Dealing with the sudden onslaught of hot flashes is hard enough — WHERE oh WHERE are the fans when you need them??? But when you toss dizziness and nausea into the mix, the result is a triple whammy that can impact our day-to-day life big time.
Here’s what you need to know and what you can do about it.
The science behind hot flashes during menopause
Although the causes of hot flashes aren’t fully understood quite yet, research points to hormone fluctuations. When estrogen levels drop, the hypothalamus (which is our body’s thermostat) becomes far more sensitive to slight changes in body temperature. Thinking it’s overheated, the hypothalamus starts working on overdrive to cool the body by shunting blood away from the core to your skin. The result? A chain of events that causes flushing, sweating, and an internal sensation of heat despite the fact that our body temperature isn’t actually rising.
The science behind dizziness during menopause
Dizziness, according to the United States National Library of Medicine, is defined as… ”a sense of spatial disorientation, motion of the environment, or lightheadedness.” It’s often used interchangeably for terms such as vertigo, presyncope, and disequilibrium. Although one definitive cause for dizziness among menopausal women hasn’t yet been established, several have been proposed, including:
- Anxiety disorders
- Inner ear changes
- Medications (especially high blood pressure meds and progesterone for hormone therapy)
- Anemia (especially if you have heavy periods and are passing blood clots)
Of course, there’s a possibility that symptoms of dizziness are NOT related to menopausal hormonal changes but are instead caused by health conditions such as low blood sugar or blood pressure, medications, inner ear disorders, or neurological conditions (just to name a few), so it’s important to seek medical attention if symptoms worsen, persist, or affect your quality of life.
READ MORE: Elektra’s Full Guide To Menopausal Dizziness
Is there a connection between hot flashes & dizziness?
There are certain physiological changes that occur during a hot flash (or flush, for the British), specifically increased heart rate and heart palpitations. Blood is then directed towards the skin, which can cause a drop in blood pressure and symptoms of dizziness as a side effect.
Help! What can I do?
What you can do about hot flashes…
🍴☕🍷 Lifestyle changes
Add a serving of soy to your diet…and ground flaxseeds
Soy products such as tofu contain isoflavone compounds (genistein & daidzein) that can help control hot flashes. Studies have shown benefits with isoflavone supplements, and one small study suggests that dietary soy might also help too.
Like soy, ground flaxseed contains phytoestrogens and may help reduce hot flashes.
Avoid spicy foods!
Exercise caution when it comes to late-night dinners that bring the heat! They can also, well, bring YOU the heat and cause full-body flushing.
Try to cut back a bit on alcohol (or switch the type)
While any alcohol can be a hot flash trigger, red wine is known to be particularly problematic.
Be careful with caffeine
We recommend sticking with decaf when possible if caffeine is your trigger.
♀️ Hormone therapy
Some healthcare providers advise perimenopausal women to take low-dose birth control pills as a way to regulate hormones that impact our cycles, decrease risk of ovarian/uterine cancer, bone loss, and hot flashes.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
The treatment option with the highest reported rate of efficacy for hot flashes is estrogen-based hormone therapy, which comes in the form of a skin patch, gel, cream, spray, or pill. It’s proven effective and, as an added bonus, also helps with other symptoms of menopause like vaginal dryness and pain with sex. To learn more, refer to our full guide to hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
💊 Non-hormonal treatments
FDA-approved in May 2023, fezolinetant is the newest medication in our hot flashes arsenal. In clinical trials, it reduced the frequency of moderate – severe hot flashes by about 60%, in addition to reducing the severity.
These neurotransmitters are typically used as antidepressants; however, they’re also effective in treating certain menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.
Gabapentin (Neurontin) is an anti-seizure medication also used to treat common symptoms such as hot flashes.
Oxybutynin (Ditropan), a medication commonly used for urinary incontinence, has also been shown to be effective for hot flash treatment.
READ MORE: 4 Non-Hormonal Treatments For Hot Flashes
What you can do about dizziness…
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
This will help maintain blood volume and blood pressure. You want your urine to be pale and clear — that’s a sign of sufficient hydration.
To avoid drops in blood sugar levels, it’s important to have high-protein snacks at the ready. Avoid ones with high sugar or refined carbs since it’ll just lead to a blood sugar spike…and crash. No, thank you. Stick to 100-calorie packs of raw almonds or carrots and hummus instead.
Don’t rush when you’re standing up!
Slow and steady wins the race here, since getting up too fast can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure, which leads to dizziness. The official terms for low blood pressure triggered by standing up are “orthostatic hypotension” or “postural hypotension.”