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A woman's journey.

Becoming a woman is a process. A journey. It begins the moment you experience awkward but inevitable changes in your body that the little girl in you can no longer ignore. Womanhood is not constant. Each stage of womanhood is special and should be given equal attention to ensure quality of life.

Let us go through the different changes and nutritional needs women have to go through in this lifetime.

From the onset of menarche or the first menstrual cycle, nutrition plays a big role in preventing nutritional deficiencies and to promote optimal growth and development. Iron-deficiency anemia is widespread. Iron is lost during the menstrual period and this mineral is vital for red blood cell production and ovulation for reproductive health. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients all over the body. Lean meat, egg yolk, dark green leafy vegetables, raisins, prunes, whole grains, beans, and iron-fortified cereals are good sources of iron.

PMS or pre-menstrual symptoms have been experienced by almost all women. It is a condition that has physical, psychological, and emotional effects. Common symptoms are acne, headache, food cravings, backache, abdominal pain, tender breasts, bloating, weight gain, mood changes, anxiety, irritability, and sleep disturbance.

PMS is most likely caused by fluctuations in hormone levels. This causes fluid retention which disappears after the menstrual period.

Calcium may help reduce fluid retention and may help improve mood by regulating mood-related chemicals found in the brain. Non-fat or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, sardines, almonds, and green leafy vegetables are all rich in calcium.

To prevent fluid retention, be mindful of your salt intake seven to 10 days before your period starts. Cut down on high sodium foods like chips, processed and canned food, table salt, and condiments. It is also important to drink at least nine cups of water per day to keep the body well hydrated.

Increasing physical activity will also help alleviate PMS moodiness. Exercise stimulates the release of happy hormones called brain endorphins. Exercise will also prevent weight gain especially when your food cravings are at its peak. Sweating during a physical activity will reduce water retention and bloating.

Between puberty and menopause, it is vital for all women to eat a well balanced diet composed of water, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy products, lean protein sources, and good fats. Regular physical activity as well as stress management together with a healthy diet will prevent nutrient deficiencies and reduce health risks.

Now comes the time when a woman enters the process of aging to perfection--Menopause. Just as was experienced during menarche, drastic changes are also expected during this part of a woman's journey. Production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone declines accompanied by hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, increase in abdominal or visceral fat, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and irregular menstrual flow.

Health risks increase as women become less physically active, consume more calories, and undergo the body's natural metabolic slowdown.

Thirty minutes of daily, moderate physical activity like brisk walking coupled with a well balanced diet will help maintain a healthy weight range and prevent health conditions like insulin resistance, which leads to diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension, which leads to heart diseases.

Soy contains phytoestrogens called isoflavones which are weak and naturally occurring plant estrogens that may help reduce or relieve pre-menstrual and menopausal symptoms. The amount needed has not yet been determined by the studies conducted. Eating tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and other soy products can also lower bad cholesterol or LDL level, total cholesterol level, and blood pressure. Thus, decrease the risk of developing heart diseases.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. - Proverbs 31:30

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Title Annotation:Well-being
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Mar 25, 2014
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