Find out what triggers your menopause symptoms!
Learning what triggers menopause symptoms may help tame those hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and many more issues women face through this transition.
Menopause can be a difficult time in a woman’s life. It is a phase in life when hormone levels change bringing changes in mood, difficulty sleeping, hot flashes, and all kinds of other problems, both physical and emotional. For example, according to the North American Menopause Society (NMAS), 75% of North American women will experience hot flashes in menopause.
The question is, though, are there certain things that trigger the menopause symptoms that are experienced by women or even increase the intensity of those symptoms?
Are there actions that a woman can take to help ease her menopause symptoms or lessen their frequency?
Here are the main triggers that affect menopause symptoms, and in particular, hot flashes:
- Some Food
- Some Drinks
- Lack of Sleep
- Emotional Stress
1- What Are the Foods That May be Triggers for Menopause Symptoms?
Certain kinds of food can trigger hot flashes, make sleep more difficult, cause bloating, spark mood swings as well as affecting weight gain. Women who are in perimenopause or menopause should try to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and some lean protein to remain in the best shape they can.
In a study of 400 post-menopausal women, women who stuck to a healthy type of diet experienced fewer menopause symptoms than those who indulged in less healthy food patterns
So, what are the food triggers?
Highly Processed Foods
Highly processed food is bad for your health. Packaged foods sit for a long time on supermarket shelves. It spends many days in transportation from factory to the consumer. The methods of preserving foods also cause food to lose much of its nutritional value. These foods are full of sugar, salt, and often toxic preservatives.
In these fast-paced modern times, it is often easier to reach for packaged foods than making the effort to shop, clean, chop, and prepare food from scratch. Fast food, in particular, is full of fats that are bad for you, high in sugar, starch, and salt.
However, making simple meals with fresh produce, incorporating pulses and grains is a gift you can give your body. As they go through menopause, women become more at risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, stroke. Food is one way to control and reduce that risk.
Women often find that when they stop eating processed food, their mood improves, they sleep better, and are better able to control their weight in menopause.
Hot foods that contain hot peppers and chili can cause sweating and flushing and can bring on or worsen hot flashes.
The National Institute on Aging advises avoiding spicy foods for an easier time with hot flashes. If you like lots of different tastes in your food or are used to eating spicy food, you might try to use herbs and spices that do not have heat factors. Spices like cinnamon, turmeric, turmeric, and herbs like rosemary, oregano, basil, mint, and dill can do a great job of adding flavor without the heat.
There is evidence that having high sugar levels in the blood of menopausal women is connected to having more frequent hot flashes. Eating high amounts of sugar leads to fluctuations in blood sugar levels, and causes you to experience sugar cravings after the initial sugar rush. Some studies have shown that fluctuating sugar levels in the blood can bring on hot flashes or make them more severe.
Another problem with a high sugar intake is the possible connection between eating too much sugar and a lack of concentration, or what is referred to as a ‘foggy’ brain. Sugar lows can make us feel bad and prompt us to reach out for a sugary ‘lift-me-up’, and so begins a catch 22.
Most people like sweet treats and do not want to stop eating sugar altogether. The trick is to make it a rare event. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 5% (25 grams in a 2000 calorie diet) of calories be consumed as sugar. This is much less than the typical consumption of sugar in developed countries. For example, in the US the average sugar daily intake is 77 grams, in Canada, it is 110 grams, and 80 grams in the UK
Read more on how sugar impacts menopause here.
2- What Are the Drinks That May Be a Trigger For Menopause Symptoms?
What you drink can affect how your body reacts to menopausal symptoms.
You might think that you are consuming sugar mostly when you eat sweets and desserts. However, the highest source of sugar consumption is through sweetened drinks. It is not only soft drinks that are the cause. Just think that one glass of freshly squeezed orange juice contains 21 grams of sugar (almost a whole day’s amount of recommended sugar intake)!
Read labels. Drink water. Do yourself a favor and avoid sugary drinks!
A study published by Mayo Clinic found that women who regularly had caffeinated drinks suffered more hot flashes than those who did not. So, it makes sense to try to reduce caffeine and watch if and how it affects not only your hot flashes but your sleep patterns and moods.
Sometimes, all you need is to have a hot beverage. Try herbal tea; there are so many varieties of tea available these days. However, read the labels for caffeine content. Mint, Camomile, and ginger teas do not have caffeine, for example.
The Mayo Clinic recommendation is:
“Moderate alcohol use for healthy adults generally means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. Examples of one drink include:
Beer – 12 fluid ounces (355 milliliters)
Wine – 5 fluid ounces (148 milliliters)
Distilled spirits (80 proof) – 1.5 fluid ounces (44 milliliters)”
Some women find that alcohol, particularly red wine, triggers hot flashes or makes them worse. So, it would make sense to track your drinking and compare it to when hot flashes happen and how severe they are when they do. Try using an app like the Hot Flash Help app to figure out if alcohol is one of your triggers.
Another menopausal symptom that is affected by alcohol is insomnia. It may be easier to fall asleep after a couple of drinks, but you will tend to wake up during the night and have a much poorer quality of sleep.
3- Smoking Is Trigger Also What Triggers Menopause Issues
There is much evidence to say that smoking directly affects hot flashes
An Obstet Gynecol article states that “One of the most common risk factors studied in association with hot flashes is cigarette smoking. Our previous work showed that women who had ever smoked cigarettes had a 1.6 fold increased odds of experiencing hot flashes compared to women who had never smoked cigarettes”
A study in the journal Maturitas found that smoking can cause earlier menopause. Women who smoke 14 cigarettes or more experienced menopause 2.8 years earlier than those who don’t! also states that there is research that smoking.
So, it makes sense to reduce the amount of nicotine that you take into your body. You can try an app such as the Hot Flash Help app to track your intake of nicotine and your hot flashes and discover if smoking is a trigger for you.
4- Heat Is a Trigger
Hot flashes happen because the estrogen drops in menopause, which affects the temperature-regulating mechanism in the brain. However, hot flashes can be intensified or even triggered by external sources of heat.
Hot weather is known to be a trigger for hot flashes. Avoid being in the sun and try to stay indoors or in airconditioned spaces. Avoid taking hot baths and using hair dryers if you find that they can affect your hot flashes negatively. Wear layers that you can remove as a hot flash hits, and avoid heavy clothing.
Although exercise is recommended for its many health benefits, do not engage in strenuous cardio if you find this brings on your hot flashes. Alternatively, use a fan while exercising vigorously.
5- Lack of Sleep Is a Trigger
This is a chicken and egg situation: Menopause causes insomnia, but lack of sleep makes menopausal symptoms worse. Insomnia can be a contributing factor to hot flashes; it can cause a foggy brain and can even lead to weight gain and mood swings.
There are many ways to help yourself sleep better. Read about how to deal with insomnia during menopause here.
6- Stress and Emotions Are Also What Trigger Menopause Symptoms
When we experience stress, our body produces adrenaline causing faster heartbeats and blood flow. This leads to a rise in body temperature and can cause a subsequent hot flash as a way for the body to disperse the heat and cool down. The interesting thing is that not only negative emotions can trigger hot flashes, but any emotion, even joy, and happiness.
One way of dealing with calming emotions and keeping them on an even keel is practicing mindfulness through practices like yoga or meditation. Read how to practice self-care here.
At the end of the day, you are the expert on you! Only you can find what triggers menopause symptoms in your case.
Every woman is different and will experience menopause differently. You should keep a watchful eye and try to find out what triggers or worsens your menopause symptoms. Sometimes, we need hard data to enable us to draw correct conclusions about what actually triggers our symptoms.
Read more about perimenopause symptoms here: