Guest blog: Diet and lifestyle changes can help to handle hot flushes. By Lottie Williams, registered nutritional therapist
Hot flushes are perhaps one of the most unpleasant symptoms of menopause for many people. During menopause the way our bodies manage our reproductive hormones changes. Some women experience little-to-no symptoms associated with these changes, while for others the effects can be very pronounced. This shift in hormonal balance is what is behind hot flushes. The flushing can be quite unpleasant for some women, happening throughout the day and making it difficult to get on with normal activities. The good news is that for most women the hot flushes don’t last forever, and even better – there is a lot you can do to help ease the symptoms.
Here are some general pointers that might well be relevant to you, if you’re experiencing hot flushes that are taking their toll.
- Stress: this is the first thing I look at when I’m working with a client. It’s a huge contributor to menopause symptoms, particularly because the stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol – can contribute to the imbalances in reproductive hormones that are causing hot flushes. Reducing stress levels is a must for anyone going through menopause. How to do this is very individual, but might include regular gentle exercise, mindfulness medication, increasing the amount of sleep you’re getting, daily relaxation practices and exploring EFT to get to the bottom of what’s causing you stress. Experiment with different ways of relaxing until you find what works for you.
- Reduce caffeine, alcohol and spicy food. Some people find these three can cause flushing, so try reducing/removing them for a couple of weeks and keep an eye on your symptoms. Do they reduce?
- Keep cool: hot flushes that strike at night can disturb sleep and be particularly troubling. Switch to 100% cotton bed linen and pyjamas and keep the bedroom nice and cool (19-21oC). During the day try dressing in natural fabrics such as cotton and linen, which can help you stay cool and opt for layers which you can remove if you get hot. You might like to invest in a handheld fan for use on the go, and perhaps a small USB-charged fan which can be plugged into your computer while you’re working.
- Keep your blood sugar levels steady by reducing sugar and refined carbohydrate intake. Try and reduce your intake of sugary treats and choose ‘slow carbs’ such as sweet potato, wholeg
- rain rice and pasta. High sugar diets tend to cause spikes in blood sugar levels, which in can contribute to hormone imbalances. Reducing sugar intake overall may also make you less tired and more energetic, so it’s a win-win.
- Add some hormone-friendly foods. Some foods contain ‘phytoestrogens’ which can help your body balance hormones naturally. These foods include: ground flaxseeds, fermented soya (e.g organic tempeh, miso and tofu), edamame and sesame seeds. Consider adding these foods to your diet and see if you notice any changes – remember, dietary changes can take up to 12 weeks to take effect so be patient! (Please note – if you’re taking thyroid medication it’s good to discuss whether to include these foods with a healthcare practitioner first).
- Load up on fruits and vegetables. This is the best way to get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to regulate hormones, support your mood and look after your bones and heart health. ‘Eat the rainbow’ – i.e. plenty of different colours each day to make sure you’re getting lots of variety. 5 portions a day is a minimum, best to aim for 2x portions of fruit at least 5x portions of veg. Simply adding a side salad to one of your meals is an easy way to boost your veg intake.
See the recipe below for a breakfast that is hormone-friendly and incorporates the dietary advice above!
Overnight Bircher Muesli (serves 1)
- 1/2 cup of oats (ideally rolled/steel cut oats)
- 1 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 tbsp almonds
- 5 tbsp ground flax seeds
- 1 tbsp raisins
- A good pinch of ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup of milk (non-dairy if you avoid dairy)
- ½ of Greek yoghurt (or non-dairy alternative)
- ½ an apple, grated
- In a large bowl, combine the oats, shredded coco
nut, almonds, flax seeds, raisins, hemp seeds, and cinnamon.
- Stir in the milk, yogurt, and grated apple. Mix well. Cover and let soak in the fridge overnight.
- Serve in a bowl/jar in the morning and enjoy!
You can make this ahead of time, increasing the quantities so you have your breakfasts sorted for the week.
There is a lot you can do yourself to support a better hormone balance and reduce hot flushes, so give the ideas above a try! It is important, however, to see your GP if your symptoms are really getting in the way of your life. They will be able to discuss treatment options which can be taken alongside diet and lifestyle changes.
What’s the role of a nutritional therapist? A nutritional therapist works you to uncover that may be contributing to your symptoms develops a personalised health plan. We work in a holistic way, supporting the body towards better health. We often work alongside other healthcare professionals, such as GPs.
Lottie Williams is a registered nutritional therapist (mBANT, CNHC) specialising in women’s health based in Barnes and currently seeing clients online. Website: www.lottiewilliamsnutrition.co.uk