Written by Dr. Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, FACOG, Chief Medical Officer
Hot flashes and night sweats can seriously impact your quality of life. While prescription hormone replacement therapy is effective for the treatment of these menopause symptoms, many women may have personal or medical reasons to prefer non-hormonal options.
In this video, Bonafide Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Alyssa Dweck, discusses what causes hot flashes and night sweats, as well as the options available for addressing these frustrating symptoms.
Dr. Alyssa Dweck here. Today I thought I would discuss something that I see in my office on a day-to-day basis. It goes something like this: “Dr. Dweck, I’m having horrible hot flashes and night sweats. I can’t take hormone therapy. What can I do to manage this?”
Well first, let me reassure you you’re not alone. This is an incredibly common complaint, and I would say probably upwards of 70% of women suffer with vasomotor symptoms of menopause, many of whom go untreated and suffer needlessly.
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats: Causes
So, let’s talk about what’s going on. It seems that nobody really knows the exact cause of hot flashes. But it likely has something to do with an area of the brain called the thermoregulatory zone, which is quite responsive to the hormone estrogen. As estrogen levels plummet during menopause, this area of the brain is affected, and women get a sensation of overwhelming heat and difficulty managing temperature fluctuations.
What Do Hot Flashes Feel Like in Menopause?
The symptoms are all too common: it starts with a flushing from the chest up. Women turn beet red. They feel super-hot. And then all the sudden, water works of perspiration occur. And it really can be quite uncomfortable and very disruptive to day-to-day life.
Natural Remedies for Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
So, what can we do about this, that doesn’t involve taking hormone therapy? First, I recommend making multiple lifestyle changes. I recommend avoiding certain triggers that you identify might be bringing on hot flashes. Common triggers include caffeine intake, alcohol, stress and large meals.
In addition, I recommend altering diet. My favorite diet is the Mediterranean diet, but intermittent fasting may also be helpful. The Mediterranean diet specifically is low glycemic, limited in salt and sugar, and is heart healthy. In addition, exercise is very helpful: not only for stress reduction, but for general overall health.
In regard to supplements that can be used, I’m a fan of Relizen. Relizen, made from a Swedish flower, has actually been shown in clinical studies to help with vasomotor symptoms of menopause.
Some women rely on increasing the soy in their diet, or taking a supplement containing a phytoestrogen. This of course is not appropriate for women who are trying to avoid hormones altogether.
Other Hormone-free Treatments for Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
There are prescription medications that are available and indicated for vasomotor symptoms, including certain antidepressants and even one neurology medication that we use, and have borrowed from the neurology world, called gabapentin.
So, you can try any one of these methods, or combine them in an effort to feel better. The good news is, hot flashes and night sweats won’t last forever, so try to bear with it.