Foods and Drinks That Can Cause Hot Flashes During Menopause
The wild hormonal ride leading up to menopause can last up to 10 years—kind of like an ultra-marathon you never signed up for and similar to a marathon, the sweating during menopause is no joke! If you’re experiencing hot flashes during menopause, you’re not alone. Most women — between 60 to 80% — experience hot flashes while going through menopause. They usually last anywhere from six months to two years, although they can go on longer. Lifestyle choices though can help to decrease or even eliminate hot flashes; a specific area to focus on, in terms of how to reduce hot flashes, is your diet. So, you know what that means, let’s dive right in.
Why Do You Get Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes happen because of changing estrogen levels. Estrogen, as you know, regulates many functions in your body, and plays a role in the development of secondary sexual characteristics (like breasts and hips). When interacting with other hormones, it also performs various functions, like giving women and people (AFAB) the ability to get pregnant and deliver children. As you age, those estrogen levels go up and down like a pogo stick. This fluctuation interferes with your body’s ability to maintain a steady blood flow because changing levels of estrogen can cause your blood vessels to constrict or dilate. When the levels bounce around, it creates a not-so-rhythmic change of pace between the constricting and dilating of these vessels ― meaning, it’s very possible for you to experience surges of blood. That ― and the fact that estrogen has a role to play in regulating body temperature ― is what causes you to feel the heat.
Foods That Can Trigger Hot Flashes During Menopause
It’s no secret that hot flashes at night, also known as night sweats, can disturb a good night’s rest. To recover from the lack of sleep, preparing a morning cup of joe can be a quick pick-me-up. The problem? A Mayo Clinic study published in February 2015 in the journal Menopause found that menopausal women who consumed caffeine were more likely to have hot flashes than women who didn’t consume caffeine.
Alternative: If you can’t bear the thought of giving up coffee altogether, try it iced and cut yourself off at noon if you’ve been experiencing hot flashes after drinking coffee. A good replacement would be trying a cup of hot ginger or peppermint tea — both caffeine-free.
Have you ever eaten a meal so spicy that it made you sweat bullets? It’s because those delicious dishes of curry and hot salsa tacos are actually raising your body temperature and can be considered foods that trigger hot flashes. Foods that rate high on the heat scale can trigger sweating, flushing, and other symptoms of hot flashes, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Alternative: Next time, consider asking for “mild” when ordering these types of dishes. But, if you’re still looking to add some kick to a bland dish, we suggest sprinkling on spices that provide flavor without as much heat, like cumin, curry, turmeric, and basil.
Drinking alcohol regularly can cause hot flashes to happen more often, last longer and be more severe. Women who have two to five drinks a day have 1.5 times the risk for breast cancer as those who don’t drink at all, and heavy drinking can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, according to the North American Menopause Society.
Alternative: If you notice a connection between drinking alcohol and getting hot flashes, consider cutting down. Also, try not to drink alcohol too close to bedtime, as it can encourage night sweats. If you still want to indulge occasionally, we suggest trying a white wine spritzer with fruit, which is lower in alcohol than most standard drinks.
Potato chips, chocolate, and cookies might taste good, but they’re usually high in sodium, loaded with added sugars, or both, which can make you retain water and feel bloated.
Alternative: Try something like string cheese, carrots dipped in hummus, or a few whole-grain crackers with peanut butter — they’ll satisfy your need to nibble without filling you up with the symptom-trigger stuff.
Besides being high in saturated fat, foods like brisket and bacon can lower the body’s serotonin levels. When serotonin drops, we feel angry, grumpy, and irritable.
Alternative: When you’re shopping for meats, skip the greasy, marbled cuts in favor of trimmer alternatives, like chicken, turkey, and ground beef that’s 90 percent lean or better.
A healthy reminder...
The foods that are good for you during menopause are good for you at any stage in your life. Build healthy eating habits now and you’ll enjoy better health for years to come, including through menopause. To those experiencing hot flashes now, listen to your body, for it’s your best reference for what is triggering the heat wave.