Outside of the mood swings and erratic, unpredictable cycles, night sweats and hot flashes consistently rank up there as one of the most bothersome symptoms of perimenopause for most women. Personally, I would easily rank mine back in the day, as third, only behind the crazy cycles and mood swings.
You’ve probably all heard stories from your menopause sisters, who stood outside in snowy, sub-zero weather, taking in the “crisp night air” in efforts to cool their short-circuited internal furnaces. Heck, maybe even you were one of them.
I know I certainly couldn’t strip off enough clothing or lower the thermostat enough to get relief, while my family padded around the house in flannel jammies and hoodies.
So what causes those notorious hot flashes and night sweats and what can you do about them? As usual, ladies, blame it on estrogen.
The Role of Estrogen in Perimenopause
Most women begin to experience a shift in their hormones in their mid to late thirties. By the time we reach our early to mid forties, many of us are in full blown perimenopause, a time when estrogen and progesterone levels begin to fluctuate wildly.
During perimenopause estrogen levels are rising and falling erratically. When estrogen levels are high, it is referred to as estrogen dominance. Too much estrogen, as we all know, packs quite a punch. It causes us to become hyper-sensitive, emotional, and down-right bitchy. Raging mood swings are common when women are experiencing estrogen dominance, and it ain’t no fun!
Estrogen dominance causes bloating, irritability, and swollen and painful breasts. It also causes acne break-outs, heavy periods with blood clots, migraine headaches, and excessive weight gain.
On the other hand, when estrogen levels are low, we experience an entire host of other symptoms, such as:
So there you have it, ladies. Low levels of estrogen during perimenopause contribute to hot flashes and night sweats.
Natural Remedies for Hot Flashes & Night Sweats
Given all of the negative press surrounding synthetic hormones for the treatment of menopause symptoms, many women are opting out and searching for natural remedies instead. While there is no guarantee that alternative methods will always work, there is enough evidence that some of these things work for some women. There is certainly no harm in trying some of them.
Soy – If, like me, you do any reading on the subject of perimenopause, you have likely run across conflicting information on the benefits of soy for hot flashes . For example, recently, CNN Health and a few other websites ran this story , citing a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, “ Soy Isoflavones in the Prevention of Menopausal Bone Loss and Menopausal Symptoms”
The study was a randomized double-blind study. What that means is there are two groups in the study. One group is given a placebo and the other group is given whatever is being studied – in this case, soy – and neither the groups nor the researchers know who has been given the placebo and who hasn’t. Hence, “double-blind.” The obvious benefits of this approach is that there is no bias by the researchers and therefore, they cannot influence the outcome of the research.
If you are interested in reading the study for yourself, you can. However, the long and short of the results stated that soy did not help in the prevention of osteoarthritis or the prevention of menopause symptoms. The abstract does not indicate specifically what those “menopause symptoms” were, though it did state that some of the women in the study reported hot flashes and night sweats. The suggestion being, that soy caused them.
I would also like to point out that the reason for the study(taken from the abstract) was this:
May I also point out that the FDA was involved in the study. It should also be noted that there remains a divide in the medical community as to the safety of synthetic estrogen and hormone therapy – approved by the FDA. This has been the major catalyst in the growth in popularity of bioidentical hormones, and natural and alternative treatments for menopause symptoms. Take from that what you will, ladies, I’m just saying. Okay?
Having said all of that, here’s my take on soy for hot flashes and night sweats: it worked for me. You may also know someone who says it worked for them. Maybe it worked for you too. The point is, you need to decide for yourself if it works or if it doesn’t. In fact, I highly recommend that you do.
There have been many studies over the years that have looked specifically at the effect of soy for hot flashes and night sweats. Not bone lose or any other symptoms. But, hot flashes and night sweats. While those studies were “inconclusive,” they did report that some women found relief from hot flashes and night sweats.
Which, of course, fits exactly with my point of view: some women will find relief from using soy, others will not. You need to decide if you are one of them or if you are not.
Finally, the theory behind why soy works for some women is the phytoestrogens which are in soy. Phytoestrogens mimic estrogenic activity in your body. If you are interested in reading exactly how, I wrote an article on it that you can read here.
Femestra – In my “Resources for You” section, you will find a page on Alternative & Complementary Treatments . I have Femestra listed under Supplements.
If you are looking for natural remedies for hot flashes , Femestra might be an option for you. I’ve never tried it. But, they do have some good information at their website if you would like to check it out for yourself.
They cite a Japanese research study ( available here at PubMed.gov ) which was done on the main ingredient in Femestra, rice bran extract, to support the effectiveness of their product as a viable option for over the counter hot flash remedies .
I may hit them up for some free samples to do a giveaway in the future. In the meantime, though, if you are interested in trying it, you can buy it at their website and also at GNC locations .
Black Cohosh – Back in the day – meaning back when I was crazy from perimenopause symptoms – my physician actually recommended black cohosh. She made a point that she was generally not too keen on recommending herbal and alternative supplements for perimenopause, but, that she had been impressed with some of the research she had read on it.
I never tried it, because, as I’ve said, soy milk helped with mine. However, a lot of women have used it with some success. Project-Aware has an article at their site you might be interested in reading regarding black cohosh and hot flashes. Here’s an excerpt that I found interesting:
There is also a warning that you should not use black cohosh if you are pregnant or if you have heavy menstrual flooding. Personally, I highly recommend that you do plenty of reading on the product before you try it anyway. That’s always a good policy in my opinion.
And finally, I found this at About.com that you might also be interested in reading.
So the moral of the story is, ladies, that you need to do your homework on these alternative treatments. I know it’s frustrating when what you would probably like is for someone to hand you something and tell you it will cure-all.
Unfortunately, that’s just not available. But, it certainly won’t hurt you try this suggestions, and by all means, if you know of anything else you can recommend, please share!
“Hormones for Dummies (Everything you Ever wanted to Know But were Afraid You Wouldn’t Understand)”. October 1, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.bermansexualhealth.com/sexual-health/lifestyle/menopausal-health/75-hotflashes/159-hormones-for-dummies-everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-but-were-afraid-you-wouldnt-understand
Lundin, Mia, R.N.C., N.P., “Female Brain Gone Insane: An Emergency Guide for Women Who Feel Like They Are Falling Apart”. (2009). Deerfield Beach, FL., Health Communications, Inc.
Hotze, Steven F., M.D., “Hormones, Health & Happiness: A Natural Medical Formula for Rediscovering Youth with Bioidentical Hormones”. (2005). Houston, TX., Forrest Publishing.