Menopause cold flashes: yes, that’s a thing
Cold flashes? You’ve heard of menopause hot flashes, maybe even experienced the sudden flaring of intense heat that starts in your chest and rushes up into your face.
But were you aware that hormone changes can also cause cold flashes?
All about menopause chills
Cold flashes are considered an "unusual" symptom of menopause, but given how many women come to us saying, "Thank goodness for this article; I thought I was going crazy!" we're starting to realize they're not as uncommon as doctors would have us think.
If you experience a bone-deep cold that doesn't seem to respond to being buried under blankets, if you’re suddenly chilled and shivering, even in a warm room, you may be experiencing a cold flash. Sometimes they come right on the heels of a hot flash and may be worsened by having damp, sweaty clothes on. Sometimes they come alone and mysteriously.
Constant cold flashes? You are not crazy or abnormal. Cold flashes are one of the symptoms of menopause. If you need assistance to help reduce the symptom and get rid of those pesky chills, a menopause-certified health coach can be helpful. Book 30 minutes for your personal consultation with a health coach.
What causes cold flashes in menopause?
Much like hot flashes, cold flashes are likely caused by hormone havoc in your head. As estrogen levels drop, the hypothalamus – the part of your brain responsible for regulating your body temperature – gets overactive, releasing chemicals that alert your body it’s overheating. The body sheds heat, whether you want it to or not, and voilà! Cold flash. Cue the hot chocolate.
Although they’re rarer than the typical hot flash up to 80% of women will experience, cold flashes are no less disruptive, especially at night. And given how rare a decent night's sleep can be during this time of life, getting help with cold flashes may give you a shot at some vastly improved rest.
What can be done about cold flashes?
Our team at the Gennev menopause clinic knows that cold flashes can disrupt your life. However, there are some lifestyle changes that may help tame the freezing beast. Often, our dietary, exercise, and behavioral choices can mean the difference between comfort and chaos.
1. Reduce stress and anxiety
Personally, I love it when people tell me to calm down. It’s just so effective and helpful. But honestly, calm down. Anxiety can cause cold flashes or make them worse. And since women in perimenopause and menopause are more prone to anxiety, between an overactive hypothalamus and a hyper-alert central nervous system, women can spend an awful lot of time just trying to be comfortable. Deep breathing exercises and meditation can help with menopause mood swings, calm you and reduce the severity and duration of all kinds of flashes.
2. Avoid the usual triggers
Sugar, caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, nicotine all can trigger hot and cold flashes or make them worse.
3. Plan for it
Although the weather and what you eat and drink may have little or no bearing on if you have a hot or cold flash, they can make having one more uncomfortable, so wear layers. If you experience a hot flash that causes you to sweat, change clothes or pjs immediately to get the moisture away from your body, as that can trigger the shiver. (Hint: moisture-wicking bedding, pajamas, and menopause clothing can make this a whole lot easier.)
4. Move it
Exercise or just moving around, which may sound like the worst thing ever, is really beneficial during a cold flash. You need to get the blood flowing to extremities like hands and feet.
There aren't scientific studies to prove the connection, but many women in our closed Facebook group have found relief by taking a magnesium glycinate supplement just before bed. Magnesium may also tame anxiety and help you to sleep better, so that's a win-win. Talk to your doc if you're taking meds, just to be sure there's no worry of interaction.
6. Wet head
This is strictly personal and an utterly unscientific study of one, but I find when I go to bed with wet hair, that can trigger a cold flash. If you shower at night like I do, consider not washing your hair at the same time and see if that reduces the frequency or severity.
Hot and cold flashes at the same time?
Cold flashes can last hours or longer, so understand that remedies may take time to have any effect. Also, sometimes the things we do to survive a cold flash can actually trigger a hot flash, so make your accommodations gradually – drink warm things instead of hot things, pile on one blanket instead of ten (maybe even a weighted blanket can help with menopause insomnia), don’t crank the fireplace up to eleven.
If lifestyle adaptations don’t do the trick, hormone replacement therapy, anti-depressants, or low-dose birth control pills may be able to help.
If you want to explore your options, we can help. Make an appointment with one of our Health Coaches or menopause-specialist OB/GYNs to talk about lifestyle adaptations that can help with cold flashes (and all your menopause symptoms, actually) and/or get a prescription. As always, suffering in silence is an option — but we have better ones for you.
When do I need to talk with my doc?*
If you’re having disruptive cold flashes, a trip to the doc isn’t a bad idea. Poor blood circulation, thyroid dysfunction, anemia, and low blood sugar all can cause cold flashes and can be more serious than a typical hormonal imbalance due to menopause.
Need a professional to take a look? A Gennev menopause-certified gynecologist can give you a trusted opinion if medication is right for you, and they can provide prescription support. Book an appointment with a doctor here.
Like so much about menopause, the severity of your symptoms (or at least the perceived severity) can depend a lot on your attitude and approach. This is not to say if you’re not cheerful and giggling through a 3 am personal cold front, you’re a failure – but it does mean you may have more control than you know.
If you experience cold flashes, we’d love to know what you do about them: journaling? Hot chocolate? Sticking your feet on the back of your annoyingly comfortable partner? Has a supplement or medication helped you? Feel free to share on our Facebook page, in our private Facebook group, or check out how other women have managed cold flashes and other menopause symptoms in our Gennev Community forums.
*The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. If you’re concerned about your symptoms, please go to the doctor. Now. Go. Shoo.
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