4 Ways to Help Hot Flashes Through Diet
Women in menopause everywhere are looking for ways to help alleviate their hot flash symptoms and while there are many ways in which women can help improve their menopausal health and reduce their hot flashes, the best starting point is to make dietary adjustments.
How can diet impact menopausal symptoms like hot flashes? The body takes in nutrients, compounds, and hormones from food and supplementary sources to help regulate the body’s functions from the bones to the blood and even the brain. Understanding what foods can provide the most benefits for their menopausal health and what foods to avoid, can help women reduce the severity and intensity of their hot flashes.
So, what dietary changes can women make to their diets to help support hot flash relief?
Cut Down on Alcohol and Caffeine
Two of the biggest culprits when it comes to hot flash triggers are caffeine and alcohol. Both caffeine and alcohol increase your body temperature in different ways. Alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning it widens the blood vessels and allows more blood to circulate through the bloodstream. Whereas caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, which means it narrows the blood vessels which decreases the rate at which blood flows through the body and increases blood pressure. How do vasoconstrictors and vasodilators trigger hot flashes?
In both scenarios, the widening or the constricting of the blood vessels has an effect on heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. When the blood vessels are widened, blood rushes through the bloodstream at a faster speed, which increases body temperature. When the blood vessels are narrowed, blood cannot pump through the bloodstream as quickly, which increases blood pressure and heart rate, both of which can also increase body temperature.
So, what does this mean for you? Cutting down on how much coffee and alcohol you consume in a day can help reduce the intensity and frequency of hot flashes. Try limiting your caffeine intake to 1-2 cups of coffee in a day, and remember that 6 ounces of coffee can take up to 12 hours for your body to metabolize. Try limiting your alcoholic beverages to 1 glass in a night and be sure to drink plenty of water before going to bed.
Eat Fewer Spicy Foods
Spicy foods are also a hot flash trigger, and while they may be delicious, they can make it almost impossible not to experience a hot flash. Like caffeine and alcohol, spicy foods can raise your body temperature and cause your hypothalamus to trigger a hot flash, but how? When you eat spicy foods like chili peppers, jalapenos, and so on, your brain registers the tingling sensation you feel in your tongue as if the tongue is, quite literally, on fire.
When your brain registers this sensation as pain, it sends signals to your adrenal glands to start producing hormones to help lower that sensation. These hormones help lower the pain signals that your brain receives. The surge of these hormones increases your heart rate and your body temperature. Cutting down on the spices and spicy foods can help prevent lower the risk of triggering a hot flash. So limit how many spicy foods you eat throughout the week and keep the spice profiles of your dishes relatively mild.
Every organ and system in the body is made up of water to some degree. Your brain and heart are composed of around 73% of water molecules. Your lungs are around 83% water. Even your bones are made up of nearly 31% water. It goes without saying that your body needs water in order to survive and maintain its many functions, but how can staying hydrated help support hot flash relief?
Staying hydrated can help keep your blood volume high and replenishes the water lost when you sweat. Your body releases sweat, which is essentially salty water, onto the skin to keep the external temperature low. However, that water has to come from within the body to create sweat and your body loses a percentage of internal water as a result. Replenishing those fluids by drinking water can help keep your internal body temperature steady.
Avoid Hot Beverages
Everyone loves a hot cup of coffee or that delicious herbal tea, but sometimes drinking a hot beverage can be enough to trick the hypothalamus and set off a hot flash. When you drink that first hot cup of coffee, you are raising your body’s core internal temperature because the hot drink is hotter than your resting body temperature. As a result, the hypothalamus will respond by releasing sweat in an attempt to lower body temperature by cooling the skin. Drinking hot beverages can actually increase the rate at which you sweat, which can make experiencing a hot flash even more uncomfortable.
Put a Hold on Your Hot Flashes
Making these simple dietary adjustments can help you lower the intensity of your hot flashes to some degree, but what else can you do to help keep your hot flashes under some control? You can start by talking to your doctor about other areas of your lifestyle that you can change to better your menopausal health, from exercise to probiotics.