For millions of women, the struggle with hot flashes is very real and even more frustrating. But what causes them?

Hot flashes are a hormonal condition that make women sweaty and red-faced. They can occur in the years before, during and after menopause. There are also rare cases of men experiencing hot flashes.

It’s unknown exactly why the hormonal changes associated with menopause confuse the hypothalamus; which controls appetite, sleep cycles, hormones and body temperature, but the drop in estrogen can disrupt this area of the brain.

When a flash occurs, the hypothalamus alerts the body to cool off, making the heart, blood vessels and nervous system work to disperse heat throughout the body. The heart pumps faster, blood vessels dilate to help circulate more blood and sweat glands are activated.

The internal body temperature of someone experiencing a hot flash actually drops 1° Celsius while the external body becomes hot to the touch.

An OBGYN can prescribe hormone therapy to help reduce the side effects of menopause. Here are a few home remedies to help lessen the frequency and cool you off during a hot flash:

Quick fixes

  • Sip on a cold drink when you feel a hot flash coming on to help regulate your body temperature
  • Remember spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol can sometimes trigger a hot flash
  • Controlled breathing during a hot flash can help lower the anxiety that often accompanies the flashes
  • Stop smoking
  • Keep a damp washcloth in the freezer, applying it to your neck when you feel a hot flash coming on
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Supplements

Black cohosh: Studies of its effectiveness in reducing the frequency of hot flashes have produced mixed results, but in some cases this herb has helped.  There have also been some reported negative effects on the liver.

Ginseng: Research has shown this root has helped with several menopausal symptoms like mood boosting, sleeplessness and overall well-being. It has not been found to help with hot flashes.

Kava: This supplement has been promoted to relieve hot flashes, but few if any studies have been able to back this claim.

It’s good to remember that herbal supplements are not as closely regulated or studied as prescription drugs. Consult with your care provider before starting any supplement. Also be aware that many supplements can interact with prescription medications.