With gender equality at the centre of socio-political debate and change, among the topics being discussed is women’s health.
Doctor of Chinese medicine and founder of The Pagoda Tree, Natalie Kringoudis is one of the practitioners at the forefront of raising awareness and helping women better understand their bodies, a passion that has earned her the title of The Hormone Revolutionist.
Just this month, Kringoudis released her latest book Beautiful You, which has been in the works for four years and is being dubbed as revolutionary for young women.
After over 15 years in the health industry, she reveals that there are still not enough factual and comprehensive resources available, neither has the education system stepped up. Meanwhile, research conducted by Kringoudis for the book revealed parents are either too embarrassed or don’t have the knowledge themselves.
Remembering all too well what being a teenager was like, and a mother of a pre-teen daughter herself, it is a transitionary period often focused on all the things one doesn’t like about themselves.
“We need to change that mindset to be around trying to embrace your body and what it can do and how amazing it is,” something she says can only come with greater knowledge and understanding.
UNDERSTANDING THE WHYS OF OUR HEALTH, AND THE ‘EVERYDAY PRINCIPLE’
Beautiful You like Kringoudis’ health practice is holistic, covering everything from physical to mental and sexual health, along with looking at environmental factors.
But what’s particularly exciting is the insight into hormones; yes we all have them, but why do we have them? What do they do? And more importantly, why we don’t need to hate or fear them.
This the same approach taken with everything from acne to weight gain.
“So if you do have acne, why? If you are gaining weight, why? If your period’s horrible, why? I really go through the main things that I see as challenges for young women and what those imbalances can indicate and kind of how we would go about rectifying them from the day-to-day,” which is what Kringoudis refers to as the ‘everyday principle’.
The Everyday Principle is the little things we do each and every day to bring our bodies back to health – which she says is what really matters.
“[In the book] I talk through what the options might be, how they can feel better, how we can look at ways of increasing their health and wellbeing,” says Kringoudis.
“That’s what it’s really about; really empowering them to take control of their health.”
One game changer is encouraging both young and older women to monitor their menstrual cycles in a diary, noting down their observations: Do you have pain? Do you have changes in your skin? By doing so from an early age, Kringoudis says that cycle patterns can emerge, helping women to have a better understanding of not only their cycles, but their health as a whole.
As a society we want a quick fix, we want the answer, we want the pill – that’s not fixing the problem – it’s just treating the symptom.
WHERE EAST MEETS WEST
Believe it or not, despite having made such a mark helping women, namely with their fertility, it is an area that she says chose her.
“I joke about it all the time because I didn’t want to treat women’s health,” she reveals.
“Women are hormonal and that’s really hard!” she laughs.
But it was exactly that challenge that ended up fuelling her commitment to help women find the answers they were looking for.
“I started to treat women who were completely broken, whether it was that they didn’t have periods, or they couldn’t fall pregnant, and then at some point it just occurred to me that we were waiting until we were really broken to fix something and we’d kind of been told that ‘oh don’t worry just take the [contraceptive] pill and when you decide to have babies come back and we might need to do IVF’ as if that was a fix or a solution, which we now realise is not actually a simple fix at all.”
The quick fix has long been the approach of Western medicine – we want the answer, we want the pill – but for sustainable long-term health, she says we need to start from the beginning.
“Maybe for a headache you can take Panadol and that might relieve it in the moment, but if you’re getting the headache at the same time every day or every week or every month, well that’s not fixing that problem – it’s just treating the symptom,” she explains.
Meanwhile, Western medicine tends to isolate systems of the body – a downfall given that not one system of the body works on its own – something Eastern medicine has long-understood.
“As amazing as modern medicine is, it’s so behind,” says Kringoudis.
“I remember speaking to a friend about probiotics 10 years ago for her child who was unwell and her doctor totally dismissed that, said ‘that’s ridiculous’. Then I saw the same doctor five years later and he was basically telling me that’s what I needed to do. But it’s not his fault, it’s just the way that that medical system works.”
To overcome the challenges this can pose to patients looking for answers, she believes the two disciplines can be complimentary to one another, filling in the gaps where the other one may be lacking for greater patient care.
“When I can tie the two together – bring on my Western knowledge and integrate that with Chinese Medicine – I think we’re really able to offer something unique,” says Kringoudis.
“But the common factor here is actually the patient.
“When we can take back that control because we have the information that we need, it’s a very different outcome … it’s a fine line but I think what it comes back to is just really leaning into what feels right for your own treatment and knowing that there’s more than one way to do something.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY
Aside from greater knowledge surrounding our hormones, nutrition and fitness for greater health, one aspect that Kringoudis finds is often overlooked is the role of community.
From speaking to women directly, she started to discover that many were keeping significant, yet taboo experiences such as miscarriage to themselves because of feelings such as shame.
“Where is our community? Where has that gone? Whether it’s church, or whether it’s just your local community or a club, there’s this sense of belonging, and when the going gets tough you’ve got people to lean on. Hands down I think that is one of the key pillars that’s missing for many women who are basically suffering in silence and trying to go it alone.”
To help curb this, in 2017 Kringoudis created a membership platform where women could log in, get useful information, support one another, learn and grow.
In fact, aside from being a highly motivated person, community is in large-part what the practitioner attributes to her success. That and relinquishing some control.
“Mother guilt is rife. The other week we were at a party, and someone asked my husband Chris ‘what do you do for work?’ and he said ‘oh I work, but I’m pretty much the hands on dad’ and I actually was like ‘no you’re not, no don’t say that’ and then I stopped and realised that’s about accurate actually. In the last 12 months I’ve had to really go ‘I’m not going to be there for school pick up everyday. Daddy will be there’ or ‘yiayia will be there’ or whoever. And being okay with that. So I’ve probably only just embraced that, and that’s actually a game changer,” she says. “I have an amazing team at work, I have an amazing family support. We can’t do things on our own – we never have. That would be the biggest thing I’d be encouraging people to do.”
STARTING THE CONVERSATION
After 15 years in the industry, Kringoudis has many achievements to her name, but she says the release of Beautiful You is by far a highlight.
By sharing her knowledge she hopes to start an important conversation that will not only educate, but also move the dialogue surrounding puberty for young girls from something serious and heavy to an experience that makes up part of their general development.
“While for boys puberty is all erections and wet dreams and ‘go and explore yourself’, for girls it becomes a very serious conversation really quickly pretty much because you could fall pregnant at some point.”
For this to change, Kringoudis says there needs to be less fear, greater understanding, and certainly more praise.
“In my research for this book I’ve learnt that this current generation are actually the most well-behaved, the most respectful, the most educated, less likely to get in trouble, less likely to do drugs – they are actually phenomenal in comparison. Never in history have we actually been nurturing a generation like this,” she says.
“So we’ve got to stop rolling our eyes and actually appreciate that they’re truly wonderful, and if we can do that, we’re going to actually be able to change the conversation from here on out.”
DR KRINGOUDIS’ USEFUL TIPS FOR WOMEN’S HEALTH:
1. Note the ebs and flows of your emotions and put them on your monthly calendar – you’ll probably find they sync with your menstrual cycle and can anticipate when things are easier (or harder).
2. Use your cycle to your advantage – mid cycle is the time to be most productive.
3. Food is either of benefit or deficit, it will either take your health where you want it to go or contribute to poor health. Simply reducing inflammatory food like gluten or dairy for three weeks and seeing what happens can make the world of difference.
4. No two bodies are the same so comparing yourself to your best friend can be a disaster. Learn to love your unique parts that make you, you.
For more information and to purchase ‘Beautiful You’ visit https://www.natkringoudis.com/shop/