Oh, the joys of being a menopausal woman.
One day you sense something strange is happening to your body. It’s like all your veins and arteries from the waist up have suddenly dilated and a tiny flutter of heat starts from somewhere in the center of your being and begins to sweep up your torso, neck and face, leaving you feeling totally weird and slightly twitterpated.
Then it begins happening at night, waking you out of a sound sleep. “What’s wrong?”, you think to yourself. “Am I sick?” But you don’t feel ill. What the heck is happening?
Why Our Bodies Do This To Us
Both night sweats and hot flashes are virtually synonymous with menopause and they are completely harmless (so I’m told). Outside of driving you NUTS because your sleep is so interrupted.
Hot flashes are triggered by the hypothalamus, which (among its many responsibilities) acts as a thermostat for your body.
In the simplest terms, when the hypothalamus perceives that there are insufficient hormones in the body, it increases its production of a particular hormone known as GnRH – and its voltage. The resulting electrical excitation spills over to affect a region of the limbic portion of your brain that is involved in temperature control and that causes a reaction that produces rapid temperature increases in your body. The capillaries in your body then dilate and your nerves become highly reactive.
Ever have that feeling of “Oh no!” that just precedes a hot flash? That’s your nerves reacting to these chemical messages.
I find that “Oh no!” feeling hard to deal with. I also know that suddenly wanting a drink of cold water can precede a hot flash.
Heightened stress tends to make hot flashes worse – sometimes all I need to do is think about something stressful and that brings on a hot flash!
Hot, humid weather also makes them worse. On those days, it’s difficult to tell whether your sweat soaked brow is the result of the weather or your hot flashes!
For me, the hot flashes began about 30 days after I started chemotherapy for breast cancer, so it wasn’t a natural phase of getting older.
Chemo-related menopause is like hell on earth to begin with (or at least it was for me). You go from being a fully functioning, “normal” (whatever that is for you) woman with regular periods to nothing but a heat-radiating, sleep deprived, cranky, wild eyed, grouch, ever on the lookout for the cool spot on the sheets.
I was having “tropical moments” every 45 minutes until my body got somewhat used to the chemical infusions and lack of hormones.
Conventional & Natural Therapies
The standard medical treatment for hot flashes is estrogen. Unless you’ve had breast cancer. Then they want to give you Tamoxifen (which I couldn’t fathom – why would I want to take an estrogen suppressor when I didn’t have any damn estrogen in my body in the FIRST PLACE????).
Because I’d read “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer” by Dr John R Lee, I knew that a decline of progesterone was also a factor. I took myself off to a natural medicine doctor who specialized in women’s hormonal problems and he told me that because my tumor had progesterone-receptor positive cells on the surface, I wasn’t a candidate for progesterone either. ***Sigh***
I have tried a myriad of natural things to cope with hot flashes and while some things decrease the severity and frequency, nothing seems to remove them totally. I still have them 8 years later!
Tomorrow I’ll discuss the natural remedies I’ve found that assist with severity and frequency of hot flashes. Who knows? You might be the lucky one whom they help to completely eradicate hot flashes.
Our Ever-Suffering Husbands
I just want to pay a little tribute to our poor husbands or significant others here.
It can’t be easy living with someone who does blanket aerobics in the middle of the night (regardless of the weather), sprays herself down with a spray bottle of cold water mixed with peppermint oil, has to have the window open in the car even though it’s zero outside, flings off her sweater in the midst of the quiet part in a movie and rummages around in her purse until she finds her fold-out fan…
We do appreciate that it can’t be easy living with an overheated, sleep deprived maniac.
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