Complementary Medicine

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Treating Excessive Sweating, Night Sweats, Hot Flashes

Natural treatments for night sweats and hot flashes

Excessive sweating (which can occur both at night and/or during the day) is a very common part of CFS, fibromyalgia, and menopause and is also very common even in those without these problems. This problem reflects poor functioning of the "autonomic nervous system" (which controls blood pressure, pulse and sweating) which is controlled by the hypothalamus in the brain. Other common causes of sweats and/or hot flashes in addition to CFS and fibromyalgia include:

1. Estrogen and progesterone deficiency with menopause and peri-menopause. This can begin as much as 12 years before periods stop and your blood tests for menopause become abnormal. The tipoff is that the sweats/flashes are worse around and in the week before your period. The treatment is to use bioidentical estrogen and progesterone (see The Safety and Effectiveness of Bio-Identical Hormones: Natural (Bio-Identical) vs. Synthetic HRT) which are healthy to use. Using the herb Remifemin (black cohosh) is also very helpful. Take 2 caps 2x day for 2 months and then it can often be lowered to 1 twice a day. It has been shown to help stabilize autonomic nervous function and decrease the sweats and flashes in menopausal women in a number of studies and may also help in other types of sweating problems. Give it 2 months to see the full effect. The research has shown that only the Remifemin form is effective. Using soy bean pods (called edamame — available in the freezer section in most grocery stores) 1 handful a day can also be helpful in women, as these naturally raise estrogen levels.

2. Testosterone deficiency in men (including drops in levels when testosterone treatments wear off). In men, consider this if you have CFS/FMS, fatigue, low libido, difficulty with erections, high cholesterol, or depression.

3. Infections of many types. Sinusitis or spastic colon suggests yeast. Many other antibiotic sensitive or viral infections can also cause sweats.

4. Drops in blood sugar caused by a low adrenal.

5. Acid reflux being inhaled (especially at night while sleeping). Taking Pepcid or tagamet at bedtime for a few nights to see if night sweats lessen will tell you if this is the cause. See Eliminating Chronic Acid Reflux & Indigestion for more on this. Autonomic dysfunction as well as poor digestion can trigger reflux.

Evaluating for and treating the above problems will often help the sweats to lessen or go away. In addition, the herbal Black Cohosh (Remifemin — take 2 caps 2x day for 2 months and then it can often be lowered to 1 twice a day) has been shown to help stabilize autonomic nervous function and decrease the sweats and flashes in menopausal women in a number of studies. Give it 2 months to see the full effect.

Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., internist and author of From Fatigued to Fantastic!, researches treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia.

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