I had such a great response to my post "Honeysuckle and Hot Flashes." Thank you to all who commented with tips, quips, advice, and commiserations. Basically, the honeysuckle and I are both screwed, but we have every chance of leading productive lives. Here's a wrap-up of what I've learned. It's kinda wordy, but you will not be quizzed on this lecture.
For the honeysuckle, several people thought it has a fungus, and I think that's right. And Desiree was spot-on when she asked if it faces north. It does face north, and I'm not sure how easy it would be to move it – or where I'd put it. It does well earlier in the year when there's more sun on it (as you can see in my blog background photo), but by August the sun has moved around and there's more shade. It may just have to live like Persephone/Proserpina and spend half the year in the realm of Hades.
For the hot flashes, I got several suggestions that I hadn't heard before, which prompted me to do more reading online – because you can always trust what you read online. I mostly looked at the Mayo Clinic website, the National Women's Health Network, and the US National Library of Medicine/National Institute for Health.
The general consensus is that herbal remedies have not been proven effective, but some women may find them helpful, even if it's just a placebo effect. There was a suggestion that sage can cause seizures or neural problems (!), but that might only be with certain other conditions. Vitamin E has had good results in trials, and paced breathing or yoga helps some women. Acupuncture has had mixed results (read here and here).
Some commenters noted that hormone therapy is better understood these days, and it can be helpful and safe in low doses and for short, well monitored periods. It sounds like it would involve some experimentation to find the right dose, and then how do you know when you can stop without bringing on hot flashes again? Same thing for antidepressants, another medication that can control hot flashes. Gels or creams might be easier, so I might look into that.
Sue talked about dietary changes to reduce hot flashes, including the obvious – chocolate, coffee, and wine (my three pillars – oh, no!), but also dairy. I did further reading on how bad dairy can be for humans generally. Ann recommended some podcasts at Nutritional Weight and Wellness, and there I learned that we should reduce carbs to control hot flashes, and we need animal fats, like dairy, to slow down carbs' metabolization!
What's a hot girl to do?!?!?
This week I went off chocolate, alcohol, and dairy (except butter on my toast) for four days, and I've only had a tiny bit of espresso in the morning to avoid a caffeine-withdrawal headache. I felt more energetic for a few days, but was still having "power surges." This morning (Thursday) I was dragging a little, but that's probably typical for the fourth alarm-clock day. This evening I went out for dinner with a cousin who was in town. I had some white wine, and no hot flashes until driving home later.
So here's my plan.
All things in moderation. (I'm a Libra – I like balance.) Some yogurt and cheese, less milk and ice cream, some carbs, less sugar, some espresso (it has less caffeine than drip coffee, and tastes better), wine and chocolate as needed to round off the rough corners of life. I'll keep taking Estroven, and I'm adding Vitamin E. Also, I want to find a yoga class.
I'm continuing with my usual tricks – lots of baby powder, fans at hand at all times, cold rinses in the shower, loose cotton clothes in layers, and when it's really bad I dab water on my neck.
But the biggest help is the weather! We've had a few cooler days, so I'm not always flashing like a roomful of paparazzi with Miley Cyrus. I feel like there's hope after our long, hot summer. If the Vitamin E helps a little bit, that'll be great – I'm not sure I want to do anything more right now.
I'm not making suggestions for anyone else. You need to make up your own mind and find out what works for you, after reading all the contradictory information.
If you stuck with me this far, thank you, and thanks to all who commented!