Founder of Menopoised, Jo Darling, says there is an alternative to HRT when it comes to dealing with the dreaded hot flushes.
As a Chinese medicine practitioner specialising in women’s health, particularly women going through menopause – naturally or through cancer treatment, I’m frequently asked how to stop hot flushes or night sweats naturally.
It’s no surprise given that around 75% of women in the western world report experiencing them as part of their perimenopause and menopause.
It’s such an obvious outward sign of ‘the change’ and one that can affect every aspect of your life from what you wear, to how you sleep – as well as potentially impacting your self-esteem and relationships.
Why do hot flushes happen?
The precise mechanism of menopause heat is not fully understood by western medicine. It’s known that, as with all menopausal issues, the declining volume of eggs and associated fluctuation of oestrogen levels is the cause. These changes in oestrogen are then believed to have a knock-on effect on your body’s temperature control (via the hypothalamus) resulting in a hot flush.
Some suggest that hot flushes or night sweats are down to genetics, race, and ethnicity, while others explain its linked more to your general health as you head towards perimenopause. It’s most likely to be a combination of them all. From my clinical experience I’ve noticed that by making changes to your lifestyle and nutrition it can really help with menopausal heat.
The menopause hot flush experience
Every woman’s menopause hot flush is different. The term ‘hot flush’ (or hot flash) is a bit confusing as some women experience cold flushes followed by extreme heat, while others experience heat and sweat with a flush and some women experience just heat with a night sweat!
For some, they’re like a tidal wave of menopause heat starting at the feet and rushing up through the whole body, others as a hot red face. Some women sweat profusely or feel cold afterwards while others don’t sweat at all. And around a quarter of women don’t experience them at all.
A hot flush or night sweat can happen once or twice a day or occur at uncountable levels. For many, they last between 1 to 5 minutes, although I’ve known patients experience menopause heat for longer.
The intensity of the menopause hot flush also varies with some women experiencing extreme, debilitating sensations and others a mild feeling of warmth.
A menopause hot flush can happen any time. If you’re only having them at night and they’re accompanied by increased sweating alongside a feeling of elevated body temperature you can call them night sweats. Whether they’re hot flushes and night sweats or night flushes and hot sweats Chinese medicine is one of nature’s awesome natural remedies that can help improve your experience.
The Chinese medicine perspective of menopause heat
Chinese medicine is fond of explaining how it works with the use of analogies, particularly those associated with nature. Expressing a health imbalance is in terms of climate is very common.
The body and mind should be just right in terms of temperature. Neither too hot nor too cold and that temperature should be consistent throughout all parts of the body.
So, when we experience menopause heat whether it’s just in the feet or face or it’s all over, we know there’s an imbalance that needs addressing. It’s a signal from our body for us to pay attention and get help with hot flushes.
Menopause heat can be caused by a few problems but there’s one organ involved in around 95% of cases – the kidneys. In natural menopause, this is due to them weakening with age. Whether or not you’re experiencing a natural, chemical, or surgical menopause they’re nearly always involved.
A good starting point for taking care of yourself during perimenopause and menopause, from a Chinese medicine perspective is taking care of our kidney energy.
Here’s how you can reduce the menopausal heat from a Chinese medicine perspective:
The number one lifestyle factor affecting the kidneys is overwork. As women, we find ourselves ‘having it all’. Many women find themselves working hard both outside and inside the home. Hard work, without adequate rest perhaps with a poor diet, overthinking and worry plays havoc with the cooling water aspect of the kidneys and can lead to menopause heat. Finding new ways to achieve a new work/life balance really can help with hot flushes.
Stress can really mess with our hormone balance, causing hot flushes or night sweats. In Chinese medicine, stress agitates our liver energy, which is so important for the smooth flow of hormones and a common source of menopause heat.
So, if we’re experiencing hot flushes in menopause and we become stressed, they could well become worse. The menopause itself creates a lot of stress on the mind and body, like any change does.
We live in a stressful world, just walking out the front door can be a stressful experience. For some that stress is caused by family life or perhaps by work pressures.
In Chinese medicine, our emotions aren’t separate from our physical body. In fact, they are seen as the precursor to physical illness. Feeling anxious, fearful, or guilty has a big impact on kidney energy, and weakened kidneys will affect lots of other organs that need to be in balance if we’re looking for help with hot flushes.
I’m a huge advocate of moderation in all things. If you weigh up everything, we know about the effects of menopause heat on the body – for example, the body is drying out, the liver is under more pressure – it stands to reason that cutting back the booze could make a difference on your hot flushes in menopause.
Alcohol affects the liver, and in Chinese medicine when the liver heats it can lead to not just a ferocious menopause hot flush and disturbed sleep, but also irritation and sudden outbursts of anger.
Besides the effect on hot flushes, alcohol is also believed by some to increase your risk of more serious health issues such as cancer, heart disease, damage to organs, and osteoporosis during menopause.
Chinese medicine views menopause as a natural part of aging. In the modern world we know that it doesn’t always come about naturally, nonetheless this ancient wisdom and its advice for treating heat as an imbalance is still relevant today.
When I’m asked how to stop hot flushes by patients, the main point I always recommend is located on the back of the neck, called Du 14 or Great Hammer! You can find it by tracing your finger across from the tip of your shoulder to your spine. There you’ll find a prominent vertebra – the point is directly beneath that.
I recommend using the Menopoised Magnet as a proxy for an acupuncture needle and find it to be easier to use than just acupressure alone – which can be awkward for this location.
Another point that I have found to help with hot flushes is a menopause treatment called Kidney 1 or Bubbling Spring.
You can find it just below the ball of the foot in line with the 2nd and 3rd toe. This is a wonderful point for menopause heat as it looks after the kidney energy. It’s perfectly paired with diluted clary sage for menopause heat. Massage each night and apply oil before bedtime for best results.
Chinese medicine describes menopause and midlife as our second spring. I love this wonderfully positive perspective on a time of natural transition.
If you’d like to know more about managing hot flushes, sign up here to get a copy of my Little Book of Self-Care for Hot Flushes and Night Sweats.