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  • Writer's pictureMarie Theriault

Tame the Flame: Natural Solutions for Hot Flashes - by Marie Theriault

Marie Theriault, a yoga, qigong, and tai chi teacher, talks about natural ways to treat hot flashes that can arise from cancer treatment. Read it on The After Cancer

Marie Theriault is an oncology-trained Registered Yoga Teacher and Certified Teacher of Qigong and Tai Chi with The After Cancer.

Understanding Hot Flashes

Hot Flashes are unpredictable! They arise suddenly and cause a feeling of warmth or heat, especially in the upper body. One moment you feel fine, the next you are sweating and peeling off layers. As the hot flash subsides, the body may feel chilly for a bit, and you find yourself reaching for those layers once again.

These pesky vacillations in body temperature can range from mild and occasional to a daily occurrence that can be much more intense. The fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone levels are at the root of these temperature swings and can also trigger other problems such as anxiety and irritability, sleep disturbances, fatigue, depression, fluctuating moods, and an erratic menstrual cycle.

While hot flashes are commonly experienced during menopause, they can also arise as a side effect from chemo or hormone therapy and radiation treatments. An estimated 60 percent of women do experience menopause-related problems, says Rowan Chlebowski, MD, of the Harbor UCLA Research and Education Institute in Torrance, California. About 25 percent report almost no disruption in their daily lives, while approximately 10 to 20 percent suffer severe and often debilitating symptoms.

Supplements and prescription medications can be helpful for some people, but their use should always be under the supervision of your doctor.

Let’s look at some Natural Solutions for Hot Flashes.

Plant Medicine – Clary Sage Essential Oil

Clary Sage is renowned for balancing female hormones and is sometimes referred to as “the woman’s oil.” It is the best oil for clearing menopausal heat, soothing menstrual cramps, and calming hot flashes. This oil can be applied topically but must always be diluted first. It can also be included in creams and lotions, added to a bath, through direct palm inhalation, or diffused into the air.

Essential oils are commonly used in hospitals to assist with managing side effects of cancer treatment, but it is recommended to discuss their use with your cancer support team prior to using them. This informative article by David Crow, L.Ac. discusses the therapeutic qualities of Clary Sage and includes recipes.

Dietary Considerations

Foods such as apples, cucumbers, berries, broccoli, eggs, and green tea are considered cooling foods. As an added bonus, they are rich in nutrients and disease-fighting chemicals.

There was a recent study that showed a significant reduction in the frequency and severity of hot flashes by adding soybeans to a low-fat, vegan diet. During the 12-week study period, many intervention-group participants became free of moderate-to-severe hot flashes.

It is also important to stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day. Adequate water intake will help your body flush out toxins, better absorb nutrients, and support a healthy weight.

Avoiding spicy hot and fried foods, alcohol, and caffeine can also help with reducing the hot flash flame.

Yoga Pranayama

Many people think of Yoga as exercise that involves unique positioning of the body into a pose, but did you know that Yoga also includes breathing techniques that can be used for a variety of health concerns?

Prana means Breath, Life Force, or Energy. Yama means to Control or Direct. Therefore, Pranayama is a type of breathing that directs the flow of breath to have specific effects on the body and mind. There are different styles of Pranayama that are easy to use. Here are two that can help with hot flashes. Video demonstrations can be viewed here.

Sheetali Pranayama – The Cooling Breath

This style of Pranayama initiates the calming and cooling mechanisms of the body. Sheetal is a Sanskrit word used to describe something cool and soothing. Think of a cool breeze on a summer evening, or cucumber slices over sore eyes. This Pranayama has a soothing effect on the nervous system and mind and a cooling effect on the skin and body temperature. It is also a wonderful way to wind down or prepare yourself for meditation or sleep.

Chandra Bhedana Pranayama - Chandra (Moon) Bhedana (to Pass Through)

Chandra Bhedana Pranayama invokes a cooling and calming energy. Breathing in through the left nostril while the right nostril is gently blocked affects the right hemisphere of the brain and activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This is our relaxation response which creates calmness and contentment. Breathing out through the right nostril releases body heat and will cool hot flashes or fever. Chandra Bhedana can also be helpful for heartburn, high blood pressure, and tension. It refreshes and steadies the mind.

General guidelines for practicing Pranayama:

  • It is best to practice on an empty stomach.

  • Take a few cleansing breaths and make yourself comfortable before getting started.

  • You can begin with 3 to 5 minutes (about 8 to 10 rounds of breath) practiced several times per day. It does not take long to do, and consistent practice will have a cumulative effect.

  • Practicing before bedtime can help you get a good night’s rest and minimize night sweats, and that is something that everyone who is experiencing hot flashes truly wants and deserves!

Remember, your breath is always with you. You don’t have to pack it or wait for it to arrive. You can use these cooling breaths to bring sweet relief and tame the hot flash flame whenever you need it.


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