Is it getting hot in here…or is it just you? If you’re constantly turning down the thermostat or parking yourself in front of a fan, you may wonder if your internal thermometre is broken. Or, you may assume that you’re on the inevitable path to menopause.
But don’t sweat it. Feeling toasty isn’t an automatic sign that you’re barreling toward the end of your menstrual cycle. “There are so many other reasons why a person has hot flushes that has nothing to do with menopause,” says family medicine expert Dr Shraddha Shah. But take note of your symptoms-especially if you’re sweating buckets or experience weight change, fatigue, or a racing heart beat-and check in with your doctor to help you figure out what’s going on. Here are 10 common reasons why you feel hot all that time.
You’re insulin resistant
If you’re sweating all the time (especially at night) or can’t stand the heat, it may be a sign of insulin resistance. This means your body has a hard time keeping blood sugar levels in check. “Sweat and the sensation of heat intolerance is more common in those who are prediabetic or insulin resistant” and is a common cause of hot flushes among patients, says gynaecologist Dr Rebecca Booth, an expert in hormonal wellness. Dr Booth says blood sugar fluctuations may trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response, causing your temperature to rise and fall.
Your thyroid is over- or under-active
If you always run hot, one likely culprit may be your thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland in your neck. An overactive thyroid pumps out too much thyroid hormone, revving up your metabolism and making you feel overheated, according Dr Shah. But an under-active thyroid can have a similar effect, too. Weight change, fatigue and heart palpitations are other signs of a malfunctioning thyroid. If you experience these symptoms, see your doctor.
You’re stressed or feeling anxious
Feeling overburdened or overly anxious can lead to a case of the sweats. “The rush of adrenaline can cause a feeling of warmth, which is easy to confuse with hot flushes,” says Dr Shah. Try deep breathing exercises or take a walk to calm your nerves and cool off. Feeling a little flushed is normal, but if you experience more severe symptoms, see your doctor.
Fact: Your body temperature is supposed to fluctuate, especially during your reproductive years. Every month, after you ovulate, your temperature rises roughly a full degree and your body warms up like an incubator to prepare for pregnancy, according Dr Booth. If you become pregnant, your temperature will stay elevated (and it drops if you don’t). In fact, a 2013 study in Fertility and Sterility found that over a third of women reported feeling hot and bothered during pregnancy. For some, hot flushes continued after pregnancy, too.
You had too much caffeine
While some people can’t function without caffeine (raises hand!), too much can cause more than just the jitters. Researchers have found that caffeine produces heat in the body, which can naturally raise your body temperature. Plus, it revs up the body. “Caffeine can increase heart rate, causing the sensation of heat,” says Dr Booth. And if you're going through menopause, a 2015 study in the journal Menopause found that caffeine could make your hot flushes feel worse.
You ate something spicy
The extra chilli on your tacos doesn’t just make your mouth burn; it can also make your body flush. “With spicy foods, the body sends blood flow to the face, tongue, and oral pharynx. As blood flow increases, you can feel more hot,” says Dr Booth. If you notice that certain foods make you sweat under the collar, keep a food log and talk to your doctor, says Dr Shah. That way, your healthcare provider can work with you to adjust your diet.
Your medication is making you run hot
We all know that prescription medications can have a long list of side effects. Hot flushes are a common one, especially with diabetes medication. “If you take medication to lower your blood sugar and it gets too low, you can experience sweating,” says Dr Shah. Other medications that can make you feel like you’re living in tropical climes: antidepressants and opioids. “If you started new medication and notice that you’re having hot flushes, keep a log to note your symptoms,” says Dr Shah.
Or you might have an infection. Everything from the stomach bug to a skin infection can cause your temperature to rise (and sometimes a fever), which can feel like hot flushes, says Dr Shah.
You drank too much
Alcohol, that is. “Alcohol relaxes the blood vessels in the face, causing a skin-warming sensation,” says Dr Booth. But a few too many margaritas can cause nighttime sweats too. “It can cause rebound wakefulness and sweatiness about three to four hours after you go to sleep. Your liver has processed the alcohol, and your blood sugar levels drop slightly,” says Dr Booth, which can lead to sweating.
In the days leading up to your period, your oestrogen levels start to drop. “With PMS, your body experiences a mini withdrawal from oestrogen levels plummeting and it can precipitate a hot flush because declining oestrogen can affect temperature regulation,” Dr Booth explains. “Many patients say they feel more sweaty or have more body odour." Dr Booth says that prostaglandins, a hormone-like substance, can also play a role. “These chemicals start going up right before and during your period and help the uterus evacuate menstrual blood. But they can cause sweating along with digestive issues like loose stools and nausea,” she says.