What would the world look like if we taught girls about how their bodies work from a young age? Celebrated their transition from girlhood into womanhood? And gave them an actual sex education? Could we fix the fear, shame, and misunderstanding before it was broken? In this week's episode we sat down with Nat Kringoudis to talk about what's happening in puberty and how we can support and educate our girls as they step into their womanhood, embracing their bodies and empowering them with knowledge.
The music in this episode was composed by:
Natalie Kringoudis: My absolute passion is women's health across the board, but teen health, to me, is really screaming out.
Patti Quintero: My daughter used to say "You don't understand what I feel." I would try to say I did and then finally it was like "You're right, I don't."
Natalie Kringoudis: It's a little girl trapped in a growing body and she's not quite there yet.
Aleks Evanguelidi: That connection with the inner child or the innocence I don't even know that I had words for it at that point. But I was in no way embracing becoming a woman.
Patti Quintero: Welcome to under the hood I'm Patti .
Aleks Evanguelidi: Add I'm Aleks. And today we're talking with Nat Kringoudis, also known as the Hormone Revolutionist.
Patti Quintero: Nat is a doctor of Chinese medicine. She's an acupuncturist and an all around fertility expert. She is also a wonderful author and is about to release her latest book in the next coming year that focuses on teens and their sexual and reproductive health.
Aleks Evanguelidi: So today we're talking with her about that most awkward of life phases: Puberty.
Patti Quintero: So as mothers of young girls we know firsthand how challenging the stage can be for everyone involved. For us, and for them. So we're really curious to talk to Nat about how we can best support our kids through this stage.
Aleks Evanguelidi: There's an opportunity for us in this current state of how the culture is changing and trending and bringing the dialogue to the surface so that we as parents can have the tools that will help potentially shift the future for this conversation.
Patti Quintero: And one that reached out to us wanting to bring this topic to Under the Hood, she said that she wondered how different these conversations might be if we fix the problem before it was broken. We loved that. If we empower young girls with the information that they actually need to make informed decisions to understand their bodies, when it comes to their health, we wonder too.
Aleks Evanguelidi: On that note let's jump in with Nat.
Patti Quintero: If I would have ever heard about a period party when I was younger, I think that probably could have changed a lot of the decisions I made and the path that I took as an adolescent into adulthood.
Natalie Kringoudis: In a good way?
Patti Quintero: Absolutely.
Natalie Kringoudis: Because I think what happens is that, well because we're not informed we fear it, and then we don't understand it and it becomes something that you don't want to deal with, especially if it's not nice as well. If you're having painful periods or they're showing up whenever they feel like it, there's not a lot of conversation around it. And so I guess, if we had celebrated it and it was just, the facts were the facts, and we talked about it from a really young age I think could be very different.
Patti Quintero: Or Celebrated.
Natalie Kringoudis: Yeah absolutely.
Patti Quintero: Instead of hidden, you know? I'm a single mom and my daughter has participated in just about every period I've ever had as just default. Because she'll just walk into the bathroom when I happen to be going to the bathroom. And there we have it. So the conversation is there. But for so many women it isn't.
Natalie Kringoudis: Yeah and of course it depends on the child too. Like if I think about my daughter, she's so disinterested. I don't know whether she was gifted to the right or the wrong mother, but she's not interested. Whereas my son really is.
Aleks Evanguelidi: How old is your daughter.
Natalie Kringoudis: My daughter's 10.
Aleks Evanguelidi: OK.
Natalie Kringoudis: So starting to show signs of change. But she's not interested at all. You know, I try and have conversations around that are just factual. And she's getting there. But you know I arrived home from being away last trip that I was here. And she said " Oh mommy in my booby there's a lump." And I said "Oh let me feel that." And you know obviously she's growing her breast buds. And I said "Oh you know what happens now. Your breasts are going to start to grow." And she just looked at me like oh really. I said "Does it hurt a bit?" And she said yeah. I said yeah they might hurt, they might burn a little bit. Doesn't sound very nice. But it's only for a short while, you know. Tried to just bring the biological facts in rather than it being anything else. And I think that's the conversation that's been missing for a long time.
Patti Quintero: So you have a background in Chinese medicine and you do a lot of fertility work correct? And I know that there's a big passion in learning about hormones in order to normalize our bodies and to be able to empower ourselves in the decisions we make. When you were younger was this part of your childhood or when did that start for you.
Natalie Kringoudis: It's an interesting question, because on reflection, I was wildly fascinated with a book my mom gave me and it was maybe eight pages. It was actually a pamphlet. Let's not call it a book. Eight pages with line drawings of dissected women's bodies. And when I say dissected I mean like a line drawing you know straight down the middle. And I devoured that book.
Natalie Kringoudis: Of course mom had the conversation with me. I didn't ever think I'd be doing this one day though. So I was fascinated from a young age without realizing. And really I think, yes I started treating women's health but not because I chose that either. That was a very organic happening where women were basically wanting answers. And this is 15 years ago. I didn't have the answers. The modern issues I was seeing weren't things I learnt at uni. They were different and because they hadn't necessarily been, you know, in "scientifically proven" they were modern problems because of modern living. Plastic, stress, these sorts of things that were contributing.
Natalie Kringoudis: So I made a really bold statement that I would never treat women's health. Because it was too hard and it was hormones, and hormones and women just complicated.
Patti Quintero: We've been focusing a lot on these topics as we launch our monster first season. And a passion of ours is so much normalising our bodies. I listen to one of your podcasts that I loved. I went straight for it because it was on teens and I have a teenage daughter, teenage son also and a teenage daughter. And I loved the idea. It sounds so simple just the word normalise our bodies. And it made me reflect a lot on my own adolescence and that was not a concept. We weren't taught to, you know, learn our bodies sometimes like we learn the car we're driving, like we know what's under the hood. And I think that when we learn what's under the hood in our vehicle, lets say our car, we know when it needs an oil change, we know when it needs new brake pads. We know when... I don't know that, but there was a light that tells me, that's metaphoric. But I would love to be the mechanic of my own body and know those signals and understand, which takes us to hormones, understand what's happening. And I think in that there is so much value and empowerment for every girl and woman.
Natalie Kringoudis: Absolutely.
Natalie Kringoudis: I recognised very quickly in treating all these women that I was talking about 15 years ago that I was fixing problems that had been there for a really long time because of this reason. They were either masking the symptoms with birth control or they didn't understand what was going on so they just feared it. It was like something bad's happening. I don't even want to know about, I'm just going to pretend it's not happening. And I've really made it my mission in recognizing that. How about if we fix it before it's broken or really broken. We get some signals or signs that something's not quite right and we explore it. We don't fear it.
Natalie Kringoudis: And in doing that I think my message now is very much about simplifying our hormones and just understanding the facts, like I keep saying, so that we can be empowered and make these choices, not out of fear but just out of a simple place of knowledge. And it completely changes how we approach our health as women. And really, I believe that the more we talk about it, the more we understand it, then the less we are going to fear finding out what's actually going on and the quicker we can fix things. So my absolute passion now is, yes, you know women's health across the board but teen health to me is really screaming out.
Aleks Evanguelidi: Absolutely.
Patti Quintero: It seems like that's the window to make sure that we're receiving that information as as young girls, because we make such profound imprints at that stage, the way that we're taking in information. And so who's going to educate us. It's either sex ed or the porn culture. And the porn culture is not celebrating female empowerment, or abstinence, or contraception, or intimacy, or any of these topics that really kind of play a role in how, you know, how your sexual life unfolds.
Natalie Kringoudis: Absolutely. I think to add to that, I think boys need to be educated.
Aleks Evanguelidi: Oh yeah.
You know young men need to be educated. I had a conversation with my publisher, I was like 'Can I please make my next book for young men?" Because I think this piece is missing. And when you say, you know, the porn industry, for a lot of boys that's their first ever, not experience, but visual experience with a woman's body and it's really setting up these expectations that are never going to be met. No one's first sexual experience is ever going to look like that. In fact, most people's sexual experiences never look like that. So it's setting up these unrealistic expectations and then also the same for girls are looking at that going "that's what I've got to be." And you're never going to be. So I think that the conversation needs to happen on both sides and I think if we can empower boys about women's bodies as well that's a very different conversation we'd be having. But I think our sexual health weighs in very heavy on the woman or the female. I feel like for boys the conversation is a bit lighthearted. You know they start to go through puberty. One, their reproductive organs are on the outside, they can see them, they can touch them, and they are encouraged more so I think to do that. Whereas women not only do they get more complicated, we get menstrual cycle start to play out, our reproductive organs are predominately on the inside. We're not necessarily encouraged to explore them. We think that's seen as something that's taboo. I know my mother never handed me a mirror and said "Go and have a look.'
Natalie Kringoudis: It's only as I got older that I was more intrigued and realised that that wasn't something that was dirty, that was okay to explore that. But the biggest thing is that, it weighs in heavy on us because contraception, really at the end of the day, really comes back mostly to the female. So as young women are maybe becoming sexually active they've got this to think about and it's it's not a fun topic. It's not lighthearted. It's not like a boy who might reach puberty, the voice changes. They maybe experience wet dreams or erections. And I don't know, I remember overhearing my parents talking to some family friends when I was young, and they were laughing about their sons as they were reaching puberty and sort of saying, "Oh I just send them to their room and let them work it out." But I mean, imagine saying that to a woman. And no mother really wants the young daughter falling pregnant either. So it's a very complex situation but I really want to make it something that's just factual, spoken about. Normal not feared. And also, you can't fall pregnant in every waking minute of the day.
Aleks Evanguelidi: So let's talk a little bit about some of these hormonal cascades. Let's dial in on puberty, because I feel like there's a lot of curiosity about the transition pieces. Can you speak from that scientific perspective?
Natalie Kringoudis: Yes so I mean from around eight years of age girls start to change, somewhere there. And if they're not then I would encourage, you know that's nothing to panic about, but we need to look at why it is or isn't happening, whether it's happening early or later. Again it just tells us something. So always looking for clues. But you know the breast buds develop like I said before. And generally around a year or so later the period arrives. And then it's really common for the period not to be regular for some time. It takes time for our hormones to find their groove. They're very much influenced by stress and stress for young women it's you know.
Aleks Evanguelidi: High.
Natalie Kringoudis: It's obviously relative to them and it is high to them. As mothers we can look at that and go "Oh the worst is yet to come when it comes to the stresses as a mom." But really it's relative and to them there's a lot going on there in high school. Its dynamics with friends and boyfriends and so much goes on. So our hormones do take some time to find their groove and I would say that it's not really until a woman is around 18 that you should find that there's a regular period.
Patti Quintero: I think it would just be so great to, I mean even having children I didn't really understand the effects of each one of these hormones. So even just in a very factual way be taught at a young age, this is what estrogen does, this is what progesterone does, so that when those things are triggered again you're like "Oh this is what my body is doing." And then there's this sense there's this to me, I find that there is an awakening and an appreciation of this body and how powerful it is instead of a freak out.
Natalie Kringoudis: Absolutely and to further what you're saying, yes you know, we're not taught, well I certainly wasn't taught, around the changes in the hormones over the month or the cycle. Let's not say a month because it can be longer than a month for some girls. But yeah. And the fact that ovulation has to happen somewhere in the cycle for you to be fertile and then your period arrives usually two weeks after that. So this whole piece of ovulation I think has been missing in this explanation of the ebbs and flows of the hormones throughout the menstrual cycle. I was definitely not taught ovulation at all. I didn't even know that that was something that happened. I knew we released an egg, but I didn't know when. There was definitely no association to hormonal surges, progesterone doing its job. None of that for me and I don't know whether that's changed but when I ask educators and school teachers I don't think it really in Australia, it hasn't changed. I'm not sure here. And I want to know who's choosing the curriculum? And this sounds really terrible but is it some really old man? That's making these. I don't know, I don't understand why we're hiding the facts. It's madness. So I definitely thought as a teenager I could fall pregnant in any time other than my period. And look you can fall pregnant at any time. But the point is knowing when that time is. So it's not that it is 26 or maybe 24 days of your cycle that you could potentially conceive. It's only when you're ovulating and that should only really be three, four, five, six days out of your cycle. But we're not taught this information, we're not taught how to understand when we're ovulating and that's our fertile time.
Natalie Kringoudis: And then one day also when we flip it and we want to have children, understanding this information is key. But so many women I see come in the clinic. They've been on birth control, they've never had to connect with their body and they've probably been put on it because they were maybe they never got their period as a young woman so they've never explored why. And then they don't understand ovulation either. So I have, you know, 26 year old saying "I'm so embarrassed but I don't understand what you're talking about." And I have to explain that to them. And yeah it's because we've disconnected from ourselves. We haven't been educated properly and until we need it, we're probably not looking to understand it anyway.
Aleks Evanguelidi: Do you think it's possible it's just not understandable. And I mean this if you if you look at the fact that at eight years old your hormones start changing and by 18 they're starting to regulate. That's ten years. And to say this is what's normal and apply it to any woman during that cycle could be completely different from the next.
Natalie Kringoudis: Absolutely. But I still think that it's not hard to teach. It's really not. Once you understand it and it's about them understanding their own cycle.
Aleks Evanguelidi: Let's talk about that because I'm just curious if normal is different for women throughout that whole cycle and different for every woman during that cycle. How do we know when something isn't normal?
Natalie Kringoudis: So I think we want it to be as, qnd I really don't like the word normal either, but I think we want it to be as regular as possible without symptoms, without a problem. And if there are things that are showing up, period pain for example, ovulation pain, acne, missing or long cycles, looking into what those clues are telling you. But really there is the textbook cycle which is very five day period of light in the middle of the cycle somewhere around cycle day 14 and get you period 14 days later. So if we were to understand that and then look at it and go "hang on a minute that's not what's happening for me, in fact I'm only getting a period every 60 days." We probably would want to explore why that would be. And the explanations whilst they're different for everybody. We tend to fall into categories. So it's not, you know, this wild abyss that we're wading through trying to work out which is me. There is some characteristics that we can look at for menstrual cycles that tell us so much about our bodies.
Natalie Kringoudis: So I just really think every woman needs to understand her own cycle to say what that's telling her each and every month. And once you understand that, it will become something that should be regular, so that when there's a discrepancy you totally know when there's something that's not quite right and then you can explore that. But most women if they are given the opportunity and they're doing the right things by their body, they're nourishing themselves properly, you know we're looking after ourselves, where we're doing all the right things, they should very much be able to have a mostly regular cycle.
Aleks Evanguelidi: I want to talk a little bit about some of the symptoms that you brought up, because I think it's, especially because we're shifting the focus to teens in a way of establishing a better foundation for the future you know for all women, what do some of those symptoms mean? I always remember like some of my friends always said they had terrible cramps and they couldn't come to school sometimes or some were getting very bloated So how can we read some of those symptoms not to go through them all, but the ones that come to mind for you.
So I would say period pain is a really great example and something that a lot of people are told that it's normal. As a woman you know I'm sorry sweetheart but that's just what happens and you're gonna have to suck it up for a couple of days. It shouldn't be there. And if you're experiencing it, it's your body telling you that maybe there's something that's not quite right. And when I say that doesn't mean there's something really wrong but maybe, well pain happens as a result of inflammation. So you've got inflammation in your body that you need to look at why that's there. So it is very common and for young women it very much ties, and anyone really, ties into stress and how overworked we are and how much pressure we're putting on ourselves. Because you know that has it's way with our gut, and everything comes back to the gut as we know. And then we can start to see these triggers for inflammation. And also some of us genetically, well not some, if that's what you're experiencing, that's genetically where it's showing up for you. So you can't change your genes but you can change the environment that you put your genes in. So you know, I always say we're like we're like a science experiment Year 10 or whenever it was. You did the experiment where you put bacteria in a petri dish. And one you set on the windowsill and when you put in the incubator. Same bacteria but what grew, changed depending on the environment. So we know we can influence our bodies in the exact same way. And this is what I think the piece that's missing also is that it's usually a trigger to something that's going on. So maybe the diet's full of inflammatory foods, lots of sugar, gluten, dairy. These foods for a lot of people are problematic. And really it's as simple as removing those foods and really introducing those, you know, healing and whole foods. You're going to have a better period. Foods really, it's a funny one when we like to think we can get away with a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and yeah, we should be able to live our best lives, but food is either going to take you exactly where you want to go or exactly where you don't want to go. There's no in between with food. It's either great or not great. And so when I say that I don't mean that you shouldn't enjoy everything, we should. But we need to understand that foods that are processed they're not necessarily real food. So your body doesn't know really what to do with that either. So I find that that's a really common, period pain is really common and diet is a really easy fix and very safe. No one's going to, generally, cause any harm by eating whole foods. I've yet to see that happen. So that's a common one.
Natalie Kringoudis: Acne I think for young women is another common symptom that we see and that can, it's normal to get some spots as a teenager, our hormones are finding their groove and we can have oilier skin and that's part of the hormonal changes, but it's when it's it's something that's problematic and there all the time all cycle round and again it comes down to our genes but that's where it's showing up for some women. And how can we best look at why that's happening? So very much again related to the gut. But also I find that there can be these, dairy's very problematic for women with acne. So all young girls with acne. So maybe just looking at some of these clues as to what else might be going on.
Natalie Kringoudis: The other thing I would say is we're living at a time where most of us are estrogen dominant. And that's a result of our busy lifestyles our environmental toxins. We drink out of plastic bottles, we eat out of heated up, we're heating in plastic containers. These properties leach into our food, they're in our water. Body products that we're putting on ourselves and they mimic estrogen. So it basically, I say it just adds to that estrogen pile. And your body can't, isn't designed to cope with a lot of it. So it causes quite a hormone imbalance for a lot of women and it just means that they have way too much estrogen and not enough progesterone. They like to be in balance those two. And it means that we can see delayed ovulation, we can see missing periods, we can see it contributing to things like endometriosis which is characterized by pain. And so this piece I find so important for women because it's also linked to cancers; breast cancer, and other reproductive issues. So it's not difficult to manage and it's very much lifestyle. A lot of this stuff, you know, it comes down to the lifestyle that we're living, which can be confronting and difficult for teenagers because they, you know it's out it's a rebellious phase, I know I did, I was like I will go to get fast food because I can, because I've got pocket money and there's no one here to regulate this.
Natalie Kringoudis: So just these little things that we can start to bring in. But these symptoms they are always, always clues and they don't need to be feared. I really want people to get curious by them.
Aleks Evanguelidi: So glad, I was really wanting to sink into that piece of the conversation, so thank you for what brought that on. What about initiating the conversations with our daughters around the emotions that come up with puberty and the changes that are happening? Do you have any thoughts on how to honor the transition for our daughters? I mean if you really look it seems like either there's nothing happening or at least it wasn't when I was growing up.
Natalie Kringoudis: I think the first thing, and it's very hard, it's a very testing time, and I'm going through it myself. And Livy's only 10, but I'm certainly noticing the mood changes. And me having to go "what do I do with this." But I say to mothers in the clinic all the time, first up we need to be the example. And sometimes telling teenagers what to do all the time, doesn't always work. So I think, you know, living by example I know that I am a mirror of my mom even if I don't want to be. I look at things that I do, the things that I say, and I grew up in a very very healthy household. I was the one that was embarrassed at birthday parties because they would be the fruit men as opposed to the lowly bowl and however long ago that was, it wasn't cool it was daggy. It was like, oh my goodness.
Aleks Evanguelidi: Daggy?
Natalie Kringoudis: Daggy.
Aleks Evanguelidi: What's that?
Natalie Kringoudis: It's A very Australian way isn't it. It was like, not cool, basically just not cool.
Patti Quintero: Cheesy.
Natalie Kringoudis: Yeah. Even worse.
Natalie Kringoudis: Um it was just not cool. It was embarrassing.
Natalie Kringoudis: But what was interesting. You know I moved away from home. I went to university, I had a terrible diet, I was very unwell. I had extreme period pain and one day I just woke up and something innately told me that I needed to change what I was doing. And so I did. And rverything, all of my symptoms went away, and I went back to what I had been shown to do when I was younger, not knowing. I wasn't observing going "Oh one day I'm going to do this." It was ingrained in me as a person. So I think being an example is really really important. Kids are always watching, they're sponges. If your daughter has period pain and you're telling her she shouldn't eat sugar and whatnot, well maybe you don't do that either, you know in front of her. So I think that's really the first thing.
Natalie Kringoudis: And then, I mean, it is a very hard time and emotions are definitely up and down and it's finding the right times I think. And sometimes biting our tongues at other times, which is really hard as well. And accepting that that's just part of the change. Accepting that there are going to be ups and downs and not fighting against it, kind of using it to move with. And that again can be hard and I'm learning how to do that right now but sometimes I've just got to bite my tongue and walk away at the moment I am not getting through. I am not making sense to her, and I think that the conversation, what helps with this is the conversation needs to happen from a young age. Over and over and over again and develop into something more. So it's not a shock when they reach puberty. So I think more of this normalizing, it's just that normalising so that, I guess also, then you can reflect back and when you're not in a heated discussion you can say "Remember how we spoke about how you know you are going to experience probably ups and downs with your hormones." And so it's re-enrolling that I think over and over again.
Patti Quintero: You mentioned that your daughter's getting breast buds. I've noticed my daughter having some changes too. And I think for some girls I think maybe you're experiencing this with your daughter, there's like, almost like a rejection that's happening. And I'm wondering just culturally if this is something that, I know I experienced it as a child, I wasn't ready. It was like that connection with my child, the inner child or the innocence, I don't even know the words for it at that point, but I was in no way embracing becoming a woman.
Natalie Kringoudis: And I'm looking at this with Olivia and all I can do is keep on adding to the conversation. Really it's all I can do because she's not ready either, and I look at her and I think it's a little girl trapped in a growing body and she's not quite there yet. Whereas I was very ready. I was so excited. I didn't want to get to high school and not have my period. So when it came, I was so relieved. It came in the January and we started school in the February, and I was so so happy. Where is I guess it's different too. It depends on when you get your period as well. I'm looking at Olivia thinking, she's probably going to get it in the next six to 12 months, she's 11. It's different. So, again it just comes back to constantly growing on the facts and enrolling that in so it's not something that we fear, it just is. It's just what happens next. You know like going into the next year level at school and learning a little bit more. It's just what's coming. And I think by talking about it, it's not going to be a shock. It's just as normal as moving through the next phase. And that's really all I can add to that.
Patti Quintero: I love it because both Nat and Aleks, both of your daughters are kind of below that line before going through the threshold and I'm looking at it from the other side being that my daughter is almost 15. And everything you're saying is things I remember. A little bit of her being in shock and feeling that, that sense of what's happening to me but it's really amazing what happens as soon as they go over when they do get their periods and they go through it it's almost like this a wanting to quickly fill into that space. And I remember my daughter going from a place of what's happening, to suddenly like why am I not this. Why am I not curvier. I want to be this. It was like wanting to be that in-between stage is a very uncomfortable space. And I think it's actually something that's very important to educate girls and boys on is the in-between stage. It seems like we're really uncomfortable with things that are not well-defined, as humans. We want to be able to compartmentalize and we want to be able to understand and be able to put everything in a place. And being in that in-between messy stage is something that is not comfortable sometimes for parents. And like you said, learning to just allow them to be in that space and to not have to solve their problems. My daughter used to say "You don't understand what I feel." And I'm like, I would try to say I did, and then finally I was like "You're right!" I don't understand because I'm not in your body and I don't have your body, but I'm here for you.
Aleks Evanguelidi: I hear those words on the reg right now.
Patti Quintero: Yeah I think that that's exactly the age. That it was like from 10 to 12ish. It was, you don't understand because there is this percolation of hormones and all of these, I used to talk about it with her. I said, just think of your hormones like a switch board. And someone has gone in that switchboard, someone being Mother Nature and is moving all those switches and the lights are going on and off and trying to find a new rhythm. And she dug it. She was like, I think that visual helped her. That it was like a switchboard because our hormones are messengers essentially, right?
Natalie Kringoudis: Yeah.
Patti Quintero: But one of the things I was going to say that, that you mentioned was that once you do go through that stage and you are able to kind of create a friendship with your child when they're going through that and when they're able to come and tell you, you know I'm bleeding, or you know, I stain my pants in class and it was so embarrassing. Does this pad show? I mean all those challenging things that girls go through as they're learning to navigate their periods to be able to just be there and have a conversation with them. I see the payoff now because I do have a daughter now that comes and talks to me a lot about her symptoms and what she's feeling and and what's happening with her skin. So again, there's just that awareness and that conversation of being in your body and at that point where she was really covering herself, now she's kind of gotten into a place where she's more liberated and walking around just more open with her body. So there is a sense I feel of starting to own it a little more. Own yourself, own your process, as you go through that transition.
Natalie Kringoudis: Definitely. And I think it's got to be better now than when we were younger. I really do. Because I think we're approaching it differently, definitely. Also it was, when I was growing up, the way my mother educated me was the way that all of us were being educated because that was seen as the right way to do it. Don't tell too much. Definitely we're not encouraging. I certainly wasn't encouraged to explore my body sexually either. That was a taboo thing to do. I went to a Catholic high school, so my education around that was very much again dictated by what was allowed to be said and what was allowed to be spoken about. All of my girlfriends, we were all the same. The way that we were educated was all the same. Now I'm sure that there were probably other people or girls that were, maybe there was more, their parents were more liberated and that they had more information. But I still think, I mean my mother of course would have thought that she did the best that she absolutely could have with the tools that she had and what was acceptable at the time. We see that that wasn't enough and we want more for our daughters and sons. And so, we've taken that responsibility. And I think what I want to encourage mothers and just loved ones, not just mothers: aunties, cousins, big sisters, whoever. You know, we're all in this together, alright. We're all looking out for each other. Having these conversations that we never got to have, I think where it's at, as well. And I think that it's going to be a different conversation. It already is a different conversation. But we can only base it on what we know or we're taught. And in writing my latest book I was wildly fascinated and somewhat embarrassed. I learned so much. And I educate people in this area. And I was looking at my reproductive organs and still learning. And I remember I went to my publisher and said "Can we please have a dot to dot of the vulva?" So that we can educate women around what that is, because we call it a vagina for one, and it's not. And the majority that, well actually all of it, is there for pleasure. And no ones talking about that at all.
Natalie Kringoudis: It's taboo. It's, you know, it's not accepted that we go, oh yeah, that's my vulva and that's there, so that it actually is something that's pleasurable. We don't do this.
Patti Quintero: I think we should have a dot to dot of a vulva on our Under the hood podcast notes for everyone to print out.
Natalie Kringoudis: I'm so excited with this idea. Imagine drawing that!
Patti Quintero: So yeah I know instead of a rocket, a vulva.
Patti Quintero: I have a question, because you know we talk about different ages that we get our menstrual cycle, that we start our menstrual cycles and there's all these different ideas of what does that mean. Does that mean you're going to go through menopause sooner if you got your period when you were younger.
Patti Quintero: Give us some facts and what is the truth about when we get our periods.
There's some theory around that. We are menstruating far longer than ever before, so we're sort of, you know, somewhat in not completely uncharted waters, but we're still learning with this because we are, we definitely menstruating longer and we're living longer. So we're menstruating longer. But there is theory around the earlier you get your period. There's an idea that we might cease menstruation earlier, and the same goes with later. But we've got to look at why we're getting it later and that is again this whole estrogen piece that we were talking about before, and very much from a diet and external environment perspective. Is that we are, actually the majority of young girls are transitioning earlier. So the average age used to be between 11 and 13, and it's now coming back to be somewhere between eight to 10. And that's purely based on our modern unkind living, toxins like we spoke about before really at the end of the day.
Aleks Evanguelidi: Do you believe that the hormones in our foods is also contributing to that?
Natalie Kringoudis: Yeah absolutely.
Aleks Evanguelidi: So the dairy, and the the meat.
Natalie Kringoudis: Correct yep.
Aleks Evanguelidi: And there's more. Do you believe there's more hormones going into our food than ever before?
Natalie Kringoudis: Yeah I do. I mean not when you know where your food comes from, but I think in what you're buying in the conventional supermarket, I mean a lot of us don't know where our meat comes from.
Natalie Kringoudis: We don't know how it's raised and, you know, I'd encourage anyone to look at where their foods actually coming from, and know the source, and know the farmer.
Aleks Evanguelidi: You know, not that this is a show on food, but naturally it does weave itself into the conversation. But I'm just not sure that people who eat conventional dairy understand that hormones are being pumped into mother cows so that they can produce copious amounts of milk.
Natalie Kringoudis: Absolutel,y because to be producing milk you have got to be, I mean lactating is something that happens after you have a baby, or a calf, or whatever they're having, whatever it is. So to keep that continuing, definitely there is, and also for other reasons, and the milk is treated and it doesn't really have the benefits that we're told that it has. It's certainly, you know, we're sold that it's beneficial for bones and all sorts of things. But you can get that from other foods that are far less.
Natalie Kringoudis: Inflammatory?
Natalie Kringoudis: Yes inflammatory is good, definitely.
Aleks Evanguelidi: I love that you brought that point up, because it is what was, I mean I remember in my generation always bombarded, you know, drink your milk, drink your milk, drink your cow's milk, so you grow taller, and your bones are stronger.
Patti Quintero: I didn't grow much taller.
Aleks Evanguelidi: It was a requirement, every night to dinner to drink this glass of whole milk, and I'd be like choking it down. And I was one of those kids with early acne and extremely painful periods and I was the one who went on the pill at 15 well before I was sexually active. And then I was vomiting from the pill because it made me feel like I was pregnant. I mean like never was this ever questioned. I was like, this was incredibly painful, taking Tylenol and Motrin and that was just considered normal.
Natalie Kringoudis: I guess that's another segway to sort of looking at the pill being used for so many things outside of contraception. And that's where a really big issue. If you are making an informed choice to put something in your body because you don't want to have a baby, that's your choice, yeah? But if you are told that it's a fix to a problem, which it can never fix the problem, but anyway if you're being told that this is what you must do to get your condition under control or for whatever reason you were taking it, acne, I mean the magnitude of reasons that we use birth control is ridiculous. You know, that is another conversation to be had. Because, why are we doing that? Why aren't we looking at the reasons why we've got these issues and treating the problem?
Natalie Kringoudis: We come back 360 to what we started talking about. And that's really the conversation I want mothers to be having with their daughters, because A: they're not connecting with their bodies like I said before. B: they're using something that is actually in the long run can't regulate your hormones. Never has been able to. Never will be able to. And it might offer some short term relief and that's okay. But if we're relying on it as a long term solution, symptoms come back whilst you're on the pill. I have this commonly in the clinic where women will say, I've been fine for 10 years, and now all of a sudden my acne is back. I've got breakthrough bleeding. I feel like I'm going crazy, but I haven't done anything different. It's like, yeah your body's just got to a point where it can't cope with this anymore.
Patti Quintero: Right, the tipping point.
Natalie Kringoudis: Right. Exactly so. I really think we need to understand that, you know, the pill influences our gut, no different to antibiotics or stress or... It really does interrupt healthy gut function. And so this is why eventually we find that tipping point happens.
Natalie Kringoudis: It's important though, we're not talking necessarily about it. I can't wait for the day that at least you go to your doctor and they might say to you, well I'm going to recommend the pill because that's what, that's all we actually have. But if we choose to do it, here's all the possible side effects. And here's what we could actually start to do to move your body towards better health, and then transition you off it. So we might not need it. I think that's a good step in the right direction. It's not my preferred step, but it's at least a step in the right direction.
Patti Quintero: So what is your protocol then when working with teens and, you know, a mom walks in with her daughter and I know we're focusing on girls first. How do you approach that?
Natalie Kringoudis: I'm smiling because very often in the clinic I find, the mother is the problem. I see this often in the clinic.
Patti Quintero: Kind of like how the dog owner is the problem, not the dog.
Natalie Kringoudis: So that's a hard one because often, often it's something that, the mother's not doing it intentionally of course, wants the best for their child. But obviously as teens we often feel like we don't relate to our parents and it's because we haven't had this ongoing conversation. So all of a sudden it's all, it's all very serious. And we don't feel like it's something that we want to share necessarily with our mother. Especially if it's around sexual health, often that that can be part of it as well. So it's really interesting because they'll come into the clinic and I'll go through the normal things like we've been speaking about: diet, lifestyle, environmental toxins, pollutants, gut health, liver detoxification. And then the emotional health is the piece that's really often the hardest, but the biggest influence. And we have a policy in the clinic that when someone's having acupuncture there's not to be anyone else in the room, just so that they can really relax. But it also gives me the opportunity to open up the conversation without anyone else being there. And that's actually when the work gets done. And this is not just for teens, this is for all of us, is that the emotional stress is often at the very core of what's going on for us. We can take all of the physical boxes. We get our diet on track, we try and sleep the right amount of hours, we drink enough water, we move our bodies. We've got all of these pieces, but we're not getting any better. And it's often this emotional piece that's in the background. And for teenagers that's a huge part of, you know, we're just learning about ourselves in the world. And so I think that that is definitely the conversation that needs to be had and looked at and really supported as well. Because I think that it's missing.
Aleks Evanguelidi: Absolutely.
Patti Quintero: I'm just wondering how much, as women, we have perpetuated this idea that we are hysterical ourselves, right? Like here is my daughter she's going through something, she's hysterical, fix this doctor. You know, now I'm like riveted back to when I was 12 years old, and you know, it was so much easier.
Patti Quintero: Then looking at what could be contributing to the imbalance.
Natalie Kringoudis: Absolutely. And it's confronting as well, and scary. And again, because we don't understand it. So I still come back to the biggest gift that we can give ourselves as women is understanding our bodies as much as possible. I think it's the biggest gift. And I get in trouble all the time because people will say to me, what you really supporting the fact that women shouldn't be on birth control isn't that irresponsible of you as a health care provider that women are just falling pregnant. And I'm like, no that's not how it works. Because if you actually understand yourself, then then you're not, that's actually not, that doesn't even make sense. It doesn't work like that. And then whatever you choose after that is your choice. That's no problem at all, but it's coming back to looking at what's my body telling me each and everyday. What are these symptoms, what are these signs. Is it showing me I'm ovulating? Is it showing me my periods about to arrive? If we can understand that, and it's something like PMS, for example, is great. Because it's a good example, we can feel like we're going a little bit crazy. We all do this, right? And then the next day our period arrives and we're like, OK, that's why. That's why the world was ending yesterday.
Patti Quintero: Yeah not such a big deal after all was it?
Natalie Kringoudis: I mean, if we know this, it's a very different story.
Aleks Evanguelidi: Yeah. It's a roadmap. It's like your personal roadmap.
Natalie Kringoudis: It is your window to the internal landscape, I say that all of the time. It really does give us so much information. But when we're in a state of either imbalance, especially hormone imbalance, or deficiency, which happens quite often, it can be very difficult to be able to have that perspective because we're operating out of a deficient place.
Patti Quintero: And, well society doesn't really make some room for, you know, the luteal phase of your life. Or, you know, as you're going through different cycles. It's not like the outside world is reflecting that compensation.
Natalie Kringoudis: Totally. Absolutely. No, it's okay to slow down when you have your period. But we push on through. We have this mentality that we should keep on going. Soldier on. If we look at what our hormones are doing in that dance that they're doing between estrogen and progesterone, and obviously other hormones as well, throughout the month, we can start to actually, we should actually start to plan around it to a degree. Especially if you have debilitating pain or maybe you...
Aleks Evanguelidi: Travel.
Natalie Kringoudis: Yeah whatever it might be. Or support your body when you know that you need it most. If you know that you're going to have to do something on the first day your period, what can you do to support it so that it's actually, you get you through that and it's so fine. We don't do this.
Patti Quintero: I just think you need to come and start teaching sex ed here in the United States.
Natalie Kringoudis: Obviously I've written this new book and that was why because it was, well, two reasons. Like I said at the beginning I wanted women to have an opportunity to fix it before it was broken. And, I mean, secondly because we're not taught what we need to learn.
Natalie Kringoudis: So there was two two reasons. But also I was very fortunate because when I spoke to my publisher and she's like okay what are your ideas. I said, well there's two books that need to be written. Now I think there's three because the boy's one needs to be written. But I said, "Oh we need one for teen health." There's nothing out there that's educating women, teaching them about this cycle, teaching them about their symptoms, teaching him about their sexual health. And she said "Oh my daughter's 15, can you please write that one?"
Natalie Kringoudis: So it was purely just right place right time. But I think we can never stop learning about this. And we're always going through phases our entire lives. Those eight phases they pretty much are.
Patti Quintero: I love this conversation because, you know there's a big trend now, and a wonderful trend of self-care, self-care, self-care. And, I mean it's almost a little bit confusing for us as, I say older women because as you know moms we're talking as mothers but also women and their between 30s and 50s and plus, if we haven't learned what self-care is, and knowing and normalizing our bodies from the beginning, then once you get to your, you know, 30s or 40s it's like wait, I never learned that, that wasn't a practice I was told. I wasn't, you know, told to rest during my period or not to do my practice or you know to take care of myself and to celebrate that as a ritual. So it's like, I hate to say like teaching an old dog new tricks, but it is. It's like we're learning something that if we had those roots in the beginning it could potentially shape our life in a totally different way.
Natalie Kringoudis: Absolutely. And I actually think that once upon a time we probably did. And somewhere along the lines, we decided that we didn't need it anymore whether it was because of birth control. I think once upon a time we spoke about all of this. I don't think this is a new, necessarily a new way of looking at women's health. I think it's an old way that we're bringing back. Because I know women used to congregate and solve each other's problems and someone had a solution for whatever someone else was experiencing and they spoke about it. I think the other thing that's really interesting is that we've gone through this phase of doing it alone. And it's, you know, it's not okay I have a miscarriage. I can't talk about it, or if I have to go through IVF. We do a lot of things alone all of a sudden, whereas we need to come together at these times. I guess, maybe teenagers are a little bit better at that. They come together and they talk about it together. And then somewhere along the line that gets lost. So I think continuing to know that as women, we need each other. And we feed off each other in a positive way, to solve a lot of this. And continue to have these conversations and allow curiosity to kind of solve a lot of this.
Patti Quintero: You can look at this cycle as is perpetuated. We have grown up inside of a culture where young girls are not taught about their period. We mask the symptoms. Then we have the issues with trying to conceive, which is a big problem as you know. Then it continues on with menopause. Where we're having not just ridiculous symptoms. I mean do you think that menopause can be painful, or painless, as well.
Natalie Kringoudis: Menopause should just be a transition, just like transitioning through puberty. We are experiencing lengthy menopause longer than, well like I said also we are living longer, so there's a theory that once upon a time we didn't really get to the point of menopause. I think that menopause is horrific for a lot of women, and it doesn't need to be. And it's this same piece. It's this hormone imbalance, and usually too much estrogen. And usually because we're highly stressed. So the role of the adrenals is to take on or take over from the ovaries. But our adrenals are so overworked that the ovaries are begging, "Please, please take on my role!" And the adrenals are like, "You've got to be kidding me, not today, I can't do this." And so we live in this perpetual state of menopause for far longer than we have to. Women are working longer. We've obviously got more pressure, we put a lot more pressure on ourselves. There's lots of reasons why, as well as some of the other things that we've touched on, toxins, anything that drives estrogen. Because it's supposed to be a decline in estrogen. But we're living at a time where oestrogen is higher than ever. So, I think we are, not knowingly, torturing ourselves, but we are not supposed to be like that. It's supposed to be something that is a transition over around 12 to 18 months that yes, you get some hot flashes, your period start to get heavier before they start to get a little bit more sporadic, and eventually they don't happen anymore. And that's supposed to be the way that it goes.
Natalie Kringoudis: But I had a woman at an event last weekend tell me she'd been going through menopause for 16 years. Now I beg to differ to begin with, but I'd say there's something, other hormone imbalance going on. But she had been having symptoms of that for a very long time. And you got to ask the question why.
Aleks Evanguelidi: For more information on Nat Kringoudis, visit her web site at NatKringoudis.com. You can also follow her on Instagram, @NatKringoudis. Nat will be releasing a new book at the end of this year, so for information upon that book launch, follow her on her Instagram.
Patti Quintero: And if you like what you're listening to, what you're learning, what we're sharing on Under the Hood, please drop us a review. It really helps.
Aleks Evanguelidi: Do you have a burning question you'd like to ask us? Maybe even a burning vagina question? Head on over to UnderTheHoodPodcast.com and visit the Contact Us page to submit. We might even answer your question on-air.
Patti Quintero: As always thank you for listening. And we will see you next time.