Discover Foods That Cause and Worsen Hot Flash Symptoms

Last updated 11.22.2023 | by Sabrina Johnson | 9 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


When you mention menopause, the first thing that comes to mind is hot flashes. Both are synonymous, as hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms of menopause. Hot flashes affect over 80% of women in menopause. With so much discussion about hot flashes over various platforms, by now, most of you must know that low estrogen levels cause it.

Here, we will discuss foods that trigger and worsen hot flashes. Before we do that, I’d like to share my hot flash experience with you. It all started one fine day at work when, after a hot lunch of a jalapeno sandwich, I experienced a flushed feeling around my face and neck when I resumed work. My colleague said ‘Welcome to the Hot Flash Club!” She even said that it’s time to give up your favorite jalapeno. It’ll make the flashes worse.

She wasn’t wrong. The doctor, too, told me the same. It isn’t about jalapeno only. There are other foods as well that could make hot flashes worse. Are you troubled with regular hot flashes? Has it occurred to you that your diet may also play a significant role in impacting your hot flashes?

If you are struggling with what to eat and what not to for hot flashes, this article will help. I have elaborately covered the reasons why women have hot flashes in menopause and also mentioned the foods that worsen the symptoms of hot flashes. Please take a look.

Why Do Women Get Hot Flashes in Menopause?

A woman at the doctor’s office the other day was impatiently asking the reasons for hot flashes, which she even labeled as annoying. ‘It’s the hormones,” The doctor replied. She was right. On researching briefly, I understood what the doctor was trying to convey.

One of the most important causes of hot flashes is the reduced levels of estrogen during perimenopause and menopause.

While in the perimenopause, the estrogen level starts decreasing. During menopause, the hormone level drops drastically. This is the cause of the hot flashes and other symptoms.

The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that plays a significant role in regulating our body temperature, heartbeat, mood, sleep cycle, sex drive, and so on. The estrogen hormone plays a significant role in controlling and regulating the hypothalamus.

Which Foods Worsen Hot Flashes During Menopause? 6 Foods to Avoid

Which Foods Worsen Hot Flashes During Menopause

A doctor friend once said eating healthy is the best way to avoid hot flashes. I later realized that she was bang on in her advice. In menopause, when your body goes through a whole lot of changes, it is essential to maintain a healthy diet. This will contribute to your overall well-being. Now, if talking about hot flashes, it is influenced to a certain extent by what you eat.

While certain foods will provide you relief from hot flashes, some of them will heat your body and aggravate hot flashes. Let us take a look at some of the foods that you must stay away from in menopause.

1. Spicy Foods

If you’ve been a fan of tangy sauces like me, without which your meal seemed incomplete, you’ll have to, unfortunately, do away with them in menopause, particularly if hot flashes have become your regular thing. Some of the spiciest ingredients, as per their rating on the heat scale, include bell peppers, cayenne peppers, ghost peppers and jalapenos.

It has been said that eating such foods during menopause makes hot flashes worse, as it triggers the associated symptoms like flushing, and sweating.

If you’ve been wondering how spicy foods might increase your hot flashes, here is a simple explanation to help you understand. Most chili peppers like cayenne and jalapeno contain the chemical capsaicin. This chemical is a vasodilator since it expands the blood vessels, therefore causing you to sweat, and flush when you consume the same.

In your menopause, you are already troubled by hot flashes due to low estrogen levels. And, to top it all, eating spicy foods could make you feel all the more miserable. I began feeling much better when I gave up on jalapeno and other spices that made me feel hotter.

Well, that doesn’t mean you have to shift to a bland diet. I never did that. You can still satisfy your taste buds and stay healthy by opting for substitutes that wouldn’t hurt your system. For example, spices and seasonings like cinnamon, bay leaf, basil, parsley, thyme, and sage would add flavors to your food, and at the same time won’t be hard on your tummy.

One study conducted on women in the perimenopause, and menopause phases deduced that eating spicy food was one of the highlighting factors responsible for hot flashes in women among other causes.

2. Alcohol

Excessive alcohol consumption, which means 2-5 drinks per day, triggers hot flashes and night sweats. If we are to talk about the relationship between alcohol and hot flashes, it is its vasodilation properties that need mentioned. Alcohol dilates the blood vessels, which increases your body temperature, making you sweat even more.

When talking about alcohol, the impact of red wine in making your hot flashes during menopause even worse should be emphasized. A survey of 295 participants comprising women between 45 and 55 years of age revealed that women who were regular consumers of alcohol were more prone to hot flashes.

If you are healthy, and not under any medication, then you can have just one drink a day, not more than that. That means seven drinks in seven days. Yet, keeping some days of the week alcohol-free, like i do is highly advisable.

3. Coffee and Caffeine Products

Your day may certainly seem incomplete without a steaming cup of coffee. That’s how it would be with me until I kept getting hot flashes too often.

Healthcare providers recommend lessening your coffee intake in menopause as it could make your hot flashes worse.

Studies have shown an association between increased coffee intake, and hot flashes, more prominently in post-menopausal women.

If it’s difficult for you to stay away from coffee, then you can have it cold – how about iced coffee or iced tea? That, too, shouldn’t be regular though. Switching to decaf options that have over 97% of the caffeine removed would be a better choice.

You must also avoid teas that are high in caffeine, like black teas. Just like coffee, a steaming cup of tea will adversely impact your hot flashes, and if you have it before bedtime, your sleep will for sure go for a toss.

4. Foods with an Increased Salt Content

When your diet has an increased amount of salt, it will intensify symptoms like mood swings, hot flashes, and night sweats. Your low estrogen levels are enough to trigger hot flashes, and eating a high-salt diet would worsen things further. Moreover, a high salt diet can make you feel dehydrated, especially if you aren’t having sufficient fluids.

While night sweats and hot flashes lead to dehydration, it is the other way around as well. That is, when you are dehydrated,  your brain is under immense pressure, which in turn increases the incident of night sweats and hot flashes.

5. Processed Foods and Added Sugar

Those sugary cookies, tasty crackers, cheese, pastries, cakes, and baked products, all of which satisfy your taste buds, will do more harm than good if you don’t reduce their intake when you’ve hit the menopause phase. As I crossed my 40th birthday, I understood the importance of healthy eating even more than ever.

These foods if consumed in excess will raise your blood sugar levels, and even contribute towards weight gain. A high blood sugar level leads to increased hot flashes. The list also includes fatty meats like beef, pork, and lamb that have a higher content of saturated fat.

Tips to Follow to Lessen Hot Flashes

  • Avoid drinking coffee at night before bedtime as that could lead to sleep problems as well, besides hot flashes.
  • Do not eat large meals in one go, that will make you feel suffocated, hot, and sluggish. It will even trigger hot flashes, and cause you to sweat. Instead eating in small amounts in a go will help in proper digestion, keeping you in good health.
  • Eating steamy soups can make anyone feel hot and sweaty irrespective of whether they are in their menopause or not. And, when you are in your menopause, having a warm dish will make you feel even worse. So, if you have to eat something warm, complement it with something cold. E.g., a hot stew with a cold salad will be a good option. That’s m combo meal quote often. This will help maintain a proper balance.

FAQs

Q. Can eating chocolates cause hot flashes?

Chocolates are high in caffeine, i.e. dark chocolates can intensify hot flashes when eaten in increased amounts. Moreover, chocolates even contain theobromine which negatively impacts the brain’s temperature, leading to hot flashes. That, too, has been out of my list of don’t-eats.

Q. Which foods are high in caffeine?

Coffe isn’t the only food rich in caffeine, as you may think it to be. There are many others in he list too. These include black tea, dark chocolates, soda, energy drinks, and so on.

Conclusion

So, it is quite important to take care of what you eat in menopause to keep your hot flashes in check. I benefitted immensely since the time I switched to a healthier diet. I am sure it’ll be helpful to you also. There are other things you need to keep in mind as well to lessen episodes of hot flashes.

These include keeping yourself cool and hydrated, wearing light, and loose clothing, and meditating well. When you take good care of yourself, you’ll be able to manage your symptoms well.

References:

  1. Hot Flashes
  2. Did I just have a hot flash? I’m 44!
  3. Hot Flashes: What Can I Do?
  4. medlineplus.gov
  5. 7 foods ranked by the Scoville scale
  6. The Best and Worst Foods for Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
  7. 5 Foods to Avoid During Menopause
  8. All About Capsaicin in Chili Peppers
  9. 4 Foods That Cause Hot Flashes
  10. The International Menopause Study of Climate, Altitude, Temperature (IMS-CAT) and vasomotor symptoms
  11. What To Eat (or Not) During Menopause
  12. 9 Hot Flash Triggers You Should Know About (and How to Deal With Them)
  13. Why Alcohol Affects Women More in Menopause
  14. Determinants of hot flashes and night sweats
  15. Does Caffeine Make Menopause Symptoms Worse?
  16. All About Decaffeinated Coffee
  17. Three things that could happen if you eat too much salt
  18. ncbi.nlm
  19. Which tea has the most caffeine?
  20. What Teas Help with Menopause Symptom Relief?

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.