Every day I get emails from women who are thinking about joining me on the MyMT programmes, because they feel over-whelmed with night sweats and hot flushes. Women in their 40’s right through to their 60’s. I am astounded by how many are on HRT or Bio-identical hormones …. the same medical interventions that are supposed to help them reduce their hot flushes, night sweats and anxiety.
Clearly, these interventions are not working for them. It’s so perplexing but as I had this experience too, I now better understand why. It’s tough when all you do every morning is to strip the sheets off the bed, because they are soaked in sweat.
When my own hot flushes and night sweats were frustrating me, I was on HRT (Menopause Hormone Replacement Therapy). With my hot flushes worsening in the evening, my frustration was vented on the family. I gave the lonely, desperate cry of many menopausal woman the world over – “Is it hot in here, or is it just me?” Their response was always, “It’s just you Mum!”
At the time I was 50 years old – bang on the average age that our ovaries begin to gio into our reproductive decline. With oestrogen production dropping, I wondered why on earth my body was over-heating, why my energy levels were plummeting, why my sleep was filled with night sweats, why I was putting on weight, why my joints were sore, why dark clouds were filling my normally upbeat moods and why oh why, was the over-promised HRT not doing their job. At the time, I had no idea that this same experience was happening to women around the world as well.
When nobody else had the answers I sought and the endless supplements I bought for menopause were not working, I decided to put on my ‘physiology-hat’ and really get to the bottom of understanding what was going on when we can’t beat the heat. Most importantly, I was desperate to discover what was going on in a body that was not coping with the ‘change of life’. I’m so pleased that I did.
If you’re feeling like this as well, then take a couple of minutes to read what I have to say … because I know that many of you are just like I was at the time – coping with work, busy-days, family matters on the home-front, exercising when you can and trying to cope with a body that’s taking it’s own course as you go into or through menopause. You feel a bit stressed. So, to start with, I have a question for you:
Did you know that when you are experiencing hot flushes and/or night sweats, this is a sign that your body is under dis-stress and trying to cool down?
Unravelling the physiology of hot flushes, begins with understanding temperature regulation. It’s under the control of our hormonal system and as we lose oestrogen during menopause, temperature-regulating hormones in the pituitary region of the brain and our thyroid are affected as well.
Peri-menopause is as different from post-menopause as chalk is from cheese. Hence, if you are on HRT as you go into peri-menopause, you either need to taper down as you move through menopause or change your lifestyle according to your changing hormones. As I mention in my online Masterclass on Menopause – your reproductive hormones are not the problem – menopause is a natural biological event. The problem is that we become vulnerable to the effects of our lifestyle during our menopause transition and our hormone balance is fighting with the lifestyles we lead and the diet and exercise we do as well.
Numerous studies report that if women aren’t changing their lifestyle to accommodate the momentum of hormonal changes as we progress through menopause into post-menopause, hot flushes, sore joints, anxiety and other symptoms hang-around, even into our post-menopause years, because lowering oestrogen has effects on our blood vessels, muscles, joints and liver as we age.
The other thing that is missing from the conversations about menopause symptoms, are that all hormones in the body ‘talk’ to each other in order to keep you functioning. When oestrogen and progesterone production decline, our thyroid, pituitary and adrenal hormones are affected too.
Hormones all work together to keep our body functioning. They are chemical messengers which control all sorts of functions in the body, from heat management, to blood pressure control, to blood sugar regulation to our sleep cycles and feelings of hunger!
That’s why, when our oestrogen production declines during menopause, this has a flow-on effect on other hormones in your body as well. This includes your temperature regulation hormones.
If you can’t beat the heat, no matter the temperature outside, and no matter if you are in post-menopause too, then please have a read of my ‘top-10’ factors that increase your hot flushes:
It’s not just about reducing sugar and processed food as we age. In menopause, my emphasis is on reducing protein as well. Yes, I know that this goes against what you may have heard, but the amount and timing of your protein intake is crucial. Protein is ‘thermo-genic’ which means ‘heat-generating’. I learnt that years ago in the fitness industry and when I was trying to understand why my hot flushes were so bad, I remembered that high protein diets cause too much stress on the thyroid, liver, kidneys and gut. The result? Lots of sweat as your body tries to cool down. That’s why in the MyMT™ Food Guide, which is part of both 12 week programmes, I teach you about cooling foods to eat in menopause.
We hear so much about ‘stress’ these days, but when it comes to your hot flushes and night sweats, I’m not just talking about emotional stress. I’m talking about the physical stress on your cells and tissues as you biologically age. For decades, our cells and tissues have been accumulating inflammatory changes, especially if you have been doing a lot of high intensity exercise or you haven’t been sleeping throughout your menopause transition. When you reach menopause and your blood vessels become more constricted with the loss of oestrogen and you aren’t sleeping, your chronic stress hormone, called cortisol, remains higher than normal. When cortisol stays around all day, then your thyroid hormones overwork too. An unhappy thyroid combined with menopause hormonal changes causes your temperature and blood pressure to increase, which then has you wiping your brow with excess sweat as your body tries to get rid of the heat.
Moderation is everything and during menopause, both too much and too little exercise can cause more hot flushes. If you are doing heavy, high-intensity exercise most days or you work in a physically-demanding job such as nursing or farming, then your body doesn’t recover and heal overnight when you don’t sleep. This means that your blood pressure and temperature stay higher overnight. With a higher temperature, your body tries to cool you down. So you sweat more. The same can also be said of women who are mainly sedentary. If you aren’t doing some activity, then there is a risk that you aren’t boosting your cells and tissues with oxygen. This can lead to poor cardiac health which in turn can contribute to worsening hot flushes.
When our heart rate and blood pressure is higher than normal, this increases heat production in the body. Part of the reason for this, is because as we transition through menopause and we are ageing, our blood vessels become more constricted. Not only are they ageing, but we are losing muscle density as well. What this means is that our muscles (and our sweat glands) change when we lose oestrogen, so our ability to regulate heat and sweating changes too.
New genetic research shows that we all have DNA that are receptive to living in either hot or cooler climates. If we are out of sync with the genetically-set DNA, then in menopause, this can cause more discomfort and hot flushes. I have women on my programme from Alice Springs in Australia – as one of the hottest places on the continent, I am so thankful that they have come on board. One of the problems with living in such a hot climate is that we tend to live inside in air-conditioning and this changes our Vitamin D absorption which can dive-down in menopause. Vitamin D is a hormone and because our skin is the largest organ in the body and has numerous oestrogen receptors in it, menopause affects our Vitamin D absorption too. When levels are low, then hot flushes become worse and so too, does calcium absorption, so it’s important that women get their Vitamin D levels checked – even more so when it’s so hot outside that it’s cooler to live inside.
I think many of you would have already discovered that it’s a catch-22 between not sleeping and night sweats – on one hand the night sweats wake you up, but on the other hand, when you can’t stay asleep, your hot flushes, night sweats and feelings of anxiety become worse. Yes? Well, there is a reason for this. When we aren’t sleeping, we aren’t recovering and restoring our immune system overnight. We also aren’t fat-burning or recovering from our day-to-day activities. What then happens, is that our adrenal glands make more cortisol. To do this, they use our lovely calming progesterone, which is also why women in menopause experience more anxiety as well – and it’s also why, in both of the MyMT 12 week programmes, the first module you listen to, is how to sleep all night. It’s that important.
These powerful nutrients are needed to restore hormonal health as you transition through menopause. For example, the beautiful trace mineral called iodine, is a vital component of hormones produced by the thyroid gland that are responsible for a number of important functions in your body. This includes metabolism, nerve and muscle function, regulation of body temperature and blood cell production. If you don’t get enough iodine-rich foods, your hot flushes can become worse. This is why I have a nutritional programme in the MyMT programmes, that is rich in iodine and all the other nutrients that we need during menopause and into the years beyond. My nutritional information comes out of women’s healthy ageing research.
Leaky gut affects the entire body and whilst I do recommend seeing a suitable health practitioner in case you have certain medical concerns, so many women have developed leaky-gut (as I did too), that I have researched what to do to turn this around. If this is you, then the continual presence of inflammation in your gut and bowel increases heat in the body too. When heat and inflammation remain high, then this leads to poor sleep which sets off night sweats. Don’t forget that my brand new ‘Restore your Grateful Gut in Menopause‘ course is now available as a stand-alone module for you. Learn more HERE.
When my own hot flushes were troubling me day and night, especially as I moved into post-menopause, I knew I had to get to the bottom of the science of them. Today, hot flushes no longer control me or define me. This is the same for many of the women who are following the strategies I have researched and you can read their Success Stories here.
I don’t want you to still be experiencing hot flushes in your post-menopause years and if you are on HRT, then research suggests that 5 years is long enough. In this Wednesday’s briefing, I’m also going to talk about brand new research about why we need to watch our iron intake as we move into post-menopause as well. We may not need as much.
If you are not coping with your heat regulation, sleep, anxiety, depression, weight or joint problems as you move through menopause and beyond, then will you join me? No matter where you live in the world, I would love to support you to feel like your old-self again.
Whichever programme you choose [Circuit-Breaker for thinner women or Transform Me for women who want to lose weight] then these are currently on my lockdown sale with savings of NZ$100 until the end of June. Please use the promo code ATHOME20 when you purchase. This price won’t be repeated – [NZ$199/ AUS$187 / UK £103/ CAN$175 – monthly options also apply as I know that many of you are doing it tough at the moment].
This price includes full access to the 12 week programme and optional modules with your lifestyle solutions for those with sore joints or gut health problems and if you are on HRT or Anti-depressants, then I have modules you can access with evidenced lifestyle solutions in them for you. Don’t forget that I have your back every step of the way, so my private coaching is included in this amazing price as well. Please have a listen to the video below when you have time.
If poor sleep, hot flushes, night sweats, sore joints and/or weight gain are getting you down, I hope you can join me and the hundreds of women already on the programme. You can start any time and do the programme in your own time via your private learning hub on the website. I can’t wait to help you because as I learnt to, ‘it’s time to put menopause in ‘wellness’ not ‘sickness’. It will be my privilege to teach you how.
Dr Wendy Sweet, PhD [MyMT™ Founder & Coach/ Member: Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine]. Read my story HERE.
- Andrikoula M, Hardiman P, Prelevic G. Menopausal hot flush: is it only a nuisance or also a marker of cardiovascular disease risk?. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2009;25(7):450-454. doi:10.1080/09513590902972067
- Deeche, D. & Dorries, K. (2007). Understanding the pathophysiology of vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes and night sweats) that occur in perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause life stages. Arch. Women’s Mental Health, 10: 247–257.
- Mayo Clinic. The science behind a hot flush. Mayo Clinic Online, PDF Handout
- Sharma, S. & Kavuru, M. (2010). Sleep and Metabolism: An Overview. International Journal of Endocrinology, Article ID 270832, 1-12.