The female body undergoes several stages of change. The last stage is menopause and it can have several unwanted symptoms that many women struggle with.

From mood swings to anxiety, menopause can differ greatly from person to person, but one of the most common symptoms is hot flushes. Characterised by a sudden feeling of heat that spreads throughout the body, these flushes are also known as hot flashes and can be very difficult to manage. Keep reading to find out more about them and learn how to stop hot flushes without HRT (hormone replacement therapy).

What causes hot flushes during menopause?

Hot flushes are commonly caused by changes in hormone levels. It’s why they’re one of the most common symptoms of menopause, as women’s oestrogen levels naturally begin to decline. While it’s not been completely proven, researchers believe that lower levels of oestrogen make the body more sensitive to slight changes in temperature. And hot flushes are our body’s natural response to help correct these changes.

Hot flushes can vary from mild to extremely uncomfortable, which is why some women may choose to seek treatment for them.

The conventional method for supporting hot flushes is hormone replacement therapy (HRT), but it’s not always suitable for everyone. Some types of cancer are very sensitive to hormones, like breast cancer, so HRT should be strongly avoided in this case. There are also medicines that can help to alleviate the symptoms of hot flushes, but you should always speak with a doctor before you begin any course of medication. 

Many people also swear by lifestyle changes and alternative, natural treatments. For women who don’t want to try HRT or medication to stop their hot flushes, we’ve listed some alternative methods that can help to ease symptoms of hot flushes.

How to Stop Hot Flushes without HRT

1. Avoid caffeine

A study has found a link between caffeine intake and hot flushes. This is because caffeine causes the blood vessels to narrow, a process called vasoconstriction, which can trigger hot flushes in women. Eliminating tea, coffee and other drinks that are high in caffeine reduces the chances of it resulting in a flush.

2. Cut down on alcohol

Alcohol can also affect the blood vessels. Whereas caffeine causes them to constrict, alcoholic drinks make them expand. This is called vasodilation and it can make you feel warmer, which is why you may feel flushed when you’ve had an alcoholic drink. For women during menopause, this increase in body temperature can trigger a hot flush episode.

3. Quit smoking

Smoking a cigarette causes our heart rate to increase and we also inhale heat along with smoke. Research isn’t clear as to why these factors are linked to hot flushes, but studies have found that women who smoke are likely to experience more frequent and severe flashes than those who don’t.

4. Skip on spicy foods

Like alcohol, spicy foods can also cause vasodilation and increase your chances of a hot flush. Cayenne pepper, chili powder, jalapenos, serranoes and habañeros are a few to be particularly wary about, as they contain capsaicin which produces heat. Steering clear of these heat-inducing ingredients helps to keep your internal body temperature more stable. 

5. Keep a diary of your triggers

We’ve listed the most common triggers, but there are many more and they can vary from person to person. One way to accurately identify your own is by keeping a diary of when you have a hot flush and what you think caused it. Once you have a log of them, look to see if there’s any common factors. It could be diet, specific types of clothing or even high intensity exercise. Once you’ve located your triggers, you can work on alleviating the symptoms.

6. Try to keep blood sugar levels steady

Eating foods high in carbohydrates and sugar can cause our blood sugar levels to spike, which puts stress on our hormones. This also occurs when we leave a long amount of time between eating, as our blood sugar can drop. During menopause, this spike or drop can end up causing a hot flush. Maintain constant blood sugar levels by eating regularly and cutting out sugary foods.

7. Opt for organic 

When shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables, choose organic produce if possible. This is because many non-organic options are grown with pesticides which have been found to negatively impact hormones. Certain fruit and vegetables also carry more pesticide residue than others, like strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, grapes, cherries, peaches and pears.

8. Keep stress at bay

Stress can exacerbate hot flushes, so managing your anxiety and stressors is crucial to dealing with symptoms of menopause. Why not try practicing meditation or a low-intensity exercise like yoga. These are common methods for easing daily anxieties, which can help to lower your overall stress levels and reduce hot flushes.

9. Wear light layers instead of heavy clothing

Hot flushes can strike at any time, so wearing light layers of clothing that you can easily take off to help you cool down is essential. Also, look for breathable fabrics like cotton to increase air flow and help regulate your body temperature. Where possible, try to avoid dressing in thick layers and chunky articles of clothing. These prevent body heat from escaping, keeping the warmth trapped, and can trigger flushes.

10. Swap your duvet for layers of sheets

It’s more difficult to control the temperature in a bed with just a duvet, so try swapping yours out for layers of blankets instead. This way, you can remove them when you get too warm and adjust them to your personal preference. This prevents you from overheating in the night and can keep potential hot flushes at bay.

11. Turn your water temperature down when showering or bathing

Having a hot bath or shower might’ve been a relaxing treat, but during menopause, it can potentially trigger flushes. Sitting in very hot water warms you up internally and externally, posing a bigger threat than other triggers. Instead, turn your water temperature down and spend less time in the bathtub or shower. Also, ensure that you’re completely dried off and have cooled down before getting dressed.

12. Sip cold or iced drinks

Even little things, like a hot drink, can cause a hot flush. The liquid warms your body internally and can bring about a flash. Older women are more susceptible to this as they have a lower tolerance for heat and cold. This is because their temperature comfort zone gets smaller as they age.

Cold beverages help to keep you cool and are a safer choice for avoiding symptoms of menopause. If you’re reluctant to replace them in your diet, try to let your drink cool down before you drink it.

13. Maintain a cool temperature 

Hot environments can set off flushes as they cause your body to overheat, so regulating the temperature of your home is vital. Keep your windows open when possible to allow the warm air to escape and a cool breeze to enter. Or invest in an electronic fan that you can use whenever you need an extra boost of cold air.

If you’re at the office or on-the-go, keep a small handheld fan with you in case you feel like you need to cool down throughout the day.

An unlikely cause of hot flashes are hair appliances like hair dryers, straighteners or curling irons. They generate high temperatures and when used so close to your head, they can quickly make you feel hot and flustered. When possible, choose a heat-free method of styling your hair instead. Bright lights in bathrooms or around a dressing table can also contribute to a warmer environment. Try not to keep these on for long periods of time in order to prevent a flush.

If you feel a flush creeping in, spray your face with cool water or use an ice pack to help you cool down fast.

14. Give herbal remedies a go

Many women have found that natural, plant-based supplements can be an extremely effective way of treating hot flushes. Some research has shown that specific plants can help to improve symptoms of menopause, but as always, you should always consult a doctor before you incorporate any type of complementary remedy into your lifestyle. This is because, in some very rare cases, natural treatments may interfere with other medications or they can cause side effects.

The most popular herbs for reducing hot flushes are:

Black cohosh - this woodland herb has been used to treat a number of health ailments as well as menopause, like PMS, menstruation problems, osteoporosis and more. It contains chemicals that may help to support the immune system and reduce inflammation. Black cohosh also contains a chemical that has similar effects on the body to estrogen, which is why some find that it helps alleviate symptoms of menopause. 

Isoflavones - these nutrients make up the phytochemical compound that naturally occurs in the legume or bean family. They’re also known as phytoestrogens due to their similar structure to estrogen. Because of this, they can bind to estrogen receptors and mimic its effects. They’re also believed to be antioxidants which can reduce free radical damage to the body.

Dong quai - this plant grows small, white flowers which belong to the same botanical family as carrots and celery. It has been used for thousands of years as a herbal treatment in Asian medicine. It’s been found to soothe menstrual cramps and help regulate menstrual cycles, as well as treating hot flashes as a result of menopause.

Agnus Castus - also known as the Chaste tree, this plant bears a fruit called the chasteberry which is used as a herbal remedy to treat ailments connected to female health. It’s most often used to reduce symptoms of PMS, but has also been found to ease symptoms of menopause.

Wild yam - this vine is native to North America, and it’s root contains a chemical called diosgenin. Diosgenin has been found in some studies to help produce estrogen, which means that wild yam may be beneficial for combatting conditions resulting from hormone imbalance. 

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