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What Causes Hot Flashes in Women During Perimenopause?

By Expert HERWriter
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perimenopause-may-bring-hot-flashes Hemera/Thinkstock

Personal summers, power surges, my inner child playing with matches, are all descriptions of hot flashes. Hot flashes or hot flushes are the most common symptoms of perimenopause for women.

Hot flashes are defined as an intense sudden feeling of warmth usually radiating to the scalp, face, neck and chest. Your skin may redden, just as if you were blushing and you may perspire too.

Sometimes hot flashes may leave you feeling chilled after the sudden burst of heat. A short dilation of your blood vessels 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 your estrogen levels or the ratio between the levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body.

Depending on the intensity of the hot flash, it might alter your ability to handle daily activities. For many women this one symptom is what makes them dread going through perimenopause.

I, like you, don’t want be in pain or discomfort. Fortunately there is hope when it comes to reducing hot flash symptoms and other perimenopausal symptoms.

I think it is important to understand perimenopause is a normal part of our maturing process as women. Having symptoms that interrupt our ability to conduct our daily activities is not.

On average, this perimenopausal period takes about four to five years. So we have to look at how we can support our bodies and manage our symptoms during this four to five year period so we can have enjoyable lives during perimenopause.

According to the Mayo Clinic, perimenopause (also called the menopausal transition) is the interval in which a woman's body makes a natural shift from more or less regular cycles of ovulation and menstruation toward permanent infertility, or menopause.

It is the time when our bodies begin to go through a hormonal change and move from the ability to ovulate and bear children, to no longer being able to ovulate or bear children. During this time our hormone production begin to change.

Our ovaries are the main production site of estrogens and progesterone in women. As we move closer to menopause, our ability to produce normal hormone levels declines and the low level of progesterone falling out of balance with the estrogen levels produces hot flashes.

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 with consists of highly processed foods, fast food, high amounts of sugar, high amounts of meat and low amounts of vegetables. These diets usually do not contain the good fats, high fiber and vitamins and minerals the body needs to produced the correct ratios of estrogens and progesterone.

Stress lifestyles could include stress at work, stress in your personal relationship, stress in your home environment, financial stressors and 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 weight we carry, the more likely it is that our fat cells will produce more estrogen which throws off the appropriate estrogen-to-progesterone ratio, causing hot flashes.

How do we manage hot flashes? We must create a balanced life with healthy foods, managing our stress levels. We must exercise and maintain a healthy weight.

Implementing these health behaviors can create a healthy perimenopausal experience and helps us glide into menopause without power surges.

Live Vibrantly,

Dr. Dae

Dr. Dae is a Naturopathic Physician who practices in the Washington DC metro area treats the whole person using safe and effective combinations of traditional and natural methods to produce optimal health and well-being in the lives of her patients.


"Hot flashes - MayoClinic.com." Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2012. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hot-flashes/DS01143.

"Perimenopause - MayoClinic.com." Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2012. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/perimenopause/DS00554.

Reviewed March 14, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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