One of the most unpleasant effects of menopause hot flushes. These sudden bursts of heat that spread over the face, neck and body occur randomly and range in severity from mild to severe. Hot flushes that occur at night, called night sweats, often disrupt sleep. Remedies for hot flushes and night sweats include home treatments and alternative medicines for mild cases, and hormone therapy and other prescription medications for more severe cases.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several practical measures you can take to help combat the unpleasant effects of hot flushes. When you feel a hot flush coming on, use a fan or air conditioner or open a window to increase air circulation. Adjust the room temperature to a cooler level if possible. Sip a cool drink during a hot flush to help lower body temperature. Wear layers of clothing so that you can remove outer layers during a hot flush.
Certain foods and beverages trigger hot flushes in some women. Learn to recognise those that trigger your own hot flushes and avoid them if possible. In general, foods that are hot and spicy and drinks that contain caffeine or alcohol are the most bothersome.
Some women reduce the effects of hot flushes through relaxation exercises such as yoga and meditation. These help to reduce stress, which may lessen the frequency and severity of hot flushes. A technique called paced respiration may also provide relief. It uses slow, deep abdominal breathing to promote calmness and relaxation. To practice the technique, sit comfortably and inhale deeply for five seconds while pushing the stomach muscles out. Breathe out for five seconds as you pull the stomach muscles in and up. Repeat the exercise until you feel relaxed and calm.
Many women use dietary supplements to reduce hot flushes and night sweats. Among the most popular, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, are black cohosh, soy products, St. John's Wort and wild yam. Others include ginseng, valerian root, evening primrose and chasteberry. However, women should use caution when taking dietary supplements. Some have undesirable side effects, and some may interact negatively with other medicines. Dietary supplements are not regulated by any governmental agency, and there is little scientific proof that their use is effective for hot flushes. For these reasons, women who are considering taking dietary supplements should consult their doctor.
Hormone Therapy and Other Prescription Medications
Your doctor may suggest hormone therapy for hot flushes and night sweats that cannot be managed with home remedies or alternative medicines. There are two recommended hormone therapies for hot flushes, oestrogen and progesterone. According to the Mayo Clinic, oestrogen therapy is the most effective, but it should be taken in combination with progesterone to protect against endometrial cancer. Women who have had a hysterectomy may take oestrogen alone.
Oestrogen therapy also carries some risk of the patient's developing heart disease, and it should not be taken if you've had breast cancer or a blood clot. Progesterone is a recommended alternative for those who can't take oestrogen.
For women who decide against hormone therapy for hot flushes, doctors sometimes prescribe other medications. These medications have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to specifically treat hot flushes, but they have been approved to treat other conditions. Antidepressants such as Paxil, Prozac, Effexor and Celexa, taken in low doses, may reduce the effects of hot flushes. Gabapentin, a medicine used to treat seizures and pain, may offer some relief, especially for night sweats, and Clonidine, typically used to treat high blood pressure, is sometimes prescribed for hot flushes.