Christmas can be a major trigger time for hot flushes. So here are some tips for managing peri-menopausal symptoms at Christmas time.
These days, many health and wellbeing subjects that used to be taboo are comfortably discussed out in the open. But the menopause is still often referred to in hushed tones. Women talk vaguely about being ‘in the change’, or ‘at that stage of life’ as if it’s something to be ashamed of. In fact, up to 50% of women are too embarassed to talk about it at all, even with their GP!
But I think that it’s really important that we start to talk openly about the menopause. It can be a worrying time of life, especially if you don’t know if your symptoms are normal.[no_toc]
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What is the Peri-Menopause?
Actually, when people use the word menopause, they are usually talking about the peri-menopause. Menopause refers to the specific day when 12 months has passed since a woman’s last period. Peri-menopause is the period leading up to this, when hormonal fluctuations can cause symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings. Every woman will experience peri-menopause differently, and it can last up to 10 years before menstruation actually ceases.
I have been in early peri-menopause for a couple of years, and a lot of the symptoms are starting to affect me now. It’s something that I want to discuss more often here on the blog, because I think this issue really needs to become a normal topic of conversation. Being equipped with knowledge makes it easier to manage the symptoms at this time of life.
How Christmas can trigger Peri-Menopausal Symptoms
For instance, you probably know that Christmas can be a stressful time of the year. But did you know that it’s also a major trigger time for hot flushes, one of the symptoms of peri-menopause?
Increased levels of stress can trigger more frequent hot flushes. Stress causes adrenaline to flood into your bloodstream, your heart to race and your blood flow to increase. As your core temperature increases, your body responds with a hot flush as it tries to cool down.
So all of the stress of menu planning, Christmas shopping and managing those festive family disputes can result in more hot flushes than normal. And other triggers like alcohol or caffeine can also be more prevalent during the festive season.
But there are things you can do to help ease these symptoms.
How to ease Peri-Menopausal Symptoms
Dr Rosy Fazzi MBChB, MRCGP, is a specialist in women’s health issues, and understands the mental and physical impact on women that can result from menopause. Sheis the head of the Women’s Health department at Dr Nestor’s Medical Cosmetic Centre in Edinburgh, and offers bio-identical hormone replacement therapy. This is an alternative to traditional HRT which can help to ease the symptoms of the menopause.
Here are Dr Rosy’s five top tips for surviving a peri-menopausal Christmas, and some of my own tips for further reading.
Wear temperature-control undergarments
This is such a simple change to make, yet it can really make a big difference. There are some fantastic menopause-specific undergarment ranges on the market. They use temperature-control fabrics to regulate body heat and reduce the awful shivers post-flush. And they wick away moisture to avoid embarrassing sweaty situations too.
These garments are designed for wearing underneath your clothing during the day. So you can still get all dressed up for the festive season, but be confident that you can remain in control underneath.
Layer up your clothing
Layering is the ideal solution for helping to regulate your temperature when you’re out and about. Layer a temperature-control tank top with a t-shirt and a cardigan, rather than wearing one bulky jumper, to help you better manage your body’s response to changes in temperature. Choose cosy items that are quick and easy to pull on and off, depending on how hot or cold you feel.
Cut down on caffeine
The caffeine in regular tea and coffee stimulates the central nervous system. This accelerates the heart rate, and raises the blood pressure and the body temperature. And all of this can bring on a hot flush. But just plain hot water can also induce an episode, so I recommend trying something cooler to start your day. A bottle of cool iced matcha tea a good choice, as it’s cool and refreshing, with very low levels of slow-release caffeine, and an incredible level of antioxidants that help to keep the body healthy – especially important in winter when germs are rife!
Reduce your alcohol intake
Yes, this can be very tricky around Christmas. But if you find that a glass of wine brings on a sweaty, shivery flush, it’s best to find an alternative. There are plenty of non-alcoholic options in the supermarket, or you can make delicious mocktails with fresh fruit juices. Pomegranates are credited with high levels of oestrogen and antioxidants that can help ease the symptoms of the menopause. They’re also rich in vitamins C, A and E, and folic acid.
Make yourself a deliciously festive, non-alcoholic cocktail this Christmas, using a plentiful helping of pomegranate juice and seeds. So you can still join in the festivities but soothe your symptoms at the same time.
Limit exposure to extremes in temperature
Extremes in temperature can bring on hot flushes in a flash. So if you can avoid them in the lead-up to Christmas, Christmas shopping may a far more comfortable experience. If you can do your Christmas shopping online, you might find it easier than dashing from the cold into a store with the heating ramped up, and back out again.
And if you do find yourself getting hot and flustered, try using a cooling face mist to soothe and refresh the skin.