A lot of us experience hormonal shifts as some sort of pure evil punishment from Satan himself. When we don’t fully understand what’s going on in our bodies, hormones can definitely feel like the enemy. In part, that’s because it’s not easy to understand them. Hormones regulate basically all of our bodily functions, but the balance is a delicate, intricate, insanely complicated web that is affected by everything and is different for everyone. That being said, please do not be discouraged. Lol.
Many things are happening to us when our hormones surge and dip. It can be layered, and thus very different for everyone, but if you’ve ever noticed yourself getting fever-like symptoms around your period you’re not alone. In fact, hot flashes and night sweats, while a major part of later-life hormonal shifts, can happen to anyone. Here are some possible explanations.
Female hormones fluctuate all month long, and make the most dramatic twists and turns right before our period, otherwise known as premenstrual symptoms, or PMS. As if anyone needed us to define that. One of these major fluctuations is an increase in progesterone, the hormone that helps to regulate the function of the uterus.
When progesterone rises at this time, estrogen dips. This drop affects the hypothalamus in the brain, which is a center that controls and maintains body temperature. Because of this, even the slightest change in temperature (say, from cozying up in our favorite down comforter at night, as one does) can get your brain a little trigger-happy. This means it may respond a smidgeon too eagerly to cool you off by sweating. Like a lot.
It’s not always PMS, though. Thank Goddess in heaven for doctors who specialize in the study and understanding of hormones and how they work with and against us. We spoke with Dr. Anna Cabeca, “The Girlfriend Doctor,” triple-board certified OB-GYN and author of two best-selling books The Hormone Fix and Keto-Green 16, to dish on those night sweats brought on by very real heat, not the heat literally in our heads.
“Hot flashes are something that typically starts in the mid-40s and can last through menopause or even up to 10 to 15 years. I have had patients in their 60s who were still struggling with hot flashes,” Dr. Cabeca shares. Raise your hand if you’re not yet in menopause but are really looking forward to it? Anyone?
Dr. Cabeca also goes deep on her blog, explaining that during this time, “medically speaking, blood vessels near the surface of a woman’s skin dilate, this is the body’s attempt to cool off. The heart races to pump more blood to reach the surface of the skin where it is cooler, and that causes the red blush to the face and neck.
“A woman may sweat, as that is another way the body tries to cool itself. Some women can experience a rapid heart rate, lightheadedness, or even feel nauseated. Some experience chills. At night the same experience can occur and these are called night sweats. A woman can be cold one minute, and the next minute need all the bed covers off and feel quite miserable.”
Of course, there are ways to mitigate these symptoms by taking care of ourselves and reflecting and aligning with our bodies and hormonal systems. We can do this by managing stress and eating intuitively, healthfully, and for our cycle, and the earlier we start, the better chance we have to experience fewer menopause symptoms as we age. But about those hot flashes? Dr. Cabeca tells us there are a couple of reasons for that.
“Certainly, the decline in progesterone and estrogen as we age and the fluctuations in estrogen. Low estrogen can really exacerbate hot flashes, but a key major hormone that is a culprit not often addressed is insulin, specifically insulin resistance. Women who have insulin resistance have hot flashes for an extended period of time, and even more frequently. This is best controlled by incorporating intermittent fasting, extended fasting, and the keto-green lifestyle.” See, it all comes back to food.
But wait, there’s more! Dr. Cabeca tells us that “hormone replacement, starting with bio-identical progesterone can help, as well as estrogen, and definitely manage stress and cortisol levels, which also certainly exacerbate hot flashes because of the decline in progesterone it causes at the same time.” Back to that hypothalamus problem. Because it can happen at any age. It’s all in the balance, baby.