Hot flush relief

Menopause is a challenging time for women. It usually coincides with life changes involving children moving into different phases of life and it has very real physical effects. The experience of menopause is different for every woman but one symptom that is universally agreed to be highly annoying and debilitating are the hot flushes (called “hot flashes” in the United States) that affect many menopausal women. That is why a new study suggesting a relatively simple and gentle remedy is very good news.

It is estimated that 85 per cent of the women experience hot flushes of some kind as they approach menopause and for the first year or two after their periods stop. Between 20 and 50 per cent of women continue to have them for many more years. If you are wondering if you have had one then stop wondering: you would know it if you had.

Hot flushes feature a sudden, intense, hot feeling on your face and upper body, perhaps accompanied by a rapid heartbeat and sweating, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, headache, weakness, or a feeling of suffocation. Some women experience an “aura”, an uneasy feeling just before the hot flush. The flush leaves you red and perspiring. You can be soaked with sweat or merely have a moist upper lip. A chill can be the icing on the cake.

Given the nature of hot flushes any source of relief is welcome, and the gentler the better. That is why a new pilot study trialled the mineral magnesium as a hot flush treatment.

The women in this study were an average age of 54 and they had all received chemotherapy for breast cancer. Women who receive this treatment are particularly prone to hot flushes. All of the women involved had experienced hot flushes for at least fourteen weeks.

For the trial, the women had one tablet containing 400mg of magnesium oxide (yielding 250mg of magnesium) daily for four weeks. If after two weeks they showed no benefit their dose was increased to two tablets per day.

In the end 68 per cent of the women were raised to the higher dose.

By the end of the four week study hot flush frequency and severity was reduced by more than 50 per cent in 56 per cent of the women, and was reduced by more than 25 per cent in 76 per cent of the women. So only 24 per cent of women received little benefit.

At the beginning of the study the average number of hot flushes a woman experienced per week was 52 but by the end of the study that had reduced to 28 per week. Fatigue, sweating, and overall distress measurements were also improved.

It is only conjecture but magnesium may exert these effects by its effect on blood vessel and nerve function. The root cause of hot flushes lies in the brain and reduced levels of oestrogen causing confusing in the hypothalamus which acts as your body’s thermostat. So while magnesium may only be relieving symptoms it does appear to be effective and it is gentle.

The recommended dietary allowance of magnesium is between 300 and 420mg per day. So the dosages used in this study were quite high. It would be worth talking to your health care practitioner about the magnesium option though since it is a relatively simple intervention that could make a big change to your quality of life.

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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