The origin of a hot flash or night sweat can tend to be confusing even for most doctors. They believe it is related to sex hormone fluctuations which is only part of story. My 33 years in the women’s health field allowed me to use my empirical evidence of observation to learn the real cause and solutions to this issue. Most women want to avoid medication for this problem, but don’t want drive their partner crazy by ripping the covers on and off all night! So let’s break it down the root cause and the actual “trigger” for this nasty menopausal symptom.
Hot Flashes defined: A sudden brief flushing and sensation of heat caused by dilation of skin capillaries usually associated with menopausal endocrine imbalance —called also hot flush.
Source: Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary
Hot Flashes are actually caused by a common sex hormonal imbalance among women that gets worse closer to menopause.
In a modern society excess mental stress can cause the stress hormone, cortisol, to rise. Cortisol buffers us from stress, however, if the demand for cortisol is high, the body cannot keep up with the demand. To compensate, the body will steal a valuable sex hormone, progesterone, to make the needed cortisol. This is leaves a woman with more estrogen, a condition called “estrogen dominance”. This is not ideal because progesterone is the hormone that stabilizes blood sugar, aids in weight, mood and sleep while warding off PMS/menopausal symptoms. When estrogen is dominant, this tends to cause blood sugar fluctuations, weight gain, excess hunger, fluid retention, anxiety, insomnia, low libido and hot flashes and night sweats.
Hot Flashes are “triggered” at certain times of the day due to blood sugar falling.
When women’s hormones become imbalanced as explained, blood sugar is very unsteady. When combined with certain patterns of eating or curtained foods/drinks it will exacerbate these blood sugar fluctuations leading to blood sugar crashes triggering the hot flash/night sweats occur.
Simple diet/lifestyle changes and increasing progesterone will diminish or eliminate hot flashes/night sweats.
What can be done to avoid hot flashes and night sweats?
First, you need to balance your sex hormones by increasing progesterone which will balance “estrogen dominance”. I recommend that my clients supplement their progesterone by using a natural progesterone cream daily. In my book, The Hormone Shift, there is a symptoms questionnaire to indicate low progesterone. The list relates to any PMS/Menopausal symptoms or issues with weight, mood or sleep.
After menopause estrogen levels start to fall slightly but progesterone levels become almost nonexistent. The main source of progesterone (pre-menopause) comes from where the egg exists during ovulation. So at menopause, ovulation ceases and progesterone drops dramatically causing blood sugar to be less stable. Increasing progesterone will stabilize blood sugar and aid “estrogen dominance”.
Next is to work on your diet so you can be sure to stabilize blood sugar. These tips will help.
Common Hot Flash Triggers & their Solutions:
Not eating enough fat, fiber or protein throughout the day. Blood sugar cannot stabilize without these macronutrients because they oppose sugar/carbohydrates and slow down their absorption stabilizing blood sugar.
SOLUTION: Have meals consist of at least 4 – 5 ounces of protein, a tablespoon of fat along with green vegetables or a high-fiber carbohydrate such as oats, brown rice or sweet potatoes.
Eating too many simple sugars or refined carbohydrates that lack fiber. These foods contain excess simple sugars or are white flour-based which tend to wreak havoc on blood sugar. Foods such as bread, crackers, muffins, cake cookies etc.) Blood sugar will fluctuate due to simple sugars breaking down quickly.
SOLUTION: Limit simple sugars and be sure to pair them with fat and protein such as a rice cake (simple sugar) with natural almond butter (fat and protein).
Consuming too much caffeine or alcohol. This causes blood sugar to rise and fall quickly.
SOLUTION: If you add heavy cream, coconut oil or other MTC oil (medium chain triglycerides) to your coffee it will balance the caffeine and your blood sugar.
If you stick with clear alcohols due to their lower sugar content and pair them with diet soda/soda water or try a dry red wines, this will help. Drinks mixed with juices or consuming sweet wines will cause more blood sugar fluctuations.
Excess mental/emotional stress. This will cause the body to go into the “fight or flight” mode causing the body to release blood sugar to prepare. The body will then release insulin bringing down the blood sugar and possibly causing it to crash.
SOLUTION: Aim to relax daily for at least 20 minutes using soundwave therapy, meditation, yoga or deep breathing. This will have great effects on stabilizing emotions as well as blood sugar.
Having processed snacks, alcohol or caffeine close to bedtime. This will cause reactive hypoglycemia as the blood sugar rises and falls quickly.
SOLUTION: Have a protein/fat combined snack before bed to stabilize blood sugar and allow it to be maintained throughout the night. Try nuts or nut butter and an apple, full fat yogurt or a protein shake.
Women tell me that when they balanced their hormones they lost weight and improved their mood, sleep and libido. So their life is a bit hotter and flashier but fans, cold showers and throwing off the covers are a thing of the past.
About the author:
Dawn Cutillo has been a guest on national shows, such as CBS The Doctors, The Meredith Vieira Show, Daytime, Fox, & Tribune speaking on natural hormone balancing explained in her book, The Hormone Shift. Her goal is to empower women who have been frustrated with the lack of medical and holistic answers on issues of stubborn weight as well as PMS/menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.
Please feel free to contact her with any questions firstname.lastname@example.org