Written by Dr. Dave Hnida, CBS4 Medical Editor
When it comes to the “change of life,” the No. 1 thing that women dread  isn’t osteoporosis or heart disease — it’s hot flashes.

You’re fine one second, then a wave of fire starts at the head and works its way down to your toes. Then your sweat glands open up and leave you drenched as if you just stepped in out of a hurricane.

A new study in Tuesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association may offer some help for women who feel like walking bonfires – it shows a common antidepressant may help ease symptoms quickly, and with few side effects.

In the study, women who used the antidepressant

3123206 Toasted, Roasted, And Soaking Wet

Lexapro (File photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

 cut their rate of hot flashes almost in half within an 8 week period. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an antidepressant do the trick — but this is the largest and best study to date.

The women in the study did not suffer from depression (although with the notorious burn/drench cycle, I’d be depressed) and took a very low dose of the Lexapro. By using the antidepressant, the women were able to avoid estrogen. Side effects were few, women slept better, and in general had more comfortable lives.

We think, by the way, other antidepressants may work just as well.

Now let’s say you don’t want to have anything to do with antidepressants for your hot flashes. You may also get relief from the high blood pressure drug Clonidine. And natural remedies such as black cohosh, red cedar, and flaxseed may do the trick as well.

The good news is when the hot flashes naturally go away (generally 3-4 years, although some women say centuries) you can stop whatever you’re taking.

The point, there’s no reason to suffer. That burned up/soaked feeling can make your days and nights miserable, and these options may help.

Good luck. Keep cool. Stay dry.

Comments (3)
  1. Paul Chenault says:

    Good lord more drugs? Dr Dave when will it all end?
    Why Antidepressants Don’t Work
    Ground-breaking new research sheds light on why most people who take antidepressants do not get relief from depression.

  2. Teresa says:

    I only wish I had known about this treatment 4 years ago when I endured one burn/drench hot flash every hour of the day, every day! With a family history of breast cancer, I was not about to take HRT so I just had to deal with it as best I could. It’s a wonder I wasn’t severely depressed over it.

  3. Paul Chenault says:

    While it’s not known for sure why some women experience hot flashes and others don’t, it’s likely related to the fluctuating hormone levels that occur during menopause.

    Both estrogen and progesterone are necessary in the female cycle, and their balance is key for optimal health. Many women have an imbalance of these hormones during their lifetimes, regardless of their age. And if you have insufficient levels of progesterone to counter excessive estrogen, this imbalance can be further exacerbated by chronic stress.

    So in some cases, addressing your stress levels will help normalize your hormone levels naturally.

    Likewise, eating right for your nutritional type and exercising regularly can go a long way to keeping your hormones balanced as you age.

    Refined carbohydrates, processed and heated fats, empty foods — and too much of it — all serve to raise your estrogen to abnormal levels, as much as twice the normal, which are maintained for the better part of the adult lives of most American women. This is a MAJOR contributing cause of menopausal symptoms in the first place.

    Additionally, natural phytoestrogens (plant-estrogens) found in plants like licorice, fermented soybeans, alfalfa, and many others, eaten before menopause will do much to moderate your day-to-day estrogen level so that when menopause arrives, there will not be such big drop.

    Meanwhile, implementing a regular exercise regimen will optimize your insulin levels and balance your estrogen levels. Estrogen levels are much lower in women who eat little and perform strenuous physical work, as in locales with a non-industrialized lifestyle.

    The opposite is true for American women who typically eat too much and get little exercise: abnormally high estrogen levels are the direct result of this kind of sedentary lifestyle.

    Optimizing your vitamin D levels and getting plenty high quality animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. Both of these strategies are essential for optimal health at every life stage.

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