“I’m having a hot flush” is a familiar midlife cry.
You may be lucky enough to escape, however, more than 80% of women are thought to be affected by hot flushes at some point. They can often start long before you stop menstruating and can continue for several years afterwards.
As well as being embarrassing, flushes and sweats can be severely debilitating.
It’s thought that the lack of oestrogen as we get older may affect the action of the hypothalamus, the region of the brain that controls body temperature.
As our oestrogen levels fall the brain tries to kickstart the ovaries back into function which causes the hot surges in our bodies. Ovarian function does not decline in a straight line, which means that oestrogen levels and flushes can rise and fall at different times.
The frequency, duration and intensity of hot flushes vary from one person to another. You could get several a day or be plagued constantly day and night. They can last from a few seconds to around five minutes, with four minutes being the average. As well as the sudden rush of heat, you may experience a racing heart, dizziness, anxiety and irritability.
Some women describe getting an ‘aura’ before a flush which makes them feel weird or anxious.
The good news is that hot flushes can be switched off using a natural approach. Mother Nature provides the tools for us to fool the brain into believing we have normal circulating oestrogen and those thermal surges cease.