In a new study, researchers re-analyzed data from a study that included about 150 overweight and obese menopausal women who were experiencing urinary incontinence as well as troublesome hot flashes.
Roughly two-thirds of the women were assigned to an intensive program designed to help them lose up to 9 percent of their body weight.
According to CNN:
"Six months later, the women who participated in the weight-loss program were more than twice as likely as the women in the control group to have experienced an improvement in their hot flash symptoms.
And it wasn't enough to just get more exercise or cut calories -- only weight loss itself was linked to fewer hot flash symptoms.
For each 11 pounds that a woman lost, she was roughly one-third more likely ... to experience a decline in the severity or frequency of hot flashes."
Hot flashes are extremely common during menopause, impacting up to 75 percent of women. While not inherently dangerous to your health, they can be extremely uncomfortable and often interfere with your quality of life, especially if they occur frequently.
As their name implies, hot flashes involve intense feelings of heat that spread across your upper body and face. Flushing and red blotches may also occur, along with rapid heartbeat and perspiration.
Because hot flashes are so uncomfortable, they can interfere with sleep when they occur during the night, and over time may lead to chronic insomnia and related anxiety and even depression in some women.
Unfortunately, many women desperate for some relief are prescribed drugs, either synthetic hormones or even antidepressants, and gladly take them, thinking they're the only options.
In reality, there are natural ways to lessen the severity of hot flashes and get relief without damaging your health with drug side effects.
Losing Weight Helps Hot Flashes
For every 11 pounds an overweight woman lost, she was one-third more likely to have improvements in her hot flashes compared to women who did not lose weight. Obviously, since losing weight takes time, this is one strategy that should be used proactively before you reach menopause.
By reaching a healthy goal weight prior to having hot flashes, you may be able to significantly reduce the likelihood of getting them, or the severity of those you do.
Plus, by leading a healthy lifestyle, one with regular exercise and a balanced diet, you'll be able to naturally balance your hormone levels, which will help offer relief from just about every menopausal symptom.
A Hormone-Healthy Lifestyle
While it's not known for sure why some women experience hot flashes and others don't, it's likely related to the fluctuating hormone levels that occur during menopause.
Both estrogen and progesterone are necessary in the female cycle, and their balance is key for optimal health. Many women have an imbalance of these hormones during their lifetimes, regardless of their age. And if you have insufficient levels of progesterone to counter excessive estrogen, this imbalance can be further exacerbated by chronic stress.
So in some cases, addressing your stress levels will help normalize your hormone levels naturally.
Likewise, eating right for your nutritional type and exercising regularly can go a long way to keeping your hormones balanced as you age.
Refined carbohydrates, processed and heated fats, empty foods -- and too much of it -- all serve to raise your estrogen to abnormal levels, as much as twice the normal, which are maintained for the better part of the adult lives of most American women. This is a MAJOR contributing cause of menopausal symptoms in the first place.
Additionally, natural phytoestrogens (plant-estrogens) found in plants like licorice, fermented soybeans, alfalfa, and many others, eaten before menopause will do much to moderate your day-to-day estrogen level so that when menopause arrives, there will not be such big drop.
Meanwhile, implementing a regular exercise regimen will optimize your insulin levels and balance your estrogen levels. Estrogen levels are much lower in women who eat little and perform strenuous physical work, as in locales with a non-industrialized lifestyle.
The opposite is true for American women who typically eat too much and get little exercise: abnormally high estrogen levels are the direct result of this kind of sedentary lifestyle.
I also advise optimizing your vitamin D levels and getting plenty high quality animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. Both of these strategies are essential for optimal health at every life stage.
Are Natural Hormones an Option?
The lifestyle changes noted above will help control symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, without doing anything else.
But if you're still experiencing challenging symptoms, you can also use bioidentical hormones, which are natural hormones that are bioidentical to your own. Please note that I do not recommend using synthetic hormone replacement therapy for a variety of reasons you can read about here.
The bioidentical hormone that is prescribed 80 percent of the time is estriol. It's natural, not a drug, and you get it at compounding pharmacies.
Estriol has been used safely for decades, and I believe it's particularly useful when your ovaries have been removed or you've had a hysterectomy. Dr. Johathan Wright, who I've interviewed many times, is a pioneer in bioidenticals, and you can see what he has to say about their value in this short video.
Dr. Wright really is THE pioneer in bioidentical hormones, as he is the physician who initially helped bring them to the US. His new book is an absolute treasure and it's HIGHLY recommended if you have any interest in this area to read his new book Stay Young and Sexy with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement.
We are actually planning on having an entire website devoted to this topic and Dr. Wright has tentatively agreed to head this site up. There are many logistical challenges to work through so it will not likely be up this year.
In the meantime, though, we do hope to post some of his great content on the site. One of his pearls that he taught me is that not only are bioidentical hormones important but the ROUTE of delivery is also crucial.
The worst way you can take them is to swallow them. Oral supplementation is perhaps your worst option, as your liver processes everything in your digestive tract first, before it enters your bloodstream. Any method that bypasses your liver will therefore be more effective.
Next down the list would be to apply them as creams to your skin as this will cause them to be stored in your epidermal fat and ultimately stop working well.
A better approach would be to use sublingual drops but Dr. Wright helped me understand that many patients wind up swallowing these so it winds up being not a good choice.
It appears the best route of delivery is a cream that is delivered trans mucosally in the vaginal or rectal mucosa.
Before embarking on any kind of hormone supplementation program, you'll want to make sure you get your hormonal levels checked properly and then work with a knowledgeable health care practitioner who can guide you as this is clearly an area where you need an expert health coach.
Next year we do hope to provide some of this mentoring for free on our new site.
Three More Simple Solutions for Hot Flashes
With the lifestyle strategies mentioned above, along with bioidentical hormones if necessary, you should be able to find relief from hot flashes and other troublesome menopausal symptoms.
But in the event you're still in need of help, try:
- Acupuncture: This ancient therapy has been found to work better than the antidepressant drug Effexor, which is commonly used to combat hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years in China and other Asian countries, and studies continue to show its benefits for a wide variety of health problems.
- Black Cohosh: Studies have shown that the herb black cohosh is nearly as effective as estrogen, and far more effective than placebo pills, at treating hot flashes, and is also useful in managing the mood swings and irritability that may accompany menopause.
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): A study in The Lancet noted that dummy pills, or placebos, relieve hot flashes by at least half in 20 percent of the women who take them. What this means is that your mind, and your positive intentions, can make a difference in the severity of your hot flashes.
This is why EFT, which is based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture but without the needles, can be so effective. From a hot flash perspective, I have seen EFT work for many women where even synthetic estrogen did not help.
Again, if you have any interest in this area I could not more strongly recommend Dr. Wright's new book. It is an absolute treasure and it's HIGHLY recommended if you have any interest in this area to read his new book Stay Young and Sexy with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement.