Menopause Madness – Hot flushes and flashes
Are you ashamed of being a menopausal women? Do you try to hide your symptoms like a dirty secret? Do you feel our declining oestrogen is ruling your life and your mind? If so, you are certainly not alone.
A recent survey has revealed that half of women going through the menopause are ashamed to speak about it and 40% felt that the symptoms were worse than they had expected (Daily Mail, May 2016). Yet there are 1.9 million women going through this at any one time in the UK alone. So how many of us are hot flushing, weight gaining, night sweating, grumpy, forgetful and avoiding painful sex all over the world? Millions and millions. So why is something so normal so taboo?
Well the Sassista motto is your life, your choice. You can choose to be miserable for the duration of your menopause, which is anything from 2 years to 12; or you can take control and do something about it. We are opting for action. So this is the start of our menopause madness series in which we will find good advice and test various ‘remedies’.
We are staring with, what is for most women the most uncomfortable and distressing symptom - hot flushes or flashes.
According to a MORI poll, 79% of menopausal women experience these nasty little episodes. The usual response to going bright red and pouring with sweat is one of embarrassment. For some of us, the symptoms are so intense that it makes you panicky. We feel out of control and unattractive – and imagine everyone in the room is looking at us. The 3-5 minute the episode lasts feels like a long hot day in hell.
Here are nine simple things you can do to, at least alleviate, the feeling of fire coursing through your body.
Identify and trigger foods. Many of us find that certain foods and drinks bring on a hot flush or flash in minutes or even seconds. Common triggers are coffee, tea, alcohol, sugar and spicy foods. So a vindaloo with a glass of chianti, washed down with a creamy dessert and coffee is not a good night out any more! Opt for zero-caffeine, low-sugar healthy foods. If you are groaning inside, fear not, when the menopause is over you can make up for lost time.
Diet. Including phytoestrogens in your diet such as soya, chickpeas, lentils, flaxseed, sesame, sunflower seeds and sprouting mung beans will help balance the declining oestrogen in your body. However, if you have a history of breast or ovarian cancer (self or family) get advice first.
Exercise.It seems counter intuitive that something which makes you sweat will reduce the sweaty symptoms of hot flushes and flashes. However, exercise changes the balance of muscle to fat and will help you lose weight – both of which will reduce the symptoms.
HRT. Now, while the Sassistas never promote different medical treatments (we are not doctors and so cannot) we do know that many women swear by the benefits. Others are concerned by reports of increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. NICE (National Institute for healthcare Excellence) has reviewed the literature and stated that more women should be offered this solution. At least talk to your doctor and understand the options, pros and cons, then make an informed rather than fear-driven decision.
Supplements. A number of herbal remedies are said to reduce the severity of symptoms. Pine bark, black cohosh and evening primrose are all said to help. Another interesting approach is to soak flax seed overnight in water and drink the liquid in the morning. Apparently, this acts like oestrogen and so reduces the number of hot flushes and flashes. Again, if there is a history of breast or ovarian cancer for you or the family avoid this. Other supplements include homeopathic remedies such as Lachesis. A good homeopath will prescribe the right dose for your symptoms.
Attitude. Why are you ashamed? You are a Sassy women who happens to be hot for a few minutes. Yes people might notice. No doubt their thoughts vary from sympathy to discomfort. Many men will be thinking ‘Oh no, hormone attack. Look away. Look away!’ The women will usually feel your pain with you. But trying to cover up will only increase your stress – and stress will make the symptoms worse and last longer. Try naming the hot elephant in the room and simply state ‘I’m getting hot, it will go in a few seconds.’ Then just carry on. Believe us, no-one is going to run away screaming ‘She’s a crazy sweat-ball!’ The stress of trying to cover your discomfort is reduced and so the flush/flash will be shorter.
Layer your clothes. Your body’s homeostatic response which regulates temperature is simply not operating well, so you have to do some of the work for it. Wear layers rather than big jumpers. As soon as you feel the start of the internal fire, take off a few layers. Yes, you will probably be freezing within minutes, but then you have the layers ready to hand.
Drink plenty of water.A dehydrated body is under stress and you will be losing water through sweating, thereby increasing the pressure. Drink plenty of plain water – at least 2 litres a day. The added advantage is that you skin will look great and it will assist the weight loss.
Mind control. Pat Duckworth, an expert in menopause and managing symptoms through cognitive hypnotherapy, treats hot flushes by changing the mind set and creating a feeling of control. In her best-selling book, Hot Women, Cool Solutionsshe gives a whole raft of visualisation techniques and self-hypnosis instructions for taking control when the heat starts firing up.
So the message is to take control. It is your body and you can manage it.
Next time we will look at passion-killing, sleep-disrupting night sweats.