If you suffer from hot flashes during your period, our first piece of advice is to not freak out. This does not—we repeat: does not—necessarily mean that you are beginning menopause decades early. It does, however, come down to your hormones. Surprise, surprise.
"This can be a completely normal issue facing many women as our ovaries begin to produce less estrogen," explains Jennifer Owen, ob-gyn.
Hot flashes typically pop up in the 40s, but some women experience them as young as their 20s and 30s. When symptoms begin earlier than expected, Owen explains that they are generally caused by lifestyle factors. Ranging from an overload of stress to too much spice in our diets, hot flashes are yet another symptom of our menstrual cycles that we can learn to manage.
Why it happens
"First, hot flashes can occur as a result of too much stress, which can lead to hormonal imbalances," says Owen. "These stress hormones can increase blood flow resulting in a warming sensation throughout the body." If you suspect that stress is to blame, it's time to ramp up your self-care. She advises to "focus on finding ways to decrease your stress levels, especially during your periods."
The second lifestyle-related cause of hot flashes? Our diets. While PMS time is known for salty cravings like fried foods and chips, not to mention all the chocolate, Owen warns, "you may need to cut back on spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol at this time."
What to do about it
Either way, it's worth bringing up to your doctor. There are over-the-counter remedies to talk over with your regular ob-gyn. "Some over-the-counter options you can try to alleviate your symptoms, after clearing [them] with your physician, are black cohosh, evening primrose oil, and even eating more products containing soy during this time," Owen shares.
"Don't worry; you're not alone," she adds. "Just remember it is important to discuss your concerns with your gynecologist." When it comes to your health, communication is key. Premature menopause is only a remote possibility, but a positive rapport with your healthcare provider means great things for your health either way.