Experiencing Hot Flashes? It May Not Be Menopause

Experiencing Hot Flashes? It May Not Be Menopause

By: Lynn Simpson, MD • Posted on November 07, 2016

Some Hot Flashes Have Nothing To Do With Menopause

Hot flashes are usually associated with menopause and perimenopause, but women (and men) of any age can experience hot flashes for several other reasons that have nothing to do with menopause.

Keeping a diary of your hot flashes may help you make associations or identify your triggers—things such as red wine or stress. This information could also help your doctor figure out the underlying cause of your hot flashes.

Here are the six most common hot flash triggers that have nothing to do with menopause—and what to do about them.

6 Common Hot Flash Triggers

1. Prescription Medications

Hot flashes are a side effect of many common prescription drugs, including:

  • Opioids
  • Antidepressants
  • Some osteoporosis drugs

If you notice that a certain medication is causing your hot flashes, let your health care provider know. He or she may be able to switch you to a similar medication that doesn’t cause hot flashes.

2. Excess weight

As women and men age, their metabolism slows, which can lead to weight gain. Excess weight can promote hot flashes.

Diet and exercise can help relieve hot flashes. Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Limit salt, cholesterol and fat, especially animal fat.

Get at least 30-60 minutes of moderate exercise over the course of each day. Many activities increase the heart rate, including:

  • gardening
  • walking
  • dancing
  • aerobic exercises

The activity period does not need to be continuous.

3. Food allergies or sensitivities

Almost all of us experience something like a hot flash when we eat very spicy foods. But if you have an unidentified food allergy or intolerance, something else in your diet could be the cause of your hot flashes.

Common triggers of diet-related hot flashes include:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Additives like sulfites

Pay attention to how your body reacts the next time you ingest any of them, and you may find a correlation. If that doesn't help, consider speaking with your doctor or a registered dietitian about a structured elimination diet.

4. Anxiety

Emotions like stress, fear or worry can lead to anxiety. A racing heart and nervous fidgeting are two of the classic anxiety symptoms. And feeling anxious can also promote hot flashes.

The following are effective therapies for anxiety:

  1. Acupuncture
  2. Regular exercise
  3. Aromatherapy
  4. Massage
  5. Yoga
  6. Tai chi
  7. Regular sleep
  8. Adequate vitamin D and B complex

5. Medical conditions

Patients with thyroid issues, especially hyperthyroidism may experience hot flashes and excessive sweating.

If the problem is your thyroid, you'll likely experience other symptoms besides hot flashes:

  • Racing heart
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Thinning hair
  • Nervous
  • Irritable

If you experience any of these or other unusual symptoms along with your hot flashes, see your physician.

6. A hot bedroom

Your body temperature naturally fluctuates throughout the night. So it's common for women (and men) to wake up in the middle of the night feeling overheated or sweaty.

If you notice your hot flashes come on in the middle of the night, a warm room, too many blankets, or too much clothing could be your problem. It may be as simple a fix as turning down the thermostat or sleeping with fewer blankets or clothes.

-Lynn Simpson, MD, Retired Obstetrics and Gynecology
Center for Specialized Women's Health

Lynn Simpson, MD is a retired physician from the Center for Specialized Women's Health at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Simpson was a physician at Cleveland Clinic from 2010 - 2021.

She earned her medical degree from The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health. Dr. Simpson completed her residency in OB/GYN at Grant/Riverside Methodist Hospitals in Columbus, Ohio. She has numerous publications in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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