It’s December, and in Sydney we are used to feeling hot!
But what if those hot moments come when everyone else is cool and, they are really intense? Well, if you’re a woman and over 40 it’s likely you’ve entered the peri zone.
What is peri menopause?
Menopause is defined as having had no menstrual period for 12 months. There is usually a time before this that the body starts to change. Somewhere between 43 and early 50s. This is called peri –menopause, (also known as climacteric)
Symptoms are individual but may involve:
- Periods changing – They may get closer together or further apart: EG missing a few months or having them every few weeks.
- Emotional changes – More intense PMT, that may go on for longer than usual. Or anxiety, anger, more emotional generally.
- Sweating – Either day time or night time
- Hot flushes / Hot Flashes – Intense feelings of heat. May accompany sweating but may be dry.
- Energy levels dip – Just don’t have the energy to do what you used to
- Sleep changes – Difficulty in getting to sleep, staying asleep or just plain all night can’t sleep.
I will discuss this month the peri menopause and menopause and the various symptoms and what you can do to help yourself as you go through the change but today I’m going to focus on the heat…HOT FLUSHES
What are they?
Intense feeling of heat. They can last for a minute to five minutes and they may occur between once a week to several times an hour.
Why do they occur?
Oestrogen is an important fertility hormone and during this time it’s starting to lower as women make the transition from fertile to non-reproductive. Oestrogen is also one of the key players in helping regulate the body’s temperature.
The body usually can maintain a ‘neutral zone’ for much of the time where there is no shivering and no sweating. During peri-menopause the oestrogen levels fluctuate and the body’s thermostat starts to mis-register and no longer stays in the ‘neutral zone’. So tiny changes in temperature will elicit a greater response E.G a hot flash
Why doesn’t every woman get it?
We’re all individual. Lots of things cause temperature changes and oestrogen is just one of the key players in temperature regulation. If the body can compensate in other ways, or if your body doesn’t react to the stimuli you expose it to you may not experience this hot sensation.
What do I do?
There are two approaches – help yourself plus be helped by others. I’ll start on the first
To help yourself you can:
- Lower stress levels. Stress elevates a hormonal response that yep, can raise temperatures. Kids getting you down? bad day at work? Partner driving you mad? Traffic leaving you fuming? All these stress factors will raise your temperature. One generally can’t kick out children (or can we?!!) or resign from work so you need to start looking at ways to reduce the way you react to these stress factors. Make time for yourself, say NO to more work, forgive and forget as quick as you can. Perhaps take up meditation, walking, acupuncture, yoga. Whatever works for you and gets you less stressed.
- Lower the alcohol intake or stop altogether. This is not good news for those that like a tipple after work or at the weekend or with the girls or even with the boys. There is no easy way around this – alcohol raises your temperature. Go for some alternatives. Mocktails, iced teas, lime and soda, Wine with ice that is actually more ice than wine! I speak from experience here. The good news is that dropping the alcohol will also lower the calorie intake and when you get to my blog about metabolism change you are going to want to consider this… I’m always interested in what others have come up with so feel free to write and tell me if you’ve got an option or two.
- Regular exercise helps regulate body’s temperature. You don’t need to train for a marathon. In fact now is not the time to take up running if you haven’t before. A good 40 minute walk every day or pilates or strength and conditioning will make a difference. Perhaps change that evening drink with friends to an evening walk with tea??
- If you are overweight then attempt to lose some weight because fat cells carry oestrogen and as your metabolism changes this will disrupt oestrogen further. Regular exercise like above will help with this.
Helped by others:
I’m a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbalist and yes, herbs can help. You can take teas (mild response) or start taking the powders and pills (Give a strong effect).
Chinese herbs have great evidence supporting their use for hot sweats.
I noticed a few months ago that a well known shop brand was selling a Chinese medicine herbal formula for menopause under the banner ‘meno-cure’ Please do NOT buy these from pharmacy and health shops! Chinese medicine is very specific and this particular formula fitted a type of menopause which would actually make worse symptoms for women that didn’t fit into this mould! No wonder natural medicine gets a bad rap!! If you are going to go down the powder or pill route that contains ANY herbs please see a trained herbalist.
I support many women going through the peri-menopause and if you would like more help then please contact me at the clinic or book an appointment.
If you want to go the tea route then I suggest making a tea at home (see tea blog) or buying a specialist menopause tea like our own ‘menotea’. As I mentioned teas will ‘and suits as a supporting role or for helping mild cases. If you are hot flashing daily you need to go down the stronger route.
PS once you make the tea you can freeze it in the ice cube tray and make flash tea ice pops to drink on those summer days..
Supplements are based around supporting you neurologically. I will go into anxiety in another blog but if you are struggling with the hot flashes because of stress levels then you can add in multi Bs to help support this.
Vitamin D is also important for health and many women in Australia are deficient so this may be worth checking out.
I’m a natural medicine practitioner, but I’m also a realist. Some women do not want to go down the natural route and instead prefer the pharmaceutical quick fix especially if they are dealing with high stress levels that can’t be avoided for now. HRT will address the symptoms because it will bring your hormones back up to stimulate a menstrual cycle. This means you may get all the symptoms of a menstrual bleed. At some point you will need or want to come off HRT and it is very possible at that point you will experience the symptoms.
Enjoy the hot summer, but don’t get to hot…
Love and best wishes
Heidi the herbalist J