You are just about to present your latest project to your colleagues and you feel it coming–the dreaded hot flash! Why is this happening right now?! This is exactly the wrong time for this! You feel so frustrated because it seems like it’s out of your control and there is nothing you can do. Or is there? Are hot flashes just something that you have to “grin and bear”? Do you just need to “get through the change” and then your life can go back to normal? The answer is a resounding “NO!”
Hot flashes, mood swings, dry, wrinkly skin, insomnia, and decreased sexual sensation are common symptoms when going through menopause. However, they are not normal! In other words, you may know many women who suffered through one or more of the symptoms above, but that does not mean that it was inevitable. These symptoms are not a consequence of general biological aging. Many women throughout history and even in many cultures worldwide today have sailed through “the change” without ANY of these symptoms! If you want to know how to banish your hot flashes for good, then read on below.
What Causes Hot Flashes in Perimenopause?
You probably already know that menopausal symptoms are caused by hormonal imbalances. Hot flashes, in particular, are generally caused by low estrogen (1). However, do you know how these hormonal balances occur? Let’s go into the basics of perimenopause (when hot flashes generally begin) and menopause so that you understand what the body is doing.
Why is my body betraying me?
In all actuality, even though you may feel betrayed by your body, your body is only working with the materials it has available. For many women, that isn’t much. Throughout a woman’s fertile life, her ovaries make the majority of her sex hormones. Once her fertile period begins to wane, generally sometime in her 40s, the adrenal glands, which secrete stress hormones, have to take over. Adipose tissue (fat) helps out as well, which is one reason for weight gain in menopause. Your fat is considered a major endocrine organ (2)!
Women in our culture today are living a fast-paced, stressed-out life and their adrenals are secreting stress hormones continuously. They are balancing family, work, and other obligations and most have little true downtime. Since your adrenal glands produce your stress hormones, if they are over-taxed, guess what? They will not be able to make enough sex hormones for your body when the ovaries pass the baton!! Unfortunately, if you can’t make enough estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, you will begin to experience menopausal symptoms.
Conventional treatments for hot flashes:
If you complain to a conventional doctor about hot flashes, he or she might put you on estrogen replacement which can increase the risk of reproductive cancers and stroke just to name a few possibilities. Or, they could try an anti-seizure drug, which can include side effects such as dizziness and water retention. Yay! Another option is an anti-anxiety medication, which carry long lists of potential side effects no matter which one is prescribed (3). A much better approach is to balance your hormones naturally.
Even bio-identical hormones carry risks with them. If your body is not detoxing efficiently, as many aren’t, they can build up in your adipose tissue. Once there, it takes a long time for your body to be able to break them down. Understandably, it takes longer if you keep putting the hormones in. This can lead to a swing from someone being low in estrogen with uncomfortable symptoms to being estrogen dominant within a few months. Often, the symptoms are similar between estrogen dominance and low estrogen. This can make the woman and her practitioner think that she still needs estrogen therapy. Testing would reveal the estrogen dominance, but all too often, practitioners prescribe these medications and then never test a woman’s hormones again!
How to balance your hormones naturally:
There are a few excellent options when it comes to balancing hormones naturally. We can use nutrition and dietary shifts, homeopathy, and herbs and supplements. Important!! When dealing with hormones, it generally takes at least two months (or cycles) to see noticeable shifts. For those with excess hormones trapped in their fat tissue, this will take longer since the body needs to break these down and safely eliminate them. Each cycle feeds into the one after it. This means that how you are eating, sleeping, etc. now will affect your next cycle and so on.
Did you know that your microbiome (the collection of microbes in your GI tract) acts as an accessory liver? When you have a balanced microbiome, which means you have plenty of beneficial bacteria and few possible pathogenic bacteria, your good microbes break down toxins for your body! This lessens the burden on your liver, which is a big deal as you will see below. Balancing your microbiome can benefit digestion, immunity, skin health, and much more!
- Regularly eating and drinking fermented foods can improve your microbiome balance. This, in turn, helps with the breakdown of toxins and hormones as we saw above. Ferments like kraut, kimchi, fermented beets or peppers, and fun fermented beverages like kombucha, shrubs, and natural sodas, are easy to make, but also can be readily bought at many grocery stores these days.
- Only take antibiotics when truly necessary. Although better than it used to be, many doctors routinely prescribe antibiotics preventatively when someone has a virus just in case they get a secondary infection. Waiting to see if you need the antibiotics before using them can help you avoid unnecessary wiping out your gut bacteria, which leaves you vulnerable to the hearty pathogenic microbes that have a home in your GI tract.
- Avoid the use of NSAIDS which can weaken your intestinal lining.
Your liver is responsible for breaking down your old hormones. If it gets bogged down (which happens more often than not in our modern, toxin-laden world, your hormones will get put back together (re-conjugated) and recirculated! What does this mean to your body? Hormonal imbalance!
- To lessen the burden on your liver, you need to remove hormone disruptors from your life. All sorts of modern-day products contain hormone disruptors: plastics, polyester fabrics, synthetic fragrances, and chemical cleaning products.
- To support your liver nutritionally, eat plenty of leafy greens and cruciferous veggies (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.). Supplements such as milk thistle and dandelion are gentle and effective liver cleansers.
- Make sure to eat plenty of fiber as this helps bind the excess hormones once they have been broken down.
- Sprouting vegetable seeds such as broccoli and alfalfa can help balance hormones because of the potent plant chemicals. Broccoli sprouts contain a large dose of sulforaphane which is liver detoxifying and therefore can help balance your hormones. Alfalfa contains phytoestrogens which can help balance estrogen levels.
- Keep blood sugar levels stable. Wild fluctuations in blood sugar over-tax your liver and your adrenals. Make sure to get adequate protein and fat with each meal, eat meals instead of snacks, and try not to eat within three hours of going to bed.
Stop over-taxing your adrenals! All stress is dealt with by the adrenals whether it is the stress of riding the blood sugar rollercoaster, the stress from eating foods that you are sensitive to, or the emotional stress that we generally think of as stress.
- Make sure to manage your stress. You have heard this before, right? However, it doesn’t have to be something that takes a lot of your time.
- Breathing is an important part of stress management. Taking a few deep breaths (count to 5 on the inhale and 5 again on the exhale) several times a day can dramatically increase your stress resilience. If you want to learn more about the impact of breath on your health, read Breath by James Nestor.
- Try meditation, yoga, running, or any other stress management tool that appeals to you. Be careful with cardio like running, however, as when you overdo it, this creates more stress for your body and adrenals!
- Watch your caffeine intake. It is best to only consume 1-2 cups of caffeinated coffee or tea. For most people, it is also best to stop caffeine consumption by 9 am.
- Prioritize your sleep. Your body needs sleep to heal. It is very stressful to your body, and therefore your adrenals, when you don’t sleep enough.
- Try an adaptogen supplement to support your adrenals. Rehmannia is a great choice for anyone with autoimmune issues. Rhodiola is another favorite. (4)
The thyroid is often referred to as the “master gland” of the body. Make sure you get a full thyroid panel done annually. Also, be aware that the optimal ranges in functional medicine are much tighter than in conventional medicine. If you still see a conventional doctor, they may only test your TSH and this number is not enough to see the real picture. Also, they may say your numbers are “normal” where a practitioner specializing in integrative medicine will run a whole thyroid panel, which will enable them to see the imbalances. Many people simply have a “conversion problem” where they are not converting T4 into its active form of T3 efficiently. This is often due to nutrient deficiency.
- Be sure to get plenty of magnesium. Magnesium is crucial to thyroid function and it is estimated that 80-90% of us are deficient in it. Nuts and seeds are good sources, as are leafy greens.
- Iodine is another important nutrient for thyroid function. Every cell in your body needs iodine and it is another widespread deficiency. Sources of iodine include sea vegetables, eggs from pastured chicken, shellfish, and grass-fed dairy.
- Pay attention to selenium. This is another mineral that the thyroid needs to function properly. Eating 1-2 Brazil nuts per day will give your body the selenium it needs.
Homeopathy for Hot flashes
Homeopathy is a gentle, effective, and extremely affordable, way to help with any and all of the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. Homeopathy can help the body balance thyroid hormones, reproductive hormones, and stress hormones, all at the same time. It is by far my most preferred method!
Before you start, be sure to mark down how:
- often you have them
- frequently you have them
- severe they are on a scale of 1-10
Then, the remedy for 8 weeks before you reassess. The reason we do this is so that you can track your improvement. Humans, thankfully, have a short memory when it comes to pain and discomfort. People often forget how bad their symptoms were once they aren’t experiencing them anymore!
If you have more symptoms than just hot flashes going on, you feel confused, you are tired or you feel depressed, then you may want to seek out a homeopathic practitioner that practices Practical Homeopathy® to help you root out your long-standing hormonal issues with homeopathic protocols.
Or, if you are a go-getter, learn-it-for-yourself type, consider taking an online class like Feminopathy from my teacher, Joette Calabrese.
Nutritional and Herbal Support for Menopausal Symptoms
Seed Cycling: Eating seeds like flax and sesame in the first two weeks of your cycle can give your body the building blocks it needs to create estrogen. In the last two weeks of your cycle, we want to focus on progesterone production, so we switch to pumpkin and sunflower seeds. You can add these to oats, smoothies, or consume them as a nut butter. The seeds are also high in fiber, which helps bind to toxins and broken down hormones, preventing them from getting re-conjugated.
Rotating fatty acids: If you are still cycling, rotating fatty acids, such as omegas and GLAs, can support ideal hormonal production, much like the seed cycling described above. Taking a high quality fish oil in the first half of your cycle supports estrogen production, whereas taking black currant seed oil can support your body’s progesterone production in the latter half of your cycle.
Maca: Maca nourishes the HPA axis (part of your stress response system) to support the body’s natural hormone production. You can buy Maca in powdered form to add to smoothies, in tincture, in capsules, or in a combination supplement like Feminessencepro-Peri which is a pharmaceutical-grade supplement.
Wild Yam: Native Americans have used Wild Yam for over 200 years. When combined with other female herbs, such as Shatavari, it can not only help with hot flashes, but also other common menopausal symptoms such as mood swings, and sleep disturbances. As always, quality matters. Wild Yam Complex by Medi-Herb is a pharmaceutical-grade supplement that combines both and works beautifully.
Whenever buying herbs or supplements, it is important to buy the highest quality. Pharmaceutical-grade supplements have the benefit of the FDA overseeing their production. The FDA makes sure that what is stated on the label is actually what is in the bottle. The herbs and supplements that you buy at Costco, the drugstore, or the grocery store have no one overseeing them. They can put whatever they want in that bottle and tell you that it is something else. Shocking, I know!!
Pharmaceutical-grade supplements can be purchased using the button below for 15% off retail. Fullscript also carries Boiron homeopathic remedies which are regulated by the FDA as well.
Whether you choose to choose to use homeopathy, dietary shifts, supplements, or all three, I would love to hear about your journey. Let me know in the comments below!!