Those dreaded menopausal symptoms, included the dreaded hot flushes, are irritating at the best of times.
But with stress, overindulgence and family fallouts making this time of year difficult enough already, here’s how to control those annoying hot flushes…
1) Watch your alcohol intake
Booze is hard to avoid at Christmas, but can make hot flushes worse. ‘Even one sip of alcohol can bring on flushes when you’re in the thick of the menopause,’ warns menopause expert Maryon Stewart. ‘White wine and spirits, such as gin and vodka, won’t cause as much flushing as red wine, but it’s better to keep alcohol to a minimum.’
2) Be wary when opening the oven door
Cooking the Christmas turkey? Sudden temperature changes can increase feelings of stress and make menopausal hot flushes feel overwhelming. ‘Anticipate the extra heat from cooking,’ says Stuart Gale, chief pharmacist and owner of Oxford Online Pharmacy. ‘Dress for the occasion – don’t wear heavy wool jumpers that you can’t easily take off. Prepare things in advance, so that you aren’t overwhelmed, give yourself plenty of time and don’t forget to ask for help – no one expects you to do everything.’
3) Plan coping strategies for hot flushes
Hot flushes can be triggered by a number of factors, including increased humidity, caffeine and spicy foods at this time of year. ‘If you’re also stressed, symptoms tend to be worse as this reduces levels of an oestrogen hormone, called oestrone, which is produced in tiny amounts by the adrenal glands (even after menopause),’ says Dr Sarah Brewer, medical director of Healthspan. ‘Coping strategies include keeping a fan nearby or window open to keep cool, and drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration headaches.’
4) Eat right
Diet is important, as plant hormones (isoflavones and lignans) provide a useful oestrogen boost. Increase your intake of natural plant hormones, by eating more beans (especially chickpeas, lentils and soy bean products), vegetables (especially sweet potatoes and exotic members of the cruciferous family such as Chinese leaves and kohl rabi), fruit, nuts and seeds (such as flaxseeds).
5) Try to de-stress with a walk
Forget slumping in front of festive repeats on the TV and head outdoors. Gentle exercise, such as walking, will help you sleep better and boost your energy – and keep menopausal anxiety under control. Breathing can also help calm the mind, and calm your flushes. Counting to three as you breathe in and four as you breathe out can also help avert panicky feelings and flushes.
6) Consider taking HRT
Talk to your doctor about whether or not hormone replacement therapy is right for you. If you prefer a natural approach, try soy isoflavone supplements, or Black cohosh – a traditional herbal remedy used to relieve symptoms of the menopause such as hot flushes, night sweats and restlessness. If your flushes are worse when you’re in bed, try A Vogel Menoforce Sage Tablets (£13.99, Holland & Barrett), which can help alleviate night sweats.
7) Try natural route for hot flushes
Consider giving acupuncture a go. ‘Acupuncture can help alleviate menopausal symptoms,’ says acupuncturist Rachel Peckham. Visit acupuncture.org.uk to find a qualified practitioner near you.
8) Soothe skin with nettles
As oestrogen levels fall, the ability of skin to hold moisture is reduced, making it thinner and more easily irritated – which is magnified by party make-up and having the central heating on full blast. ‘Try nettle tea – this cleanses the bloodstream,’ says nutritional therapist Alison Cullen. And check toiletries – things that used to suit your skin may no longer do so.