Can Hot Flush Supplements Really Work?
Hot flushes are the affliction most commonly associated with menopause ― for good reason. It’s estimated that between 75% and 85% of women experience hot flushes during their menopausal journey.
They’re felt as intense attacks of heat and sweating, and may cause your heart to beat in a rapid, percussive staccato. They can begin in your face, your chest or at the back of your neck and spread throughout your body. You may feel hot to the touch and experience nausea. They may rob you of sleep and extinguish your sex life.
And the effects often extend well beyond the physical. Depending on the severity and frequency, hot flushes can disastrously affect your relationships and home life, your social life and your ability to work.
For some, hot flushes may strike dozens of times a day, each lasting between two and thirty minutes. According to a 2015 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, they last for around seven years on average, but may continue for as long as 11 or more years.
Despite all its associated symptoms, menopause is not a disease. It’s a natural part of life! Nonetheless, the symptoms can be life-disrupting, and women want ― and need ― relief. But can supplements really deliver you from the misery of hot flushes?
Let’s take a look at three frequently recommended hot-flush remedies: vitamin E, folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids.
Clinical studies from as long ago as the 1940s have found menopausal women taking vitamin E had around a 50% reduction in the number of hot flushes they experienced.
In an Iranian study, hot flushes dropped from five a day to three for menopausal women taking 400 IUs of the alpha-tocopherol and tocotrienol forms of vitamin E daily for four weeks. They also became less severe.
These studies reflect the experience of many other women. Around 50 to 75 percent of women affected by menopausal symptoms, especially hot flushes, find vitamin E works reliably and effectively to provide relief.
We are still learning about the mechanisms involved in hot flushes, so our understanding of exactly how vitamin E works to relieve this troubling symptom is incomplete. Nonetheless, some things are becoming clear.
We do know, for example, that oestrogen deficiency is not the sole, direct cause of hot flushes and night sweats. That commonly held belief is an oversimplification.
In perimenopause, women typically experience falling progesterone levels while oestrogen levels may decrease to a lesser degree or remain consistent. In fact, oestrogen may be the last hormone to decline, with the lowest levels being reached in full menopause.
The result is an imbalance in the ratio between progesterone and oestrogen ― that is, too much oestrogen relative to progesterone. This imbalance, called oestrogen dominance, likely increases activity of the hypothalamus gland in the brain.
The hypothalamus, which is responsible for regulation of body temperature, responds by activating secretion of two hormones from the adjacent pituitary gland: follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH).
If vitamin E levels are low, FSH and LH levels increase, causing blood vessels to dilate and allowing greater blood flow to the skin, which elevates temperature ― the symptoms of hot flushes. Interestingly, women in one study who were experiencing hot flushes were found to have elevated levels of the LH chemical 66 out of 66 times tested.
Supplementing with vitamin E helps decrease FSH and LH levels and reduce oestrogen production from the ovaries by interacting with oestrogen receptors and blocking it. This lowers hypothalamus activity and allows a “cooling off” period.
During the menopausal years, FSH and LH strength may increase by as much as 1,300 percent over previous levels.
Adelle Davis, a pioneering nutritionist who based her recommendations on evidence-based studies, wrote, “During the menopause, the need for vitamin E soars ten to fifty times over that previously required. Hot flushes and night sweats often disappear when 50 to 500 units of vitamin E are taken daily, but they quickly recur should the vitamin be stopped.”
Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)
Folic acid’s effectiveness as a therapy for hot flushes has been the subject of considerable research, although most folic acid studies assume oestrogen deficiency as the cause of hot flushes.
One trial pitted 1-mg folic acid tablets against a placebo once a day for four weeks. Researchers saw significant symptom improvement and suggested that folic acid is an accessible, affordable method of treating hot flushes.
Another study focused on folic acid’s role in synthesis of the transmitters serotonin (which elevates mood) and noradrenaline (which increases stress) in the brain. Elevating serotonin increased its “feel-good” effects, and reducing noradrenaline lowered stress levels, which reduced hot flush symptoms.
The researchers in this study assumed that folic acid acted on these neurotransmitters in the same way as oestrogen and suggested that it therefore could be used as an inexpensive and effective alternative to oestrogen therapy.
Omega-3s, which are fish oil, contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Every cell in your body requires these fatty acids, and, since your body can’t make them, they have to come from diet or from supplements.
A 2009 double-blind, controlled study of 120 women found that EPA, given over eight weeks in daily 1000-gram doses, could reduce hot flushes by half.
An Italian study compared omega-3 fish oil capsules with a soy isoflavone supplement and placebo. The omega-3 group, unlike the other two groups, experienced a steady decline in hot flush frequency.
The researchers explained that the omega-3 fatty acid’s ability to relieve hot flushes was likely due to their influence on neuronal [brain cell] membranes and/or their modulation of serotonin neurotransmitters, which lighten mood and relieve stress.
Yet another study focused on a link between hot flushes and the hypothalamus, the area of the brain mentioned above that regulates body temperature. The researchers hypothesised that insufficient oestrogen causes the hypothalamus to get the wrong signals and, as a result, turn up body temperature.
Omega-3s were thought to help ease hot flushes by reducing production of a particular type of eicosanoid (a signaling molecule) that promotes heat-generating inflammation.
How Do You Survive Hot Flushes?
Science is still learning about alternative treatments for hot flushes, and it appears performance of specific supplements may vary for different women. However, each of the above supplements has brought relief to significant numbers of women and made life bearable again.
Since conventional wisdom still attributes hot flushes solely to loss of oestrogen, it’s unsurprising that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the most common recommendation. The idea is to replace what is thought to have been lost ― namely, oestrogen.
However, traditional HRT can pose risks for heart attack, stroke, blood clots and cancer. A far safer option is bioidentical hormone restorative therapy (BHRT), which uses plant-derived ingredients that duplicate the molecular structure of the hormones produced naturally within your body.
A great advantage of BHRT is that it enables accurate rebalancing of your hormones, which will bring oestrogen and progesterone into the proper ratio ― an excellent solution for taming hot flushes and, at the same time, for protecting against disease.
BHRT doesn’t carry the same health risks as HRT. Plus, advance testing enables formulation to meet your exact requirements, so it gives optimum results, including much-needed relief from hot flashes.
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