Interview With Menopause Expert Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz

Tina Lernø, Librarian, Digital Content Team,
Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz and her book, Menopause Bootcamp: Optimize Your Health, Empower Your Self, and Flourish as You Age
Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz and her book, Menopause Bootcamp: Optimize Your Health, Empower Your Self, and Flourish as You Age

Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz is a nationally renowned doctor, expert, speaker, and advocate for integrative women's health. And she's on a mission! She's exploring what it means to be a healthy woman in this culture and age and to support our growth as individuals and how we show up in our communities. Dr. Gilberg-Lenz is a hard-core science nerd with a deep respect for the holistic approach to health and life. Dr. Suzanne believes it is a woman's right to make educated and empowered decisions around childbirth—from choosing her healthcare team to the right childbirth setting. At her practice, she's been able to build relationships with incredible women as she helps guide them through the different phases of their life—from adolescence to Menopause. Whether it's sexual health, preparing for conception, pregnancy, childbirth, or postpartum, it's important to empower yourself with abundant accurate, and science-backed information.

One of the messages she tries to convey is: "Let's Build Community Together because when women gather, magic happens!" Over the years, Dr. Suzanne has had the privilege of connecting with so many on social media (@askdrsuzanne), at events as a guest speaker (Moksha festival, The Wing, Kaiser Women's Leadership), and through her TV media appearances (The Today Show, The Drew Barrymore Show, Dr. Drew's Life Changers, and CNN's Headline News, to name a few.).

Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz is a Los Angeles native; and received her medical degree in 1996 from the USC School of Medicine and completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and UCLA. She is a diplomat of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Gilberg-Lenz is involved in women's empowerment and public education and frequently appears as an expert in women's health and integrative medicine on TV, in print, and online. Dr. Gilberg-Lenz is a co-founder of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's Green Committee and is deeply committed to promoting healing that involves individuals, families, communities, and the planet. Dr. Gilberg-Lenz is the author of Menopause Bootcamp: Optimize Your Health, Empower Your Self, and Flourish as You Age, and she recently talked about the book and women's health with Tina Lernø for the LAPL Blog.

What was your inspiration for Menopause Bootcamp?

A typical patient encounter in the office will never provide enough time to get the information people need and deserve on their evolving health care and bodies. It was frustrating to hear how my patients and people I knew were confused and didn't feel supported through this developmental stage. Then at a publicly held event/conversation about Menopause with my friend, innovator, founder of Loom, and author Erica Chidi, it struck me how much we lost when we stopped having intergenerational conversations—I couldn't let it go for days. The phrase "Menopause Bootcamp" popped into my brain, and from there, I developed the current curriculum with my partner Greg Reid; a decades-long fitness pro, for a deeper dive and to allow time and space for sharing growth and movement & healing. People left classes with a new community and a sense of relief not having to pretend. Everyone had the same concerns and felt the same stigma—ageism and misogyny. The book grew from there.

Can you tell us, scientifically speaking, what is Menopause?

The definition is clear: 12 consecutive months without a menstrual bleed in a woman over age 45 for no other discernible or medical reason. It's literally one day of your life, and you don't know you're there til you're there! The other terms floating out there are really ill-defined. While helping to validate the experiences of transition that can be unpredictable, disruptive, and last for a decade or more—they need to be used with care to avoid pathologizing a time that is not a disease.

What are some of the most common misconceptions about Menopause?

First of all, you wouldn't let a kid go into puberty and not instruct and support them. It'd be actually cruel, and yet that's what's happening [to] midlife women with Menopause.

Women fear that: it's an end, that we are no longer vital, viable, worthy, or visible, that sex is over and done, and that using hormones will kill you and are dangerous.

Do you feel women are affected by both sexism as well as ageism when it comes to healthcare practices in America?

Of course I do! I often say that misogyny and ageism had a baby, and it's called Menopause. Our biology and our bodies are either too complicated and mysterious to comprehend, and therefore our needs are not addressed or are dismissed. Or we are too much to handle, dangerous, and need to be controlled or managed. The data is clear and much worse for people of color. Their very existence as brown or black confers earlier Menopause and more severe symptoms and increased risk for serious medical conditions as they age. But it's not inherent biologically! Racism is the risk factor! Moreover, we have so little consensus about this. We seem to be unable even to give this time a basic definition. And we still need to address pain and heart disease. When you talk specifically about Menopause, you get burned from both ends. Menopause is not a disease, and the medical system focuses on disease. It shouldn't be surprising in this current system.

Since I am a "woman of a certain age," Menopause Bootcamp really resonated with me. Do you think you could have written this 20 years ago, or did you have to go through these life changes to have the perspective needed to write this book?

I say it in the book—I needed all of my 50+ years on the planet to accomplish this task. This is the gift of aging: wisdom, integrity, perseverance, resilience, and creativity without fear or shame. Look, our society is so obsessed with youth—more specifically "looking" younger—that we forget the value of growing confidently into the wise woman phase of our lives. We need to de-stigmatize the aging process and enter what can be the most significant phase of our lives fearlessly! The best way to do this is to continue empowering ourselves with knowledge, practice self-care, and remain in community with those we choose to be our support system.

What are a few of the most common questions you get from women going through Menopause?

Should I take HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)?

Fear of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)...I mean, there are so many misconceptions. So women are afraid but still dealing with all these changes in their bodies—Anxiety and panic, sexual changes, vaginal dryness, loss of orgasm, sleep disruption, and weight gain (belly fat). HRT is like anything else, do your research, stay informed, and make the best choices with your doctor based on your body's needs. A good example is food. Food is not inherently good or bad; it's what you do with it.

One of my favorite takeaways from your book was feeling like the menopause journey is a little less frightening, knowing so many other women face the same fears. Why do you think this particular stage in a woman's life can be so isolating?

Any big change, you can feel out of body. We spend so many years in our menstrual cycle, and the idea of it going away can be very upsetting. Even if it's something we have only barely put up with. The rhythm of our cycles is forever changed, which can be scary. We need to stop equating getting old=bad and replace that with old=wise.

Our society is so obsessed with youth—more specifically, "looking" younger—that we forget the value of growing confidently into the wise woman phase of our lives. We need to de-stigmatize the aging process and enter what can be the most significant phase of our lives fearlessly! The best way to do this is to continue empowering ourselves with knowledge, practice self-care, and remain in community with those we choose to be our support system.

Going to your gyno should be empowering, supportive, and, dare I say, fun. I've been honored to perform thousands of deliveries as a partner at my medical practice in Beverly Hills. After earning my medical degree at the Southern California School of Medicine and completing my residency at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, I wanted to expand my knowledge beyond conventional medicine. In 2010 I graduated from California College of Ayurveda as a Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist, which has truly expanded and informed my practice of medicine. Integrating this wonderful ancient healing tradition has been a game changer and allowed me to go deeper into the study of health and healing. As more "natural" solutions, medicines, and technologies emerge in the global marketplace, I refer back to Ayurveda—the original lifestyle medicine that incorporates the mind, body, and spirit.

As a debut author, what have you learned during the process of getting your book published that you would like to share with other writers about this experience?

It's so much harder than people think. Writing the proposal was hard, then publishing it was hard; it felt like delivering a baby (and I've delivered thousands [including this librarian's two children!] ). I'm a philosopher at heart. I based the book on the structure of the actual Bootcamp. Writing a book demands that you dedicate time to it. You also need to have a great support system around you and a great editor, a true cheerleader. No apologies. Hearing the criticism helped.

Now I've got a book-related question if you can indulge me: What are you reading?

I read way above my age when I was a kid. I was reading Jane Austin and the classics when I was 11! My teacher at the time said, "That's great, but please re-read these when you are older!"

A few books I've read recently are Kicking Ass in a Corset: Jane Austen's 6 Principles for Living and Leading from the Inside Out by Andrea Kayne; Desert Oracle by Ken Lane; Mona Eltahawy's book, The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls, Normal Family by Chrysta Bilton, and Estrogen Matters by Avrum Bluming, MD, and Carol Tavris, Ph.D. It's great, though a little insidery.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on a book proposal about plant medicine; natural holistic medicine; really granular information.

Final thoughts?

I'd like to convey that my book is for everyone; I want people to read the book who don't necessarily think it's for them. So for men, partners, family, etc. How can they support or be a part of it? We are all connected. Millennials are very curious, too; not waiting until 49, they are starting early. The time to read this book is now. For me, the missing piece is intergenerational. We are still not talking about issues of aging. But when we begin to have conversations with younger generations, mothers to daughters, with friends and co-workers, then we're getting somewhere.

Believe it or not, there is a science to self-care! "If your BFF was your doctor, would TMI cease to exist?" is my motto with my patients.

Book cover for Menopause Bootcamp: Optimize Your Health, Empower Your Self, and Flourish as You Age
Menopause Bootcamp: Optimize Your Health, Empower Your Self, and Flourish as You Age
Gilberg-Lenz, Suzanne

The doctor known for her "Menopause Bootcamp" gatherings, shares her 360-degree holistic approach to this natural life stage in this empowering and joyful guide to help women not just survive this physiological and psychological transition, but thrive.

Over the course of her twenty-year medical career, Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz noticed a shocking dearth of information and support for women beginning and experiencing menopause. For too long, this crucial stage in women's lives has been given perfunctory notice in medical schools and is often either a hidden secret or the punchline to a joke--denying women the information and support they need. This disregard, coupled with the unconscious misogyny and ageism that run rampant in our culture, portrays menopause as something to be afraid of, and worse, adds a patina of shame around the blessing of aging and the beginnings of a new, normal, and enriching phase in a woman's life.

Known across Los Angeles for her Menopause Bootcamp retreats, Dr. Suzanne, as her patients call her, believes that the 27 million women entering menopause each year deserve thoughtful, candid, modern, holistic information about the physical and psychological issues that arise in this transitional stage, including changes in libido, metabolism, body image, and fears over genetic age-related illnesses. She contends that menopause is a whole life condition and deserves a wide-ranging approach that combines meditation, yoga, therapy, and herbal supplements, along with the most up-to-date science and conventional medical solutions.

Packed with answers to common questions and helpful insights, infused with Dr. Suzanne's expert, but warm, and sometimes, laugh-out-loud honesty, Menopause Bootcamp is a welcome invitation to embrace and even celebrate this remarkable developmental phase in the lives of women. It's a welcome reminder that life doesn't end at menopause—it's the start of something new and wonderful.