Author: Monica Costa-Moreno, A.P.
Hot flashes...only a woman knows how they feel. You are in a business meeting, out at dinner, in a movie theater or just sitting at home hosting a visit from friends...they come unannounced and ruin your moment. All of a sudden you feel an internal heat that may even make you break out into a sweat. They may be accompanied with palpitations, a feeling of anguish and a certain degree of anxiety, not to mention a whole lot of embarrassment. Some say hot flashes feel like being on a hot summer vacation, in a desert, all by yourself, and I know of no woman who wants such an experience.
As women begin the normal aging process, hormones change. Hot flashes can start upon the peri-menopausal stage of these changes, at menopause, and continue post menopause. They can also be triggered by other problems, such as policystic disease, uterine fibroids, and what is called “surgical menopause”, which is when menses are abruptly interrupted by surgery, such as an oopharectomy (removal of the ovaries) or hysterectomy.
When a woman starts feeling the changes of hormones taking place in her body, she becomes instantly aware of her age. However, even if aging may be a precursor, modern women have seen a tremendous impact of hot flashes starting as early as in their thirties. Stress levels are high in modern day women. They juggle family, professional and personal life agendas. Some have professions that require a great deal of traveling, with erratic sleep patterns.
Stress and modern life has exacerbated the symptoms of menopause, hence why today's woman is more likely to start the peri-menopausal stage much earlier than their mothers or grandmothers, and with more pronounced hot flashes, especially nocturnal ones with profuse sweating that interrupt sleep.
Hot flashes disrupt a woman's life in many ways. At work, she may feel apprehensive, expecting the heat in her chest, back or face, then the trickle of sweat on the forehead or back. It is difficult to perform, concentrate, do a presentation, travel or keep up the pace at work when one suffers from the symptoms of menopause and the unwanted hot flashes.
At home, the hot flashes would not be the only noticeable hormonal change. One too many of my patients discuss their low libido, irritability, anxiety and insomnia that accompany these changes in life.
In conventional medicine, a woman would normally be placed on hormone therapy, and perhaps a benzodiazepine for her anxiety. These types of treatments, however, exacerbate the condition and give a lot of other symptomatology and side effects. I will get into this with more details in my article on anxiety.
Through years of working with peri-menopausal and menopausal women, and being one myself, I have found that the best way to manage hot flashes and menopausal symptoms is the natural route; these treatments and therapies may include herbal and homoeopathic remedies, acupuncture and diet modification along with lifestyle changes. I have a specific liking for herbs such as black cohosh for hormone balance and pulsatilla for moodiness and restlessness. Melatonin functions well as a sleep aid, since we stop producing serotonin when we are menopausal, which slows or alters the production of melatonin (our sleep hormone) causing sleep disturbances. These are only a few among many effective ones.
Contrary to conventional medicine that may include hormones, there are no known side effects to these natural treatments. Some of my patients who have long suffered from hot flashes, hormonal insomnia and anxiety, as well as other symptoms, have found these natural remedies to be their source for long-term relief.