By Yelena Sapin
Problem: Hot Flashes
As women approach the end of their reproductive years, many experience sudden bursts of heat, either all over or just from the neck up. According to Dr. Rebecca Booth, OB/GYN and director of Women First of Louisville and author of The Venus Week, hot flashes are thought to be caused by adrenaline surges that occur as the body struggles to cope with loss of estrogen, a hormone the brain has become accustomed to since puberty and that plummets when the ovaries enter retirement. Night sweats, heart palpitations, racing thoughts, and feelings of anxiety can be accompanying symptoms.
Solution: Seek Balance Naturally
Minimize or lessen adrenaline surges by lowering stress levels through meditative practices, regular exercise, and adequate sleep, Dr. Booth says. Reducing alcohol, caffeine, and other stimulants including nicotine also helps. Increase your consumption of plant-based proteins that contain phytoestrogens, which mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. “Plant proteins almost always come from the reproductive part of the plant — the nut, the seed, sometimes the tuber — and contain compounds that are chemically similar to our reproductive hormones,” Dr. Booth explains. Flax seeds and soybeans top the list of foods high in these compounds.
Solution: Consider Medication
Schedule a special visit to discuss your symptoms with your doctor. “A lot of patients just mention it as I’m about to walk out the door,” says Dr. Booth, “but it’s not that straightforward.” Hormone therapy remains an option, but there are also effective non-hormonal alternatives. Antidepressants can help with hot flashes as well as with palpitations and racing thoughts, says Dr. Booth, and low-dose beta blockers can lessen racing thoughts and palpitations. Over-the-counter phytoestrogen supplements seem to offer some relief as well, but don’t forget to first check with your doctor.