Are You Setting Off Your Hot Flashes?

If you start taking note of your hot flashes, you may recognize some events, emotions, or activities that actually seem to contribute to, or “trigger,” the onset of a hot flash.
Scientifically speaking, while the physiology of hot flashes is associated with a decrease in estrogen level or an increase in gonadotropin concentrations, the actual physiological mechanism of hot flashes is not known. While they may sometimes seem to occur spontaneously with no prior warning, it has also been reported that there are often “triggers” that precede hot flashes.

What Is a Hot Flash Trigger?

A hot flash trigger is anything that appears to precede a hot flash on a regular basis. Triggers may be termed as external, internal, or learned. Some examples of each include:

External hot flash triggers: temperature fluctuations, alcohol, hot or spicy foods/beverages, caffeine

Internal hot flash triggers: anxiety, stress, illness (e.g.: migraines, coughing), emotional situations

Learned hot flash triggers: entering a certain room, applying makeup, planning a dinner menu, getting ready for church

To find your hot flash triggers, I suggest keeping a record of your hot flashes. Include the activities you were doing when the hot flash started and list the possible triggers associated with that activity. By recording your hot flashes, you might be able to see a pattern, identify the activities associated with the trigger, and determine if you could make any changes that would affect the situation and possibly help with the hot flashes.

5 Common Hot Flash Triggers To Look For

Some of the more common triggers identified by women experiencing hot flashes from menopause or breast cancer treatment are:

Stress/anxiety: Psychological stress is often identified as a precursor to hot flashes. This stress may come from a host of factors, each as individual as you are from others. Making an attempt to identify the stressors that appear to preempt a hot flash could be helpful to you because the situation may be controllable. It may mean reducing stress by changing a situation, saying “no” to a new demand, or just taking time to relax.

Emotional situations: There are certain situations in which you may find that extreme emotions may precede a hot flash. In these cases, symptoms of the hot flash may even exacerbate the emotional feelings as you also feel embarrassment and discomfort relating to the hot flash.

Foods: While certainly not limited to these, the foods most commonly attributed to triggering a hot flash are spicy foods, hot foods and beverages, and caffeine. As you begin to be more aware of when and how your hot flashes occur, you may notice that certain foods you eat or beverages you drink act as a precursor to your hot flashes. With this information, you may choose to alter some of your dietary habits to reduce your hot flashes.