Managing Menopause

GENERIC 041802, Menopause Womens health, JM, story woman health
After several weeks of grinding flax seeds to eat, rubbing progesterone cream on her chest and legs and taking drops of estrogen, Carol Goldstein says the night sweats and insomnia are a distant memory.

"I would say I feel 100 percent better," she says.

The unusual regimen, CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin reports, is worth it to Goldstein, who wants to avoid standard hormone pills.

"The interesting thing about the natural hormones is you can regulate it to your specific needs," she says.

In July the government announced the popular hormone drugs were linked to increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. The news has many women confused and concerned and looking for other ways to manage their menopause.

Dr. Alan Warshowsky specializes in alternative therapies for menopause.

"I haven't used Premarin or Provera for 10 to 15 years," says Warshowsky.

Instead, he prescribes what are called bio-identicals: Plant-based products, which on a molecular level, look exactly like hormones the body produces.

They include things like yam and soy, which are all in the products Goldstein is taking. She says she feels great.

"We know that women feel better on the natural hormones, there's just no question about it," Warshowsky says.

But not everyone agrees. Menopause specialists like Dr. Steven Goldstein say the biggest drawback to natural alternatives is there are no studies proving they work and are safe.

"Don't equate natural with risk free," he says.

Goldstein says a product like black cohosh, taken to treat night sweats, is as powerful a source of estrogen as any pill or a patch.

"Just because it comes from the health food store doesn't mean it's not metabolized through the liver as a potent estrogen," he adds.

But Dr. Warshowsky warns the recent news about hormones is a reminder that FDA approval doesn't always equal safety.

"Now we find after all these years of studies, they don't do what they say they're supposed to do," he says.

Clearly there are no easy answers for women looking to control the inevitable symptoms of aging. But Dr. Warshowsky just wants them to know: Alternatives to standard treatments do exist and for some people, they work wonders.