Hot flashes – not just for women

A small segment of women may experience an episode so intense that they may mistake it for a heart attack and seek out medical attention.

by Dr. Paul Stallone — 

Most people do not think that men can have a hot flash — that it is something only women get — but in reality, both genders can and do experience them. Hot flashes can be very disruptive for either gender, especially when coupled with the high summer heat, which makes the rise in your internal thermostat feel even stronger.

Men and women may get hot flashes for different reasons, but their bodies are going through the same biological function. Something triggers the hypothalamus, the body’s “thermostat,” a part of the brain that controls things like appetite, sleep cycles, sex hormones and body temperature, to send out a report that things are too hot in your body. Your body naturally responds by trying to cool things down, even if you really are not that hot. Your heart pumps harder, the blood vessels in your skin dilate to circulate more blood to radiate off the heat, and your sweat glands release sweat to cool you down.

This heat-releasing process keeps your body from overheating during true times of hotness, and when this course is triggered instead by a hormonal imbalance, your brain’s inappropriate response can leave you drenched in sweat any time of the day. The aftermath is a sudden, intense and unwelcomed rush of heat, often accompanied by excessive perspiration, dizziness and even heart palpitations. You may also feel nauseated or weak and have a crawling sensation on your skin.

Some women’s skin temperature can rise six degrees during a hot flash, which would drain anyone emotionally and physically. A small segment of women may experience an episode so intense that they may mistake it for a heart attack and seek out medical attention. Although men usually experience less severe hot flashes than women, they can experience them during the night, which is a sign of low testosterone.

One method both men and women find helpful in avoiding hot flashes is to discover what triggers them. Keeping a diary of your activities and eating habits may lead you to find your triggers. Some people, however, may not have any luck in finding their triggers, as flashes can occur anytime, in any situation and are often unprovoked. Common triggers may include alcohol, caffeine, diet pills, spicy foods, hot showers, saunas, hot food, hot rooms, smoking and hot weather, the latter of which is unavoidable in Arizona during this time of year.

Tips to help you get through the summer

Nighttime — Take a cool shower before bed and use cotton sheets, not synthetic ones. Keep ice water and a spray bottle near your bed to help during night sweats. If possible, invest in a larger bed if your partner complains about or contributes to your hot flashes. Wearing natural, organic fiber pajamas can help your body breathe and stay cool. Synthetic clothing and bedding hold heat in.

Daytime — Always carry ice water, as this will help cool you down internally. Dress in layers so you can remove a layer when you heat up or add a layer when you start to cool down and get chilly. Wear cotton, linen and rayon clothing but avoid silk, synthetics and certain wools that trap heat. Lower the thermostat at home to avoid overheating and triggering a flash. Stand in front of an opened freezer door during a hot flash at home or even in the grocery store when necessary. Use oil-blotting tissues to help preserve your makeup and/or to gently remove perspiration.

Many men and women can also find relief with natural supplements. The strength is going to vary with each individual, so speak with a knowledgeable physician who can customize a plan for you to ensure you are on a safe treatment plan.

Black cohosh can help with hot flashes and menstrual cramps, irritability, mood swings and sleep disturbances. Some studies have shown women with breast cancer noted a reduction in their hot flashes when on this herb.

Vitamin E is known to reduce premenstrual symptoms, such as anxiety, hot flashes, cravings and depression.

Evening primrose oil contains essential fatty acids, which provide great support to someone suffering from hot flashes and night sweats.

Many patients have eliminated their hormonal imbalance-related symptoms with bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (B-HRT), which can help anyone with a deficiency, including men. Women can suffer from estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA deficiencies with the following symptoms: hot flashes, night sweats, sleeplessness, low libido, low energy, mood changes, mental fogginess and vaginal dryness. B-HRT uses the molecular structure of the hormones found in the body and is most similar to the hormones that your body produces. Close monitoring by a knowledgeable and experienced physician with a clear understanding of the B-HRT program is recommended.

Eventually, hot flashes should decrease, but if you do not want to wait years for them to go away, speak with a physician about your options. You do not have to sweat those hot flashes or worry about embarrassing yourself in front of your friends and family. Summer may be almost over, but with the right help, plenty of time is still left for you to actually enjoy it.

 

Paul Stallone, N.M.D., founded the Arizona Integrative Medical Center, located in Scottsdale, Ariz. He combines natural, alternative and conventional treatments to best fit each patient’s needs. www.drstallone.com or 480-214-3922.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 31, Number 4, August/September 2012.

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