Hot Flashes: Why They Happen
and How to Stop Them

You might feel it in your face first, that sudden rush of heat. Your skin flushes, you start to sweat, and before you know it, you’re in the middle of a hot flash. 

If you’re a woman of a certain age, chances are you’ve had a hot flash — around 85% of menopausal women experience this uncomfortable symptom.[1] You don’t need to be female, or menopausal to experience hot flashes. Men can have hot flashes, and certain medications and other hormonal irregularities can trigger the rush of heat, sweating, and other symptoms. 

But what is a hot flash, exactly? Why do you have them, and what can you do to manage or prevent them?

In this article, we take an in-depth look at hot flashes and offer up some advice that might help you stay more comfortable and cool. 

What is a hot flash?

A hot flash is a sudden rush of warmth in your upper body, usually in your face, neck, and chest. Your skin flushes, and you start to sweat. Hot flashes are generally quick — they can last from 30 seconds to five minutes. When the flash passes, you might be left feeling cold and clammy. 

Some people experience additional symptoms, including:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Shaking
  • Feeling like blood is rushing through your body
  • Headaches

Many people have hot flashes while they’re sleeping. These are known as night sweats and can wake you up or cause insomnia. 

What causes hot flashes?

Decreased estrogen levels interfere with your body’s natural thermostat, signaling to your hypothalamus that your body temperature is too high. Your hypothalamus triggers your body’s physiological cooling response, just like it does on a hot day. This might sound familiar — your body cools itself by:

  • Dilating blood vessels near the surface of your skin, releasing heat, but also causes flushing.
  • Increasing your heartbeat
  • Simulating your sweat glands. The evaporation of sweat cools your skin.

These actions lower your temperature, but also trigger your hot flash symptoms.

In addition to the menopause-related hormonal issues that cause hot flashes, other factors contribute to hot flashes in men as well as women. For example, hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) causes increased thyroid hormone levels, which boost your metabolism, leading to increased temperature and sweating. 

Other non-menopausal causes of hot flashes include:

  • Health conditions like diabetes
  • Tumors
  • Medications, such as birth control, chemotherapy, and radiation
  • Stress and adrenaline

Common hot flash triggers

Certain lifestyle factors can also contribute to hot flashes. For example, spicy foods, alcohol, hot drinks, and caffeine are all known to raise your temperature, leading to a hot flash.

You might also find that being in a warm, stuffy room or wearing tight clothing can increase your risk of a hot flash.

Managing hot flashes

You can take steps to reduce the frequency and severity of your hot flashes with a few simple lifestyle adjustments. These changes can also help you identify your hot flash triggers. Recording your symptoms and tracking any changes as you implement lifestyle adjustments can show you what, if any, external factors contribute to your discomfort. 

Dietary changes

As mentioned, caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, and hot drinks are well-known consumable hot flash triggers. If you can’t imagine functioning without your morning cup of coffee, cut back in other ways. You could have just one cup of coffee in the morning or trying half-caf or green tea instead of the rocket-fuel you usually brew. In addition to contributing to hot flashes, caffeine also causes dehydration and elevates your heart rate, which can intensify your bothersome symptoms. 

Studies also show that soybeans, which contain phytoestrogens, can help control your hormone levels. You add delicious edamame, tofu, miso, and other delightful soy products to your diet. 

You might also find that following the Mediterranean diet helps ease your symptoms. Rich in fresh vegetables, fruit, and lean proteins, this diet is also known to help regulate blood sugar and support weight loss.

Exercise

Engaging in at least 30 minutes of vigorous physical activity every day might also reduce or even eliminate your hot flashes. Exercise helps regulate your hormone production, blood sugar, metabolism, and other factors that contribute to hot flashes. 

You might think that exercise will only make you hotter. While it’s true that exercise temporarily warms your body, the other benefits of daily physical activity make it worth the sweat. You could also consider swimming. It’s a great way to stay fit without stressing your joints or getting too hot. 

Meditation

Some people find that stopping what they’re doing and practicing slow, deep abdominal breathing during a hot flash makes the experience more bearable. Taking 15 minutes every morning and evening to practice deep breathing and meditation helps relieve stress and might reduce the frequency and intensity of your hot flashes. 

Evening meditation can also help you fall and stay asleep, which is especially helpful if you have frequent night sweats or insomnia.

Cooling clothing and products

Wearing light layers of clothing made from cool fabrics that wick sweat away from your body and dry quickly can also reduce your discomfort when a hot flash hits. You can take off layers and keep the sweat away from your skin to minimize that sticky, clammy feeling that lingers after a flash. 

If you tend to get night sweats, you can also try using cooling pillows, light bedsheets, and fans to stay comfortable throughout the night. You can also try to lower the temperature of your bedroom while you sleep. 

Preventing hot flashes with hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Of course, you can also address the root cause of your hot flashes — hormonal imbalances. Estrogen HRT can restore your hormones and eliminate your hot flashes and other distressing menopause symptoms. 

Here at HRT Wellness, we take your health and well-being seriously, offering customized HRT for men and women who have disruptive and uncomfortable symptoms due to hormonal problems. 

Start by completing our online questionnaire to help us determine if your symptoms might be due to a hormone issue. Our physicians provide private online consultations and order blood work to confirm your needs before prescribing bioidentical hormone therapy. 

Most of our patients begin to see a reduction in their symptoms and the return of their health and wellness within just a few weeks of treatment. 

So what are you waiting for? Don’t let another hot flash disrupt your life. Contact us today to start the screening process. 

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A hot flash is a sudden rush of warmth in your upper body, usually in your face, neck, and chest. Your skin flushes, and you start to sweat. Hot flashes are generally quick — they can last from 30 seconds to five minutes. When the flash passes, you might be left feeling cold and clammy. 

Decreased estrogen levels interfere with your body’s natural thermostat, signaling to your hypothalamus that your body temperature is too high. Your hypothalamus triggers your body’s physiological cooling response, just like it does on a hot day.

References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/hot-flashes-a-to-z

https://www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/menopause-hot-flashes#1

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hot-flashes-what-can-i-do

https://www.healthline.com/health/menopause/hot-flash-causes#takeaway

https://www.healthline.com/health/what-does-a-hot-flash-feel-like#frequency

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hot-flashes/symptoms-causes/syc-20352790

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/did-i-just-have-a-hot-flash-im-44