Suppose you have ever struggled to cool down after a workout at the gym, prizing your lycra activewear from your perspiring skin, or despairingly removed your elegant polyester blouse on a hot summer day only to discover that you have been sweating more than a fat person at an all-you-can-eat buffet. In that case, you probably have a sense of how synthetic fabrics can hold in heat and affect your temperature regulation.
Hot flushes are considered the hallmark of menopause. These intense surges of heat in the body can not only be debilitating, but frustrating, especially when your clothing hinders your capacity to cool down and regulate body temperature.
Hot flashes, hot flushes, vasomotor symptoms (VMS), vasomotor instability, power surges, call them what you like, and are considered a sensation of heat, associated with widening of the blood vessels and then a compensatory decrease in core temperature. The feeling of hot flushes is triggered by a reduction in estrogen, provoking a complicated signalling process that can be moderate to intense, depending on how you can adapt to this power surge. During these times, temperature regulation within the body can cause agitation, irritation and acute anxiety and for some, a sense of heightened self-awareness.
Wearing synthetic fibre clothing when you are experiencing hot flushes, not only negatively affects your ability to regulate your temperature correctly, it can also exacerbate your symptoms by reducing your ability to cool down adequately. The inability of synthetic fibres to properly ‘breathe’, can create added insulation that affects the body’s natural heating and cooling mechanisms, leading to significantly increased flush temperatures, longer duration of cooling, increased sweating and possible skin rashes.
Synthetic fibres such as polyester, rayon, acrylic, spandex or lycra in many fast fashion items, make clothing stretch and conform to your body. They are usually cheaper to produce, and their perceived convenience makes them more frequently used for modern clothing. Being easier to maintain and seemingly never needing to be ironed, synthetic fibre clothing is a boon for those who care less about ironing and more about spending quality time with their family.
Synthetic fibres though, are an environmental nightmare for the planet, taking longer to breakdown in landfill and due to their tendency to be made poorly they end up in landfill quicker, contributing to our quickened destruction of the planet, with a seemingly accelerated buying cycle with consumers purchasing new items each season.
As a general rule, synthetic fibres tend to be water repellent, making them possibly the worst choice for exercise or for the menopausal woman. In all honesty, it makes me wonder who has been designing women’s activewear for the last ten years. Leaving sweat on your skin, rather than absorbing it, synthetic materials hinder the body’s natural temperature regulation.
Natural fibre clothing, such as cotton, linen, hemp, silk, wool, and bamboo, tends to breathe better. They allow your body to regulate temperature naturally, making them perfect for menopausal women. Natural fibre clothing tends to absorb sweat, rather than repel it, and it is then released into the air, creating natural ventilation, in a process called wicking. Yeah, kind of like the wicking bed in your garden.
The natural ventilation of natural fibres also means that they don’t tend to absorb odours. If you take care of it properly, natural fibre clothing can last longer than synthetic clothing. Because these types of fabric are naturally derived, they will compost down in landfill (or even if you bury them in your garden), making them an all-round environmentally sensible choice for clothing.
Natural fiber clothing, can tend to be challenging to find in many department stores, it is often more costly, and the items are more of an investment financially. Fortunately, there are many more designers and dressmakers using natural fabrics and textiles, making fashionable, sustainable and wearable items for clothing. Some of your local niche clothing stores, local boutiques and even second-hand stores will value natural fibre clothing above modern synthetic clothing.
So, why does natural fibre clothing have such a bad rap? Most of us have an aversion to ironing, and if you are being thwarted with hot flushes, you don’t want to spend hours sweating over your ironing board, trying to get the creases out of your linen blouse.
As a natural fibre clothing enthusiast, I have found natural fabrics much more comfortable to care for and wear. If you are experiencing hot flushes, you would have realised that there are items in your wardrobe that you can no longer wear. For ease and comfort, loose-fitting clothing and several different layers is often the best solution for natural body temperature regulation.
So, what does this mean for your favourite synthetic fibre outfits? I honestly encourage you to stay on the lookout for core pieces of clothing that you can layer and wear comfortably, through different seasons, with all (or most) of your other wardrobe items. This process of moving to more natural fibre clothing becomes a little more urgent for women who are experiencing hot flushes. But I suggest making this a gradual process and beginning even if you are pre or post-menopausal.
I have learned to rock the “un-ironed natural fibre clothing look”. I find my outfits need less washing, they are less smelly and really, I feel so much more comfortable knowing that my clothing will breakdown in a landfill once it has been recycled, repurposed and no longer suitable for wearing.
Choosing to wear natural fibre clothing is healthier for you and the environment. Finding a personal style that is affordable, comfortable, classy and natural is, of course, part of the Wise Woman’s way.
The information provided in this article is for information purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. We recommend you consult with a GP or other healthcare professional before taking any action based on this article. While the author uses best endeavours to provide accurate and true content, the author makes no guarantees or promises regarding the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information presented. If you rely on any information provided in this article, you do so at your own risk.