Menopause symptom relief: Anti-depressants, diet changes reduce hot flashes

Studies show 1 in 5 women get relief thanks to these new options


ORLANDO, Fla. – As the last of the baby boomers head full force into menopause, many want to know how they can make the next few years of life livable.

But Lauren Rowe found several new options for women dealing with hot flashes, night sweats, and weight gain.

[WEB EXTRA: Hot Flash Treatments]

"I have gained 40 pounds."

"I'd get really hot from head to toe."

"I literally started to cry and that's not me."

49-year-old Ronda Grant has been dealing with menopause symptoms for two years already.

But she's not the only one living with it.

"I feel frustrated and helpless," said her husband Ed who is right by her side, "The natural male instinct to fix things.  I want to try and do something, but all I can do is hold her hand and say it will be ok."

"You see people on TV talk about it and they always seemed like they're older," said Grant.

But the fact of the matter is the average woman goes through menopause at age 51.

The symptoms often begin years earlier and can last for a decade.

"I tried some over the counter stuff and my doctor told me you have to take it for three to four weeks before you'll feel the effects, well I took it for two months," said Grant.

That's when she turned to her doctor who prescribed, of all things, an anti-depressant.

"I guess it might have taken the slightest edge off," said Grant.

And not just her mood.

Grant is one of the 20 percent of women surveyed in a recent study who say anti-depressants have reduced their hot flashes.

Grant is not, however, interested in hormone replacement therapy.  She says she worries about cancer risks.

"I like to have a candid discussion with my patient," said gynecologist Christine Greves, who says patient worries over hormone therapy come as no surprise to her.

After all, Greves says, managing menopause is different for every woman.

"Everything is boiled down to a risk versus benefits and alternatives scenario," said Greves.

But after more than a decade of study, women and their doctors finally have a definitive research to use as a guide.

The Women's Health Initiative released their study in October.

It show using a combination of estrogen and progesterone is safe as long as it's for a short period of time -- less than five years, and there's little family history of cancer or heart disease

But Greves cautioned, "It does become more risky the older a woman is."

So if anti-depressants or hormone therapy aren't for you.

What about a third option -- a more natural approach?

Research released just this summer touts certain fruits with reducing hot flashes.

Scientists followed six thousand women for nine years and found loading up on strawberries, pineapple, and melon worked for about one in five women.

Beans like lentil, chickpeas and edamame are also a natural source of estrogen.

Options, but not an exact science, like the measured hormones in patches and pills.

"Ultimately we have to caution our patients because we don't know how much estrogen you're consuming," said Greves.

As for Grant and her husband, battery operated fans and trips to one of the coldest places in central florida will have to do.

"The best thing I've been able to do is take her to the penguin encounter in Sea World, couldn't get her out," said Ed Grant.

Another suggestion from Dr. Greves: an herb called black cohash is proven to reduce hot flashes, but again it comes with a caution.  It's not advised for women with liver disease.