Hot flushes, often likened to spontaneous sauna sessions dressed head-to-toe in winter gear, are an undeniable hallmark of menopause. Up to 80% of women in the throes of perimenopause and menopause experience these temperature tantrums, known by various names from "hot flashes" to "power surges." Beyond the immediate discomfort, these episodes can wreak havoc on your life, disrupting sleep, mood, and cognitive function and leaving you exhausted and frustrated. Yet, despite their prevalence and impact, the physiology of hot flushes remains an enigma, with more research needed.
Technically speaking, hot flushes are rapid and exaggerated responses involving heat dissipation, accompanied by peripheral vasodilation and a sensation of intense internal heat. However, understanding their underlying mechanisms remains elusive, leaving us without effective solutions to enhance women's lives during this challenging time.
One prevailing hypothesis suggests that hot flushes are thermoregulatory events. While intriguing, this perspective offers little practical insight to empower women in managing these episodes. Another avenue of inquiry delves into heart rate variability, suggesting an apparent involvement of the autonomic nervous system, possibly implicating parasympathetic withdrawal and sympathetic activation.
But this doesn’t help you feel better, so here's the twist: stress appears to play a pivotal role, as women under pressure tend to experience more frequent and intense hot flushes. Therefore, could the key to helping women manage or even conquer hot flushes lie in restoring balance to the nervous system and supporting the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis? In other words, can we support your stress response to help your hot flushes?