Cyclical temperature changes
Internal body temperature changes throughout the menstrual cycle, usually peaking during the 14 days before menstruation. This temperature increase is in response to a surge in progesterone, which acts on the brain’s hypothalamus (the temperature control centre) .
Having a higher internal body temperature means that a person’s body must reach a higher temperature than usual before their body will begin to cool itself .
When internal body temperature is higher, an individual also has a decreased ability to dilate the small blood vessels under the skin, which reduces how much excess heat is released to the environment . So, it is even harder to cool down than usual- creating a vicious cycle of feeling too hot (especially when trying to get to sleep!).
Oestrogen has the opposite effect on the hypothalamus, decreasing body temperature, which explains why average body temperature reaches its lowest level during the first part of the menstrual cycle (just before ovulation, when oestrogen levels peak) .
Additionally, when a person goes through the menopause (when the menstrual cycle is coming to an end), they may experience hot flushes. These are characterised by a sudden feeling of heat which seems to come from nowhere and spreads through the body .
Some people only have occasional hot flushes that don’t really bother them at all, while others report multiple hot flushes a day, that are uncomfortable, disruptive and embarrassing. Hot flushes can continue for several years after a person’s last period. They are also caused by hormone changes affecting the body’s temperature control .
Hot flushes can happen without warning throughout the day and night, but there are well-known triggers, including woolly jumpers, especially polo necks; feeling stressed; drinking alcohol or coffee; or eating spicy foods .
Other conditions to rule out first;
Main symptoms; sweating, palpitations, red flush (blushing) and sleeping problems.
Note: Most research has concentrated on hot flushes, as opposed to cyclical temperature control problems- but the following tips and tricks are potentially of benefit to people experiencing either issue, since they may share a similar hormonal cause. Please let us know if any of these tips work well for your cyclical temperature control problems.
TOP TIPS: cut out coffee, tea, and stop smoking; keep the room cool, use a fan – electric or handheld – if necessary; if you feel a flush coming on, spray your face with a cool water atomiser or use a cold gel pack (available from pharmacies); wear loose layers of light cotton or silk clothes so you can easily take some clothes off if you overheat; have layers of sheets on the bed rather than a duvet so you can remove them as you need to and keep the bedroom cool; cut down on alcohol; sip cold or iced drinks; have a lukewarm shower or bath instead of a hot one; if tamoxifen is causing your hot flushes, Cancer Research UK suggest taking half your dose in the morning and half in the evening
Try a hormone-balancing diet– As outlined in this blog, a vegetable-based ‘anti-inflammatory’ diet can significantly improve all hormone-related symptoms.
We highlight additional advice for those suffering from poor temperature control, below;
- Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
- Eat lots of fibre (and drink water with it)
- Eat oily foods (mainly unsaturated fats)
- Reduce meat and dairy products
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks
- Avoid caffeine
- Avoid alcohol (and smoking)
- Take nutritional supplements- Small scale studies suggest that sage  soy , black cohosh , red clover , pine bark , folic acid , or evening primrose oil  supplements may help reduce hot flushes (remember to try one at a time, to see which works best for you!).
Note: Be aware that soy and red clover contain plant oestrogens so may be unsafe for women who have had breast cancer.
If you have tried the suggested tips and tricks for at least 3 months, and your symptoms do not improve, please consult your doctor.
If you have any suggestions, or tips, for managing poor temperature control- please let us know– we can share them with others!
- NHS information on hot flushes (usually associated with the menopause, but also useful for cyclical temperature control issues): http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/menopause/Pages/hot-flushes.aspx
Page last reviewed and updated: June 2018
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