Women march toward wellness

CONSUMERLINE - Ching M. Alano (The Philippine Star) - March 14, 2016 - 10:00am

Since the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, women have to be fit to take on such a huge responsibility. Which is why March is devoted to women’s wellness. Happy Women’s Wellness Month, all ye women out there!

Here at home, Jeunesse Anion partnered with Edsa Shangri-La Hotel for a truly moving celebration. Activities were held to make women “move, refuel, and recover.”

Model-turned-yoga teacher Bubbles Paraiso gets everyone moving with Ashtanga yoga that involves stretching (and we don’t mean just your imagination) and gymnastic exercises. Let’s get physical, ladies!

“Ashtanga is a very dynamic or yang type of yoga that works on your legs, core, shoulder strength, and opens up your hips,” the bubbly Bubbles describes.  “It’s a good form of exercise for women because aside from the hip openers that help a lot with childbearing, the sequence of Ashtanga makes one longer, leaner, and stronger. If you want well-defined arms, then Ashtanga is for you. Also, having a set sequence makes you see your progress in every session.”

Ashtanga also helps women deal with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The asanas (poses) calm the mind and relax the body, thus relieving cramped muscles and lifting the mood. The same goes for premenopause — Ashtanga relieves the discomforts from hot flashes and makes the roller-coaster ride of anxiety and depression easier for women.

Oh, those intense cravings for sinful, salty, and sweet food when you’re having PMS! To prevent nutrient deficiencies, Philippine-US registered dietician Cheshire Que prescribes that we fuel up on life-saving foods. “Cut back on salt, which comes from notorious sources such as chips, processed or canned foods, and condiments, which can cause bloating. Deliberately choose lean meat, eggs, and dark leafy green vegetables to increase iron stores during the menstrual period.”

Cheshire believes that women should also be conscious of their fluid intake. “Water is the best choice to ensure good metabolism and hydration. Green tea is good for digestion and has protective properties for the heart. A probiotic drink boosts the immune system and promotes digestive health. Non-fat milk helps with calcium stores.”

According to Cheshire, women require less energy intake and nutrients compared to men. They also need a higher intake of iron and folate during pregnancy.

She describes the crucial stages in a woman’s life as follows: “adolescence, pregnancy, and lactation as well as post-menopause all the way to becoming an elderly.”

How to deal with these crucial changes? “Begin with acceptance of the developmental changes you have to go through in life. Learn about the nutritional needs for each stage through the guidance of a health professional,” Cheshire stresses. 

After menopause, would a woman have different nutritional needs? Cheshire replies, “After menopause, a woman’s estrogen level drops, thus increasing her risk of developing heart diseases. A woman should take care of her heart and maintain normal blood pressure. Consuming fiber-rich foods from whole grains, vegetables and fruits; good fats from fatty fishes, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils; lean protein and soy; low-fat dairy; and limiting intake of sodium, saturated fats, and refined sugars from processed foods, combined with regular physical activity, will help prevent chronic illnesses common among women after menopause.”

We just couldn’t resist asking Cheshire: For women who have tried all sorts of diets and have failed, what do you recommend? Cheshire tells us,“Go back to basics and eat well-balanced meals composed of whole minimally processed foods (for example, rice, fish, vegetables and fruits). Eat every four to six hours and hydrate well. It is also important to get at least seven hours of sleep to prevent cravings and overeating due to hormonal imbalance. Say no to restrictive and unrealistic fad diets.”

Would she recommend women to take supplements/vitamins?  Cheshire shares, “Vitamin and mineral supplements are needed if a woman fails to consume a well-balanced diet, if on a low-calorie diet, if nutrient deficiencies are present and if there’s any medical condition or medications that impede the absorption of nutrients. However, nutrient supplementation should only be taken with the advice of a health professional to prevent toxicity. 

“Calcium from dairy products and green leafy vegetables are essential to prevent osteoporosis. Supplementation may be needed if a woman does not meet the recommended daily calcium intake. Vitamin D and magnesium are needed for better calcium absorption as well as prevention of chronic illnesses.”

We tell Cheshire that a lot of women are into juicing. Would she recommend it? She says, “Juicing in moderation is okay as long as it’s made from 100-percent vegetables and fruits without added sugars. However, it is best to make a smoothie instead of juice because the pulp or fiber is retained. Juices and smoothies should not be consumed as a meal replacement.”

What’s the best wellness secret she can share? “Do not deprive yourself. Instead, practice moderation. After all, eating should be both healthy and pleasurable.”

Now that your body has recovered after a dose of workout and nutritious food, triathlete Lyllian Banzon inspires women to keep the fire burning. “Get quality rest and sleep. Treat yourself to a spa or massage,” advises Dr. Lyllian. “Listen to your body and seek medical consultation if you have bad pain.”

She adds, “Our menstrual period is not an excuse to slack. It helps to improve your sanity by alleviating moodiness and stimulating happy hormones called endorphins. Exercise is also a surefire way to prevent weight gain when food cravings are at their peak. Plus, movement can often relieve the pain and discomforts of cramps, which gives you all the reason to ham it up in the gym or mat.”

What exercise would be okay for women in their 50s and up? “If a woman has not established a lifestyle of having regular exercise before 50, she should consult with her physician before starting an exercise program,” says Cheshire. “Begin with low to moderate intensity exercise 30 minutes a day and gradually increase frequency, duration, and intensity as you build stamina. Cardio, flexibility and strength exercises should be combined.”

She points out, “Yes, it is still safe for women in their 80s to exercise unless a medical condition is present that limits physical activity. Walking, lifting light weights, and stretching are recommended but should be done with caution and combined with proper nutrition.”

So, to all women out there, we’re sending this all-important message: Be well, be happy!

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