If hot flashes weren’t bad enough, the summer of 2012 is turning out to be one for the record books. Six cities in the south central region reached temperatures over 110 on August 1. As I write this, the mercury is predicted to reach 112 in Tulsa for the 3rd day in a row. While they also reached this heat record last year, before 2011, you would have to go back to the dust bowl of 1936 to feel such inescapable heat – unless, of course, you’re a perimenopausal woman roasting in your own personal summer heat wave. Hot flashes will hitch a ride with you into any season, any continent, and any occasion. Even for those of us living in balmier cities like San Diego, where today’s early August high will reach a blissful 73 degrees, your internal thermometer can top out like you’re sitting on a park bench at noon in downtown Enid, Oklahoma. It was 115 there yesterday. I melt just thinking about it. Where’s an ice bath when you need one?
Now that I’ve exhausted the summer/hot flash metaphor, let me introduce Robin Nielsen, today’s guest blogger. Robin is founder of Juvenescence and is the growing younger expert. She is co-author of the tele-seminar series, Fabulous in a Box – Seven Simple Steps to Reclaim Your Radiance and Stay Fit, Fabulous and Focused.
Robin enthusiastically declares, “Aging is not about aches and pains and disease. It’s about joy, fulfillment, and living life to the fullest.” She’s our kind of woman. We invited Robin to share her advice and 7 simple strategies for dealing with hot flashes no matter what the season or climate.
Little beads of sweat start forming under your eyes and your temples and then your whole body instantly breaks out in moisture. Sometimes just a little bit and sometimes a lot. Maybe you’re in a business meeting or having a fabulous massage. Maybe you’re deep in dreamland. You’re hoping no one notices as you break out in a sweat like you’re in a spinning class. What bad timing. Is there ever good timing?
What’s this all about? How can you be feeling just fine one minute and the next your blouse is drenched and you have to go change clothes or wipe your face off. Minutes later your body temperature is back to normal. A hot flash can be an occasional sensation of heat and sweating or regular waves of heat and drenching sweats.
Not only do we feel a little self-conscious, we also don’t feel so great because, according to Dr. Diana Schwarzbein, it’s a big surge of adrenaline.
Excess stress hormones out of balance with sex hormones and neurotransmitters (brain chemistry) are most often the root cause, and can go on for years if not addressed properly.
If you’ve never experienced a hot flash, it’s hard to imagine or even understand, and it’s different for every woman.
Exciting, yes, but not so fabulous! If you’ve experienced one you know what I mean. The onset of menopause (the actual end of menstruation) can bring on all sorts of interesting symptoms a woman may have never experienced before.
This time in life also has great potential for allowing a woman to understand and tap into her own power, according to Dr. Christiane Northrup.
This statement could give you hope if only you could get through the “hot flashes” part of the journey. They affect anywhere from 50-85% of women during their perimenopause and menopause years.
Hot flashes and night sweats…
- wake us up at night.
- can be embarrassing or feel awkward.
- are definitely uncomfortable.
- can be exhausting.
- may lead to depression from lack of sleep.
- don’t feel so hot (pun intended).
- remind us that something’s out of balance!
- remind us to start living authentically.
Here are 7 simple strategies to stay cool in the heat of the moment.
- Get Sugar OUT of your diet. This is very helpful because sugar creates a stress response in the body which in turn can cause hot flashes. That means grains and added sugar of any kind. Focus on a low glycemic diet filled with whole, real foods like free range meats, wild caught fish, fresh, in season vegetables and fruits, Greek style yogurt, eggs, nuts and seeds and legumes.
- “86” the Coffee…and other stimulants because they raise stress hormones – dark chocolate may be in this category sad to say. Just say NO to the wine and beer and margaritas and enjoy them only on special occasions. Remember, if you want to play, you have to pay!
- Exercise in moderation (over-exercise can be stressful) to burn off excess stress hormones – yoga is especially helpful as it is de-stressing and raises our lovely calming neurotransmitter GABA. Slow sex (and sometimes even fast sex) is also a great stress reliever. Yum, yum!
- Eat those healthy omega 3 fats! They are great for balancing hormones, supporting healthy brain function and modulating healthier cortisol levels, our stress hormone. Try wild caught salmon, sardines and ground flax seed. Also a great supplement like fish oil, 1000-2000 mg/day can be amazing.
- Take a good multivitamin with lots of minerals. Sometimes just this alone will help your body to function better and remove some stress from poor nutritional status. Vitamin C and the full range of B vitamins are amazing for modulating stress.
- Sleep and rest are key to allowing your body to heal and restore each day. Slow down and smell the roses. Let your body unwind and de-stress. Remember we are human beings not human doings.
- Time. It’s as simple as that. Women need time to get things done or not. If we feel time pressure, it messes with our love hormone oxytocin. This in turn raises stress hormones and may give us a hot flash!
Listen to that wise woman inside you to stay cool. She knows exactly what you need.
Amen to that, Robin! Reading this post made me want to know more about the stressing and de-stressing hormones. The skinny is that our bodies need the stress hormone, cortisol, to help with many important functions such as glucose metabolism, blood pressure regulation, and insulin release. So, we shouldn’t only see cortisol as this evil and contentious bodily secretion out to wreck our well-being. Like most things related to our bodies, it has its purpose. The problem is that high levels of stress trigger our “flight or fight” response. This dumps more cortisol into our system than our bodies need to perform its useful and good functions. Adrenaline is also released (among others such as epinephrine which is associated with anxiety), and together these elevated levels of stress hormones can trigger a hot flash. The important thing is the phase following a stress-triggered release of stress hormones during which our bodies activate a relaxation response. Normally, during the relaxation phase, our expert and brilliant bodies release de-stressing hormones such as endorphins, serotonin, melatonin, and a list of other relaxing hormones with really long names.
Our body knows how to balance itself if we give it the chance. The problem with our lifestyles, however, is that many of us live in a state of chronic stress, and our body never has a chance to balance itself with a relaxation phase. This can lead to a whole host of health issues beyond hot flashes such as problems with thyroid functioning, bone density, maintaining muscle, sugar balance, and cognitive functioning. (And that was an abbreviated list of possible outcomes resulting from chronic stress!) As Robin mentions, we can give our bodies a helping hand by consciously choosing activities and habits that encourage relaxation: exercise, sleep, proper nutrition, and, yes, even pampering ourselves on a regular basis. This conscious living also includes knowing and avoiding the activities and habits that bring on the stress … as much as that is possible. A stress-free life may not be realistic. But our imperative is to manage our lives in such a way that we reduce the damaging effects of chronic stress. Hanging in this “balance” are our health and our possibilities for joyful living.
Remember: Reaching out is IN. Suffering in silence is OUT!
Tell me: The summer of 2012 was SO hot that …