Menopausal hot flushes are sudden feelings of intense body heat that can occur during the day or night. Night sweats, often waking women up from sleep, are periods of heavy sweating associated with hot flushes that occur at night. Hot flushes usually affect women who are approaching the menopause and are thought to be caused by changes in your hormone levels affecting your body's temperature control.
Menopausal night sweats can be uncomfortable, even causing sleep disruption, anxiety and discomfort. By making some easy dietary and lifestyle changes may help to make your night sweats more manageable.
There are a number of triggers which are known in some people to provoke hot flushes and night sweats.
• Smoking and alcohol consumption; even a small glass of red wine in the evening can trigger night sweats
• Wearing tight, restrictive clothing at night
• A warm bedroom – use lighter duvets, turn off central heating during the night and open the window for fresh air
• Drinking hot drinks and caffeine
• Eating chocolate, spicy foods and refined foods rich in unhealthy fats and sugar
• Becoming dehydrated, so be sure to drink plenty of water during the day and sips at night
• Night sweats can be triggered by sudden changes in temperature
• Emotional upset and stress increases adrenaline levels, making your sweat glands work harder
Knowing how to find relief quickly can spare you a night of discomfort. Some things to try include:
• establishing a calming routine before bedtime to reduce stress
• exercising during the day to decrease stress and help you get restful sleep at night
• wearing loose, light fitting cotton nightwear
• using a bedside fan
• maintaining a healthy weight
• turning down the temperature in your bedroom
• removing sheets and blankets
• sipping cool water
• slowing and deepening your breathing to help your body relax
Add natural foods and supplements to your diet
Adding natural foods and supplements to your diet on a long-term basis may help reduce hot flashes and night sweats.
Here are a few dietary tips
• Eating 1-2 servings of a variety of soy based foods per day, which has been shown to decrease how often hot flashes occur and how intense they are in some studies – fermented soy as miso, soya sauce, tempeh and natto, as well as, fresh soybeans, tofu, sprouts and edamame.
• Soy also contains isoflavones, natural phytoestrogens, which have oestrogen like effects on the body to aid in balancing otherwise low oestrogen levels associated with the menopause and its various symptoms. Isoflavones are found in chickpeas, lentils, alfalfa, fennel, kidney beans and sunflower, pumpkin, hemp and sesame seeds, Brazil nuts, walnuts and flaxseeds.
• Stabilise blood sugar levels by eating little and often and including complex carbohydrates (brown rice, quinoa, millet, spelt, oats, sweet potato) and protein at each meal
• Increase fibre from grains, fruits and vegetables as they bind oestrogen so it can be excreted more efficiently. It will also keep blood sugars balanced and encourage the elimination of toxic waste products.
• Eat ground flax seeds or an organic flaxseed oil which contains lignans (phytoestrogen) to help reduce hot flashes
• Foods from the brassica family help to balance hormones – cabbage, broccoli, watercress, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens
• Reduce acidic foods such as dairy and saturated meats and include alkalizing foods such as spirulina, wheatgrass etc.
• Black cohosh can relieve hot flushes and night sweats after 4 weeks of use
• Take a supplement that contains soy isoflavones – studies show consuming 40mg per day has beneficial effects at reducing symptoms associated with the menopause