Hot Flashes and Night Sweats are the most recognisable adverse vasomotor symptoms occurring during perimenopause and after menopause in women. Hot flashes are episodic sensations of heat, intense sweating, and flushing affecting the face and chest. In Ayurveda, hot flash symptoms are considered to happen due to aggravation of Pitta Dosha.
When it occurs in the night, it is termed as Night Sweats. It is also known as hot flushes. It is a highly uncomfortable and often stressful condition, which often disrupts the daily life of patients. It has been observed that hot flushes poorly affect the energy levels, quality of sleep, and sexuality.
Symptoms of Hot Flashes
Each particular episode of hot flash lasts 3 – 10 minutes and episodes can recur with varying frequency. Some women experience this hourly or daily, whereas for others they may occur occasionally.
- Intense heat in upper body including the upper arms, face, neck, and chest
- Flushing of the skin follows
- Profuse Sweating
- Followed by chills
- Hot flash symptoms are often accompanied by tingling in fingers, palpitations and anxiety
Primary Risk Group for Hot Flashes
Most women develop the symptoms during the peri-menopausal and early post-menopausal periods. A minority develops the symptoms even during regular menstrual cycles. Similar to the variability in frequency of this symptom, the age at onset of hot flashes also varies in females.
The majority of the women suffer from hot flash symptoms for 1 – 2 years. However, approximately 15% may have persistent symptoms for up to 30 years. Hot flash symptoms affects 40 – 85% of all women, being more frequent and severe in breast cancer survivors and women with chemotherapy-induced ovarian failure. This is because, these women receive multiple treatment options that can induce an estrogen deprivation state.
For men, the phenomenon of hot flash often occurs as a result of medical or surgical treatment for prostate cancer. Up to 75% of men treated with androgen deprivation therapy may experience hot flashes.
What is happening to your body during Hot Flushes?
- The thermoregulatory zone in hypothalamus section of the brain maintains the core body temperature within a homeostatic range.
- When the body’s core temperature increases above the upper threshold of the thermoregulatory zone, sweating occurs.
- While, chills occur when the core temperature dips below the lower threshold of this zone leading to palpitations or anxiety alongwith.
Causes of Hot Flashes
In addition, as estrogen levels decline in menopause leads up to aggravation of the hot flushes. While, menopausal women can experience hot flash symptoms several times in a day and in the night; menopause is not the only cause to trigger this condition. Hot flushes can be experienced in multiple other cases and the severity of the symptoms vary with individual and health condition.
- During adrenal rush caused by fear, anxiety, or embarrassment
- Stressful situations
- Constriction of heat flow from the body due to unventilated warm set-up or tight clothing
- During pregnancy
- Certain medications such as androgen deprivation therapy in males or Lupron for infertility treatment
- Certain foods such as Spicy food, Sour foods, or Astringent Foods
Treatment and Management of the Symptoms
Estrogen via Hormone Replacement Therapy
Estrogen is widely used to alleviate the vasomotor symptoms as hot flushes. It is effective in improving hot flashes caused by natural menopause and those induced by chemotherapy. However, its side effects can lead to breast cancer itself especially when combined with Progestin.
- Stress management techniques such as meditation, walking in nature, and pursuing hobbies that relax the mind are highly effective.
- Also, patients should maintain a low core body temperature by wearing loose clothes in layers and avoiding tight clothing.
- Consuming cool or cold food or drinks.
- Staying in well ventilated places and avoiding the triggers.
Although it has been known Yoga to be useful to alleviate hot flashes, yet studies showed insufficient evidence of that.
Mild form of physical activity that includes nature walks, swimming, slow walking, bicycling are highly helpful to manage the symptoms.
However, extreme physical activity and only cardio based exercises can increase in the severity of the symptoms in postmenopausal, especially in overweight women. It is theorised that extreme activity increases the core body temperature, thus resulting in hot flashes in patients with a narrow thermo-neutral zone.
One study showed that slow-breathing techniques may reduce small overall sympathetic tone, reducing the frequency of hot flashes 35% more than muscle relaxation alone.
Hot Flashes – An Ayurvedic View and Management
In Ayurveda, Hot Flashes are one of symptoms of menopause. Although it is hot, it happens due to Vata imbalance approaching Vata stage in life. If Pitta Dosha has accumulated over the years, hot flashes are likely to be more frequent, more intense, and more irritating.
Dealing with Menopausal Hot Flashes in Ayurveda
- Practice stress reducing activities as yoga, pranayama and meditation starting from young age. This will help to ease the transition into the menopausal years later in their life and also help to prevent the onset and reduce the frequency of hot flash symptoms.
- Maintain dosha balance from an early age by minimising foods and activities that aggravate Pitta Dosha and Vata Dosha in specific.
- Do exercise as part of your life starting in your 20’s to have healthier bones when you are in your 50’s and beyond.
Food and Diet to manage Hot Flash Symptoms
- Sweet, sour and salty tastes pacify Vata.
- Eat warm, cooked foods and warm beverages.
- Also, choose soft, unctuous foods like cooked grains, cooked vegetables, cooked cereals and soups over crunchy dry foods.
- Incorporate healthy oils into your cooking including olive oil, sunflower oil and organic sesame oil.
- Staying away from Smoking and Alcohol consumption as both aggravate Pitta Dosha
- Inclusion of herbs and spices to calm the Dosha in your diet and lifestyle.
- Avoiding Caffeine
- Avoiding Spicy and Hot foods as they aggravate Pitta Dosha
Life style Tips to prevent Hot Flash Symptoms
- It is important to create routines and rituals around mealtime. This goes back to treating the underlying symptoms.
- Establish regular meal times in a quiet pleasing environment where you give yourself the opportunity to savor both the meal and the ritual that surrounds. This will help in reducing stress in your daily life. It will also regulate the inner rhythms of your hormones, blood pressure and even body temperature.
- Also, apply Panchakarma especially Abhyanga and Shirodhara are some of the best ways to keep Vata under control.
Herbs to pacify the Symptoms
Ayurveda’s most nourishing herbs for menopause are: Aloe vera gel, Shatavari, Ashwagandha, Kapikacchu, Triphala, Dashamula, Brahmi, Gotu kola, Vidari, Saffron and Amalaki. Also fennel and coriander are good for hot flashes.