The Harrowing Hot Flash. Can’t We File a Restraining Order?
The next most common sign of menopause. The Hot Flash. Now listen, whether it is called a hot flash, hot flush, night sweats, cold sweats, or chills, they are ALL THE SAME THING.
Here is what happens when my hot flash occurs. First, when I am awake, my body gets a freezing chill which could last up to 10 minutes, then exhaustion hits hard like I’m ready for bed hard. Last, the hot flash hits, and I sweat like a bloody pig. Then it’s done. The whole process is anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. My heart can race, my blood pressure goes up. Seriously, how do women outlive men???
Every woman will be different, but in 24 hours, I can get between 6 and 30 hot flashes. The severity will differ from woman to woman as well.
Nighttime is worse. I can try and get into bed and be asleep before a hot flash hits, and if so, it’s possible to get anywhere from 2–3 hours’ sleep before the next hot flash hits. At night they are worse as my head gets soaked to the bone. I’ve been known to blow dry my hair at 4am.
Daytime must haves are frozen washcloths in the freezer, as are multiple ice packs just in case, and there is a roll of paper towels and another fan under my desk. My perfect husband keeps his own blankets around for when the house’s temperature fluctuates 30 times a day. The electric company loves me.
Bedtime accoutrements include a portable personal fan, 2 large towels to wrap my head, 2 small towels to wrap my neck, a headband, and a second pillow.
Let’s get clinical. What the f#@k causes the HOT FLASH?
We went straight to menopause.org for answers if there were any, and here is what they say:
“Hot flashes are thought to be the result of changes in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates the body’s temperature.”
Well, apparently, our hypothalamus goes the way of our periods during menopause. Wonky. Just wonky.
Here are more fun facts… “If the hypothalamus senses that a woman is too warm, it starts a chain of events to cool her down. Blood vessels near the surface of the skin begin to dilate (enlarge), increasing blood flow to the surface in an attempt to dissipate body heat. This produces a red, flushed look to the face and neck in light-skinned women. It may also make a woman perspire to cool the body down. Women may sense their hearts beating faster. A cold chill often follows a hot flash. A few women experience only the chill.
Menopause-related hot flashes usually follow a consistency unique to each woman. Still, the pattern differs significantly from woman to woman. Some hot flashes are easily tolerated, some can be annoying or embarrassing, and others can be debilitating.”
Is menopause the only cause of hot flashes? No, but I will not introduce other topics here, so you can go look them up if you want, but I am pretty sure you know you are in menopause. If you are unsure, please see a doctor or three.
How long will I have hot flashes? Absolutely NO ONE can tell you this. Anywhere from one day to 10 plus years, you are on your own.
How frequent are hot flashes? Again, there is no answer. Each one of us is different.
Are there treatments for hot flashes? Yes and no. It depends on the woman. There is no cure. There is only temporary relief. Some women take HRT, which is hormone replacement therapy. Some women choose nothing, and some women choose natural remedies.
What can make a hot flash worse? Added sugars. LOOK AT THE LABEL. I figured my breakfast muffins were OK. Nope, over 25% added sugars. After some hunting, I found a new one with less than 3% added sugars. So go hunting for less added or NO added sugars.
On the other hand, alcohol has had no effect on my hot flashes. The only bonus is if I drink enough, I can get a good 4 hours sleep, but you cannot survive like that, and I am in no way saying you should. (But if you imbibe a bit extra while out to dinner this month for one decent night’s sleep, I won’t tell.)
Many medical personnel will tell you there are no herbal therapies for hot flashes, but I call bullshit. In fact, there are mental and herbal remedies for hot flashes. Now they may or may not work for YOU, they may work temporarily, or they may work for months. You won’t know until you try.
First, you need to accept your menopause. Then you need to adapt. I cannot tell you how many nights I got pissed at myself for not sleeping during the first year. Pissed. The hot flashes were unbelievably horrid. But I adapted. I have a book to read and tea to make if I cannot go back to sleep, and yes, I just accept it. I accept exhaustion. I accept how the weight is re-distributing itself all over my body. I am still unhappy about it, but I accept the change. Once you have done this, you have half the battle won.
Next, are you going to go on HRT, do nothing or go au natural? I know nothing about HRT except it is a man-made drug, and I try and avoid those at all costs.
Between doing nothing and trying herbal supplements, I have and continue to do both. My blood tests are not foreign to me, and I understand them as you should yours. Make sure all your vitamin, mineral, and hormone levels are checked at least once a year.
One of the more frustrating things about this time in our life is the unknown. How long will hot flashes last in years is a big unanswered question, and because menopause does last for years, you may need to switch up your products. Personally, I must rotate my remedies every five or six months. This totally sucks because most take up to 30 days to start working, and you need to give it that time to work.
Acceptance and adapting must be your first goal. The second is not to take anyone else’s experience as your own. This is your journey, and it will be different from hers.