I have hot flashes several times a week. How can I manage them without taking medication?
Answer From Shannon K. Laughlin-Tommaso, M.D.
You may be able to reduce the intensity and severity of your hot flashes by controlling your physical environment or adopting certain behaviors.
Since ambient temperatures may affect how frequent and severe your hot flashes are, keeping your environment — and your body — cool may help.
To keep from overheating, try these tips:
- Remain in cool temperatures or air-conditioned areas.
- Keep air circulating around you with a fan or the breeze from an open window.
- Dress in layers and remove clothing when you become warmer.
- Wear open-weave cotton clothing to allow air to pass over your skin.
- Avoid drinking warm beverages, eating spicy foods, using tobacco, consuming caffeine and drinking alcohol.
Certain behavioral strategies also might be worth a try:
- Slow, deep breathing — known as paced respiration — when you feel a hot flash coming on
- Regular practice of relaxation exercises, such as yoga or mindfulness meditation
- Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine practice that involves inserting thin needles through your skin
- Hypnosis, a mind-body therapy that brings about deep relaxation and heightened focus
Paced respiration and relaxation exercises work best with proper instruction. Ask your doctor for recommendations on where to learn more.
Studies on acupuncture have had mixed results. In some studies, acupuncture improved hot flashes, and in others, no benefit was noted. Acupuncture has few side effects or risks when performed by a trained acupuncturist and may benefit some women. More research is needed, though.
Hypnosis — useful for managing medical conditions such as pain, anxiety and insomnia — may relieve hot flashes by reducing anxiety and stress. Preliminary studies provide limited but promising evidence that hypnosis may work to relieve hot flashes. Research into this potential therapy continues.
Shannon K. Laughlin-Tommaso, M.D.
May 17, 2017
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