths, saunas, eating spicy foods, and excessive drinking may worsen the symptoms.
How frequently hot flashes occur varies from woman to woman. Some may have hot flashes for a very short time during menopause, while others may have hot flashes for life. As time passes, hot flashes become less severe. However, not every woman going through menopause experiences hot flashes.
Hot flashes can be very uncomfortable as well as annoying as they can distract you from work, cause excessive sweating and make it harder to sleep properly at night, even leading to insomnia.
If you are having problems leading a normal life due to hot flashes, you can get treatment for them. You can opt for medications, therapies or try some simple home remedies.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for hot flashes in women.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is very helpful in treating hot flashes. Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar helps regulate toxins that the body is trying to eliminate through perspiration. This in turn reduces the incidence and intensity of hot flashes and night sweats.
- Dilute one to two tablespoons of organic and unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a glass of water, vegetable juice or fruit juice.
- Drink it once or twice daily until the symptoms subside.
Soy foods help balance hormone levels and have some estrogenic activity and hence can effectively treat hot flashes.
After analyzing 19 studies, researchers concluded that soy isoflavone supplements may also help, at least over time. This study was published in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society in 2012.
Try to have two servings of soy foods per day. This can be two glasses of soy milk, seven ounces of tofu, or one-half cup of edamame.
Being high in phytoestrogens, particularly lignans, flaxseed is another good home remedy for hot flashes. In a 2007 study by Mayo Clinic researchers, 29 women with hot flashes were asked to eat 1.5 ounces (40 grams) of crushed flaxseed daily for six weeks. At the end of the study, the average number of hot flashes dropped by half and their severity fell by 57 percent.
Plus, flaxseed helps improve mood, reduce joint and muscle pain, reduce chills and lessen sweating.
Try to eat 1.5 ounces of ground flaxseed daily. Simply add a few tablespoons to your oatmeal, yogurt, soup or smoothie every day.
An age-old remedy for hot flashes is sage. According to Ellen Phillips, author of “Everything You Need to Know About Menopause,” sage tea can help reduce the symptoms of hot flashes to a great extent. Sage contains flavonoids, volatile oils and tannins that also promote overall health.
- Add one tablespoon of fresh sage leaves (or one teaspoon of dried sage) to a cup of boiling water.
- Let it steep for five minutes, then strain.
- Add some lemon and honey for taste.
- Drink this tea two or three times daily.
5. Red Clover
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, red clover is an effective herbal remedy for hot flashes as well as night sweats associated with menopause. This herb contains plant isoflavones that have estrogen-like properties that help relieve hot flashes.
- Add one or two teaspoons of dried red clover to a cup of boiling water.
- Cover, steep for 30 minutes and then strain.
- Drink up to three cups of this herbal tea daily.
Note: As red clover can influence other medications, speak with your doctor before trying it.
6. Vitamin E
Vitamin E has estrogen and can effectively eliminate or reduce the severity of hot flashes in menopausal women. It also replaces necessary electrolytes that the body loses through sweating.
In a study at Tarbiat Modarres University in Tehran, 54 patients were given 400 IU vitamin E soft gel capsules daily for several weeks. At the end of the study, there was a reduction in the severity of hot flashes among patients.
- A daily dose of 400 IUs of vitamin E capsule is recommended to reduce hot flashes. Take one 200 IU capsule twice a day with meals.
- Also include leafy greens, tropical fruits and nuts in your diet as they are excellent sources of vitamin E.
Note: Vitamin E may take three to six weeks before you notice a difference.
7. B Vitamins
B vitamins, such as B5, B2, B12, B6 and B3, can help treat and reduce the severity of hot flashes. They help regulate hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Also, B vitamins keep the mucous membranes of the vagina healthy, reduce depression, relieve anxiety and correct loss of appetite.
- Eat foods rich in vitamin B5 like fish, whole-grain breads, whole-grain cereals, legumes, avocados, nuts, eggs and bananas.
- Eat vitamin B2 foods like milk and eggs.
- Eat vitamin B12 foods like soy products, eggs, milk and fish.
- Eat vitamin B6 foods like sunflower seeds, turkey, dried fruits and bananas.
- Eat vitamin B3 foods like green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans and peas.
Yoga exercises that involve physical postures (asanas), breathing (pranayama) and deep relaxation (savasana) can help reduce hot flashes in perimenopausal or newly postmenopausal women.
It can also help combat symptoms like mood swings, anxiety, depression and sleep disruption.
Take a weekly 90-minute restorative yoga class for at least eight weeks to reduce the number of hot flashes and their severity to a great extent. Try to perform the yoga poses and postures correctly. Also give importance to proper breathing techniques.
The ancient healing art of acupuncture can also improve hot flashes. A study of 267 women published in the journal Menopause found that women who took 10 acupuncture treatments during 12 weeks had far fewer hot flashes. These women also slept better and had less pain. On the downside, the follow-up results at six and 12 months showed that the therapy may not have long-term effects.
When thin needles are pricked on specific nerve points on the body, it helps the release of hormones like cortisol, endorphins and serotonin. This in turn helps reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
Get acupuncture treatment done by an experienced practitioner twice a week for 10 weeks to notice improvement in your condition.
Exercise may not help reduce hot flashes, but it will definitely help you feel better. Women who exercise on a regular basis feel better overall, both physically and mentally.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity (walking, dancing, swimming, biking) five days a week. Also do 15 to 20 minutes of strength training two to three times a week. Other recommended exercises are deep breathing, stretching and pelvic floor exercises.
- Practice deep breathing for 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes in the evening and at the onset of hot flashes.
- Keep your bedroom cool at night. Open the windows for fresh air, use fans or opt for air conditioning. You can try “chill pillows” to lay your head on at night.
- Dress in layers so you can easily remove some of your clothes at the onset of hot flashes.
- If you feel a hot flash coming on, sip a glass of cold water, lemon water or any kind of cold drink.
- Avoid hot and spicy foods, caffeinated beverages and alcohol as these can trigger hot flashes.
- If you’re overweight or obese, lose weight to ease hot flashes.
- Soak in early morning sunshine for at least 15 minutes to nourish your body with vitamin D.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Dr. Shwetha Shrivatsa, MBBS (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)
How long does a hot flash last?
Typically hot flashes start as a sudden sensation of heat centered on the upper chest and face that rapidly becomes generalized. The sensation of heat often lasts from two to four minutes, is often associated with profuse sweating and occasionally palpitations, and is sometimes followed by chills, shivering, and a feeling of anxiety.
Hot flashes may range from an average of less than one each day to as many as one per hour during the day and night.
Can any food items trigger hot flashes?
Excess sugar, alcohol, caffeine, dairy products, meat products and spicy foods are commonly known to cause or aggravate hot flashes. Avoiding the triggers and including lifestyle changes as exercise and diet can significantly improve the symptoms.
Are hot flashes a sign of cancer?
The body utilizes processes like sweating and hot flashes to lower the body temperature by letting the heat out of the body through the skin. Those suffering from cancer may experience sweating due to fever, a tumor, or side-effect of the cancer treatment they are undergoing. Or, one may experience hot flashes without any disease due to being in a warm climate, during exercise or as a symptom of menopause.
Are flaxseeds helpful in treating hot flashes?
Flaxseed is an excellent plant based alternative therapy for mild hot flashes. Flaxseeds contain omega-3 fatty acids which are known to be beneficial for heart health and lignans which are antioxidants with potential to prevent cancer.
However if the symptoms do not improve with the use of flaxseeds one should talk to their Gynecologist about other pharmacological treatments.
Do hot flashes have any health benefits?
No. Hot flashes have a not so positive impact on quality of daily life. Studies have shown an association of hot flashes with increased cardiovascular risk and greater bone loss.
Please provide some additional tips to manage hot flashes for the benefit of our readers.
Women with mild hot flashes may benefit from complementary medicines. However studies have not shown them to be more beneficial than placebo.
- Plant based Estrogens: Soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, grains and red clover are some examples for plant based estrogens. Women with history of breast cancer should avoid plant based estrogens.
- Herbal treatment: Evening primrose oil, ginseng and black cohosh are the most commonly used herbs. Women with history of breast cancer and liver disease should avoid usage of herbs.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: Evaluation and treatment for depression is helpful in some women as menopausal women commonly have mood disorders.
About Dr. Shwetha Shrivatsa, MBBS: Dr. Shrivatsa is a Board Certified OBGYN practicing in Philadelphia. She has been caring for women at Greater Philadelphia Health Action Inc. and has also been overseeing Women’s Health services as a Director.
Her area of expertise includes treatment of Fibroid, Menstrual Irregularities and Pelvic pain with special interest in Minimally Invasive Surgery. She enjoys teaching medical students and resident physicians at Temple University Hospital as a Clinical Assistant Professor.
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