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    Turning Down the Heat on Hot Flashes

    What Are Hot Flashes

    cooling fanIn some cultures signs of menopause were greeted as marks of wisdom and maturity. But even in that situation, the women who were having hot flashes were probably not thrilled. The strange ritual of sticking your head in a freezer doesn't seem odd at all to any one who has ever experienced a severe hot flash.

    • Hot flashes usually start on the chest, neck and face.
    • They usually last between three and six minutes.
    • These moments may occur up to several times a day.
    • Hot flashes may cause extreme flushing and sweating.
    • This can be very uncomfortable and embarrassing.

    Many women experience insomnia along with the rush of heat and sweating. Other symptoms such as headache or pressure, nausea, and difficulty with concentration are often reported.

    Symptoms can get worse in combination with

    • Hot, humid weather
    • Caffeine
    • Alcohol
    • Spicy foods.

    Estrogen and Progesterone --The "female" hormones
    Before menopause the female body produces hormones to regulate the production of eggs and get the uterus ready for nurturing a fertilized egg. These hormones are

    • estrogen,
    • progesterone,
    • luteinizing hormone (LH) and
    • follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

    As a woman approaches menopause, the signals between the ovaries and pituitary gland diminish, slowing down estrogen/progesterone production and increasing LH/FSH levels.

    • When the ovaries shut down production of estrogen it often causes menopausal symptoms.
    • This may happen naturally or may be brought on by surgical removal of the ovaries or as a side effect of cancer chemotherapy.
    • No matter what causes menopause -- it produces changes in the way your body functions.
    • One of the changes that often occurs is 'vasomotor flushes' or 'hot flashes.'

    Hot flashes can be a serious problem for women experiencing diminished ovarian function as a result of menopause. Hot flashes may be particularly intense for women who have had breast cancer. A commonly prescribed oral medication for breast cancer, tamoxifen, has been found to cause hot flashes.

    Although the ovaries are the main factory for estrogen, other parts of the body and even fat cells produce small amounts. Although these hormones are called the female hormones, men have some too. That's why men who go through chemotherapy will sometimes have menopausal symptoms.

    Whether a change in blood flow to the brain or some other effect of reduced hormones causes this condition is not really clear. Researchers have just begun to study menopause as a medical condition.

    Some hints for decreasing the discomfort of hot flashes:

    • A glass of cold juice or water may help reduce the intensity of the flush.
    • Keep ice water or an ice pack by your bed for night time sweats and flashes.
    • Use cotton sheets, lingerie and clothing - they are less likely to trap the heat.
    • Dress in layers that can removed at the first sign of a hot flash

    Hot Flashes

    Why some bodies react to the reduction of hormones by developing hot flashes, night sweats and sleeplessness and some just sail through with no symptoms at all is not understood.

    • Some women report symptoms for a few months
    • Others have experienced hot flashes for 15 to 20 years
    • Hot flashes can be just embarrassing
    • They may interfere with the ability to perform daily routines in a normal way.

    For centuries women have had to cope with menopausal symptoms on their own. Recently, doctors began to recommend hormone replacement therapy to counteract the loss of estrogen.

    The problem is that hormone replacement therapy puts estrogen back into your body. Many women are afraid to take estrogen because it may increase the risk of breast cancer.

    There are some herbs and natural remedies that may help, but many of these, like soy and black cohosh may also increase the risk of estrogen dependent cancers.

    Next Page -> What You Can Do About Hot Flashes -
    Ancient herbs & new medications
    Page 2, 3



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