Hot Flashes and Menopause
Why do women get hot flashes in perimenopause? Well, it has to do with changes to their internal thermostat. Everyone is born with a “preset” inner temperature regulator that helps manage temperature changes without causing immediate sweating or shivering. For example, most can jog to the mailbox on a chilly morning without a coat and get back in the house before getting too cold. That’s because the inner thermoregulatory system provides a temperature buffer that prevents feeling too cold from the cool morning breeze. But if outside for several minutes, it would feel very cold!
Hormones start changing around age 40 in most women and cause fluctuations in estrogen that influences their thermoregulatory zone. The temperature buffer is less effective, so even small temperature changes are felt more quickly, especially when it comes to heat. For example, if a woman gets hot while sleeping during perimenopause, she may start sweating profusely and wake up soaking wet! Then she starts shivering because her skin is now cold and wet. Small temperature changes can cause this cycle to repeat several times a day to several times an hour, and research shows hot flashes continue in many women well past menopause (although frequency and intensity lessen in most women).
If you are experiencing hot flashes in menopause that interfere with your quality of life, consider talking with your physician. Hormone therapy has been shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes. Non-hormone complementary and alternative medicines are plentiful and may help some women although the evidence for using is not strong. Avoiding hot spicy foods, getting regular sleep, meditation, acupuncture, cooling pillows, fans, yoga, and certain herbals may also be helpful!