Midlife & Menopause Moments

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5 Hot Flash Triggers Every Woman Should Know

by on July 1, 2013 1 Comment

One matchstick on fireI’ve talked quite a bit about night sweats in my blogs. That’s because so many women are affected by night sweats and hot flashes, and I think it’s important for all of us to understand why they happen and what can trigger them.

Hot flashes are a sure sign that our ovaries are getting older, and I have spent countless hours researching these annoying signs of perimenopause and menopause. Many of my patients are surprised when I tell them hot flashes aren’t always caused by a hormonal imbalance. In fact, I have a number of patients who come to see me who are currently taking hormone prescriptions but are still having hot flashes. Call me crazy, but I think of hot flashes, night sweats, perimenopause, and menopause like pieces of a puzzle, which I love to solve.

Here’s a simple way to think of all these pieces: Hot flashes and night sweats occur when your thermostat registers your body temperature as too high and turns on the air conditioning. The hot flash could happen because you are actually too hot – like from sitting in the direct sun at a graduation ceremony (something I recently experienced). But, it can also be a combination of your brain chemicals being all used up from worrying about stressful events in your life – coping with your aging parents, teenage children, and job responsibilities – and your estrogen levels heading to their monthly low. If your estrogen levels are lower than normal, your thermostat will be especially sensitive to things like a sugar rush, alcohol, or a sudden burst of activity (such as running up the stairs).

Although you can’t always avoid every hot flash or night sweat, you can help reduce their severity and their frequency by knowing the five most common triggers:

1. Hormone changes, especially low or dropping estrogen
2. Alcohol
3. Sugar (from treats like ice cream, cookies, or sugar-laced tea) before bed
4. Stressful thoughts or worries about tasks not completed
5. Caffeine, especially without adequate water for several days

If you want to have more control over your hot flashes, try really hard to lower your stress level, and avoid alcohol, sugar, and caffeine for several weeks. See what happens – I think you will be pleasantly surprised.


About the Author ()

Diana Bitner, MD, is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology. She received her medical degree from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit and completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dr. Bitner has special interests in women’s wellness and prevention of heart disease, menopause, perimenopause, laparoscopic and robotic pelvic surgery, and pelvic pain. She is also fluent in Portuguese.

Comments (1)

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  1. Catherine says:

    Thanks for the tips! I just started experiencing symptoms a few weeks ago and there is not a lot of information about that that is practical, like this is. Much appreciated.

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