According to a Harvard study, hot flashes and night sweats can go on for up to 11 years post-menopause.
That means your coping mechanism for dealing with these highly inconvenient and uncomfortable events is multiplied in the middle of a heatwave—your hair is frizzy and standing up like a bush in your garden regardless of the last half hour you spent styling it. And forget makeup—whatever you put on is running down your face and you’ve taken on the raccoon look with your mascara betraying your eyelashes and settling into the fine lines under your eyes.
Can you relate?
But How Do You Fix This Mess?
There are ways around this menopausal mountain—some of them involve out of pocket medical expenses. There are integrative doctors who can save your sanity with bio-identical hormone treatments—patches, pellets, creams and more.
I’ve done them all—they do work, but they’re just not for everyone.
Cost is an issue and for some people, it’s just not medically appropriate—but you can discuss that with your medical professional.
The Coffee Culprit
One thing for sure, caffeine exacerbates hot flashes.
I know, I know…I haven’t given up my coffee either, but I dramatically changed my coffee habit and made only enough for one, maybe two cups in the morning and only in the morning.
Caffeine isn’t a bad thing—it’s been shown in studies to boost metabolism, power brain function and coffee drinkers have a dramatically lowered risk for type 2 diabetes—18 studies, 450,000+ participants showed that for each cup of coffee consumed, the risk of diabetes went down by 7%.
Obviously, you don’t want to be consuming a lot of coffee, but caffeine as a whole, isn’t a bad thing, to curb the hot flashes and night sweats, you need to be mindful of its consumption.
That goes for any hot beverage as well—coffee and tea may have the extra edge of caffeine (unless you choose a decaffeinated type of herbal tea), but hot beverages can also ratchet up the incidence of hot flashes and night sweats.
SOS On The Stress
I can speak from experience on this one—handling the stress with certain meditative techniques and breathing exercises.
I’ve heard lots of people say, “But I’m not stressed out!”
And I will argue with you—yes you are!
We all are—even if no stressful events are happening in our lives.
We still all deal with the hustle and bustle of life—whatever that looks like. We’re living in a toxic world which puts additional stress on our bodies (hence your wacky hormones giving you the gift of hot flashes and night sweats) and that adds up to a body that is stressed.
So don’t deny the stress—it’s there.
Instead, learn to meditate and breathe through these episodes.
I have found daily mindfulness and meditation help tremendously, as do some simple breathing techniques.
Daily mindfulness means finding and declaring your purpose (setting goals), being thankful (keeping a journal with gratitude) and working with your hot flashes, not against them.
I know it sounds weird, but hear me out—I’ve done it and it’s been great.
You can feel them coming on—when they start, they work their way up your body. By the time they get to the top of your head, you’re stressed out—maybe not freaking out (unless you’ve just had your hair and make up done for your daughter’s wedding—true story!), but you know what you’re going to get hit with.
As soon as you feel it, the minute you think you have one coming on, do this: close your eyes, and breathe deep.
Breathe in and hold it—feel the breath fill your lungs.
Breathe it out and allow it all to come out slow through your mouth. Draw in another deep breath—repeat this process three times.
While you’re doing this, picture in your mind your body relaxing, the hot flash leaving peacefully and that there’s calm and peace in the place of the hot flash.
I don’t know why exactly this works, but it’s amazingly effective.
Here is a list of supplements that can help with symptoms as well:
Chaste tree berry—specifically for hot flashes and night sweats.
According to experts at University Health New Daily, “In terms of menopause symptoms, chaste tree berry significantly decreases the frequency and severity of hot flashes after eight weeks of treatment compared to a placebo.”
Black Cohosh has been shown in another study, to help women decrease their hot flashes by up to 70%.
Magnesium is helpful as well. If you can take a warm (not hot) Epsom salt bath each night as part of your evening ritual before bed, you can do some breathing exercises in the tub and feel good going to bed.
*Incidentally, the research also shows that we sleep better nude—if you’ve been having trouble sleeping and wake up hot and sweaty in your PJ’s, try sleeping in the buff and see how you like it.
Primrose oil is another supplement used to help with women’s hormone fluctuation. It can help with the severity of hot flashes, but the studies are not conclusive how far it can help with the frequency.
As with any new supplement, work with your healthcare provider regarding dosage and if these particular supplements are right for you.
Sign Of The Times
Menopause is a part of life and for some women, it’s more than just “the change”, it’s a complete upheaval.
Children leave the nest, you’re suddenly dissatisfied with the path you’re on and feel like it’s “now or never” to get to where you want to go—I get that, big time.
There is an emotional connection to this big change happening in our bodies and I believe it’s on purpose.
Rather than mourn the change, it’s imperative that we embrace it and look forward to this transition, much like we did when we were having a baby.
There’s pain and discomfort involved, but if you can dig into the emotional side of what you’re facing and too, with your path in life—you can start to see a new path, a new future and one that is a little more independent (your kids are out of the house), and one that is ready for a change-perhaps it’s time to travel some more, start a new career or (gasp) a new relationship!
But Menopause Can Get Complicated
When I was in the height of menopausal symptoms, I was also dealing with a completely out of control autoimmune thyroid condition, Hashimoto’s.
I had 3 huge nodules on my thyroid, my weight had ballooned (as common with thyroid issues) to 237 pounds, my skin was ravaged by rosacea and I had plantar fasciitis—so bad, I could hardly walk across the room to get to the bathroom in the morning.
Menopause and Hashimoto’s. YIKES!
Here’s What I Did And Do Now
I was a complete mess—and felt hopeless.
I didn’t know where to begin—I just knew I had to do something!
Here are the exact things I did:
1) I started with the breathing (lifesaver!) just to get through the next hot flash. I still use that technique to help me fall asleep at night and right before I begin meditating.
2) I turned to daily meditation. I use an app called Brain.FM and for 15 minutes, I allow this app to give me a moment to just drift every morning before I start my work. I keep a notepad handy in case my brain decides to kick in—it helps me dump the thought and go back to meditating.
3) I worked on my sleep. Those Epsom salt baths I mentioned were a godsend, coupled with an early bedtime and a cool, dark bedroom. Hugely helpful.
4) I gave up dairy. My face was a MESS—I didn’t have the overly pink cheeks type of rosacea, I had the crusty kind, the disfiguring, nothing can hide it kind. I gave up all dairy except ghee for cooking and slowly my face started to heal.
5) I drank an anti-inflammatory collagen-rich smoothie every single morning. Not only did it help cool the inflammation I was dealing with (and the l-glutamine I added helped heal my gut), but it also helped me drop a lot of that thyroid weight I had gained because it kept me full and satisfied. Here’s how I get all that wonderful collagen in my smoothie.
6) I gave up the stressful exercise. And no, I didn’t take up yoga—I found yoga too stressful, LOL! But I did take up barre and I loved it. It provided stretching, strengthening, lengthening of the muscles and made me feel good—and my barre class had some yoga stretches in it so I’m sure those were helpful, too.
7) I hopped back on the water wagon. I drank a lot of water every single day—at least 100 ounces. There are a hundred things I can say about how this simple habit helped—I’m betting you know a lot of them, but suffice it to say, water helps cool inflammation and it worked well.
8) I ate an anti-inflammatory diet: lots of greens, clean, lean protein and good healthy fats like avocado, nuts, and olive oil. I made sure to eat wild salmon at least once a week.
9) I took fish oil. Not all fish oil supplements are alike, but ours is pretty impeccable. Within a few weeks, I could see the difference! Omega 3 fatty acids have been studied endlessly and they are proven to help hydrate and repair your skin AND cool inflammation—wouldn’t be without them.
10) I added fermented foods into my diet daily. I ate either sauerkraut or real fermented dill pickles for my gut—a critical component for anyone interested in optimal health. Read more about fermented foods here.
Making Menopause Meaningful
I think that’s a tough one for a lot of women who are in the throes of what seems to be, a merciless taskmaster when you’re dealing with menopause.
Add another condition (like Hashimoto’s) to the equation or just the hot and sweaty summer months, and you’ve got a recipe for misery.
TRY my suggestions! Give them a go—these are tried and true and they work!
And take a moment to reflect and look at your life—it’s changed, just like your body is now.
Now is the time for you to finally make time for yourself. Pay attention to what life is telling you—right now can be your time to flourish and make a new life!