Written by Erin Dresser
The Relation Between Hot Flashes and Spicy Food
One of the most commonly experienced perimenopause symptoms is hot flashes. But, everyone seems to have a different take on spicy food. In this article, we cover the truth about spicy food and perimenopause. While some foods have been linked to alleviating hot flashes in perimenopausal women, research is still being conducted to determine the validity of these claims.
Some foods are also correlated with exacerbating hot flashes. Some of these foods include caffeine and spicy foods. See our article on foods that can trigger hot flashes here.
The reality is that spicy food and perimenopause are connected due to the hormonal fluctuations and increased sensitivity to heat during perimenopause, spicy foods can trigger or exacerbate these symptoms. Spicy foods can stimulate the release of endorphins and result in a sympathetic response in the body, which is characterized by an increase in body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. This, in turn, can trigger a hot flash in perimenopausal women and result in sweating, flushing, and physical discomfort.
Spicy foods can also cause digestive discomfort. Changes in the digestive system during perimenopause can result in slower metabolism and decreased production of stomach acid, resulting in digestive discomfort such as indigestion, heartburn, or acid reflux, which are all worsened with the consumption of spicy foods. Spicy foods can irritate the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and can result in symptoms such as stomach pain, bloating, gas, and acid reflux.
Consuming spicy foods can also disrupt the delicate balance of hormones in the body. Some studies suggest that capsaicin, the compound responsible for the spiciness in peppers, may affect estrogen levels and potentially disrupt the already fluctuating hormone levels in the body during perimenopause, possibly resulting in worsened or increased symptoms.
Spicy foods have also been associated with increased sleep disturbances. Because spicy foods can increase body temperature and stimulate metabolism, they can disrupt sleep patterns and make it more difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. Because sleep can already be affected during perimenopause, spicy foods, especially before bedtime can exacerbate these disruptions in sleep. Furthermore, sleep disturbances can exacerbate other perimenopausal symptoms, such as mood swings, irritability, fatigue, or difficulty concentrating (brain fog).
Counteracting Spicy Foods
By avoiding spicy foods and consuming cooling and soothing foods instead, you can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with heat sensitivity during perimenopause. Some of these foods include cucumbers, watermelon, coconut water, mint, or yogurt. These foods have a hydrating and cooling effect on the body and digestive system.
Other foods that can help with perimenopausal symptom management include anti-inflammatory foods, such as leafy greens, fatty fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, turmeric, and berries. See our 5 day jumpstart guide for anti-inflammatory foods here.
By focusing on a well balanced diet that includes essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals and plenty of water, you can better manage your perimenopausal symptoms. It is essential to include adequate protein, healthy fats, and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Incorporating foods that support hormonal balance, such as foods rich in phytoestrogens, can also help with symptom management. Examples of these foods include soy products, flaxseeds, and legumes. Ensure that your diet is diverse and nutrient-rich to support overall health and wellness.
It’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for tailored advice and personalized recommendations and support during perimenopause.
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Hot Flashes: What can I do? (NIH). https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hot-flashes-what-can-i-do