Hot flushes, also known as hot flashes, are a frequent, inconvenient side effect of menopause experienced by 75-80% of menopausal women. If you’re not sure if you’ve had one, you probably haven’t. Any post-menopausal woman (or patients undergoing breast cancer treatment) may tell you when a hot flush is triggered, it is intense and you will know something is happening.
Why causes hot flushes? It’s all about the brain: Hot flushes are mainly caused by the dysfunction of heat regulation in the thalamus, induced by estrogen withdrawal.
On average, women experience hot flushes for seven years during the transition of menopause. That’s a long time, especially when you’re trying to concentrate on important tasks at work.
In this article, we explore a few things you can use to try to manage hot flushes during your workday. Seek medical support from a qualified health professional for specific advice:
1. Increase your intake of soy
A study of hot flush incidence in Western women versus Chinese women was 80% to 20%, respectively. This difference is attributed to the amount of soy (which has estrogenic properties) in the Chinese diet. Try eating a tofu stir fry with soy sauce once a week at work, or visit your nearest Chinese or Japanese restaurant on your lunch break.
2. Don’t avoid your pre or post-work workout
If you’re avoiding exercise in the hope of reducing your core temperature to help minimise the severity of your hot flushes, it’s highly unlikely to be effective. Studies show a change in core temperature precedes only around 50% of hot flushes. So, stay active. The importance of activity, particularly in maintaining bone density and strength, is vital.
3. Wear layers
Wearing layers at work makes it easy to strip your top layer off to cool down when a sudden hot flush hits. Cardigans, blazers, and pashminas are handy, as you can take them on and off before and after a flush strikes.
4. Take herbs to work in your handbag
Licorice, Burdock, and Ginseng are all popular alternative supplements women use to manage hot flushes. While the evidence can’t pinpoint which alternative therapy works best due to a lack of quality studies, there is evidence that even a placebo works to reduce hot flushes in 50% of women. So visit a naturopath and give some chemist-bought herbs a try; you may experience an improvement due only to the placebo effect, but it’s still an improvement.
5. Try yoga and meditation in your lunch break
Mindfulness training has been shown to reduce the amount of ‘bother’ caused by hot flushes, but not to reduce the intensity of hot flushes. If you can reduce the perceived inconvenience of the episodes, though, you’re less likely to be irritated by them. That’s a win.
Hot flushes may be annoying, but there are a few ways to manage them. If you’re struggling, chat to your doctor about treatment that will help.
Written by Caitlin R.
As a physiotherapist and personal trainer, Caitlin is passionate about health and fitness for health ageing.
 Santen R J, Loprinzi C L, Casper R F. Menopausal hot flashes. 2020-04-27
 Mallhi T H, Khan Y H, Mahmood Q, Khalid S H, Saleem M. Managing Hot Flushes in Menopausal Women: A Review. 2018
 Jones H, Bailey T, Barr D A, France M, Lucas R, Crandall C G, Low D A. Is core temperature the trigger of a menopausal hot flush? 2019-09
All articles are provided as general information and are not intended, nor may it be construed, as medical advice or instruction. Information and opinions expressed are believed to be correct and accurate to the best knowledge and judgement of the authors. Readers should consult their appropriately qualified health care professional prior to taking any action or inaction.