It’s a typical weekend. You are relaxing on the couch, looking forward to your well-deserved break from work. But then, you feel a sudden bout of intense heat. You try fanning yourself and turning up the AC but to no use. When nothing does the trick, you have this irresistible impulse to douse yourself with cold water or stick your head into the fridge. And then, as if a switch were flipped, all of it stops.
This rollercoaster ride you just experienced was a mild episode of a hot flash, or, as the British would say, a hot flush.
According to Tania Lugo and Maggie Tetrokalashvili (Nassau University Medical Centre), “Hot flashes are sudden-onset, spontaneous, and episodic sensations of warmth usually felt on the chest, neck, and face immediately followed by an outbreak of sweating.” 
Who Can Experience Hot Flashes?
Although both men and women can experience hot flashes, the rate is significantly higher among older women. More than 50% of women in the early stages of menopause also experience this. A vast majority, nearly four-fifths, of women in their menopause endure long episodes of hot flashes. It worsens as they enter the later stages of menopause before steadily decreasing. Women, regardless of their age, who have undergone surgery to remove their ovaries (Oophorectomy) also experience hot flashes. The medical jargon for hot flashes is vasomotor symptoms (VMS). 
Causes of Hot Flashes
Sweating buckets like there is a broken faucet in your body is not something anyone would enjoy unless they were in a gym. Several women have reported having to change their outfits several times a day after being drenched in sweat. Sleepless nights, brain fog, anxiety, etc.—the torture is endless.
Sadly, despite extensive studies, the exact cause of this aggravating condition is unknown. Most studies simply attribute this to a hormone imbalance. Women’s estrogen levels in their menopause rapidly reduce, and very little estrogen is produced during postmenopause. This does not mean hot flashes will persist forever after menopause. Studies show that it is not the low levels of estrogen but rather the sudden decline in its levels that may be the cause. 
Our brain also has a pea-sized supervisor called the hypothalamus. It acts as our body’s thermostat and regulates our temperature. It has been recognized that dysfunction in its temperature control mechanism also causes hot flashes, although researchers are yet to discern why this dysfunction occurs.
Hot flashes occur in men due to an imbalance in testosterone levels. This doesn’t occur under normal circumstances. However, treatments like androgen deprivation therapy reduce testosterone production to prevent the growth of prostate cancer. Around 80% of the men who undergo such treatments experience hot flashes.
Effects of Hot Flashes
Different people experience hot flashes differently. Your skin turns red, your heart beats faster, and you sweat. Most women experience this during the night (night sweats) and, in most cases, cannot go back to sleep. Luckier people experience hot flashes for less than a minute. But they could also last up to several minutes. After sweating profusely, many people also have chills.
Women may experience hot flashes for a couple of months. A small group of women have experienced hot flashes for 30 years. 
Dealing with hot flashes is particularly challenging, as they not only disrupt your daily activities and sleep but also have a huge emotional impact. The lack of sleep and discomfort it causes often lead to anxiety, social withdrawal, or, in extreme cases, cognitive impairment.
Foods To Manage Hot Flashes
Other than therapies and lifestyle changes, you can control your vasomotor symptoms by improving your diet. You can certainly minimize hot flashes by including certain foods in your diet. Here are the top nine foods that help fight hot flashes:
1. Fruits and Vegetables
Obesity and a high BMI are some factors that easily trigger hot flashes. Eating nutrient-packed foods such as fruits and vegetables reduces your weight and waters down the intensity of your hot flashes. Soon you’ll be experiencing fewer hot flashes per day.
Replace your breakfast with a green smoothie made of celery, spinach, avocado, or aloe. It curbs your hunger by increasing satiety and managing your weight. It also aids in digestion, which in turn saves a lot of the body’s energy and, in turn, keeps the body cool. Foods like apples, green leafy vegetables, etc., that have a high percentage of water content also help keep the body cool. 
2. Tofu and Soy
Phytoestrogens in soy-based foods like tofu and tempeh act like wonder drugs for hormone imbalance. When consumed, it exhibits the same outcome as estrogen in the body. This can remedy the problems caused by decreased estrogen levels in menopausal women.
A study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology in 2014 proved that including soy protein in the daily diet significantly reduced the frequency of hot flashes. However, it takes a long time to show a significant effect. The phytoestrogens present in soy products are called isoflavones. To reap the maximum benefits of these phytoestrogens, use unprocessed soy products like tofu. Simply replace cheese with tofu in your recipes. With its lower fat content, tofu is a healthier choice for consumption. 
This plant-based source of phytoestrogens can set your hormonal scale straight. The phytoestrogens present in flaxseeds are called lignans. Flax Seeds also contain omega-3 fatty acids. It is also said to reduce breast cancer, although studies don’t provide strong evidence. Simply replace eggs with a mixture of ground flaxseeds and water in your recipe for pancakes, muffins, cookies, etc. It adds a nutty taste to it and provides more nutritional value. 
Salmon is a rich source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Consuming a gram or two of fish oil helps alleviate the symptoms of hot flashes.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
Although not extensively researched, apple cider vinegar is said to reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes. Several studies show that it aids in weight loss, and when consumed after meals, it lowers blood sugar levels.
6. Lemon Juice
The benefits reaped by drinking lemon juice every day are endless. It helps with digestion, prevents kidney stones, controls weight, and reduces the risk of anemia. Women with high blood sugar levels experience severe hot flashes. Lemon juice, which can lower blood sugar levels, can reduce hot flashes. 
The high water content of cucumbers makes them an effective cooling food. This helps with hot flashes by reducing your body temperature. You can add cucumbers to your water and drink it instead of plain water.
8. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are rich in Vitamin E, which is said to reduce the occurrence of hot flashes by more than 30%. You can easily mix them into your pancake mix or your oatmeal. 
Mushrooms contain a mineral named selenium, an antioxidant that reduces stress and heart problems. The adrenaline produced by stress is a common trigger for hot flashes, and this can be prevented by including mushrooms in your diet. 
Foods To Avoid To Limit Hot Flashes
You should avoid processed sugar in sweetened drinks, candies, cakes, biscuits, and pastries, as they can lead to volatility in blood sugar levels and cause hot flashes. Also, drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, chocolate drinks, and colas, should be avoided, especially when they are hot. High temperatures increase the intensity of hot flashes. Again, spicy foods and sauces like chili and Wasabi that can elevate your body temperature should be avoided. Also, women should avoid red wine to reduce the risk of hot flashes.
Ways To Prevent Hot Flashes
Several factors can cause your body to experience a hot flash. Steer clear of them, and it can lower your chances of experiencing hot flashes. Some common triggers for hot flashes that you need to look out for are:
Stress is a one-size-fits-all key to a myriad of health issues. Hot flashes are just one more in a long line. Everyone has experienced that sudden burst of adrenaline when we are anxious or feel cornered. However, this sudden burst of energy also gets your heart racing and your blood pumping, and you feel more alert than ever. These responses could get worse and turn you into a hot mess. While we cannot choose not to stress out, we could certainly learn some techniques to calm down when that happens. Yoga and meditation are some ways to cope with stress. Relaxation techniques help dial down the magnitude of heat you feel due to stress.
The general temperature of our surroundings is a key factor in hot flash experiences. Many people experience hot flashes, even when it’s winter outside. However, it is far worse when the temperature is higher. Skip wearing multiple layers and instead wear loose, breathable outfits. Keep windows open when you can, and skip the sauna. Hot electronics like heaters or hairdryers can trigger hot flashes by raising your body temperature.
Abstain from Alcohol and Smoking
Consuming alcohol also makes your body exhibit symptoms similar to hot flashes. When drunk, your blood vessels dilate, your heartbeat increases, and your face turns red. Now you are just one symptom away from experiencing a hot flash. A couple more drinks, and you will feel the familiar, dreadful feeling of heat spreading through your body.
Although it is strongly advised to abstain from alcohol, you could alternatively use ice cubes or fruit to have a more cooling effect and try not to tempt fate by having more than one drink. Smoking also accelerates the heart rate and blood flow.
Avoid Spicy Foods and Hot Beverages
Spicy foods contain a little fireball named capsaicin, which causes a burning feeling in our mouths. Spicy foods not only induce heat but are also said to dilate your blood vessels. So, hard pass on that. But if you are particularly fond of spice, dial it down – a lot. You should also avoid hot beverages like coffee to avoid potential risks. If you absolutely cannot live without caffeine, try anyway. As a last resort, go for iced coffee.
Yes, exercise can trigger hot flashes too. While there is no question that exercise is a crucial contributor to good health, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for menopausal women. Every time you try to sweat the extra calories away, your heart pumps faster, your blood flows faster, and you sweat more. You are not just burning calories; you are also sending an open invitation to hot flashes. However, do not use this as an excuse to skip the gym or exercise.
You can cope by staying close to fans, windows, or air conditioners. Avoid intense workouts and cool down with an ice bag or wet towel. 
Frequently Asked Questions
Are hot flashes the same as fever?
No, they are not the same. Fever exhibits a drastic change in body temperature, which you can notice using a thermometer. On the other hand, hot flashes last only a few minutes.
At what age do hot flashes stop?
Women may experience hot flashes for a couple of months or two years. It varies for each woman. In rare cases, women may experience hot flashes well into their 60s.
How to manage night sweats?
Make sure your bed is not too warm. If you can’t take a cold shower before sleeping, place ice water near your bed to drink or use as a cold compress when night sweats occur. When nothing brings relief, consult a doctor to get mild sedatives to help you sleep better.
Why does my face turn red when I’m experiencing a hot flash?
During hot flashes, the body tries to eliminate heat through vasodilation. The increased blood flow to the face can turn it botchy or red.
Can hot flashes occur for any other reason besides menopause?
Yes. Although rare, men undergoing treatment for prostate cancer can experience hot flashes. Women on some medications or with thyroid issues may experience hot flashes even if they are not in menopause.
Hot flashes throw a wrench into regular routines. Making huge changes to your lifestyle is not as easy as it sounds. It takes serious effort. With proper planning and a healthy lifestyle makeover, you can avoid the worst of hot flashes and stay cool!
In addition to incorporating these foods, it is essential to follow certain lifestyle tips for your overall well-being during menopause. With these tips, embrace a more balanced and enjoyable menopause.
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