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Hot Flashes: What Triggers Them

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As your body’s hormone production changes toward the end of your childbearing years, frequent and inconvenient hot flashes (also known as hot flushes) can be a result of fluctuating hormones. These episodes are often sweaty and awkward, but don’t feel too embarrassed; most women and even some men have hot flashes at some point, so you’re not alone. However, if you want to reduce the frequency and duration of your hot flashes, learning what instigates them can help you plan to avoid them. Here are six things that spark hot flashes:

  1. Certain Foods

Unfortunately, some people discover that a favorite cuisine or beverage is responsible for some of their hot flashes. Some of the biggest triggers in the food-and-beverage arena include:

  • Hot spices
  • Hot beverages
  • Caffeinated drinks
  • Acidic foods such as citrus
  • Alcoholic beverages

Chocolate and some cheeses are potential triggers as well, along with excessive sugar and highly processed foods. Not all women have the same triggers, but if you find that foods trigger some of your hot flashes, you may wish to try workarounds such as choosing decaffeinated iced coffee and eating mild salsa instead of hot salsa to reduce the spice factor.

  1. Smoking

If you’re waiting for a sign that you should stop smoking, this is it. Smoking a cigarette can precipitate a hot flash (as if the possibility of cancer isn’t bad enough). If you don’t want to commit to quitting permanently, try taking a break from cigarettes until your hot flash problem is past and then re-evaluate your smoking habits.

  1. Clothing Choices

Warm clothing, especially if it’s warmer than is warranted by your surroundings, can bring on a hot flash by raising your body temperature. Dark-colored clothing may also encourage hot flashes by absorbing the sun’s heat and holding it next to your body; and tight, restrictive clothing has been known to bring them on as well. Doctors recommend choosing clothes that are light, layered and loose to prevent this possibility.

  1. A Hot, Humid Environment

Turning the thermostat down at home may help prevent overheating and heat-triggered hot flashes. During your leisure hours, avoid overly warm places like the hot tub and sauna. If your environment at work is warm enough to cause a hot flash, you can try to keep your body temperature from rising by using some of these tactics:

  • Wearing freezable jewelry
  • Placing a special cooling seat pad in your car or on your desk chair
  • Sipping ice water or iced mint tea
  • Placing a fan on your desk
  1. Exercise

Vigorous physical exertion can certainly trigger a hot flash by raising your body temperature, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid exercise altogether. In addition to being vital to your overall health, staying fit is a great way to decrease hot flash symptoms. This means that although in some cases exercise may act as a trigger, it will also help diminish the severity of the problem overall. To get the maximum benefit with a minimum possibility of triggering, consider a less sweat-inducing workout such as swimming, walking or yoga.

  1. Stress

Yes, anxiety and emotional strain can also bring on hot flashes. Dehydration, which stresses your body physically, can have this effect. Be sure to keep a water bottle handy at all times — even when you’re not actively trying to stave off an incipient hot flash.

Whether or not you change your lifestyle drastically to avoid hot flash triggers, knowing these common triggering situations and actions can help you analyze your own hot flashes and try to avoid them when needed. Although avoiding triggers won’t magically cure the problem or protect you completely, learning how hot flashes work can still help you regain control of your life.

Author bio: The Hormone Health Network is the nation’s endocrine patient education resource committed to helping patients have more informed discussions with their health care providers about hormone health, disease, and treatment. All of our educational resources are based on the clinical and scientific expertise of The Endocrine Society, the world’s largest organization of endocrinologists, representing more than 18,000 physicians and scientists.




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