Are Hot Flashes A Result of Hormonal Imbalance?

Posted on September 13, 2011. Filed under: Hormone |

Surprisingly, these unwelcome bouts of sweat and general discomfort don’t always come with the aging body – over the years I’ve seen any number of ‘young’ (choosing words carefully here!) women experiencing mild to major discomfort. Even the total symptom picture varies among women – for some the heat is the only issue, and for others there can be accompanying nausea, various levels of headache, and mood changes which are usually negative.

Hot flashes are symptomatic of a hormonal imbalance, often involving estrogen. Of course there is more to the story – much more. Of all the systems of the body the hormonal or ‘endocrine’ systems is one of the hardest to understand, diagnose and treat. The important thing to understand is that hormones – all 60+ of them – interact in amazingly complex fashions that are yet to be fully mastered. If you ask a well-educated and experienced endocrinologist about it, he or she will tell you that though more research is being done all the time, it raises as many new questions as it gives answers.  The point: only at times are there simple answers to endocrine issues.

In the case of estrogen imbalances generally, depending the exact situation estrogen can promote unwanted weight gain, and even be implicated in certain types of back and hip pain that is alleviated by hormonal ‘balancing.’  In men, excess estrogen also promotes fat gain, especially in the chest area. An interesting paradox to illustrate the action in males is that when large, super-muscular bodybuilder types take in too much testosterone, while they build massive muscles on the one hand, the excess testosterone converts to estrogen and creates fat growth on the chest, giving the appearance of small female breasts overlaid on a large chest muscle. Powerful stuff, hormones.

Back to hot flashes. In my clinical practice – 20 years at the time of this writing – I’ve seen both young and old women distraught and frustrated with apparent long-term ‘menopause.’ Many of these women were taking various combinations of hormone replacement therapy with limited or little result – that’s why they were seeking alternatives. While practicing in Europe I did observe that some of the younger women were able to significantly improve their condition and reduce their medication simply by cleaning up their diet, which in this case meant reducing ‘bad’ carbohydrate intake and increasing high quality omega oils (which are also called essential fatty acids, or EFA’s).

There are acupuncture methods for working with hormonal imbalances generally, and treating hot flashes specifically.  Herbs and supplements are often of use, but generally the most effective approach is to use specific combinations of these methods, fine-tuned and tailored to the person.

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