13 Jun How to deal with Menopause according to a Naturapathic Nutritionist
Before #SheforHer was trendy, Nadine Tengco, author of best-selling book, Sexy at any age, was already mentoring girls like me in the wellness and fitness industry. She made Lifestyle Nutrition cool, and pioneered the wholefoods diet driven weight-loss program that gave Anne Curtis the svelte body to look like the superstar that she is in her AnneKapal concert tour.
Her celebrity clients included Solenn Huesaff, Isabelle Daza, Jessy Mendiola, Agot Isidro, Bela Padilla and Iza Calzado just to name a few. When I was competing at Century Tuna Superbods, Nadine (who is the tuna brand’s nutrition coach) would easily shrink my waist line from 24 to 22 inches overnight without starving or dehydrating me. She mentored me early in my career, and inspired many of the beauty detox recipes and protocols that is helping my clients now.
More than helping me level up my practice, Nadine taught me how to dream. The things that scared me would excite her. She encouraged me to explore outside curriculums and experience the transformational power of food by experimenting on medicinal herbs, plant-based Omega sources and complex starches.
She could have easily dismissed me then, but instead she nurtured my passion and helped me develop my techniques. I don’t think she realizes how powerful it is for a woman to see another girl as a partner instead of a threat, but because of her example, it’s easy for me to extend the same generosity I was given to sisters in an industry that can be too catty.
We lost touch for months, to say that I was worried would be an understatement. She disappeared from the public eye and rarely returned my messages. We all knew something was going on, Nadine Tengco doesn’t just shy away from the spotlight, and she was definitely not the type to ghost her friends.
When Metro.Style Beauty Editor Kate Paras-Santiago asked me to write about how to eat for your hormones, I immediately thought of Nadine. Who else better to feature than a woman who at 50 years old, conquered Mt. Everest and won in Golds Body Con? If anyone knew how to work around the many shifts and slopes of the female hormones, it would be her. I wasn’t prepared for the revelation that my mentor, the original naturapathic-nutritionist whose result-driven formulas for weight-loss, anti-aging and athletic performance catapulted her to international fame, would almost lose the battle with menopause.
When everything fails
Nothing frustrates pros more than when their own tried and tested protocols fail them. Nadine’s peri-menopause protocol, which is rooted on avoiding food intolerances and allergens, didn’t just do anything for her at menopause, it even aggravated many of her symptoms. This deeply disturbed her because her formula has never failed her or any of her clients before.
“Turmeric, which is a potent anti-inflammatory heated my body for the worst while fibrous vegetables and beans caused me gastrointestinal troubles” shared Nadine referring to the hot flashes she was experiencing during menopause. “For weeks, I couldn’t do the things I loved, I couldn’t go out, much less workout because of the blinding pain that came from simply moving.” She takes a deep breath and continued, “My joints were dried-out which caused me severe, blinding aches that made even lying down insufferable.”
Nadine then told me that it was only then that she realized how vital estrogen is for women, “when it declines, it affects gut motility so that food sits longer in your belly, which makes you gassy and bloated,” she told me. Because of this, good food which is designed to heal you, can end up betraying you.
Nadine started getting UTI, a first in her 50+ years. “It literally felt like muriatic acid was being poured down on my vagina”, exclaimed the diet authority, eyes wide in horror as she recalled her anguish. Menopause changes the Ph of our vagina, which means even the healthiest urethra becomes prone to bacteria and infection (in spite of proper hygiene).
During that period, she also developed abscess in her teeth that led to major tooth extractions. “My dentists couldn’t connect my problem to menopause, but how else do you explain the sudden decay just weeks from not having any issues at all?” The dietician prompted.
Because she was allergic to every known anaesthesia short of morphine, Nadine endured the dental surgery with all her senses fully intact. How did she cope? By distracting her mind from focusing on the excruciating pain through breath-work and guided meditation.
“I didn’t understand because I was pristine with my diet, active with my lifestyle and healthy with my outlook in life. I manage stress well, and am at a really good place in my career and relationships, there was just no logical reason why I was suffering so bad, [with menopause,]” lamented Nadine.
The most critical episode she suffered was when her body rejected antibiotics in the form of an anaphylactic seizure, which literally closed down her throat, broke her out in hives that looked worse than jelly fish sting. She literally almost lost her life.
“I was always allergic to all antibiotics, this is why I developed natural alternatives to them to begin with,” she couldn’t take medicine to fight bacteria to save her life, and forcing herself to almost killed her.
The first relief came with acupuncture. Because of this Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) technique, the pain she was suffering started to become manageable. Within weeks, her joints started becoming mobile, her libido came back, her UTI disappeared and she was able to add Tai Chi to her regimen. Nadine also discovered Ayurvedic cooling foods that helped with inflammation and gas. It was at this stage that Nadine came across Nutrigenomics, the connection on how your genes and your nutrition connect. Through this, she discovered better ways of eating herself back to health with food that didn’t just heal the body, but nourished her to a cellular level.
Your mind is your most powerful tool that can either be a catalyst for spontaneous healing or acute hurting. As her health spiraled down, Nadine noticed that it was her mind which kept her body from succumbing; “I simply held on to the belief that the body was not designed to deteriorate in a transition as natural such as menopause. The Creator, the source of infinite intelligence isn’t that stupid to make such a faulty design.”
Her mindfulness practice quieted her worst fears and allowed her instead to focus her thoughts on grace—the faith that while her body was breaking down, it was also putting itself back into place. She gently coaxed her body to do what it does best—survive. She didn’t cave into toxic thoughts that would punish her body even more, she put any resentment she had on suffering menopause worse than most people at rest and concentrated on willing herself to heal through meditative visualization techniques.
I asked why she didn’t consider hormone replacement therapy, and Nadine’s answer was painfully (literally) sound; that she would rather suffer natural decay than a chemically induced illness. “I used to take progesterone to balance my hormones, but not unlike birth control pills, it had serious side-effects from chronic headaches, bloating, and extreme mood swings and altered the rhythm of my hormones and interfered with the body’s natural balancing process.”
I have to agree with my mentor that the female hormonal flux is too complicated for pills to sort out. Our hormones can shift not just based on our age, but also our diet, lifestyle and even our emotional state of being. This week you can register high on testosterone because of a heavy work week (or too much meat, alcohol, or sugar), but it can also easily regulate itself after just an intimate rustle under the sheets or a meaningful conversation with your partner. To address hormonal imbalance strictly through hormone therapy alone is like trying to read a woman’s mind through sheer body language—risky.
Instead, bio identical hormone prescriptions or hormone therapy should be a supplement to a more holistic program to bring balance out our estrogen-testosterone-progesterone levels which takes into consideration; diet, movement, sleep, environment, and mental health.
“The body has its own natural intelligence, it knows how to take what it needs from food in order to heal. As long as we do not betray its process by forcing it to submit to hormone-altering drugs, we are assured that it will eventually find its way back to homeostasis, no matter how long and painful that process may be,” advised the nutrition-expert.
- Eat cooling and hydrating food like cucumber, lemongrass, watermelon.
- Acupuncture helps release heat trapped in the body through pin-pointed meridians.
- Tai Chi helps with mobilizing the joints and circulating energy and blood flow.
- NUTRIGENOMICS will guide you to eating food beyond what you should avoid but also what will make you thrive.
- Meditation will enable you to use the electromagnetic energy from thought as a healing tool to speed up cell recovery.
FEED YOUR HORMONES
Mid 30s-mid 40s
- Eat food that would flush water retention, reduce inflammation and fight cortisol (the stress hormone).
- Stay away from common food intolerances, allergens and inflammatories like gluten, dairy, commercial meat pumped-up with hormones, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial food additives and sweeteners
- Eliminate common allergens, artificial preservatives and all the processed foods. Unburden your liver and kidneys and give them a chance to efficiently perform their normal detox duties.
- Omega 3 fatty acids are an exceptionally healthy type of unsaturated fat that reduces inflammation, and help cut down stress hormones. Best sourced from fatty fish like tuna and salmon. Plant sources include flax and chia seeds.
- Mono-unsaturated fatty acids (plant-based fats) or MUFA rich oils include olive, rapeseed (canola), sunflower, sesame, flaxseed, and peanut oil. In addition to their MUFAs, olives are a good source of fiber, which help control blood sugar, and therefore manage fat storage.
- Nuts and seeds like sunflower, walnuts, almonds, or peanuts contain MUFAs that protect against inflammation. Nuts and seeds are also fiber-rich to help manage blood sugar levels and the accumulation of fat around the belly.
- One cup of avocado contains as much as 15g of MUFA and as much as 10g of dietary fiber, which makes it an excellent food choice for busting your belly fat.
- Adaptogenic herbs can help defend against chronic stress and its destructive effects on the body. They also help combat fatigue and encourage repair. Use holy basil, ginseng, and cordyceps.
This is the stage in a woman’s life where the ovaries begin to lessen production of estrogen, and takes place several years before actual menopause. This condition usually causes weight gain, irregular periods, hormonal bloating, water retention, and can begin as early as your mid 30s. To help alleviate these symptoms, Nadine recommends the following:
- Carminative teas fight gas and flatulence. Peppermint, bergamot and chamomile are Nadine’s favorite carminative herbs. Earl grey or black chai are yummy tea blends that help fight flatulence. Peppermint is also excellent at fighting bloating.
- Anti-bloat Herbs and Spices fight bloating, inflammation and flatulence listed in order of importance. Some are also choleretic and cholagogue herbs, which help increase our liver’s bile production and aid in detoxification. Incorporate them in your diet as much as you can.
Turmeric, or “luyang dilaw”, Tarragon, the King of herbs according to the French, Mint, Peppermint, Lemongrass or “tanglad”, Ginger, “luya”, Basil, Pandan leaf, Cinnamon, Chamomile, Cloves
- Anti-bloat Vegetables – While vegetables are key to every healthy diet, there are actually only a few that won’t bloat you. Vegetables are very good for you because they are high in water, nutrients, and fiber—but this does have a way of distending your tummy temporarily. The vegetables below are the best anti-bloat choices. Note that they must be COOKED.
Chayote, Squash or pumpkin, Upo or Bottle Gourd, Green Papaya, Zucchini, Asparagus
- Papaya, banana – Fruits are good for you but they are also high in fiber and fructose, which are major league culprits for bloating. Papaya is an exception. It has the anti-inflammatory enzyme “papain,” which even helps in breaking down fiber. But don’t overdo! Bananas are a hit and miss for some people. Saba is the better variety. In essence, bananas contain potassium that helps relieve water retention. It also fights belly bloat.
Foods to cool the body, hydrate and lubricate joints, and minimize pain and discomfort of menopause
- Water, water, water
- Bone broth for joint health
- Foods that help produce nitric oxide like beets, goji berries, watermelon
- Cooling foods like cucumber, lemongrass, watermelon, mint
- MACA powder – a superfood that help balance hormones and promote healthy libido