Super Nutrition for Menopause with Ann Louise Gittleman, M.S., C.N.S.

Nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman will discuss how to use proper nutrition as a substitute for hormone replacement therapy to protect the body from cancer, heart and hormonal problems from menopause.

WebMD Live Events Transcript

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Thank you for joining us, Ann. Please join us every Thursday at 1 p.m. EST here in the Senior Vitality Auditorium for our live weekly chat. Next week we will discuss Revitalizing Your Eyelids, with David Louis Wirta, M.D., B.C.

Welcome to WebMD Live. Today we are discussing Super Nutrition for Menopause with Ann Louise Gittleman.

If you would like to ask Ann a question, please type /ask followed by your question (e.g. "/ask How are you?")

Moderator: Ann, welcome to WebMD Live.

Gittleman: Thank you. Great to be with all of you today.

Moderator: What exactly is menopause?

Gittleman: Great question! Menopause really describes the end of your monthly period. And, in fact, it is a very natural transition that does not happen overnight. It occurs over a period of about ten to fifteen years, beginning at about 35 years of age in many cases. This time frame is characterized by a lowering of the production of two hormones by the ovaries. These are estrogen and progesterone. The average age of menopause, currently in North America, is approximately 51 years of age, according to the latest research. And, it seems to be a transition when women are "rewired" in many ways.

Moderator: How does a woman know she is going through menopause?

Gittleman: Oh, great question, indeed. Well, very often times, the first symptoms of menopause are not the traditional symptoms one would expect. There are quite a lot of unusual symptoms, in fact, that have been associated with menopause, like sleeping disruption, sleeping disorders, insomnia, mental sluggishness, a bit of short-term memory loss, spaciness. Some women report that they have what is called a "fuzzy brain". They even report symptoms like increased depression, anxiety and lack of focus of attention. So, there is a variety of symptoms that accompany menopause that might not seem to be hormonal at all.

Moderator: Does menopause happen suddenly?

Gittleman: Well, they come on very gradually. And, that's why you never associate these unusual symptoms and feelings and kind of lack of memory and spaciness. It comes on so slowly that you don't attribute it to menopause. Many women as early as 35 go through a stage we call peri-menopause, the years preceding menopause. And that's the time when most of these symptoms seem to surface. So, if you wake up one day and bingo you get some of these symptoms like you're missing your periods or having hot flashes, you would naturally associate these very classical symptoms with menopause. But, if they were the other symptoms of fuzzy brain, loss of memory and insomnia, then you might not recognize that these were menopausal and you would try to medicate them with drugs.

Moderator: At 35, would someone ever confuse that with pregnancy?

Gittleman: Well, certainly. But, if you weren't pregnant, of course, and started seeing a pattern of irregular periods, perhaps the cycle became shortened, or you went through several months and missed a period, then that is a sign of this peri-menopausal phase in which your hormones are starting to change and are giving rise to a host of symptoms that you might not even recognize.

Moderator: How long does that peri-menopausal phase last?

Gittleman: It lasts anywhere from ten to fifteen years. We used to call this the climacteric. But, we now recognize this as the peri-menopausal phase. I tell women that they're not going crazy. They've only entered the peri-menopause zone because there are some strange symptoms, as I've described, that start to manifest.

Moderator: If someone is in that phase, how do they know when they become actually menopausal?

Gittleman: Good question. One of the most definitive ways to diagnose the peri-menopause phase leading to menopause is to take a very simple blood test, known as the FSH, or Folicle Stimulating Hormone test. We know that the amount of this hormone will increase during peri-menopause. And so your doctor can tell you whether you've entered that peri-menopause zone by the results of this very simple test. What you can't tell from the test, however, is which hormones, whether it is estrogen or progesterone, that are currently fluctuating. That's where a salivary hormone test comes in very handy.