Sunday, December 18, 2005

Hot Flashes and Their Triggers

by Jenny May Clermont

With the added hustle and bustle (or stress) of the holiday season you may have noticed your hot flashes on the rise. This could be due to several reasons, increased caffeine consumption, increased sugar consumption (lets face it - maintaining a balanced diet is very difficult this time of year) increased alcohol consumption, etc. Menopause Hot flashes are controllable, but before you can control them you need to understand what causes them.

Hormones affect the brain your entire life -- before, during, and after menopause and oddly enough it's changes in the hypothalamus that generate hot flashes. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that is responsible for regulating body temperature as well as appetite, sleep cycles and sex hormones.

When the hypothalamus mistakenly senses that the woman is too warm, it starts a chain of events to cool her down - after all that is its job. Blood vessels near the surface of the skin dilate (enlarge), to increase blood flow in an attempt to radiate (lose) body heat. This is what produces that red, flushed look to the face and neck. Perspiration may also be triggered in attempt to further cool the body (because as perspiration evaporates, body heat is reduced). An increased pulse rate and a sensation of rapid heart beating sometimes also occur and this whole scenario is often followed by a cold chill. Familiar?

There is hope of controlling annoying hot flashes. But it's up to you to recognize your hot flash triggers. Triggers vary from woman to woman . Some possible hot flash triggers are listed below:

  • External heat, like hot rooms, hot weather, hair dryers, hot tubs, and saunas Stress or strong emotions
  • Hot drinks or foods
  • Spicy drinks or foods
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine (this is a common one)
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Some prescription drugs (such as tamoxifen and raloxifene)
  • Exercise extremes -- lack of exercise and strenuous exercise are both associated with an increased incidence of hot flashes

It may be helpful for you to keep a record of when your hot flashes occur and what you were doing at the time. This will help to reveal a pattern of activities or foods that should be avoided.
There are many options for hot flash relief, including lifestyle changes, prescription drugs, and complementary and alternative medicines. Some of which we have covered in past newsletters - just simply check the archives.


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