For the aging female population, hot flashes can send you to your doctor for a fix to this common and troublesome symptom of menopause.  In today’s economy, who doesn’t want to avoid a doctor’s bill if we can treat some things naturally.  Unfortunately, even the experts in the field still haven’t figured out the underlying cause, although they do know that estrogen loss alone doesn’t fully explain them.  But the good news is they are avoidable.  Knowing who is more prone to them or what habits will increase your chances is a start.  But if you’re already experiencing them, learning what lifestyle or diet changes can decrease or eliminate them altogether is even better!

For starters, overweight women and smokers are more likely to experience them.  African American and Latino women tend to experience them more while women of Asian backgrounds experience them the least.  If you’ve experienced them, you probably don’t care about the how or why, you just want to cool yourself down.  Of course, with many natural remedies, it can take a few weeks of these lifestyle changes to work but it’s the less costly and healthier option for treating hot flashes.

Studies have found that overweight women often have more hot flashes than women of a healthy-weight. This could be because excess fat traps heat, making you sweat more to cool off your body, or because the blood vessels in overweight women dilate more when they encounter heat or stress. That dilation brings more blood to the surface of the skin, making you feel hotter.  Numerous studies have shown that when overweight women lost weight, the intensity and frequency of their hot flashes dropped as well.

Paced breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing, involves breathing in slowly through your nose for at least 5 seconds and out slowly through your mouth for at least 5 seconds. You’ll know you’re doing it right if you see your abdomen rise with each breath in and feel your lungs inflate. It is quiet a contrast to your normal tense, shallow breathing. Like other mind-body therapies, paced breathing calms the sympathetic nervous system and enhances circulation.  This is also recommended to deal with stress and anxiety.  Try doing it for a few minutes throughout your day like while your driving, checking email, reading or watching TV.

Try yoga!  Researchers believe one reason yoga helps is the sense of control it provides.  A small study involving women who were having four or more moderate-to-severe hot flashes per day found that learning eight restorative yoga poses and taking a weekly 90-minute restorative yoga class for 8 weeks led to an average one-third drop in the number of hot flashes and in their severity. Restorative yoga focuses on relaxing the body in restful postures using props such as blankets, bolsters, and straps. The poses are usually sustained for 5 – 10 minutes each, putting you in a deep state of relaxation.  The deep relaxation that occurs with restorative yoga also engages the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that controls unconscious responses such as sweating.

The combination of mindfulness meditation with yoga helps you focus on your body and understand how your unconscious thoughts and feelings affect your physical and emotional health. Studies have found that it can calm numerous unconscious processes in your body, such as reducing pain and lowering blood pressure, so it makes sense that it could improve your body’s temperature control. It also provides that feeling of control over one’s body.  Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester had 15 women with frequent hot flashes learn mindfulness-based stress reduction in a weekly class for 8 weeks.  All of the women felt their quality of life improved overall as the severity of their hot flashes plummeted by 40 percent.

Getting regular exercise provides a bevy of great health benefits such as stress relief, healthier bones, improved memory,  increased mobility/balance, reduces the risk of blood clots, stroke and heart attack-this list goes on and on.  Well if that’s not enough, here is another reason to hit the gym.  A study published in 2010, evaluated the effect of exercise on 336 healthy women ages 45 – 55 and found that the more physical activity the women got, the fewer and less severe their menopausal symptoms.  Even better, half of the women had no symptoms at all!  Another study found that aerobic exercise like brisk walking, biking, running, or dancing reduced the severity of hot flashes in 55 percent of postmenopausal women.

Eating more soy can help.  Try including soy milk, tofu, edamame, and miso to your regular diet.  This  low-fat protein may protect you from hot flashes. Soy contains powerful estrogen-like compounds called phytoestrogens, which bind to estrogen receptors and mimic some of estrogen’s effects in your body. The most prevalent phytoestrogens in soy are the isoflavones genistein, daidzein, and glycitein. Daidzein is believed to be the one with the greatest impact. After eating soy, certain bacteria in your gut convert daidzein into an estrogen-like compound called S-equol. We know from studies in Japanese women that those who produce S-equol after eating soy have fewer and milder menopausal symptoms than women whose bodies make less S-equol.

Here are a few vitamins or herbal remedies worth giving a try as well.  While vitamin E is known for its antioxidant properties, it can also help your arteries work better and reduce inflammation—all of which could improve hot flashes.  Black cohosh, a member of the buttercup family, is one of the most researched herbal options for hot flashes. The herb acts like estrogen in the body, decreasing luteinizing hormone (a hormone that’s secreted by the pituitary gland and that may play a role in hot flashes) and affecting serotonin receptors, which are also involved in hot flashes.

A Swiss study evaluating the effects of a once-daily sage tablet on 71 postmenopausal women found that the average number of hot flashes dropped by half within 4 weeks and by 64 percent within 8 weeks. Women with severe and very severe hot flashes had even greater benefits, with 79 percent and 100 percent, respectively, seeing improvements.  Try have a daily cup of sage tea using fresh or dried sage.

These natural remedies or simple changes can only save you money on prescriptions or doctors visits so why not give them a try?