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Menopause Journal: The Menopausal Menu

It's official. I'm in menopause. I've blamed my warmth on weather, but today it's cool and I'm hot! My doctor did a Follicle Stimulating Hormone test, measuring hormones produced by the pituitary gland that tell the ovaries to make estrogen. High numbers of hormones indicate menopause. In other words, pituitary calls to ovaries, "Make estrogen." Mine is screaming.

We discussed my breast man's concerns, my breast cancer risk. To determine my risk of osteoporosis, I had a bone density test. I have "107 percent of average age-related BMD," the normal range. According to "Susan Love's Hormone Book," it's the rate at which one loses bone, rather than how much one has. Still, better to have bone than not.

My blood pressure's good, my cholesterol's not. My doctor agreed that the research doesn't show whether hormones have a positive or negative affect on the risk of cardiovascular disease. He pointed out my weight gain, a known contributor to heart disease.

Even Tom Brokow is reporting on the difficulty of the "older woman's decision." Experts he interviewed concurred that they don't know what's best for the menopausal woman, there are "no right answers." It's kind of discouraging.

When I asked to hear from women who'd never taken hormones, only a few emailed me at Discovery. Maybe the rest didn't survive or maybe they're not reading or writing about menopause. Others tried alternatives to HRT. One wrote, "Two treatments from my acupuncturist eliminated my hot flashes." Another tried black cohosh. My mother says it sounds like hogwash. I mentioned these to my doctor, but he asked about diet.

My diet is high in coffee with cream, chocolate in almost any form, brie, fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil, milk, ice cream, salmon, lobster and blueberries in season, salad, broccoli and nuts. And popovers or blueberry pancakes with pure maple syrup, cake, pie, cookies, and the brick-oven-baked bread from Pain de Famille.

He concluded that my dairy propensity was good for my bones, but bad for my weight. He agreed with my breast man—skip the hormones. But he suggested that I watch my diet, particularly carbohydrates.

The Huge Topic of Diet: Which diet? There are low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets that concentrate on high protein and almost no carbohydrates. That might be good, but one study showed that a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet reduces dense breast tissue (a risk factor for breast cancer) in menopause. There's the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet, which emphasizes chicken and fish , fruits, vegetables and whole grains. That means more fiber, which irritates my Crohn's disease.