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MAMA D.O.C. Talk

Those Horrible Hot Flashes

"Don’t think of them as ‘hot flashes’, think of them as POWER SURGES!"

I laughed when my male friend said that, since having endured six years of this phenomena – I actually knew he was right.

These phenomena are a physiological indication of a bodily response to perceived necessity. They are initiated by a dump of adrenalin into the system. Dumps of adrenalin, the ‘fight or flight’ hormone, power us up physiologically. We gain literally in strength, quickness of nervous response, clarity of eye and mind, etc., and this is all fueled by an opening of the blood vessels and increased blood flow.

Thus we feel hotter, because we are hotter. Suddenly all the blood vessels, especially the ones to the head and the brain, open up! Blood from the interior of the body, where it is held at 98plus degrees, rushes out to the periphery: the head, the skin and the limbs. Body temperature in those locations is closer to the ambient air temperature, usually much cooler. The sensors in our skin pick up on the heat surge and automatically react by opening the pores and sweating. Evaporation of sweat cools the skin, so it is a very appropriate response.

What seems inappropriate is the extent of the physiological reaction to the stimulus. Typical stimuli to these menopausal heat flashes are: noticing one is slightly off balance; hearing something that makes one slightly angry, or is just a bit of an affront; being startled by someone or something; being under the mild stresses of driving, or just living. These are all things that one has always reacted to, but it did not cascade into such an unbearable sense of heat and the subsequent profuse sweat.

Most adrenal gland activity we are blissfully unaware of. People who have gone through an anger management activity have learned to sense immediately the onset of adrenalin. So can you. And there are many things you can do to mitigate and attenuate the surge itself, as well as your physiological response.

Why is the response so strong? I think the view from the other side is better: the adrenalin dump isn’t any stronger, it’s that as we age, our resting state is lower in adrenalin. As kids and teens we’re high on running all the time! As adults we harness that energy towards productive work. As elders we are meant to slow down. Rest, relax, take it easy, take time to reflect on our amazing life: spend more time talking and less effort doing. This is the way to preserve the body, and make best use of the accumulated wisdom of mind.

So, by comparison, an adrenalin release that is no different than before, seems extraordinary, and generates elevated responses.

These responses can be mitigated. The temperature control mechanism for the body is up in the middle of the cranium, near the pituitary at the center of the skull. Cool the skull and you will cool down the heat response. As simple a tool as a folding fan is all that is needed to maintain one’s sanity (it kept me from ripping off almost all my clothes in public, many times!). An ice pack or cool metal to the left or right temple is also very effective. Just do it immediately.

Before the heat surge proper there is a small surge like an "aura" that you can sense. Also, you know if you have been startled or stressed. Immediately start fanning the face, or apply a cool towel to your temple. Why fans have gone out of fashion I can’t say, but they were standard ladies wear. Even if you didn’t have a purse, you had a fan. They can be hard to find today: the best are the beautifully painted silk and bamboo folding fans from Japan.

There is an important physiological reason for the sweat triggering response. With age, less activity and reduction in estrogen comes the potential for weakening of the bones. Vitamin D is produced naturally in the skin, activated by sunlight, but the process only happens if you get hot enough for the pores to open and sweat to form. This hair trigger overheating, as we experience it, is the body’s way of being sure that when we do see the sun, it can be used to make that essential vitamin D.

Herbs can mitigate the intensity, duration and frequency of these adrenalin episodes. How they work has yet to be investigated by our current pharmaceutically oriented medicine. That they work is well documented by Naturopathic/Ayurvedic and Chinese Traditional doctors. The formula which I found to be most effective contained: Wild Yam Root (Dioscorea – the same wild yam in our Isis formula) 300 mg; Unicorn Root 200 mg; Dong Quai 200 mg; Licorice 200 mg; Passion Flower 100 mg and Black Cohosh 100mg. The simplest formula that is still effective is Dong Quai and Black Cohosh. These formulas should only be used as needed and never by pregnant women.


Relax about them and think of them as power surges, giving extra energy that you can put to use.

Fan the face immediately you sense one coming on.

Get plenty of sunlight while you’re surging, to build up lots of vitamin D and keep bones strong.

Take an herbal formula, under the supervision of your Naturopathic doctor.

Written by Cheryl Kolander aka "MAMA D.O.C.", Homeopath, © 2005

Isis Formula, a natural hormone balancer containing Dioscorea (true yam root), and other roots traditionally used in the Caribbean Islands, is available from Natural Safe Hormones.





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