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Surviving the festive season when the hot flush kicks in!

Now is not the time for the hot flushes to kick in!

Wouldn’t that be awkward?

That moment at the work party when your younger, male boss engages you in conversation and you break out in a red hot facial flush,

or you’re sitting amongst hundreds of other parents trying your best to smile and clap hard for every single child that has won an award at the celebration assembly when you feel a sense of pressure on your head and heart palpitations building inside.

Or what about the Christmas lunch that you’re hosting this year - it’s already warm and humid, family have gathered, excited, sugar-loaded children going crazy and you’re serving up the great spread of food when, wham! that feeling of intense heat kicks in, there’s no escape - what do you do?

Hot flushes, also known as hot flashes or vasomotor symptoms, are commonly experienced by women in perimenopause. In fact, around 75% of women will experience them at some point during this transition with some women continuing to experience them well into their 70s.

It’s still relatively unknown why we do get this feeling of intense heat or facial flushing but it seems that it may have something to do with our hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates our reaction to temperature, becoming more sensitive as our hormone levels, especially oestrogen, changes.

Not only does oestrogen appear to directly affect the hypothalamus but it also alters the levels of two other hormones, serotonin and adrenaline, which then affect the hypothalamus’ response to stress.

For a woman going through perimenopause who is experiencing hot flushes, the festive season, with its increased busyness and stress, may not be pleasant!

So what can you do to reduce the likelihood of experiencing hot flushes?

  • Slow Down - this is a time to reduce your stress levels, not ramp them up. Your HPA axis, that deals with your stress response, is already being affected by the changing hormones, you don’t need to add to it by the choices you are making. This may not be the year to host the big family Christmas lunch, unless you get plenty of support. Prioritise your sleep, where you can and take quiet moments for yourself to meditate or be mindful.

  • Get some exercise outside. Regular exercise will help to reduce stress levels and doing so outside, adds in the benefit of regulating your circadian rhythm, helping you to sleep better as well as boosting your Vitamin D levels that may help with the serotonin regulation too.

  • Include some phytoestrogens in your diet. Phytoestrogens are found in foods like soy, edamame, flaxseed, wholegrains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. They have the ability to gently mimic oestrogen, providing some relief to perimenopausal symptoms like hot flushes. (A brief side note for those with thyroid problems - be careful not to have too much as this may exacerbate your thyroid issue!)

But what can you do when you're at the work party, the school assembly or the kitchen on Christmas Day? How can you be prepared if the hot flush kicks in at the most inconvenient time?

  1. Choose an outfit that is made with natural fibres, that is lightweight, loose fitting and is layered. If you are outside, choose a lighter colour that reflects heat and something that won’t show any signs of dampness if you sweat excessively. If the hot flush kicks in, at least you can be confident and comfortable.

  2. Avoid alcohol and hot drinks. Both alcohol (especially red wine) and hot drinks may trigger hot flushes. Instead choose cool water or sparkling water with piece of fruit to flavour. Sipping cooled sage or coriander tea may help to reduce frequency and severity of symptoms too.

  3. Keep a hand held fan nearby to provide a relaxing breeze when the flushing starts. There’s some pretty discrete ones around that you can hide within your hand or even ones that clip on to your clothing to go hands free. Or own it by getting a brightly coloured one to accessorise your outfit!

Most women will experience hot flushes at some point through their menopausal transition, and whilst the exact reasons why they occur is relatively unknown, it does appear that food and lifestyle choices can help minimise their frequency as well as help to manage the symptoms when they kick in. If hot flushes are ruining your life and your confidence in going to social events, it might be time to seek some help. You don’t want to suffer next year too, do you?

Book a complementary call with me if you are ready to manage those hot flushes today.

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