The menopause is a difficult time in any woman’s life; The time when you transition from a fertile state into an infertile one. It seems as though Mother Nature is out to get you during menopause.
Menopausal women can suffer from:
- hot flashes
- night sweats
- mood swings
- vaginal dryness
which doesn’t sound like anyone’s idea of a good time. The symptom which is most associated with the menopause is the ‘hot flash’: that feeling of intense and sudden heat which takes over the face and upper body. It should be mentioned that hot flashes do not only belong in the domain of the menopausal and perimenopausal woman; they can also occur during pregnancy and in men whose testosterone levels fall.
In addition to the feeling of heat which comes with a hot flash, sufferers can sometimes additionally suffer from
- a rapid heartbeat
- sweating, nausea
- feeling of suffocation
This article will explore what exactly is going on during a ‘hot flash’, as well as some ways you can make them feel a little more comfortable.
What exactly is going on in the female body during a ‘Hot Flash’?
The short answer to this, sadly, is that we don’t quite know. Scientists have not yet managed to find out exactly what happens during hot flashes, although they are currently conducting a number of studies on the subject. The reason for scientific ignorance on the subject is because hot flushes are quite different from other symptoms: most symptoms which take place in the body have causes which come from outside the body (for example, the fever which comes with a cold has been caused by a virus). Hot flashes, on the other hand, are almost entirely caused by internal factors in the body.
It all is connected to a Drastic Drop in Estrogen During Menopause
We do, however, have a vague idea of what goes on in the body to cause a hot flash. It is all connected to the drop in estrogen which takes place during the menopause, and to your hypothalamus (that hot flashes start in the brain has been suggested by the Wayne State University).
The hypothalamus is the part of your brain which (among other things) regulates the temperature of your body – it decides when your body is too hot or too cold and sends out the signals which cause your body to react to this. For example, if you are too hot, your hypothalamus instructs your blood vessels to widen to allow more blood through, your heart to pump blood faster, and for your sweat glands to release sweat to cool your skin down. This reaction is one which is incredibly helpful during the summer or when exercising, to prevent your internal organs from overheating.
However, when estrogen levels drop during the menopause or for any other cause, this somehow triggers the hypothalamus, convincing it that the body is too hot. The actions which help cool you down in the summer now bring the warmth of your blood towards the skin (where your heat-sensing nerves can feel it), which causes the uncomfortable feeling of heat that many women experience – Some women’s skin temperature can rise six degrees centigrade during a hot flash!
What can you do when a ‘Hot Flash’ strikes you?
While studies are still on-going about the direct link between estrogen levels and this particular reaction of the hypothalamus, the best ways to deal with hot flashes remain natural ones: suggestions include
- keeping cool (to keep hot flashes as comfortable as possible)
- avoiding spicy foods (which may heat the inside of the body and trigger a hot flash)
- reducing stress levels.
Exercise is frequently recommended, but while exercise is almost always beneficial, a recent study has concluded that it does not help with hot flashes.
Special Treat: Prepare yourself with Homemade Sorbet (dairy-free & raw). Not only does it cool you down, but it’s also a nice treat for difficult time. I ll post a recipe soon.
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