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Anatomy of a Hot Flash

Sweaty Betty? Sticky Sally? Fiery Fiona… What's actually happening inside your body during this fiery (and let’s face it, awful) experience?

The Body's Thermostat Goes Haywire ️

The vasomotor system is our internal thermostat. The vasomotor system is next door to the hypothalamus - where many hormone messages are centered. As estrogen and progesterone both drop, and fluctuate, the hypothalamus has a higher rate of activity as it tries to adjust the varying levels of hormones. This increased activity is thought to influence the vasomotor system next door. Fluctuations in activity in the hypothalamus can therefore influence the vasomotor system and it will switch its internal thermostat on in a reactive pattern. Sometimes too hot, sometimes too cold. We tend not to worry about getting the shivers, but we certainly have to respond quickly when all of a sudden we feel HOT and sweaty.

Neuropeptides to the Rescue (or Not…)

When the vasomotor system thinks the body is overheating, neuropeptides, (chemical messengers in the brain), flood the system. They send signals to dilate blood vessels near the skin's surface (especially in the face, neck, and chest🩸). This increased blood flow creates that flushed feeling and the sensation of intense heat.

Sweating it Out

To cool you down (even though you're not actually hot!), the body ramps up sweat production. This is why hot flashes are often accompanied by heavy sweating. Once the sweat evaporates, it does provide a temporary cooling effect. But let's be real, it's not exactly comfortable and none of us love those sweat stains outside of the gym…

Night Sweats

Night sweats are basically just hot flashes that happen during sleep. They can disrupt sleep quality and leave you feeling exhausted the next day. The same hormonal fluctuations that cause hot flashes are also responsible for night sweats, and the same mechanisms are at work in your body when they occur. Unfortunately, when you’re drenched and wide awake, your sleep suffers, and this fragmented sleep can lead to fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

Hot Flashes and Other Menopause Issues ️

Hot flashes aren't just uncomfortable - they contribute to mood swings, anxiety, and even depression. Lets face it, no one wants to be out of control of their body, and hot flashes seem so NOT within your control. So, managing hot flashes can have a positive ripple effect on your overall well-being during menopause.

Hot Flashes Beyond Menopause

Although they are most common during perimenopause and menopause, hot flashes can occur at other times in a woman's life due to hormonal shifts and imbalances. These include:

  • Pregnancy: Fluctuating hormones during pregnancy can trigger hot flashes in some women.
  • Postpartum: After childbirth, estrogen and progesterone levels plummet rapidly, which can lead to hot flashes.
  • Certain medications: Some medications, like those used to treat cancer, can cause hot flashes as a side effect.

What Makes Hot Flashes Worse?

  • Spicy foods: 🌶️ They contain capsaicin, a compound that triggers the body's heat receptors, mimicking the feeling of overheating – a sensation your hypothalamus misinterprets as a real need to cool down.
  • Caffeine and alcohol: ☕️ Both can dilate blood vessels, similar to what happens during a hot flash. This can exacerbate the feeling of heat and sweating.
  • Stress: 😠 When stressed, the body releases hormones like cortisol that can interfere with temperature regulation, making hot flashes more frequent and intense.
  • Smoking: 🚬 Smoking narrows blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the skin. This can lead to a compensatory response when you quit, causing wider blood vessel dilation and more frequent hot flashes. However, quitting is still the better option, and this compensatory effect is only temporary.
  • Tight clothing: Restrictive clothing can trap heat close to the body, making it harder to cool down naturally and worsening hot flash symptoms.

How to Find Relief from Hot Flashes

  • Dress in breathable fabrics: 🌿Natural fibers like cotton or bamboo let your skin breathe.
  • Keep your environment cool: ❄️ Use fans and air conditioning.
  • Relaxation techniques: ‍🧘 Deep breathing and meditation can help manage stress, a hot flash trigger.
  • Certain foods: 🫛 Soy products may offer some relief due to their gentle estrogen-like effects, otherwise known as phytoestrogens. You can read more about that in this blog.
  • Hormonal Replacement Therapies: Both progesterone and estrogen use can help significantly with hot flashes. Because it is the loss AND fluctuations of these two hormones that seem to have the most impact on the number and frequency of hot flashes, making sure your body has these hormones available can help significantly. Some women can use hormones once a day and be fine, others may need to split using hormones into twice a day to even out the “supply” of hormones. Our customers report that Vibrant Third Progesterone Cream has made a big difference to the number of hot flashes and night sweats they experience.

Remember, you're not alone in this - Hot flashes are a common experience, and there are ways to manage them! ❤️‍🔥