Diabetes and Hot Flashes After Sugar | How to Reduce Hot Flashes
If you have ever experienced a hot flash, you know how uncomfortable they can be. If you experience hot flashes habitually, you are surely looking for any sort of relief from the issue.
The first step to minimizing hot flashes is to pay attention to what situations may trigger them. While it may be frustrating to learn that your diabetes may be causing these hot flashes, knowing the cause can actually help you avoid certain triggers and limit such episodes.
If you are ready to learn how you can reduce your hot flashes and manage your diabetes, keep reading!
Diabetes is extremely common, affecting tens of millions of Americans. In fact, about 1 in 10 Americans has diabetes, and an even larger percentage has prediabetes. People of Hispanic origin and non-Hispanic black people have higher rates of diabetes than non-Hispanic Asians and whites. Diabetes also disproportionately affects overweight/obese people — 89% of adults diagnosed with diabetes are overweight.
There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, or juvenile diabetes, is a condition where the body cannot produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes, the more common one, is a condition where the body either cannot produce insulin or does not use insulin effectively. You can also have prediabetes, meaning you’re at high risk for developing diabetes, or gestational diabetes, which is diabetes that occurs during pregnancy.
Ultimately, the biggest problem for people with diabetes is having blood sugar levels that are too high or too low because their body’s insulin cannot properly regulate. Blood glucose levels that are 200 mg/dL or higher indicate hyperglycemia, i.e. high blood sugar. Since people with diabetes are unable to regulate glucose properly, either due to the lack of production of insulin or the inability to use insulin properly, their blood glucose levels can reach these unhealthy, potentially dangerous levels by just eating a normal meal.
Glucose is absolutely crucial to the body. It is the brain’s main source of energy, and it powers all of our millions of muscle and tissue cells. Our body converts the food we eat into glucose and then insulin helps transmit this glucose from the blood into the cells, where it can be used for fuel or converted to glycogen and stored for later.
Without glucose, cells will not have the energy they need to perform vital tasks. Additionally, too much glucose in the blood over a long period of time can lead to serious damage to the cardiovascular and nervous systems, kidneys, and eyes.
We need the hormone insulin to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood. Normally, insulin is produced in and secreted from the pancreas, where it then moves around the blood, helping glucose to enter the cells. When blood glucose levels rise or decline, insulin acts accordingly to get levels back to normal range. When the body does not make insulin or cannot use it properly, glucose is unable to enter cells and blood sugar levels remain dangerously high.
A later section will go into greater detail on how to manage diabetes, such as regularly monitoring your blood sugar as needed, taking prescribed medication, exercising regularly, and following a healthy, well-balanced diet. A diabetes diagnosis certainly requires making certain lifestyle changes in order to live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.
What Are Hot Flashes?
In essence, the name “hot flash” is pretty self-explanatory. To experience a hot flash is to feel a significant and extreme warmth all over your body, often coming on suddenly. A hot flash is different from (and not as serious as) a fever, which is an immune reaction. This should not, however, undermine how uncomfortable hot flashes can be.
When you experience a hot flash, your blood vessels that are close to the skin surface dilate, allowing for more blood to rush to the surface level. Any redness or heat you may be feeling occurs as a result of this. Hot flashes are also often accompanied by sweating, headache, and/or rapid/racing heartbeat. You may feel chilled once the hot flash is over.
Hot flashes often come on suddenly, but they can also grow over the course of a couple minutes. They also vary in intensity and in length. While some may only last for a few moments, others remain for up to five minutes.
Experts are not entirely sure what causes hot flashes, but they have been linked to hormonal imbalances. Hot flashes are very commonly experienced during menopause, for example, when women see a decline in their estrogen levels.
People with diabetes that have frequent swings in blood sugar and insulin levels are also more likely to experience hot flashes. In addition to hormonal changes, scientists believe there is a connection between hot flashes and the hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain that controls the body’s personal thermostat.
Hot Flashes and Diabetes
The most common time a person with diabetes may experience a hot flash is after eating something high on the glycemic index, meaning the food has a rapid, destabilizing effect on blood glucose levels.
Higher blood glucose levels signal to the pancreas that it has to produce more insulin to account for this increase of glucose in the blood. People with type 2 diabetes are less responsive to insulin, but will still feel the effects of a higher than normal level of insulin in the body, such as hot flashes.
In addition, diabetes can alter the body’s normal sweating patterns. We sweat in order to regulate our body temperature and as a response to emotional/physical stress. Diabetes may limit the body’s ability to produce the needed amount of sweat to properly maintain a healthy/stable body temperature (note: a “healthy” body temperature can differ from individual to individual). This happens as a result of hormone imbalances, stress, and cardiovascular problems (such as high blood pressure), all of which are common in people who have diabetes.
People with diabetes are also more likely to experience hot flashes if they are not properly managing their diabetes or following their care plan.
Diabetes and Menopause
Menopausal women are at a higher risk of developing diabetes. For one, the hormonal changes a woman experiences during this time enables weight gain. Overweight/obese people are at a much higher risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes than people who are at a healthy weight.
In addition, one study of over 150,000 postmenopausal women found that having common symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, increases the risk of a type 2 diabetes diagnosis by about 18%. This number goes up when accounting for the severity of these symptoms.
Lastly, the hormones estrogen and progesterone both play a role in maintaining a certain level of insulin sensitivity in the cells. As the levels of these hormones decline during menopause, the amount of glucose in the blood is more likely to become unstable.
Menopausal women should get their blood sugar levels tested at least every year.
How To Reduce Hot Flashes
The quickest fix for a hot flash is sipping on ice water. The blast of cold should shock your system enough to relieve any hot flash symptoms and hopefully end the episode. To avoid hot flashes at night, sleep in a cool, dark room. Certain blankets and pillows are designed for people that sleep “hot,” in order to minimize sweating and allow for better sleep.
Identifying and avoiding triggers is also super important in reducing the frequency of hot flashes.
If you have diabetes and find that you often experience hot flashes after eating certain foods, this may be a sign that you need to cut these foods (such as those high in sugar) out of your diet.
Other potential triggers include:
- Spicy foods
- Warm temperatures
- High blood pressure
The medications nitroglycerin, tamoxifen, tramadol, and raloxifene also may increase the risk of hot flashes.
Postmenopausal women that experience frequent hot flashes can talk to their doctor about going on some type of medication. The most common option is hormone replacement therapy, which will stabilize estrogen and even progesterone levels to hopefully lessen hot flashes. Do not use any type of medication that claims to help with hot flashes unless your doctor has explicitly advised you to do so.
Finally, managing your diabetes, and therefore keeping your blood sugar at a stable level, will help reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
The following are all important steps to your self-care:
- Follow your medication regimen to a T, especially insulin.
- Follow a well-balanced, diabetes friendly diet. This means limiting foods with high glycemic index values, such as sugary and processed/refined foods, and increasing your consumption of non-starchy vegetables, lean proteins, high-fiber/whole grains, and healthy fats.
- Exercise regularly. This can help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, and even increase insulin sensitivity. A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
- Keep track of your blood sugar. Measure your blood sugar levels often, especially after eating, or if you are experiencing symptoms of hypo/hyperglycemia. Consider keeping a log of your numbers, and taking note of any potential triggers when you notice a drop or spike.
Hot flashes are commonly experienced by people with diabetes and menopausal women. In order to reduce hot flashes, try to identify and avoid any triggers that may be causing the hot flashes, such as stress or alcohol. In addition, sticking to your medication regimen, having a healthy diet, regularly exercising, and keeping vigilant watch over your blood sugar levels can help you not just manage your diabetes, but conquer it!
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