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Hot flashes: is it just a menopause?

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“I expected them eventually, but not as soon and not as intense.”

Donna, 48, talked about how her hot flashes came as unexpectedly as her perimenopause at 39. “Menopause wasn’t on my mind, so when I started getting hot flashes, I was concerned it may have been due to something more serious. I kayak and play tennis, so I thought I was developing a sensitivity to the sun.”

A hot flash (or “hot flush”) is the sudden feeling of overwhelming warmth in the upper body[1]. It is most intensely felt on the face, over the neck and chest, which may also turn red and flush and could cause sweating. Sweat depletes the body of heat, which may cause chills, feeling like hot and cold flashes. Night sweats are hot flashes that happen at night -  they may simply disrupt your sleep or be a sign of a more serious ailment. Hot flashes and fatigue are frequently occurring symptoms, as well as heart palpitations, headache, fatigue, faintness, and anxiety. Duration, severity and frequency vary, but on average, they last less than five minutes, and frequency varies from 10 per day to several times per week[2]. This can increase during perimenopause and peak approximately one year after the final menstrual period. They can persist from six months to as long as 5 years, usually decreasing in frequency and intensity over time after menses cease. It is the main reason women seek medical care – it is estimated that during the next five decades, 27-37 million American women may experience menopausal hot flashes, and these symptoms may be debilitating enough in about 7 million menopausal women[3].

Commonly caused by/associated with menopause and the resulting fluctuation in ovarian hormones, hot flashes can also rarely be symptoms of more serious conditions such as heart disease or bone loss.

Donna, now celebrating her seventh post-menopause anniversary - taking into account 3 years for perimenopause - credits her choice of professionals. “Everything is so interconnected now, it’s not wise to assume that a traditional symptom is automatically caused by a traditional condition. My doctors practice homeopathy and traditional medicine. Taking a whole-body approach helped us get to the core of what was causing my hot flashes.”

A holistically-minded doctor will discuss your lifestyle, analyze for any risk factors that can make you susceptible as well as check for hormone imbalances which will help rule out other causes. Knowing the causes can give you peace of mind and keep you in optimal health.

What are the causes of hot flashes?

Estrogen and the body’s “thermostat”

  • Ovarian hormones such as estrogen and progesterone fluctuate in the years leading up to menopause, and studies show a direct correlation between estrogen loss and the hypothalamus, which regulates body temperature.
  • Irregular estrogen to the hypothalamus results in a defect in thermoregulatory function, pumping the hormone adrenaline into the bloodstream. As the adrenaline circulates through the body, it brings on a number of physiological changes.
  • The heart beats faster than normal, constricting and dilating the blood vessels, a process know as VMS (vasomotor symptoms). As the heart forces blood through the vessels to the muscles, heart, and other vital organs, pulse rate and blood pressure go up.

Lifestyle Triggers

  • Stress – Chronic stress can cause or exacerbate many health problems, from mental health to cardiovascular disease to heart attacks and stroke.
  • Alcohol - Particularly wine - it contains antioxidants that can increase your blood flow and sulfites , tyramine and histamine  which are linked directly to hot flashes.
  • Sleep deprivation - Lack of sleep interrupts your circadian rhythms and perpetuate a pattern of unhealthy sleep habits.
  • Caffeine:  Avoid coffee, black tea, or other high caffeine sources like colas.
  • Diet: A diet high in starches and sugars exacerbate symptoms by causing inflammation. 

Other causes

Rarely, hot flashes and night sweats are caused by something other than menopause.

  • Hypothalmic dysfunction: As body temperature is regulated by the hypothalamus, any upset in that region of the brain can create disruptions in the body’s temperature.
  • Hyperthyroidism: When the thyroid gland oversecretes, it can create hot flashes as well as a heightened sensitivity to heat.
  • Genetics: Studies link a mutation in a protein coding gene to hot flashes.
  • Risk factors: Anxiety levels, certain medications or medication side effects.
  • More serious conditions: Rarely, night sweats can be a constitutional symptom of lymphoma.

Prevention and treatment

Work with professionals dedicated to holistic excellence in providing state-of-the-art exclusive treatment for your healing, by yourself or with their attentive, one-to-one consultation. Together, you can discover the root causes of your discomfort and apply a whole-body approach to the solution.

Get tested

Hormonal imbalance

Hormonal imbalances and fluctuations are also responsible for other uncomfortable symptoms such as brain fog and bowel distress, each of which can also lead to indicate more serious conditions.

Because Health provides state-of the art and accurate testing for imbalances in progesterone, estrogen, FSH and LH. We offer white glove phlebotomy service for specimen collection at home, or you can visit one of our welcoming longevity centers for an on-site test.

Bone loss

A bone loss DEXA density test will assess whether any change in density to your bones is in line with your other natural aging markers or if it indicates a serious condition.

Lifestyle Changes

“I run my own business, so I never had time to manage stress, despite being scolded for a variety of reasons over the years,” said Merrill, 53, a fashion designer. “Then I ran headlong into hot flashes and worked with my doctor to discover the root causes. I had a choice between making adjustments to my business or to my lifestyle -- the decision was easy.” 


  • Manage/monitor your body temperature
  • Avoid trigger foods: sugars, spices, caffeine, alcohol
  • Don’t smoke
  • Mange your weight

Holistic Treatments

  • Acupuncture
  • Behavior modification/stress management (yoga, meditation)

Donna emphasizes that she is serious about “celebrating” her post-menopausal anniversary, and even marking the occasion with an acupuncture session. “The entire experience…learning about the causes of my hot flashes was just the realization of how I was already on the right path with my health and fitness, but it was time to adapt. Those modifications helped and in the long run led to a fuller lifestyle.”

Hormone testing is critical, not only to identify the problem itself. In a comprehensive, holistic approach, it is necessary for the doctor to be able to determine the course of treatment and restore the body to optimal health.

Primary Medical/Scientific Sources:

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