by Lawrence Wilson, MD
© October 2010, The Center For Development
Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms among women aged 40 to 60. A hot flash is a sudden sensation of heat, often accompanied by intense sweating and often a rapid heart rate. They usually begin in the face, head or neck area and may spread to the rest of the body. They may be more common in hot weather, and usually last 2 to 30 minutes. Hot flashes at night when one is asleep are among the worst, as they can wake a person up several times a night. This is one of the most common times when women experience them.
Men do not seem to experience them, or at least not very often. Men who are castrated often experience them. This would point to a hormonal involvement.
To stop hot flashes, medical and other doctors usually offer estrogen and progesterone replacement hormones, and perhaps herbs that stimulate hormone production. However, ALL hormone replacement, even bio-identical hormones, carry some risk of cancer, strokes and heart disease, so responsible doctors often suggest trying other alternatives first.
This article explores the underlying reasons for hot flashes, and remedies that are safe.
THE THYROID AND HOT FLASHES
I have observed that a product we use often called Thyro-complex often stop hot flashes quickly and easily. Thyro-complex is distributed by Endomet Laboratories in Phoenix, Arizona. It contains glandular extract of thyroid, thymus, spleen and adrenal glands. It also contains some kelp and a few vitamins. It contains no appreciable amounts of any hormones and it contains no herbs other than kelp, which is a vegetable.
The fact that this product works so well, so often, interests me. It points to a connection between hot flashes and thyroid activity. Thyroid and adrenal gland activity is least during the night. This may be why hot flashes often occur during the night.
BORON STOPS HOT FLASHES IN SOME CASES
Another observation I have made is that a nutritional supplement of boron, about 3 mg, one to three tablets daily, also often stops hot flashes. Not too much is known about the mechanism of this action. However, boron is known as an essential nutrient for plants, and an essential trace mineral for human beings as well. It is possible that a subtle deficiency of this element is involved in hot flashes as well.
A PRODUCT CALLED OVA-ADREN SOMETIMES STOPS HOT FLASHES
This is another product from Endomet Laboratories in Phoenix, Arizona. It contains quite a lot of copper, some freeze-dried ovarian and adrenal extracts, and some damiana and sarsaparilla root. These are herbs that affect estrogen and progesterone in some way. Copper supplements may also raise estrogen in the body, at least temporarily. This may work in cases of biounavailable copper.
One takes between 3 and 9 tablets daily. This remedy I use last, if the other two remedies described above are not effective enough. I rarely need to use it these days because a complete nutritional balancing program usually takes care of the problem quite well.
WHAT DO THESE PRODUCTS HAVE IN COMMON?
All three of these products support or perhaps boost the activity of the sympathetic nervous system glands and may increase steroid hormones in the body. All three may also increase the oxidation rate, which is related to the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and the thyroid and adrenal glands, principally. This would indicate to me that hot flashes have something to do with weakened adrenal and thyroid glands, and perhaps an overactive sympathetic nervous system that eventually becomes depleted and “burned out”.
OTHER COMMON REMEDIES
Some doctors recommend eating more soy products. These contain phytoestrogens, which are chemicals that appear like estrogen and can bind to some estrogen receptor sites in the body. In other words, they are somewhat like weak estrogens themselves, and may substitute for estrogen in the body to a small degree, but enough to reduce hot flashes. Flaxseed also contains lignans that may be helpful. Eating ground flaxseeds is a safe procedure, and much better than eating soy products that contain enzyme inhibitors, thyroid inhibitors and more copper.
Some doctors recommend ginseng for hot flashes. Ginseng is a powerful herb that can stimulate the adrenal glands and perhaps the thyroid gland. I don’t use it because it is somewhat toxic.
A few doctors recommend SSRI anti-depressants for hot flashes or even tamoxiphen, an estrogen antagonist. These are both somewhat toxic, however, and don’t work too well, I believe.
WHICH WOMEN TEND TO GET HOT FLASHES?
This is another important question for practitioners and researchers. I find that it is the women who push themselves hard. These are sometimes working women, or those who stay up too late, those who do not take the best care of themselves, and those who are nutritionally depleted.
In contrast, women who are well-nourished and care for themselves very well do not seem to suffer from hot flashes. I have observed this repeatedly.
Studies show that Asian women have fewer hot flashes, and this may be because they are better nourished, or perhaps because they are more traditional and not as often pushing themselves to copy the men and be out in the working world. In other words, they may care for themselves better.
Some say the reason is that Asian women eat a lot of soy products. However, this is not really true. They eat some soy products, but most do not eat a lot of tofu, tempeh, soy sauce and miso. This is a misconception that is often used to sell women on the idea that they must eat a lot of soy. Also, the Asian women eat the naturally fermented soy, not the “junk food” soy that Americans eat which consists of textured vegetable protein, soy powders, and even soy milk, though that is at least a natural product.
This takes us back to the possibility that hot flashes have something to do with what we call sympathetic dominance, which according to Dr. Paul Eck, means a person who overuses the sympathetic nervous system. Eventually it becomes depleted, and the thyroid and adrenal glandular activity diminishes.
WHY DON’T MEN HAVE HOT FLASHES?
Loads of men certainly have sympathetic dominance and a depleted glandular system. Yet few suffer with hot flashes. There must be a reason. I believe it may be because:
1. Women’s hormones change abruptly at menopause, whereas men’s hormone levels decline slowly with age, so they have more time and opportunity to adjust to their lower hormone levels.
2. Women are perhaps more stressed today than men.
3. Copper is higher in women and copper and estrogen are related and seem to play a role in hot flashes.
WHY NUTRITIONAL BALANCING AND NOT HORMONE REPLACEMENT?
Some people complain that it is so much easier to just eat some soy products, or take a hormone pill or cream rather than change one’s diet, follow a healthful lifestyle, take 20-30 nutritional supplement pills and perhaps do coffee enemas or near infrared sauna baths every day to overcome hot flashes. I will address this excellent complaint.
In short, it is the difference between drugging and healing. It is the also the difference between the “magic bullet mentality” of allopathic and even herbal medicine, and really deep healing that is the concept of nutritional balancing science.
The differences between these two approaches are discussed in many articles on this website. However, it all comes down to how one wishes to live one’s life. Drugging can, indeed, take care of symptoms in many cases. However, drugging oneself for hot flashes or other things does nothing to improve one’s overall health. In fact, it makes it much worse.
All hormones are toxic, and all hormones taken by mouth or in creams or shots are completely unnatural to the body, which is supposed to make them and adjust their dosages minute by minute. We find that most are carcinogenic, even the all-natural, bio-identical hormones. These are better than synthetic ones, but not always that much better.
As mentioned above, soy products are not healthful foods, in general. They are too high in copper, very yin, often processed with harsh chemicals, contain enzyme and thyroid inhibitors and for all these reasons we don’t recommend them except maybe for a little tofu and tempeh.
In contrast, by following a healthful diet, resting more, and taking several targeted nutritional supplements, one is literally rejuvenating the glands and organs. One is removing toxic metals and toxic chemicals that are impeding the functioning of the adrenals, the thyroid and the ovaries. This deep healing is the goal of nutritional balancing science. Nutritional balancing may not be for everyone, but it is available for those who want superb health ad rejuvenation, and not just drugging with hormones, herbs or even vitamins and minerals.
For more on hormone replacement, read Hormone Replacement Therapy on this website.