Hot flashes are episodes of a sudden and intense feeling of warmth experienced by many, especially by women during the post-menopausal stage. While declining levels of hormones in women is considered as the main culprit behind hot flashes, it can also be caused by stress, anxiety, panic attacks, ovarian disorders and as an adverse effect of certain cancer treatments and medications. Read on to familiarize yourself with all the possible treatments that you can adapt for getting rid of hot flashes.
Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Being the most traditional and a very well known treatment for hot flashes, hormonal therapy has been found to decrease the incidence of hot flashes by 80-90%. This method involves oral administration of estrogen or the usage of trans-dermal patches of estrogen for replenishing the depleted levels of hormones in the body that are primarily responsible for causing hot flashes. To make the treatment more effective, estrogen is mostly administered along with progesterone in the form of progetin.
However, the NIH sponsored study conducted by Women’s health initiative has found that post-menopausal hormone therapy can pose long term risks like heart stroke, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, etc. Hence, its usage is largely restricted for extreme cases and great care is taken while using this therapy by using safe doses of hormones for a very short duration of time.
Alternative Medical Supplements
Considering the side effects that hormonal therapy is accompanied with, many studies have been conducted to evaluate the efficacy of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors or anti-depressants for the treatment of hot flashes. The fluctuations in hormonal levels directly alter the neurotransmitter pathways in the brain thus activating the heat generating regions in the brain. Medications that stabilize and keep these pathways in check have hence been used as an alternative to minimize the number of side effects.
Also termed as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antidepressants like prozac, loprinzi, celexa, lexapro, etc., block the re-uptake of serotonin from the neuronal synapses thereby, maintaining high levels of serotonin in the brain that governs an individual’s emotional well-being. It is also known to play a role in regulating body heat and in improving mood swings, anxiety disorders and irritability in patients experiencing hot flashes.
Several studies conducted for evaluating the role of antidepressants in treating hot flashes have reported that patients noticed a difference in the severity of hot flashes in about a week’s time after using anti-depressant medications. Even though, the exact mechanism by which anti-depressants can treat hot flashes is not clearly known, these drugs are used “off-label” for treating hot flashes.
However, it is extremely important to talk to your doctor before you start taking anti-depressants since, in many cases the adverse effects can outnumber its benefits and the sudden withdrawal of anti-depressants can cause major side effects like nausea, headaches, suicidal tendencies, etc.
Other pharmaceutical drugs like mild sedatives, blood pressure medications like clonidine and seizure medications like gabapentin that seem totally unrelated to hot flashes have also been used in its treatment. However, in most cases the side effects and the risks accompanied by these medications out weight the potential benefits associated with decreasing the intensity of hot flashes, making it mandatory for you to seek medical advice before using them.
Even though, FDA does not give approval for alternative practices, scientific evidence accumulated over the past few decades have proven the following alternatives to be effective in treating hot flashes. Moreover, natural ways of treating hot flashes are least invasive and the safest since, they are free of most side effects that are caused by medications.
Plant-based-diets like soy foods, flax seeds, red clover, black cohosh etc., are rich in phytoestrogens, chemical compounds that are basically estrogen mimetics. By possessing estrogen-like properties, they help relief the symptoms of hot flashes by affecting the same areas of the brain that are involved in regulating body temperature. A few side effects have been reported in a few patients thereby, making it mandatory for you to consult a doctor before including these supplements in your hot flashes treatment regimen.
Increasing the intake of vitamin E to 600-800 mg/ day has been found to be very effective in reducing the intensity and severity of hot flushes. Foods rich in vitamin E include wheat germ, whole-grain breads, cooked cereals, nuts like almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, raw peanuts with skins, sweet potatoes, rye, butter, asparagus, spinach, avocado, broccoli, apples, apricots, blackberries, safflower, sunflower seeds and soy oils.
It is known to mimic the effects of estrogen by acting as a potent anti-oxidant that helps the body in preventing the accumulation of toxins in the body. By providing protection against oxidative stress, it combats hot flashes, thereby easing the symptoms like anxiety, irritability, mood swings, hormonal imbalances that are associated with hot flashes.
Besides, it also helps in replenishing the electrolytes that are lost during excessive perspiration that occurs during a hot flash. When taken as supplements, they are most effective, when taken for about six weeks during meal times since, it is better absorbed after meals. While consuming the recommended levels is considered relatively safe, patients who are on hypertensive drugs, diabetic and heart patients should use vitamin E only under the strict provision of a doctor.
Hormonal Balancing Therapies
An increase in physical activity can do wonders in soothing your mind and in improving blood circulation which, in turn leads to the correction of hormonal imbalances in the body. The symptoms of hot flashes are worsened in people who lack physical activity and are overweight.
Regular exercise also stimulates the production of “feel good” hormones like dopamine, serotonins and natural pain killers like endorphins which, act in concert to relief the mental symptoms like anxiety and depression associated with hot flashes. Besides walking, swimming, jogging, etc., breathing exercises also work wonders in reducing mood swings and the distressing symbols of hot flashes.
Relaxation Therapies To Relief Stress
Meditation, yoga, a good massage and acupuncture therapy can help you get rid of anxious thoughts, stress and have a better control over your emotions to beat the symptoms of hot flashes. Practicing slow and measured breathing at home for about six times in an hour has significantly lowered the frequency of hot flashes in many patients.
Yet another effective therapy is hypnotic relaxation therapy that has helped most women deal with sleep disturbances, social interaction difficulties and other interferences associated with hot flashes.
Lastly, it is important to follow certain steps at home to be able to manage hot flashes better. Keeping the room well ventilated, wearing light weighted and breathable clothes and consuming plenty of cold water are certain measures that can be helpful in mitigating the symptoms of hot flashes.
In conclusion, it has been widely accepted that the best approach of dealing with hot flashes is by adapting any of the mentioned treatments in conjunction with healthy lifestyle changes and avoiding potential triggers for an overall health improvement in patients suffering from hot flashes.