What is a hot flush?
Despite popular belief a hot flush is not a rise in temperature out of the ordinary. It is a shift in the brains perception of the heat. Known as the thermoneutral zone the hypothalamus in the brain sets a temperature range that allows for a wide variation in temperature to prevent shivering or sweating to occur to easily. But in menopause this zone narrows, meaning even a slight variation in rising temperature will trigger a flushing response.
This narrowing of the thermoneutral zone is partially due to the decline in oestrogens. But the main component is an increase in the sympathetic nervous activity in the hypothalamus. Meaning when the stress response is activated it will trigger this narrowing of the thermoneutral zone. Which is why in clinic, time and time again treating the nervous system and stress response works so well to address flushing. It is also why I find that women with hot flushes are commonly experiencing high levels of stress to some extent, whether it be work or career, change in relationships or other stress.
Dr Robert Freedman, a professor of gynaecology at the Wayne State University in Michigan has spent the past 30 years looking at the pathology of hot flushes. His findings show that before a flush, women have increased activity in the neural activity in the brain stem. He also found women with flushing have more noradrenaline activation (our stress hormone) than women in menopause without flushing symptoms.
Remembering there can be many triggers for stress in the body apart from work/ family life stressors. Think gut infections, chemicals in the environment, coffee, alcohol, sugars- these can all trigger a stress response in the body.
Therefore, the importance of mind-body practices in menopause is highly indicated due to the stress lowering response. Think yoga, meditation, nourishing foods and breathing exercises. There are also some fabulous herbs to try that nourish the stress response such as Zizyphus, Rehmannia and Withania.
Dr Sara Gottfried writes how a breathing technique can lower flushing by 44 per cent. Called Paced Breathing– Breathe deeply twenty minutes twice per day with a five-second inhale, a ten-second hold, and a five-second exhale.
Taking control of your stress and addressing what ever possible is a great step towards reducing those pesky hot flushes.
Wanting health advice from our experienced Naturopath? Jacqui has over 11 years experience in women’s health. With expertise in hormone testing as well as hormone and thyroid treatments for all ages.
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