Many women embrace the menopause as a time of reflection and change, but the physical challenges it creates can be harder to manage. Night sweats and hot flushes, for example, are common symptoms of the menopause and affect 50-70% of women in some form.
So what causes these symptoms and how can they be managed? During perimenopause - the years leading up to the end of your periods – hormone levels dip and rise dramatically. “Our ovaries start getting fed up of producing an egg every month – they’ve been at it since puberty, so our oestrogen levels drop and drop,” explained consultant endocrinologist Dr Mukherjee when speaking to the Telegraph about Vichy Neovadiol’s ‘Me’ in Menopause’ partnership campaign.
The pituitary gland in our brain compensates for falling levels of oestrogen, and produces hormones that try to make our ovaries work harder. “Every now and then women experience a surge of oestrogen because of this,” Dr Mukherjee continues. It’s this increase of oestrogen which makes the body overheat and moods to become unpredictable.
Night sweats can make sleeping difficult and raise the body temperature so dramatically that bed clothes and sheets are left sodden in sweat. Hot flushes create a similar sensation of heat that spreads throughout the body and across the face and neck, and can happen at any time. While some women may only have a hot flush occasionally, others experience them up to 20 times a day.
While these symptoms can be unpleasant, the good news is that are plenty of ways you can take control and keep yourself comfortable. Here’s 10 helpful tips and tricks to help you stay healthy and happy during the menopause.
1: Cut down on spicy foods
Spicy foods can bring on or exacerbate hot flushes and night sweats. Try to cut down where possible, especially when you’re in a warm environment such as a busy restaurant.
2: Keep the bedroom cool
To prevent night sweats, keep your bedroom cool and ventilated with electric fans and open windows. You should also swap thicker duvets for loose sheets, and only wear very lightweight bed clothes. If this doesn’t suit your sleeping partner, you can buy duvets that are thinner on just one side.
3: Keep cool on the go
Mini hand-held fans, cold gel packs and small spray cans of thermal spring water are all simple and inexpensive ways of refreshing the face and neck while you’re out and about. Keep them close to hand for instant refreshment when you feel a hot flush developing.
4. Stay Hydrated
Try easing hot flushes in the office by putting cucumber and mint water in a spritzer. Then keep it in the fridge to use throughout the day as a face mist. “Staying hydrated can also help with symptoms such as headaches and hot flushes,” advised nutritionist Fiona Hunter when speaking to the Telegraph about our ‘Me’ in Menopause’ campaign. “As well as drinking water, try snacking on watery fruits such as melon and orange. They can contribute quite a lot in terms of fluids and also have general health benefits.”
5. Relax with Yoga
Stress and anxiety can make hot flushes and night sweats worse, so it’s important to make time for regular relaxation. Recent studies have shown that yoga can really help reduce the severity of these symptoms, and is also a great way to boost your mood.
6. Wear layers
Lightweight layers are the best way of keeping cool and comfortable during the menopause. Try to avoid chunky knitwear or long-sleeved dresses that don’t allow the skin to breathe, and opt for fabrics in cotton and silk that can be removed easily if you overheat.
7. Supplements and homeopathic remedies
Some studies have shown that B vitamins such as folic acid can improve hot flushes. A vital nutrient from soy, folic acid has a calming effect on the body as it effects serotonin in the brain, helps the body properly metabolize and keeps hormones in balance. You can take this in supplement form, or also reap its benefits naturally by eating folic-rich food such as asparagus, rice, oranges, tofu and spinach.
8. Avoid hot showers and baths
You may be quite fond of enjoying a hot, steaming bath, but this is a sure-fire way of raising the body temperature and bringing on a hot flush. Cool and lukewarm water will give your body the refreshment it needs.
9. Sip cold drinks
Keep hot drinks such as tea and coffee to a minimum, and opt for cooler beverages straight from the fridge. Regular sips will ensure your body is hydrated and refreshed throughout the day.
Many women find that acupuncture can help reduce the severity and frequency of hot flushes and night sweats. Acupuncture involves placing small needles at certain points of the body to release endorphins – the body’s natural painkillers – which are believed to stabilize the body’s temperature control and ease hot flashes.
This article is intended as general information only. You should seek advice from a professional before altering your diet, changing your exercise regime, or starting any new course of conduct.