Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, CLE, shares natural remedies for hot flashes to help you keep your cool.
Did you know that 75 percent of menopausal women experience hot flashes? If you can relate, you’ll want to keep reading to discover the best natural remedies for hot flashes, including natural supplements for hot flashes, how to adjust your diet, and other lifestyle modifications for hot flash relief.
But first: the what and why behind this common symptom of menopause.
What are hot flashes?
Hot flashes are an intense feeling of sudden warmth, mostly in the upper body. They’re extremely common during perimenopause and in post-menopausal women. Hot flashes can cause sweating, blushing, and irritability. Some women may experience their heart racing or mood changes during a hot flash. Hot flashes are sometimes referred to as night sweats when they occur while sleeping.
Fortunately, natural remedies for hot flashes can help to ease symptom severity so you can feel your best.
What causes hot flashes?
Hormonal imbalances are the most common cause of hot flashes. Most research points to drops in estrogen levels, which happen during perimenopause, as the leading culprit. Estrogen receptors can be found in the area of the brain that controls a process called thermoregulation, or temperature regulation. When estrogen levels decrease, they trigger the hypothalamus (our internal thermostat) to overly react to changes in body temperature.
Estrogen also directly controls the diameter of blood vessels and can make them dilate, or get bigger (known as vasodilation), which leads to more blood flow and sweating. This is also why many women get flushed, or reddened skin, when they’re experiencing a hot flash.
A 2015 study also suggests that severe and frequent hot flashes can be a result of ongoing stress. In addition, risk factors such as smoking and excess weight are noted for increasing the likelihood of hot flashes.
While it’s still not totally clear why some women experience hot flashes and others don’t, there is some research in this area. For instance, research finds Black women are more likely to experience hot flashes, severe hot flashes, and hot flashes for more than five years. Interestingly, highly active women in midlife were more likely to report moderate to severe hot flashes in later life.
8 Natural Remedies for Hot Flashes
Thankfully, there are valid natural, home remedies for hot flashes that actually work. Here are the best among them.
1. Siberian rhubarb root extract
ERr 731™, a special extract of Siberian rhubarb root, contains a compound that has been clinically studied to reduce hot flashes, night sweats, and other symptoms associated with menopause. This isn’t the typical rhubarb you may have had in say, that pie your grandmother made, though. Known as Rheum rhaptonicum L., research has found that this extract can reduce hot flashes by up to 83 percent. It targets a specific estrogen receptor to help the body manage the ups and downs of estrogen.
In one clinical study of 112 symptomatic perimenopausal women who had an average of 12 hot flashes per day, half took 4 mg of ERr 731™ extract and half received a placebo. After 12 weeks, women taking the Siberian rhubarb extract reported between 0-5.6 hot flashes per day while those in the placebo group reported between 4.6-18.2 per day.
2. Dietary Estrogen
Because hot flashes are connected with a natural decline in estrogen levels, a natural way to mirror estrogen in the body is by integrating phytoestrogens into your routine. Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that behave like estrogen in the body. Soy contains isoflavones, a plant-based compound belonging to the phytoestrogen family. Essentially, soy isoflavones mimic estrogen by binding to the same cell receptors that estrogen normally would.
In fact, an analysis of 15 randomized controlled trials found that phytoestrogens appear to lessen the frequency of hot flashes with minimal side effects.
You can find soy in many plant-based foods like tofu, tempeh, and soybeans like edamame. Similarly, flaxseeds and dried fruits like prunes and apricots are also high in phytoestrogens.
Next, chasteberry (aka vitex), a prized herb for hormonal balance, also has the potential to reduce hot flashes.
A 2019 study found that women who supplemented with chasteberry experienced relief from menopausal symptoms, with hot flashes among them.
An earlier study also found benefits from applying a chasteberry/essential oil cream. Impressively, 33 percent of women cited major improvements in hot flashes and night sweats, while 36 percent cited moderate relief.
That said, several other studies found no differences between the chasteberry and placebo groups, so the official verdict is still out.
4. The Mediterranean Diet
Several studies also bring up the benefits of following the Mediterranean diet for hot flashes. However, the findings show mixed results.
Some researchers suggest that study participants may experience benefits due to the weight loss associated with eating a Mediterranean diet, rather than from dieting alone. On the other hand, some findings support that following a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce the occurrence of hot flashes.
Regardless, dietary intervention is highly recommended for hot flashes. Of all the diets out there, the Mediterranean diet proves to have many health benefits and is worth the try. In short, this diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, plant-based fats, beans, and whole grains.
5. Weight Management
In fact, one study shows evidence that significant weight loss in overweight women may eliminate moderate to severe hot flash episodes.
6. Vitamin E
In small doses, vitamin E is suspected to help with hot flash relief.
One study found that women who consumed 400 IUs of vitamin E for a month experienced significant differences in the severity of their hot flashes.
Foods that pack vitamin E include:
- sunflower seeds
- wheat germ
Bonus: Vitamin E isn’t only among the best natural remedies for hot flashes, but is also beneficial for skin health, stress, and oxidative stress.
7. Keep it cool
As a reminder, dips in estrogen levels may cause sensitivities to temperature changes. For this reason, creating a comfortably cool environment is one of the best ways to stop hot flashes in their tracks.
Easy ways to maintain a cool environment include:
- opening windows for air circulation
- using an air conditioner
- keeping a fan nearby
If you can’t control the temperature around you, consider cool gel pads and dressing in removable layers. When possible, avoid unbreathable fabrics and opt for cotton.
Lastly, drinking cool beverages like iced water can also help lower your body temperature.
Implementing a mind-body approach may prove to be beneficial for easing hot flashes, since stress can be a trigger. In fact, scientists have studied the effects of different relaxation techniques on the frequency of hot flashes.
One study took a closer look at mindfulness meditation as a natural remedy. It found that meditation can improve coping outcomes in women experiencing hot flashes by improving sleep and stress levels.
Similarly, a 2018 study found evidence suggesting that mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques improved women’s degree of “bother” from hot flashes.
In addition to mindfulness meditation, yoga, walking, and breathing exercises are also excellent ways to de-stress.
In sum, there are quite a few natural remedies for hot flashes. The National Institute on Aging recommends implementing lifestyle changes for at least three months before seeking medical treatments.
But before diving into all of these lifestyle changes, understand your personal triggers for hot flashes by keeping a journal or log. For instance, hot and spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol can all be dietary triggers for hot flashes. Coupled with these tips, avoiding your known triggers may help you keep hot flashes under control.