Hot Flashes and Menopause Changes
Every woman is going to go through menopause. At this point, it’s kind of become a running joke (or terror, really) that this transition is going to be a terrible time marked by menopause hot flashes, fast heart rate, and a myriad of other troubling symptoms.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it’s not supposed to be that way if your body is healthy and running, as it should. These symptoms only occur if there is a disconnect in your normal circuitry and if your adrenal glands are not running as they should as you enter menopause.
Here, we’ll explain and dive into how you can avoid those pesky symptoms for good.
In this article:
- What Is Happening During Menopause: The Basics
- Where The Issue Arises: Weak Adrenals
- The Solution to Menopause Symptoms
- The Better Solution: Support the Adrenals
What Is Happening During Menopause: The Basics
Normally, a female has about 400 eggs - and one will be released each month throughout her childbearing years. They’re released from one ovary one month, and the other ovary the next. At the end of that 400th egg, which is roughly at about age 52, there is a transitional phase commonly known as menopause.
During this transition, your ovaries essentially go into retirement. They stop releasing eggs and they stop producing estrogen and progesterone, the two hormones that control menstruation and ovulation. Normally, this takes place over three phases:
- Perimenopause: This takes place over several years before menopause. During this phase, the ovaries gradually begin to produce less estrogen - though they still release eggs.
- Menopause: Official "menopause" begins one year after your last period. Your ovaries no longer release eggs, and they've stopped making most of their estrogen.
- Postmenopause: During this post-menopausal stage, most symptoms - including menopause hot flashes - begin to go away. That said, health risks related to loss of estrogen do begin to rise.
If your body is running, as it should, you have a “backup” process that kicks in when this process begins. That backup is the adrenal glands. If they’re functioning properly, then menopause does not have to be an uncomfortable experience. Here’s why:
With normal function, the adrenals start to produce the hormones previously produced by the ovaries. Now, they don’t produce the same quantity of hormones as the ovaries, but the reality is that you usually don’t need the same quantity because your body is (usually) no longer preparing for childbirth.
So, your bodies are designed to accept this transition and the lowering in hormones without any issues. And this change itself won’t cause any problems.
Where The Issue Arises: Weak Adrenals
Normally, there’s a feedback loop that happens between the brain - specifically the hypothalamus - and the body (either the adrenals or the ovaries). This loop begins with the hypothalamus, which essentially “turns on” and sends a message telling the body to release an egg. If you’re not in menopause, the ovaries respond and release the egg. If you are in menopause, the adrenals respond.
When this happens - if the adrenals are strong - that message gets received and the adrenals essentially tell the brain “all good, turn off.” If the adrenals are weak and the backup system isn’t working properly, then we don’t get the feedback from the adrenals back up to the hypothalamus to actually complete the circuit.
In other words, the switch stays on and the hypothalamus essentially screams louder and louder to try to get its message through. And having a perpetually “on” hypothalamus can be a problem. This tiny part of the brain controls lots of functions that you don't want out of whack, including body temperature, thirst, appetite, weight control, sex drive, sleep cycles, and emotions (hello, menopause symptoms).
So if the hypothalamus' message stays "on," you’ll get an overactive flow into that adrenal gland and you’ll start to get those typical menopause systems. These include:
- More belly fat - more gut weight is a symptom of adrenals because adrenals are overactive
- Loss of collagen
- Atrophy - your muscles will get weak, your joints will get creaky, you’ll have loose skin
- Vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and issues controlling body temperature
- Vaginal dryness
- Bone loss
- Sleep problems
- Mood swings
- Decreased tolerance to stress
- Facial hair
Again, though, this isn't normal or standard! It all comes down to a problem with the circuitry and with the adrenal system.
So what’s the solution?
The Solution to Menopause Symptoms
Many women get these problems after menopause just because they’re going into menopause with a weak adrenal. The real solution, then, is to prevent this problem before it occurs to begin with.
Common “Solutions” That Don’t Work As Well
Hormone Replacement Therapy
A lot of times, people will take straight HRT (hormone replacement therapy) as a solution to these menopausal symptoms. It makes sense in theory: if you balance estrogen levels and other hormone levels, you won't have any more hot flashes or night sweats.
There are two main types of hormone therapy: estrogen-only therapy (ET) and estrogen plus progesterone therapy (EPT). The former is used primarily for women that have had a hysterectomy (since there is no risk of uterine cancer), while the latter is used for women that have an intact uterus. And both have their benefits. ET can relieve hot flashes and night sweats, ease vaginal symptoms, and perhaps even guard against heart disease or osteoporosis. Similarly, EPT may reduce the risk of colon cancer.
The reason HRT works effectively is that it bypasses everything and goes right to the brain. It tells the brain “I got your message, I heard you, release the egg” thereby essentially turning off the hot flash.
The problem, though, is that hormone therapy can give you side effects down the line, including breast cancer, stroke, blood clots, and heart disease. Estrogen therapy, in particular, can thicken the lining of the uterus and increase the risk of uterine cancer.
Many women also try to treat menopausal symptoms directly with other nonhormonal medication. Most commonly, women are prescribed:
- Low-dose anti-depressants like Brisdelle, which are supposed to treat hot flashes
- Gabapentin, an anti-seizure medication, which is supposed to ease hot flashes and other symptoms.
- Clonidine (Catapres), blood pressure pills that may provide some relief from hot flashes.
However, this non-hormonal therapy can quickly get out of control. Think about it: if you’re taking a different pharmaceutical for every menopause-related symptom, you’re taking a lot of pills without actually improving the functions that cause the symptoms in the first place. Plus, you don't want to take anti-depressants and seizure medication if you don't have either of those conditions.
Finally, many women opt for more natural remedies. These include:
- Over-the-counter lubricants to treat vaginal dryness
- Relaxation techniques, like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
- Regular exercise to reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and other age-related concerns.
Changes in diet
avoiding spicy foods, adding soy foods, avoiding alcohol and caffeine.
and over-the-counter herbal remedies:
- Black cohosh, which is supposed to fix estrogen imbalances and reduce hot flashes and night sweats.
- Bio-identical hormones (like black cohosh), which come from, plant sources.
- Phytoestrogens like isoflavones and lignans. These are estrogens that can be found in plant sources like chickpeas, flax seeds, and other fruits or vegetables.
Once again, though, these remedies don't get to the heart of the problem. It's much more difficult for them to provide lasting relief.
The Better Solution: Support the Adrenals
So what do you want to do? You want to support the adrenal gland. Not the symptoms, but the gland itself.
Here are three viable solutions for adrenal support:
Adrenal Stress Formula:
One of the remedies that I use is called adrenal Stress formula. It contains various helpful all-natural ingredients like vitamin c, magnesium, zinc, ashwagandha, and holy basil leaf. These support the adrenal gland directly and help it recover from ongoing stress.
If that doesn’t work, I will recommend an isoflavonoid, a phytoestrogen that helps balance the good estrogens without negative side effects. One of the good sources of isoflavonoids is clover. Get some cloverleaf if you need to do that. But I start with adrenal and work down here.
If nothing works I’ll use sea kelp. It has the iodine and a lot of times that will help balance the estrogen situation because there’s a huge relationship between estrogen and iodine. That can actually take some stress off the whole system
Remember - the transitional phase between perimenopause and menopause doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Take back your strength and your comfort today.