What Causes Hot Flashes?

In my last article I discussed a common problem among women in their 40’s and 50’s – hot flashes or hot flushes. I realized after I wrote it that I should have taken a step back and explained what hot flashes or hot flushes are before I reviewed an article about how to treat them. This article will explain about what a hot flash is, and what can affect them. For treatment ideas read my previous story: http://www.empowher.com/hot-flashes/content/hot-flashes-treatments-may-help. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the term hot flash the definition is a sudden brief sensation of heat generally associated with menopause, which is the ceasing of the menstrual cycle in women. The heat is caused by a short dilation of the blood vessels that causes a wave of heat usually in the chest and head regions of the body. Hot flashes are an uncomfortable side effect of imbalanced hormones, usually associated with changes in estrogen levels or the ratio between the levels of estrogen and progesterone in women. Hot flashes can be more intense in women who have experienced chemotherapy, radiation or surgical removal of the their ovaries. This is because the ovaries are the main producers of estrogen and progesterone in women, and when strong medical treatments damage their ability to produce normal hormone levels the imbalance is felt in the body immediately and dramatically. Hot flashes are made worse by emotional stress, high temperatures, some medications or other medical conditions. Hot flashes can also be worsened by behavioral factors such as poor diets, stressful lifestyles, and obesity. Poor diets include the standard American diet which consists of highly processed foods, fast food, high sugar, high meat, and low vegetable diets. These diets usually do not contain the good fats, high fiber and vitamins and minerals the body needs to produce the correct ratios of estrogen and progesterone. Stress-filled lifestyles could include stress at work, stress in your personal relationship, stress in your home environment, financial stressors or even physical stressors.

Being overweight or obese may not seem like an important contributor to hot flashes but it is because our fat cells actually produce excess estrogen in the body. The more overweight a women is, the more likely her fat cells are producing more estrogen which throw off the appropriate estrogen to progesterone ratio, causing hot flashes or other female issues each month.

I hope this helps explain the basics of what causes hot flashes or flushes.

Live Vibrantly,

Dr. Dae