Cooling Down Holiday Hot Flashes: These holiday traditions can trigger hot flashes, says Dr. Adrienne Stewart
Nov 30, 2013 11:07AM
● By Adrienne Stewart, NMD
During the holiday season, we are surrounded by the comfort and cheer of our family traditions. What many women might not know is that these very traditions could be triggering an increase in hot flashes. Hormones can affect our overall well-being. Throughout different times of women’s lives, hormones cycle and fluctuate. What is important is that we support the body and consider the interconnectedness and relationships of all of our hormones, which are designed to work together—a hormonal symphony. If one member is off pitch, it affects the entire orchestra, and the other members have to try to compensate.
Sweet treats like holiday cookies, candy canes and gingerbread houses may be holiday treats, but they can also spike our blood sugar. This dramatic fluctuation in blood sugar can affect hormone levels, which trigger the telltale heat of a hot flash.
To combat this common culprit, try swapping sugary sweets with healthy alternatives. If we feel the need to indulge, try saving the sweets as a treat after a meal filled with lean protein and fiber. This will slow the absorption of the sugar, keeping our blood glucose from spiking. In a pinch, try combining the sweet with a protein, such as lean turkey or some nut butter.
Holiday toasting is a wonderful tradition; however, be careful of consuming too much alcohol. The sugars in wine and other alcoholic beverages can spike our blood sugar the same way as eating a holiday cookie. In addition, the alcohol puts an extra strain on our liver that in turn affects the way our hormones are processed. Party punch spiked with alcohol is especially dangerous for triggering a hot flash.
To combat this common culprit, try limiting alcohol to a few sips or drinking it with a meal rich in fiber, essential fatty acids and lean proteins to keep blood sugar stable. The best alternative is to reach for water. This will help hydrate us during the dry winter months and keep our skin glowing. A glass of green tea is another great option, because it has L-theanine, which can be relaxing and balance out the caffeine. If we’re still missing the wine, try sipping on pomegranate, tart cherry or 100 percent cranberry juice in a nice holiday wine glass.
Although the holidays are about family and memories, it can also be an incredible stressful time. From baking to shopping to extra obligations, it is no wonder our stress levels rise this time of year. Unfortunately, too much stress affects almost every body system in a negative way. Hormone levels can become unbalanced as our adrenal glands work overtime to try and compensate. Plus, the extra cortisol released from the adrenals can lead to weight gain directly around the abdomen.
To combat this common culprit, try implementing some coping strategies for holiday stress. Make sure not to overcommit or agree to too many extra obligations. Even though coffee and all the holiday caffeinated drinks may give us a short-term boost, it can trigger hot flashes and affect restorative sleep. Support the body with extra sleep and exercise. Mindful practices such as meditation and yoga can also help. And remember, we don't have to do everything. It's okay to say no or ask for help.
If hot flashes become too troublesome, be sure to ask a naturopathic doctor about other alternatives. All of the possible effects of hormonal dysregulation can be overwhelming and confusing. The great news is that naturopathic doctors have many treatment options that include trigger avoidance, specific lifestyle recommendations, targeted nutrients, herbal/botanical support and delivery and dosage options for bio-identical hormone replacement; including creams, capsules, injections and pellets. One size does not fit all regarding hormones, so it is important to customize and personalize them to our individual needs.
Healthy Holiday Muffins
This holiday muffin is a great way to start the day. The fiber from the cinnamon, applesauce, whole grains and essential fatty acids from the nuts and flax seeds help to keep blood sugar and hormone levels balanced without sacrificing flavor and fun.
¼ cup organic oil (canola, sunflower seed)
1¼ cups organic applesauce
1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour or gluten-free pastry flower
2 Tbsp fresh ground flaxseed
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp non-aluminum baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch salt
½ cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray or paper liners.
Combine oil and applesauce. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, ground flax, baking soda and powders, cinnamon, salt and walnuts.
Stir wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Use a large spoon to drop the muffin batter into the muffin tins.
Bake 18 to 20 minutes and enjoy!
Dr. Adrienne Stewart is a naturopathic physician practicing at Integrative Health, in Scottsdale, concentrating on fertility, preconception health and environmental medicine. Visit MyIntegrativeHealth.com for more information.