In this episode, we're diving deep into a topic that affects so many of us on our breast cancer recovery journey – those pesky hot flashes! We know firsthand how these surges of heat can be uncomfortable, disruptive, and downright miserable. But fear not, because help is here!
The "Why" Behind the Heat:
Delve into the fascinating science behind hot flashes as we shed light on why they happen during and after breast cancer treatment. From hormonal changes to the impact on our body's thermostat, we're unpacking the mystery behind these unwelcome visitors. Knowledge is power, and understanding the "why" behind hot flashes is the first step in taking control!
Simple Lifestyle Modifications:
Discover three tried-and-true lifestyle modifications that can make a world of difference in reducing both the frequency and severity of hot flashes. From optimizing your nutrition to finding relaxation techniques that resonate with your unique journey, we've got your back! Remember, small changes can lead to big results. Let's find the strategies that work best for you. 💚✨
Ready to wave goodbye to those hot flashes? Tune in to our latest podcast episode, available now on your favorite podcast platform.
Referred to in this episode:
"The Wisdom of Menopause" by Christiane Northrup, M.D.
"The Menopause Book: The Complete Guide" by Barbara Kantrowitz and Pat Wingert
"The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women's Health" by Sat Dharam Kaur
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Read the full transcript below:
Laura Lummer 0:00
Hey friends, before we jump into this episode, I have an exciting announcement for you. As a certified trainer advocate, I get asked all the time, what's a good resource for high quality supplements? What are safe things to use on my body in my home? What are good foods to eat? What are good sources to find these things. So I am thrilled to announce that I have partnered with the metabolic Institute of terrain health. And I have added a store to my website, the breast cancer recovery coach.com. This store is full of products that have had their eyes on and been vetted by Dr. Nisha winters, and are approved as high quality, reliable resources. I'm so excited to be able to offer these to you everything from body care to home care to nutrition products to therapeutic care, I trust the recommendation of Dr. Naisha and the metabolic Institute of terrain health, and I believe you can trust them too. So check out the store and enjoy Dr. Naisha approved products. And now let's get into the show you're listening to better than before breast cancer with the breast cancer recovery coach. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. I'm a certified life coach, and I'm a breast cancer thriver. In this podcast, I will give you the skills and the insights and the tools to move past the emotional and physical trauma of a breast cancer diagnosis. If you're looking for a way to create a life that's even better than before breast cancer, you've come to the right place. Let's get started.
Hey, friends, welcome to episode 312 have better than before breast cancer with the breast cancer recovery coach. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. And this is our Tuesday terrain talk. So what we're going to be talking about today is something that impacts the terrain of almost every woman over the age of 40. Absolutely, if we've gone through chemotherapy, if we're taking aromatase inhibitors, we're going to be talking about hot flashes. So I want to start off by sharing some information on what hot flashes actually are like, what did they do to our body. Because I think when you understand the mechanisms behind that what was happening with us, then it's easier to understand how some simple lifestyle modifications can address those mechanisms and reduce the misery of hot flashes. Because God knows they're friggin miserable. Now, before we jump into this at all, and we're going to talk about what they are, how they impact us. But I'm going to give you some simple things you can do to reduce the impact of hot flashes and reduce the misery of them in your life. First, I want to share with you something I'm very excited about to announce. So if you follow me at all, or listen to this podcast regularly, you know that I am a certified train advocate with the metabolic Training Institute of Health. I've studied for well over a year at this point now with Dr. Nisha winters in the metabolic approach to life to health to cancer, based on her book, the metabolic approach to cancer. Now, if you've read that book, you know that in the beginning of it is an assessment. And the entire book is based on looking at 10 different aspects of our lifestyle that have a major impact on our metabolic health. The terrain 10 assessment is that assessment that starts off that book so that you can look and see where you score in these areas. The higher you score in these areas, the more opportunity you have to make some changes and support yourself and improve your wellness. Well, the terrain 10 can be kind of overwhelming when you look at it in the book, it's a lot to read, it's a lot to go through. And I'm very excited to say that it is now available online and you can take it electronically. So you will find the link to go and take the terrain 10 assessment. In the show notes for this episode, what you'll find where you're listening to this podcast is scroll down to the show notes. Or if you're watching this on YouTube, you'll find the link in the show notes section here or on my website, the breast cancer recovery coach.com forward slash 312 312. Now, when you take the train 10 assessment, you're going to look at all of these categories and get a scoring each one of them. And you might look at them and say okay, well I have the score. And there's a lot of information here. What do I do? So I've put together a series of emails to follow up. So once you take the train 10 assessment, you'll get a series of emails from me, that gives you a little more insight into each of the 10 train buckets and a couple of tips for things you can do to support yourself in whichever areas you have the most opportunity. In addition to that if you take it you get a bunch of information about yourself. You want some coaching on it, you want to help construct a healthy lifestyle program around the opportunities you see for years.
Um, I do offer one on one metabolic health coaching, which I also am very excited about. And you'll find the links to that in the emails that you'll get from me after you take the train 10 assessment. So again, you can take that at the breast cancer recovery coach.com forward slash 10, the word te n. And I hope you go there's some great, great information. All right, let's talk about hot flashes. What the heck, why do we get hot flashes? They're so freakin miserable. What can we do about them? I will share a story with you myself, I was majorly impacted by hot flashes. So when I was my first diagnosis of breast cancer, I was 48 years old. Technically, from that age, I'm considered in perimenopause. But my cycles were very regular. I had no PMS, I had no issues, right? I had my first infusion of chemotherapy and bam, right, right into menopause. And it was intense. And it was crazy. My poor husband, I had so many fans. So I was working full time job at the time, it was on the leadership team for the organization that I worked with. And I would go into meetings, these conferences, and I would have this little fan I carried with me everywhere and it plugged into the little port where you charge your iPhone, if you need to get one of these fans, you can find them on Amazon, I would plug it in to the charging port for my phone. And it just makes it like an electronic fan. So I'd set up my phone and it would have that little fan going right at me. And I would buy packs of hand fans, the really pretty ones that have all the different colored sequins on them. And you can buy them in packs of like 12 or 24, from Amazon. So I had all these different colored fans, depending on what outfit I wear. And everything, every meeting I'd go into at work. And in my own office, I had even more fans like desk fan sitting pointing me like it was crazy, right? So you can just picture here comes this bald lady on chemotherapy, my face is all flushed from the steroids from it. I'm sweating my butt off, and fans all around setup all around me to keep me cool as I'm going through conferences. And I'm sure people really enjoyed some of those meetings with me. Anyway, that's, you know, sometimes we got to go to extremes, it's so uncomfortable. So let's talk about what actually is happening when you're having a hot flash. So first of all, hot flashes are pretty complicated. There's a whole bunch of complex interactions that are going on inside of our body when we're having them. They're influenced by many different systems in our body. So what I'm going to talk about here is going to be very simplified, we're not going to go into all the science behind it. But I do want you to have an understanding of how complex it is, and what's actually going on. So when we have a hot flash, many of our systems are involved our neurological system, our hormonal system, our vascular system, and even psychological factors, the way we think about the perception of ourselves, right I just described to you was a hot mess kind of story. Even just thinking of how you're being perceived by others, because you're having hot flashes, that can create stress. And it can create an impact on our self confidence the way we show up the way we present ourselves and the way we feel about hot flashes, and then that can make hot flashes even worse. So we all know that estrogen plays a role in hot flashes, right. And that's a big deal for us as we go into menopause estrogen levels drop as we go into chemotherapy as we take aromatase inhibitors, and I'll touch on all of those in the show as well. But what is estrogen had to do with what is creating hot flashes. So primarily, estrogen is affecting the hypothalamus, this coulomb organ inside of our brain that regulates our body temperature, when estrogen levels decline, the hypothalamus kind of gets thrown off base, and it doesn't have the ability to effectively regulate our temperature in our body anymore. It becomes very sensitive to the slightest change in body temperature, and basically kind of over reacts. So what the hypothalamus does when it perceives that the body temperature is increasing, wants to cool us down. Because we want to always maintain homeostasis. Our body does, right. Our body is the super intelligent biological entity, and it wants to stay at a certain temperature. It has lots of set points that it likes to maintain and temperature is one of them. So estrogen drops. It's one of the tools that the hypothalamus uses to function properly. So the hypothalamus isn't working properly. It's like oh, too hot. So let me initiate some press.
assets is here in this body to help us cool down. So it starts to dilate the blood vessels that are near the surface of our skin. Because when blood vessels near the surface of our skin dilate, they release heat. And that's how we get that flushed look to our skin. It also increases our heart rate. So when the blood vessels dilate our hearts pumping to get some more blood going through them. And we also start to sweat. This is our body's attempt to cool down sweating is a cooling mechanism. So hypothalamus goes, whoa, change the body temperature, overreact, let me dilate everything. Let me increase the heart rate. Let me start the sweating process. And then of course, what happens when you start sweating, you get cold. And then so you go from this crazy hot flash to freezing and shivering and shutting off all the fans and wrapping the blanket around you right. Now, when we're having hot flashes, we also have neurotransmitters that are fluctuating inside our body. So neurotransmitters are things like serotonin, and norepinephrine. And what they do is they also help to influence the hypothalamus in its work and its job to regulate the temperature of our body. Estrogen influences levels of these neurotransmitters. So as estrogen fluctuates, these neurotransmitters fluctuate. Another thing affected by estrogen is the lining of our blood vessels. So when estrogen levels drop the cells inside our blood vessels, they also start to dysfunction. And so they are not able to regulate the blood flow and the heat dissipation out of our blood in our blood vessels as effectively as before. Now, as I said, it's a complicated process, other hormones that are related to our menstrual cycle like follicle stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone, all of those also start to fluctuate. And what happens now, we got hormones fluctuating. We've got blood vessels dilating. We're sweating or hot or cold, we get stressed, right? It stimulates and activates a stress response in our body. We have lots of thoughts about what's happening to us right now. Lots of thoughts about how we're appearing. And that triggers stress. Stress triggers adrenaline, and cortisol. And guess what adrenaline and cortisol? Do? They interfere with thermo regulation? What a hot mess, right? So it's this cascade of everything. Once the hypothalamus goes, whoa, the body temperatures off. Whew, everything goes crazy, right. So that's what's going on inside of you in a very simplistic view of what's going on inside of you, when you're having a hot flash. Now, take all that is happening, just as a normal response to menopause and a drop in estrogen. And now let's add to it chemotherapy. So the drugs we use in chemotherapy, which can put us immediately into chemically induced menopause, they intensify menopause, and the symptoms of menopause. Now, again, this doesn't happen to everybody. It does happen to a lot of us though. So when we have that sudden onset of menopause, the symptoms can be super intense, and they can last even longer. Chemotherapy absolutely disrupts the normal balance of hormones in our body, especially that of estrogen. We know that right? We're going into chemotherapy treatment, especially if we have estrogen positive cancer. We know that chemotherapy is impacting everything inside of our body, especially estrogen, the symptoms of menopause, for those of us going through chemotherapy can be much more intense than just natural menopause would have been because the change is so abrupt. And then what I talked about a second ago, how stress impacts hot flashes, and what could be more stressful than going through cancer treatment. Right? So dealing with cancer, undergoing the chemotherapy, going through the anxiety and the stress is also something that's going to impact hot flashes. So the psychological impact of cancer treatment can indirectly exacerbate all of the symptoms of chemically induced menopause. Right. So chemotherapy also impacts our central nervous system. We know this from any kind of chemotherapy drug you went through the cause nerve damage and your hands and feet right so our nervous system is definitely impacted by chemotherapy and our nervous system plays a big role in regulating body temperature. Now, if you are anything like me, another lovely thing, chemotherapy, and the steroids and everything that we take as a part of chemo
Therapy did, for me was created a tremendous amount of weight gain. And again, it's different for everybody. So some people might gain weight, some people might lose weight, I went into it thinking I was going to be one of the ones to lose weight. And that just didn't work out so well. But even if we are losing weight, whether we're gaining weight quickly or losing weight quickly, intense fluctuations or rapid fluctuations in body fat can increase the intensity of hot flashes, then we've got aromatase inhibitors, which are directly blocking estrogen, and definitely having a major impact on the decrease in estrogen and the severity of menopausal symptoms. So what do we do? You're like, Yeah, I know this, Laura, I'm living with this stuff, tell me what I can do to reduce these hot flashes. And I'm gonna give you three simple steps. If you listen to these Tuesday train talks frequently, you probably hear me say the same things over and over in a different way. Because it is some very natural, simple things that we do to support a healthy lifestyle have a major impact on the way that our body works overall, and especially in the reduction of menopausal symptoms and hot flashes. So number one thing you could do to actually reduce the severity of hot flashes, is to exercise regularly. So the mechanisms that we just talked about of regulating our body temperature, are impacted by exercise. So when we're physically active, our body has to regulate its temperature, because we're increasing the heat in the body. So we're teaching it how to cool down properly. So regular exercise can help the body get better at temperature regulation and reducing hot flashes. But we're going to touch back on the same thing again, we talked about how stress is a factor, and how stress is a triggers hot flashes, and exercise is an amazing stress reduce her stress is a big trigger for hot flashes. And aerobic exercise especially is something known to reduce stress levels. So is yoga. These actually these exercises have been shown to lower cortisol levels in our body, but they also have a big emotional impact as well. And they can make us feel more empowered, they help us to feel stronger, and they help to release anxiety and improve symptoms of depression as well. All of these psychological factors can have an impact on the intensity of hot flashes, exercise helps to manage hormonal balance. So that does not mean we're going to make more estrogen it will not reverse the fact that estrogen has dropped, but it plays a role in balancing the overall hormonal environment in our body. And doing that can lead to things like improved sleep. So when we exercise regularly, we improve our sleep quality. And when we improve our sleep quality, we also reduce stress, because how stressful is it when you're up all night with flicking hot flashes and tired all day long. And then stressed out over the way that you feel over the way that you look over everything that you're going through. So when we exercise regularly, all the mechanisms that are involved in that help to improve sleep quality, while they're helping to reduce hot flashes, right? Because so many times I'll talk with people say how do I sleep better when I have so many hot flashes. So we have to address the things that will reduce the hot flashes first, so we can get better sleep quality and then that becomes this really beneficial, you know, positive feedback loop where we have better sleep quality and your hot flashes. Also exercise is going to help maintain healthy weight. Exercise is not in and of itself an effective weight loss tool. But it is a very effective support in maintaining and achieving a healthy weight diet is going to have a huge impact on this. But a healthy weight can help reduce hot flashes because fat tissue is very active and increased body weight is associated with more severe hot flashes. So I talked about how blood vessels are affected and exercise actually enhances blood flow and circulation right we're getting the heart pumping the hearts pumping more blood, we're oxygenating the body, we're detoxifying the body and we're improving its circulation which can help to reduce the impact of hot flashes. Another simple and very cost effective way lifestyle change they can improve hypervisors is fasting, especially intermittent fasting. So intermittent fasting basically impacts
is all the same things that exercise does, it improves our hormonal balance. It stabilizes blood sugar levels, and insulin levels. And blood sugar and insulin have a cascading effect on other hormones that are involved in menopause. So stabilizing these hormones can give us an overall more stable hormonal environment, and not only reduce the severity of hot flashes, that helped to manage a healthy weight and reduce obesity, as well as reduce inflammation in the body. Now think about inflammation for a sec. What are the qualities of inflammation, hot, hot, red, inflamed inflammation, right? It's inflamed. So we know that something is infected when it's hot, red and swollen. So intermittent fasting is especially wonderful for reducing inflammation in the body. And if you want more information on fasting, I did an episode on fasting. Just recently, look back and listen to that. Fasting can be so amazing for our health. In addition to reducing inflammation and helping us to maintain weight, helping to detoxify the body, it improves our gut health. And the gut health circles back another positive feedback loop that circles back to psychological health. So if you want more information on how a healthy gut improves a healthy psychology, read the book brain energy by Dr. Chris Palmer, amazing, amazing I know I've talked about on the show before. But the burgeoning field of nutritional psychology is just absolutely fascinating. And anything we can do to help create a healthier gut, which both exercise and fasting do, is going to benefit us psychologically as well. Now, that being said, fasting is not for everybody. So you should always check with your doctor before you start any kind of a fasting lifestyle. If you want some information on things to even consider when it comes to fasting, you can download my free resource on fasting, which talks about what fasting really is how to do it. And in many different protocols and choices available when it comes to fasting. You can get that at the breast cancer recovery coach.com forward slash fasting, and I'll link to it in the show notes for this episode as well. So we've got moving your body on a regular basis, we've got practicing fasting, incorporating fasting safely into your lifestyle. And a third thing to help reduce hot flashes is restricting refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates feed right into that loop that we were talking about of hormonal stability in our body. Because when we eat refined carbohydrates, we have less blood sugar stability, they cause rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. And as these hormones fluctuate in our body, they throw everything out of whack. So by reducing the intake of refined carbohydrates, by maintaining a stable blood sugar level, you're taking another step towards reducing both the frequency and the severity of hot flashes. And in line with both fasting and exercise, reducing your intake of refined carbohydrates helps maintain healthy weight, reduce inflammation, improve your gut health, give you better seat quality, all three of these things. They're like we have these mechanism happening in in menopause and in hot flash. And then we've got these three factors that we can easily incorporate into our lifestyle coming at the same factors from all different ways. And when we address removing those refined carbohydrates from our diet, we replace them with healthier foods, better nutrition, and that better nutrition improves the health of our gut. And again, positive feedback loop, right, it just keeps getting better. Now when we're talking about foods, I want to really address another category of food that I think is pretty important to talk about, especially when it comes to what we eat after breast cancer. Because these foods are called phyto estrogens. And there's two schools of thought when it comes to phyto. Estrogen on one side, people say phyto estrogens are really good. And in fact, they can even improve the safety and outcomes for breast cancer survivors, even those of us who have positive hormone positive breast cancer, other sides, like
we're not sure, we're not sure that it does have an impact. We're not sure that it might have a negative impact. So let's talk about what they are, what they do. And if you're curious about them, talk to your doctor about them and see if it's something safe for you to increase in your diet. You may already be eating a lot of these things. So phytoestrogens are basically plant compounds in there structurally and functionally similar to estrogen, meaning that they mimic some of the effects
Sub estrogen, they are not nearly as strong as powerful or have the same effects that estrogen has on our body. But what happens is that phyto estrogens actually sit on the same receptors that estrogen sits on in our cells. So even though they're much weaker than estrogen, they provide a really mild estrogenic effect. And that can be helpful in reducing menopausal symptoms and regulating our body temperature. So phyto estrogens include foods like soy products, so tempi, tofu, and a mommy. Flax seeds, and legumes all have phyto estrogens in them. And studies show that these phyto estrogens can help to regulate the hormonal environment in our body and support maybe a more balanced hormonal environment overall, which can help to relieve hot flashes. And just like estrogen has an effect on neurotransmitters that we talked about a minute ago. phyto estrogens may also have an impact on the activity of different neurotransmitters in a positive way. So it can help us to regulate serotonin and affect us having a better mood and overall feeling of well being and reduce our levels of stress. So I want to touch on those because I know a lot of breast cancer survivors asked me about that, should I eat soy, a lot of them are afraid of eating soy, because they understand phyto estrogens to be just like estrogen, or think of phyto estrogens as a estrogen replacement. And again, they're not that at all, they are not anything near as powerful as regular estrogen. But you should always feel safe in what you eat. So if you're concerned about eating any of these foods, or you're interested in maybe incorporating more of these foods, be sure and check with your doctor about your particular situation. Because as I said, there are conflicting studies out there when it comes to phyto. Estrogen, so safety, always first. All right. So you got three easy things you can do, to incorporate into your life, find a way to move your body every single day that you enjoy, walking, swimming, yoga, dancing, whatever it is that you like to do, move your body on a regular basis. You know, when it comes to these three things when it comes to fasting, exercise and getting refined carbohydrates out of your diet? It certainly isn't that we don't know that. Right? You may be listening to this going. If you're still listening, maybe you shut it off. As soon as you heard that. Maybe you're still listening. You're like, I know this. And I know, you know this. I know, we all know this. So the question isn't, what do I do? But if you're not doing some of these things, then the question becomes, what are your thoughts about them? Now, some of the common things that I struggled with that I coach women that struggle with is this feeling of unfairness, right? Why should I have to? Why should I have to do these things, so and so doesn't have to do these things, and they don't have cancer. And I think it's important to consider if those are some of your thoughts because they come up. And it's important, we look at them and deal with them. Because choosing that thought, and holding on to that thought doesn't serve you. I've definitely been through that thought process, seen that thought that felt that and felt frustrated by it. But the bottom line is, that's not how my body works. My body can't do all of those things, eat all those things, drink all the things and feel good, and heal itself from cancer. That's not how my body works. And if it's not how your body works, we have to look at the thoughts behind it, why you think you want to have these things in your life that don't serve you, or why you resist incorporating practices into your life that do serve you. It's really the thoughts behind it. It's not the knowledge of what to do or what not to do. But it's why we choose not to do them, or why we choose to do things that are harming us. That's what coaching is all about. It's looking at those thoughts that keep us from doing the things that serve ourselves and help us to love ourselves. So just a couple of little bonus tips here in addition to what we just talked about. Some of the really common triggers for hot flashes are spicy food, caffeine and alcohol. So if these are in your life, and you're experiencing really intense hot flashes and lots of misery, check it out and see if you eliminate some of these things if you avoid them, and in addition to them stay really well hydrated, drinking lots of good filtered water. And I like to recommend also taking electrolytes regularly because our electrolyte balance can get thrown off especially for exercising a lot. I use an electrolyte called lm n t but it's kind of pricey and
So I subsidize it, I don't use it all the time. Sometimes I just put a half a teaspoon or a teaspoon of salt in my water have a good Celtic sea salt. So making sure that you stay very hydrated that you have a good electrolyte balance. And you can kind of tell if you're hydrated or if you're having a good electrolyte balance by whether or not you're having muscle spasms. So if you have a lot of muscle cramps or spasms, then getting your electrolytes checked out or adding some electrolytes into your hydration routine that can help too. And another additional treatment that's covered by a lot of insurances and many women find helps them gives them relief from hot flashes is acupuncture. So if that's something that you have access to, you definitely might want to check it out. There are lots of herbal remedies that have phyto estrogens in them and you may hear the names like black cohosh, Shatavari red clover, Primrose. So these can be used and they can be used safely under the right guidance if you know what you're doing. So I always encourage you to speak with a naturopathic physician. There is a list of amazing naturopathic practitioners on the website for the metabolic terrain, Institute of Health. And definitely check with your doctor before you start an herbal program. So one of the other things that I'll do if you're interested in reducing hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms for yourself in the most natural ways, is I'll post some resources in the show notes for this episode that can help you out. There's some great books like the wisdom of menopause by Dr. Christine Northrup, the menopause book The Complete Guide and that was written by Barbara Quinto, I think in kentro Ritz. I can don't remember how to say her name properly Cantra wits and Pat Wingert I think are the names. Anyway, I'll post the accurate spelling of the names and the book titles in the show notes for this episode so that you can have some resources to read up more on yourself and see what you can do to support yourself. Without obviously we don't want to especially for hormone sensitive cancers, we don't want to introduce hormones back into our body. So I hope this helps I hope it gives you a better understanding of what's going on with you and an understanding of some simple things simple, not always meaning easy, right? Simple, free things that you can do to reduce the impact of hot flashes. All right, enjoy my friends. I will talk to you soon. Take good care of yourself.