Tips for dealing with side effects associated with drug treatments

by Ellen Johnson

The drug treatments for endometriosis that put women into “artificial menopause” often have the unpleasant side effects of hot flushes and night sweats. Of course, these are not the only side effects associated with these drug treatments nor are they the most serious.

But in some women, hot flushes can be extremely disturbing, inferring with daily activities, sleep, and work. The following tips were compiled to help women who choose drug therapy for endometriosis to minimise the possibility of hot flashes and night sweats.

Managing hot flushes and night sweats

  • Eat a healthy diet consisting of lots of fresh vegetables, whole grains, fresh fruit, and the “good fats” found in fish, olive oil, and nuts.
  • Avoid refined sugar, an excess of carbohydrates, and processed foods.
  • Dress lightly in light natural fibres, such as cotton, rayon, ramie, silk, and linen. Layering a short sleeved blouse or sleeveless tank with a light jacket or sweater will give you more temperature control. Avoid synthetics and wool next to your skin.
  • Alcoholic drinks trigger flashes, so it’s best just to avoid alcohol altogether during treatment.
  • Hot drinks, hot soup, and spicy cuisine can also be a major trigger. The same holds true for caffeine and certain drugs (such as antihistamines)
  • Notice your reaction to certain foods and drinks. If you find some to be a problem, avoid them to see if your hot flashes are reduced.
  • Drink plenty of water during the day. Stay hydrated and cool to keep the heat at bay.
  • Do some sort of exercise or movement activity every day. Research shows that regular exercise reduces the severity of hot flushes. Just be sure to exercise earlier in the day and not just before bedtime or you’ll defeat the purpose.
  • Use a portable electric fan near or on your makeup vanity. That blow dryer can really bring on the perspiration!
  • Carry a paper fan or a battery operated mini-fan in your purse for those unexpected flushes.
  • Keep your bedroom cool with an overhead or bedside fan, an open window, and/or air conditioning.
  • Keep your body cool at night by sleeping on soft 100% cotton sheets.
  • Smoking can also be a hot flush trigger. Of course, it’s best if you can stop smoking. If you’re not able to stop smoking, avoid lighting up in the evenings.
  • Wear cotton nightwear and underwear that allow your skin to breathe.
  • Supplements that may help: Vitamin E, Evening Primrose Oil, Vitamin B Complex, and Calcium and Magnesium. (Always check with your physician before taking any supplements!)
  • Since stress can increase the severity of hot flushes, consider relaxation tapes, biofeedback, massage, meditation, visualization, or yoga.
  • Avoid taking a hot bath or hot shower before going to bed. If you must bathe before bedtime, take a cool shower or tepid bath.
  • Deep, slow breathing may help control a hot flash. There’s research as well as anecdotal evidence that it works.
  • If you feel a flush coming on, immediately drink a glass of cold water or iced herbal tea. If you’re at home, open the refrigerator and stick your head in the freezer. A bag of frozen vegetables placed on your forehead is a great “flash buster.” Cool packs and wraps are also helpful.
  • If your hot flushes are severe and aren’t alleviated by any of these self-help measures, talk with your doctor. Certain medications (such as blood pressure medicines, oestrogen add-back therapy, or antidepressants) may be indicated.

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