New research shows extreme changes in body temperature can help regulate hot flushes in menopausal women.
New research shows extreme changes in body temperature can help regulate hot flushes in menopausal women. Wavebreakmedia

Easing hot flushes without expense

Living Naturally with Olwen Anderson

ONE of the most challenging of the menopausal symptoms, I think, is hot flushes.

Some women manage to get through menopause without them, others struggle with them for years. Hot flushes - or as some call them, power surges - can range from a mildly increased sense of warmth up to a sudden intense sense of raging internal heat, accompanied by a lather of sweat, perhaps redness too.

Uncomfortable and embarrassing.

Worse, these flushes can disrupt the sleep a menopausal woman needs so desperately. Overnight hours can be punctuated by constant waking; blankets off, sweating, getting cold again, blankets on. Perhaps even a clothing change. The next day, sleep deprivation makes you grumpy and less resilient to stress, which increases your stress hormone levels, which tends to amplify hot flushes. A vicious cycle.

There isn't one tried and true guaranteed-to-work remedy for hot flushes, alas, because each woman's hormonal make-up is different. Some foods and situations can exacerbate hot flushes: sugar, caffeine, red wine, chocolate... all the foods that we tend to crave more of when our hormones get out of balance. How unfair. There are a number of home remedies passed down through the generations, however, that can ease the burden.

Exercise helps, as does regular meditation and time out, as these all reduce your circulating cortisol, the pesky stress hormone that can throw your entire system out of balance.

And there's a folk remedy you might not have heard of, but could be worth trying.

Even better, it's free.

Anecdotal evidence has emerged from the land of the Finns, that their cultural practice of sauna eases hot flushes. In a traditional Finnish sauna the process is to get hot, then plunge into icy cold water, rest for a while and repeat. It's all about the rapid, extreme temperature change.

You might not have access to a sauna but you can apply this temperature change exercise every day during bathing. Before you step out of the shower, turn the water temperature completely to cold. Apparently the rapid temperature change can ease hot flushes for a few hours, somehow. If your exercise of choice is swimming, then plunging into cold water is what to do.

There's no guarantee either a cold shower or a sauna will help ease your hot flushes, but if your life has been turned upside down by this unpleasant symptom of menopause, perhaps it's worth a try.

Olwen Anderson is a naturopath and counsellor.

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