Battle Hot Flashes and Night Sweats with Therapeutic Sweating

Battle Hot Flashes and Night Sweats with Therapeutic Sweating

A friend of mine once complained to me that women seem to be always at war with their hormones from menarche to menopause.  Every month we will go through a symptoms of pain, irritability, sadness, or headache…to name just a few, and just when you think you are finally done with this monthly torture, menopause arrives and puts you through a different level of suffering.

Can I address all of the symptoms of menopause in one blog? 

Nope. I can, however, discuss a surprisingly effective tool to battle one of the most common symptoms of menopause, hot flashes. Before we jump in, let’s first explore the underlying causes.  

When women approach menopause, there is a steady decrease of estrogen and progesterone over a period of time. The decreased estrogen level causes hypothalamus (the body’s thermostat) to become more sensitive to heat in the body.  

Even a slight rise in body temperature can trigger the body to crank up its cooling mechanism at full force. This causes the blood vessels near the surface of the skin start to dilate and increase blood flow, which helps dissipate heat and cool down the body. 

Sweating also helps to cool down the body.  As water molecules vaporize from the skin’s surface, they take heat/energy with them, reducing the temperature of the skin. 

A therapy I often recommend to help with hot flashes is therapeutic sweating. 

Although there are not published studies available on this therapy, I have found it to be extremely helpful to manage patients’ symptoms. The proposed theory is that proactively sweating can help to desensitize the hypothalamus by slowing the down reactivity of body temperature. 

Think of it as making drainage holes on the planting containers. When you drain the container periodically, there is less chance for overspill, and when you do get one, it’s less severe. 

There are a number of ways to sweat. 

You can exercise, take a hot bath or use a Sauna or steam room. 

Therapeutic sweating simply means that you need to sweat a good amount for a prolonged period to gain the benefits from sweating. 

A good practical measure is when most of the base layer of your clothing is wet and stays wet for at least 30 minutes. 

Sauna is my favorite option to sweat, because it provides the most efficient sweating. 

Here is the guideline to follow when using a sauna:

  • You must stay well rested and well fed during the sweating. Sauna uses up lots of energy. Don’t begin the sweating period tired or hungry.
  • The traditional dry or an infrared sauna may be used. The sauna should be at 140-160 F. If you can’t find a sauna at this temperature, sit on the floor of the sauna room.
  • Maintain salts of sodium and potassium and water intake. This is a crucial safety factor while doing any therapeutic sweating. Take breaks from the sauna as often as needed to cool down, drink fluids, snack, and replenish salts. Some people need a break every 10-15 minutes, average is more like every 30 minutes. Beverage options are: coconut water or fresh vegetable or fruit juice. Snacks options are: salted rice crackers. Please don’t eat deep-fried salty snacks, such as chips. Drink at least 500ml of water for each 30 minutes sweating
  • The important signs that indicate the need to take a break: headache, dizziness, “spaciness”, weakness, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, heart pounding, irritability, or just feeling uncomfortable. If you feel one or more of these symptoms, take a break, drink fluids and eat salty foods (for example, 3-4 salty crackers) until symptoms improve. If symptoms don’t improve, end the day’s sweating session. If at any time on the program, you feel palpitations, racing heart, shortness of breath, chest pain, sudden severe headache in a severe way despite breaks, discontinue for the day and contact your doctor. If you feel that you are having a medical emergency, call 911.

If you don’t have access to a sauna, consider a home bath.

  • Immerse as much as of the trunk and legs as possible in the water but keep the water level below the heart.
  • The water temperature should be between 100-108 Fahrenheit.
  • Duration of the sweating is usually between 15-60 minutes. Unlike sauna sweating, you do not take breaks.  You stay in the water for as long as you are comfortable following the safety instructions below.  To keep the water in the temperature range for the duration of the sweating, you will need to add hot water from time to time.
  • Keep a container of ice water next to the bath so that you can keep a fresh and cold washcloth draped over your forehead.
  • Drink water liberally through the session.
  • Take your temperature every 5-10 minutes.  If your temperature gets over 102 degrees Fahrenheit, add some cold water to the tub.
  • When done, get out of the tub slowly in steps.  First sit up for 1-2 minutes then sit at the edge of tub for another 1-2 minutes before standing.  Standing too quickly may result dizziness. 

If you have any questions regarding menopause symptoms, talk to your providers at Naturopathic Family Health. We are here to support you. Enjoy some sweating sessions this winter.

Dr. Sherry Su
Naturopathic Doctor San Jose


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