How to stop hot flushes without HRT
It’s a question I’m asked frequently in clinic and my patients soon find out that acupuncture and Chinese medicine are both natural menopause treatments that really work.
In the western world around 75%1 of all women experience Hot flushes in menopause. Menopause heat is such an obvious, seemingly unavoidable outward sign of the change that they just can’t be ignored by us and everyone around us.
So, what is available for the treatment of hot flushes in menopause. Whilst some women find HRT is an effective treatment to help with menopause heat, others find it may help with some of their issues but doesn’t give them relief from their menopause hot flush. And for some women who are unable to take HRT as a treatment of hot flushes in menopause, due to health issues such as breast cancer, they’re keen to find natural menopause treatments that really work.
If you’re suffering with hot flushes in menopause and, having checked out the benefits and risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), want to know how to stop hot flushes (or hot flashes) without HRT, this article is for you. I’ll explore why a menopause hot flush happens and how menopause heat is viewed in Chinese Medicine. Plus, I’ll share some top clinical tips, that I give to my patients, looking for remedies for hot flushes in menopause.
What causes hot flushes in menopause?
Every woman’s menopause hot flush is different. Some experience them 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.
Why do they happen and what remedies for hot flushes in menopause could you try?
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 menopause hot flush.
Some suggest that hot flushes in menopause 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 when women incorporate natural menopause treatments that really work, such as lifestyle and nutrition changes, it can really help with hot flushes.
The menopause hot flush experience
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! To help you know if your menopause hot flushes treatment is working it’s important to figure out the frequency and intensity of your menopause hot flush.
A menopause hot flush can happen once or twice a day or occur at uncountable, I’ll-go-mad number of times and tend to last anywhere between 1 to 5 minutes each, 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, ‘pull-the-car-over-I-can’t-drive’ sensations and others a mild feeling of warmth.
Hot flushes in menopause often rise from the chest to the head, although some women report them starting at the feet. They can linger in the face or on the chest just to let everyone know they’re happening!
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.
Natural medicine for hot flashes - 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.
The Kidneys have dual aspects; one acts like cool water and the other like warm water. When they’re out of balance this creates menopause heat.
When we’re looking for a remedies for hot flushes in menopause anything that supports our Kidneys is vital.
Here are my top ten recommendations for all women asking me how to stop hot flushes without HRT.
1. Overwork can impact menopause heat
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.
2. Reducing stress is a natural medicine for hot flashes
Stress can really mess with our hormone balance causing hot flushes in menopause. 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, we know that if we’re experiencing hot flushes in menopause and we become stressed, they could well become worse. And we know that 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.
3. How to stop menopause hot flushes – cutback stimulants
Ever noticed that a cup of coffee or a nice chunk of chocolate can bring on a menopause hot flush? If you do, then you need to look at your caffeine intake. It’s the most used ‘drug’ in the world and we know it’s a short-term fix to increase mental and physical alertness, generate a spike in energy and sometimes to aid weight loss. Sounds like the perfect antidote to menopause.
Nope! Stimulants are heating and dry up the cool water you need to stay in balance, cutting them back is one of the best remedies for hot flushes in menopause.
Caffeine (in tea, coffee, or chocolate) or alcohol, have also been associated with anxiety, depression, bladder irritation, insomnia, irritability, all symptoms that many women experience at menopause too.
So, as with anything, it’s worth monitoring. Is the enjoyment you’re getting better than the issues caffeine may be causing?
It’s also a great idea to get into the habit of checking labels. You’d be surprised where caffeine can be hiding. It’s most found in coffee, tea, fizzy and high energy drinks, and chocolate but also lurking in snacks such as jellybeans, waffles and even water – not usually in the UK thankfully!
Don’t forget spicy food, which is also stimulating for the body, cutting back can really help with hot flushes.
A note on caffeine-free alternatives too - whilst you’re not getting the caffeine, hurrah, you might be getting a ‘chemicalised to remove the caffeine’ alternative.
Ouch. Naturally caffeine free products such as herbal teas are a great alternative for tea drinkers and can be a great help with hot flushes
4. How to stop menopause hot flushes – stop drinking alcohol
I’m a huge advocate of moderation in all things - including moderation. 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 irritation and sudden outbursts of anger.
Besides its effect on your hot flushes in menopause, 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.
5. Help with menopause hot flushes - drink warm not hot
It might seem like nonsense to even bother with this one but, genuinely, if your hot flushes in menopause are making you feel like you’re burning up, think about anything you might be doing that is increasing your body temperature.
Some women note that hot drinks can exacerbate their menopause hot flush and that hot, chilli-laden spicy foods can too. So, if this is you, then look for an alternative. You don’t just have to drink ice-cold water; in fact, I wouldn’t recommend that at all as it’s not great for your digestion, as the spleen needs warmth to digest at its best, something room temperature could be just the ticket.
Staying hydrated is important, however you take your fluids as it will help your body remove used hormones effectively which can also help with hot flushes. Remember hot, sugary, caffeinated, or alcoholic drinks will dehydrate you and won’t help with hot flushes. Instead try a naturally cooling drink such as cucumber, mint, or berries in water – but not too cold!
6. Reducing hot flushes in menopause – decrease sugar
Sugar, not just the raw sugar type but also the stuff you find in a lot of refined foods and ready meals can exacerbate hot flushes in menopause. When you think about it objectively, it’s not adding anything to your life and it’s possibly making your menopause heat worse. In Chinese medicine sugar depletes spleen energy putting pressure on the digestive system and creating unfavourable conditions which don’t help with hot flushes.
It’s known from a western physiological aspect that increasing your blood sugar levels and unbalancing your hormones you could be inadvertently increasing your menopause hot flush.
You may need to be more vigilant on checking labels for sugar content. And if you do eat sugary fruit like apples or bananas, balance out the effect of the sugar spike with a protein food such as almonds.
7. Hot flushes natural remedies made from aromatherapy oils
Aromatherapy is brilliant for supporting hot flushes in menopause. My preference is for peppermint or geranium facial mist, but lavender or clary sage can be brilliant too for dealing with menopause heat. These oils are recommended in Chinese medicine, as a natural medicine for hot flashes, much like herbs, for their cooling and hormone balancing properties – the perfect treatment of hot flushes in menopause. Here’s how to make a 4oz cooling spritz:
1/2 cup of distilled water
4 drops of peppermint/geranium/lavender or clary sage essential oil
1 tsp witch hazel
4-ounce glass spray bottle
Method. Put the witch hazel and the oils together in the bottle and top up with water. Shake and spritz! Keep with you at all times for when you feel your menopause heat rising
8. Acupuncture – one of the natural menopause treatments that really work
Chinese medicine views menopause as a natural part of aging. And although the classic texts may not have much to say about hot flushes in menopause specifically, they do talk about heat as an imbalance and how to treat it.
When I’m asked how to stop menopause hot flushes by patients, the main point I always recommend is located on the back of the neck. 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 and has proved itself to be an excellent hot flushes menopause treatment is called Kidney 1. 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 hot flushes treatment. Massage each night and apply oil before bedtime for best results.
9. How to stop hot flushes without hrt – try hypnotherapy and mindfulness
According to research in the US2, hypnosis can be as effective as HRT when it comes to help with hot flushes. It’s been demonstrated to be one of the most effective remedies for hot flushes in menopause.
Clinical hypnotherapy is a powerful hot flushes remedy, the US research showed that concentrating on cooling images during hypnotherapy was one of many natural menopause treatments that really work.
I recommend Sophie Fletcher’s brilliant book ‘Mindful Menopause’ to all my patients – it’s a great tool for natural menopause treatments that really work.
10. Movement as a natural medicine for hot flashes
From a Chinese medicine perspective, movement to help with hot flushes should be slow and mindful rather than fast and frantic. This is because it conserves kidney energy, cools the body, and keeps stress on the low down.
Research3 published in 2021, showed ‘significant improvements in the menopausal-specific quality of life were observed’ and could be helpful for those looking for how to stop hot flushes without hrt.
Medical Qi Gong, a form of standing meditation prescribed in Chinese hospitals has also been shown, through research****, to be one of Chinese medicine’s little known natural menopause treatments that really work and a fabulous natural medicine for hot flashes.
A note on smoking. Apart from the many obvious reasons why smoking isn’t great for your health. From a Chinese medicine perspective, it dries and heats the organs and can exacerbate hot flushes and night sweats.
About Jo Darling MBAcC Lic Acu
Jo is a Brighton-based Acupuncturist with a Bachelor of Science degree in Acupuncture from the University of Greenwich. Her training includes western medicine pathology, physiology and anatomy. She is also a member of the British Acupuncture Council.
Jo is passionate about women’s health. She has helped 100’s of women live healthier, happier lives. She has spent over 10 years practicing acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, reflexology and Chinese herbs.
As well as fertility, pregnancy and natural menopause Jo specialises in the treatment of breast cancer patients particularly those thrown into early menopause by chemotherapy. This work inspired Menopoised.
For more information about her work visit her website.
We understand the challenges of menopause because we are menopausal. That’s why we created Menopoised. The Menopoised Menopause Magnet is a first of their kind, acupuncture inspired, safe, effective and side-effect free. Our products have been created to support a broad spectrum of issues, designed to help guide women through a positive menopause.
How Can Help You?
If you’re suffering with hot flushes and night sweats, we can help. When we trialled our heroine product, the Menopoised Menopause Magnet, over 80% of our participants experienced a reduction in the intensity and frequency of their hot flushes and night sweats within a week of use. Read about our research here.
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Types of menopause symptoms experienced at work by women in the UK in 2019 published Aug 9, 2021 link here
Elkins, G, Fisher, WI, Johnson, AK et al (2012) Clinical hypnosis in the treatment of postmenopausal hot flashes. Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society link here
3. Impact of yoga intervention on menopausal symptoms-specific quality of life and changes in hormonal level among menopausal women link here
4. The effect of Qigong on menopausal symptoms and quality of sleep for perimenopausal women: a preliminary observational study link here
Photo Credit: Ava Sol