A woman holds a glass of water and looks out a window.
One of the first steps to combat hot flashes is proper hydration—about 80 ounces of water per day. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Summer is the worst season to deal with hot flashes.

In the winter, you can get at least some relief by cracking open a window to let in the arctic air.

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Six tips to avoid hot flashes

1. Maintain a healthy weight. Even a small amount of weight loss can help.

2. Drink plenty of water. Dry muscles got hot quicker.

3. Stay off sugar. It increases fat, or insulation, and it can trigger a hot flash.

4. Have cold water close by. Drinking cool water can shorten the hot flash because it cools you down.

5. Gratitude and metered breathing helps. Go to a place of gratitude and name three things for which you are grateful. It’s a powerful way to stop a hot flash or eliminate any other unpleasant thoughts you’re having. Metered breathing is where you close your mouth, open your eyes and stare at a spot, breathing deliberately for about four to five minutes.

6. Strongly consider hormone medication. Check out the app MenoPro for a tool to help you decide for yourself, then talk to your health care provider.

In the summer, not even air conditioning is enough. The days and nights are hot enough already—you shouldn’t have to face hot flashes, too.

If this has become your reality, it’s time to learn what to do to make these hot flashes go away.

Too hot, too cold

First, it’s important to understand why a hot flash happens.

A hot flash or night sweat is the body’s way of cooling off. The blood vessels in the skin are commanded to open, or dilate, and blood rushes to the surface, allowing heat to escape.

Sweating goes along with this, of course, further allowing the body to cool.

Women will say they glow or radiate heat during a hot flash. That’s exactly what’s happening.

Hot flashes often happen in the years before menopause, in the days before a period, and then more frequently in early menopause because estrogen levels are low.

Estrogen is a powerful regulator of temperature regulation. When estrogen levels drop, the thermostat gets very sensitive.

The comfort zone changes from a comfortable 4 degrees to a narrow range of 0.4 degrees. This is why many women in perimenopause or menopause say, “I’m always too hot or too cold—never just right.”

The body’s air conditioning—hot flashes—can also be triggered by sudden stress. The adrenalin rush can flip the switch.

High blood sugar, even after eating something as simple as a little cookie, can also trigger it. It can also happen 30 minutes after that cookie, when the blood sugar crashes.

Alcohol can trigger a hot flash, too. Many women will agree that drinking wine at dinner can cause night sweats.

Failing to drink enough water can cause hot flashes to increase in frequency and intensity. Weight gain can also make the body warmer and harder to cool.

Sleep-deprived women may experience hot flashes more frequently. Fluctuations in brain chemicals—brought about by situations involving chronic stress, for example—can also increase the frequency of hot flashes.

Finding hope

By understanding why hot flashes occur, women can avoid the suffering and begin to find solutions.

The most effective treatment for hot flashes and night sweats is estrogen medication.

The estrogen we prescribe at Spectrum Health Midlife, Menopause & Sexual Health is FDA-approved bioidentical, covered by most insurances.

It’s not compounded, but available by mail-order or from your local pharmacy.

Estrogen medication is safer than most people think.

We have many good studies to back that up.

Even a low dose of estrogen—much lower than normal ovary function back in the day—can reduce hot flashes within seven to 10 days.

If a woman has a uterus, she needs to take a progesterone with the estrogen. This can often help with sleep, too.

Safety comes first—and for some women, estrogen is not safe. We go through a checklist before prescribing it.

If estrogen is not the treatment of choice, the next best medication is the same class of drugs used for depression and anxiety.

This is used not because the woman has depression or anxiety, but because the medications can increase serotonin.

Serotonin makes the thermostat less sensitive and reduces the frequency of hot flashes, almost as effectively as estrogen.

Ultimately, you have to build the right foundation for treating hot flashes. This entails a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight.

About 80% of women have symptoms that interfere with their quality of life.

But there is hope.

SEEDS (Seven Essential Elements of Daily Success) is the best place to start.

It begins with water—80 ounces per day—and 50 hours of sleep each week.

It also involves daily activity and exercise, a multivitamin and vitamin D and a healthy diet rich with complex carbs, smart protein and healthy fat. Limit yourself to just one treat per day and make sure you get all the fiber you need.

Practice metered breathing and gratitude.

As you do more SEEDS each day, you’ll experience fewer hot flashes.

The SEEDS approach can help in everyday life, too.