Hot flushes and cold flushes may sound like opposites, but they are both menopause symptoms. They are known as vasomotor symptoms and both are caused by a change in our body's internal temperature regulation. Night sweats are another name for hot flushes that occur during the night.
Hot flushes are one of the most common symptoms of menopause. Hot flushes can range from a few a week to several an hour. Did you know they occur in 75-80% of women, but only one in five women seek medical help?
Despite how common hot flushes are, there is very little research into why they occur. Falling oestrogen levels allow hot flushes to occur, but oestrogen isn't the only culprit: other hormonal and neural changes also affect the ‘thermoregulatory centres’ (the body's thermostat) in the brain.
Temperature control happens in the hypothalamus, a small but super important part of your brain that is responsible for regulating heat and releasing hormones. If the hypothalamus mistakenly senses that you are too warm, it starts a chain of events to try and cool you down. This includes diverting more blood to the surface of your skin causing us to flush and sweat. The body's attempt to dissipate heat is what causes the feeling of a hot flush.
Certain triggers can confuse your brain into this response, which is why avoiding them can be an important part of reducing hot flushes.
Here are some common triggers:
You are unique, so what works for someone else may not work for you. The best way to figure out which triggers affect you is to keep a diary of your hot flushes and anything that may have caused them. You can then start to see patterns and discover which triggers to avoid. Additionally keeping a fan handy or making sure to wear layers can help manage hot flushes when they do arise.