GABRIELE KUSHI, Author of Embracing Menopause Naturally
Gabriele Kushi — Transcript: Blog Talk Radio interview, Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 4:00 pm CST, with Gabriele Kushi, author of Embracing Menopause Naturally, published by Square One Publishers, Garden City Park, New York. (This interview aired 12-10-09, but is available “on demand” for your listening convenience at Interview with Gabriele Kushi, Author of Embracing Menopause Naturally.)
Nadia’s Introduction: Hello everyone! I’m excited about the guest we have here today. Gabriele Kushi holds the credentials, BFA, MEA, CHC and AADP. She is the director of Kushi’s Kitchen and author of Embracing Menopause Naturally. She is an internationally renowned lecturer on healing with natural foods and macrobiotics. Gabriele is often featured as an expert on radio talk shows and quoted in the media and on the Internet. Gabriele Kushi has a 30+ year, long, rich, successful history in the healing arts and the integration of body, mind and spirit. She is a board certified holistic health practitioner, macrobiotic counselor, and natural nutrition cooking instructor. Gabriele has a studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota and offers long distance programs worldwide. For information on her individual counseling or classes, visit www.kushiskitchen.com. If you missed that, we have Gabriele’s contact information listed on her interview page at “Extraordinary Women”.
Welcome by Nadia: “Gabriele, I’ so glad you joined us here today. I’m delighted to be talking with you.”
Gabriele: Thank you Nadia for having me on your program. It is my pleasure to be talking to you and your listeners.
NG: Gabriele, for our listeners, perhaps we should start with a brief synopsis of exactly what is macrobiotics. Is it a diet, a belief system, a lifestyle, or is it something else?
Gabriele: The word Macrobiotics comes from Greek and it means loosely translated, long life. The fundamental philosophy of macrobiotics is to embrace traditional ways of living and eating in harmony with nature to further personal and planetary health and peace. Macrobiotics embraces teachings for body, mind, and spirit. Macrobiotics holistic and sustainable lifestyle and natural food approaches, further a peaceful mind and harmony with nature.
NG: When did you first begin to incorporate a macrobiotic diet and lifestyle into your daily routine, and what led you to do so?
Gabriele: In 1971 after a 3-month severe sickness and hospital stay I discovered Macrobiotics and it was love at first bite –I was also drawn to the yin and yang philosophy of macrobiotic – the male and female aspect of the universal forces – and how these forces can be seen in everything, even in the food one eats. If one for instance eats too much of yang food – like meet one is out of balance and one starts to grave yin foods – like sugar. Through Macrobiotic studies you will learn which foods are yin and which foods are yang. Which season is yin and which season is yang, and how to stay balanced in our daily live.
NG: What kinds of natural foods are usually part of a macrobiotic diet?
Gabriele: The general Macrobiotic diet guidelines emphasizes eating what is in season, local and organic when ever possible and balanced meals with whole foods. We don’t use refined products or chemical enhanced boxed foods. We cook from scratch – whole kernel grains like brown rice, quinoa, barley or millet, a wide variety of beans – soy, adzuki, black, legumes, then the root vegetables like carrots, daikon and the round shaped vegetables like squashes, onions, cauliflower, and the green leafy vegetables, plus condiments and seeds, nuts and seasonal fruits. We use fermented foods like miso and sauerkraut and sea vegetables like wakame, nori and arame. Macrobiotics is not just eating brown rice. And as there are about 10 different food combinations to choose from – macrobiotic is not a strict diet. What combination is best for you depends on your condition, constitution and your dream or goal in life.
NG: Can you tell me what led up to the writing of this book?
Gabriele: As a macrobiotic consultant and cooking teacher who had lived a natural food lifestyle for many years, I understood the significance of food and its healing abilities in many physical imbalances. Surprised by my first hot flash, the need to connect to the earth mother’s forgotten ancient symbols of menopausal women emerged, and ceremonies needed to be done. Although it seemed too early, at forty-three, my menopausal passage had begun and lasted for five years. I naturally increased the amount of fermented soy foods and other plant hormonal regulators, like kale and daikon radish, when symptoms got too strong. I created new menus and taught Menopausal Cooking Classes. Some of my favorite recipes I included in the book. An interest to connect with other menopausal women from diverse cultural backgrounds and experiences emerged. As I explored my changes and came to know other women’s stories, the book “Embracing Menopause Naturally” took shape.
NG: Your book, Embracing Menopause Naturally, highlights different women’s experiences with the menopause process as well as many different macrobiotic recipes. How easy is it for the average person (like me) to cook macrobiotic meals at home?
Gabriele: If you already enjoy cooking – learning how to create balanced wholesome meals is easy to do. If the kitchen is a place for you to use the microwave to heat your water – we might have some work to do. My work as a macrobiotic consultant and cooking teacher is to make it easy for you to learn how to cook whole foods and make great tasting and balanced meals for yourself and your family.
NG: What did you learn from the various women you interviewed for your book?
Gabriele: I learned that every woman has a different menopausal experience. That the food a woman eats before and during her mid-life and the mindset she has in regards to aging is of utmost importance on how she is experiencing this journey.
NG: You’ve been a macrobiotic educator for over thirty years. Had most of the women you interviewed and showcased in your book already adopted a macrobiotic lifestyle before your involvement with them, or did you introduce macrobiotics to them during this phase of their lives?
Gabriele: Some of the women have been longtime macrobiotic practitioners and some adopted a Macrobiotic lifestyle during their menopause journey. Both received benefits from a macrobiotic approach. As you read the stories you will notice that the women who have been eating macrobiotic for a long time had an easy transition into menopause. But also the short time approaches with macrobiotics really made a big difference for my clients. I would like to point out that the 21 menopausal stories of women with different cultural and personal background – Asian – European – African American – Native American, and South American provide you not only with macrobiotic stories, but also with spiritual – herbal – and ceremonial anecdotes. This kaleidoscope of experience is what I wanted to present to my readers.
NG: How important is it that a woman’s loved ones or family also participate in a macrobiotic diet/lifestyle?
Gabriele: The beauty of having a family is that meals can be shared together and the daily experiences are exchanged. This is found less and less in our society. – Yet it is a beautiful thing. Because macrobiotic food can be prepared in many different ways with a wide variety of foods – everybody can find something there like.
NG: Maybe this is a good spot for you to talk about hot flashes and the overall transformational process of menopause itself. What are the benefits of a macrobiotic diet in relation to alleviating symptoms of menopause?
Gabriele: This is a 2-part question: First, there are three stages of menopause and these are not very clear-cut, especially when passing through them, and can be determined only in retrospect. Also, the symptoms a woman experiences can overlap across these three stages: peri-menopause, menopause and post-menopause. The changes a woman goes through during these years can be very profound on all levels of her being. Eighty-five percent of the women in the United States experience hot flashes of some kind as they approach menopause and for the first year or two after their periods stop. Between 20 and 50% of women continue to have them for many more years. As time goes on, the intensity decreases. Hot flashes are mostly caused by the hormonal changes of menopause, but can also be affected by lifestyle and medications. A diminished level of estrogen has a direct effect on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for controlling your appetite; sleep cycles, sex hormones, and body temperature. Somehow (we don’t know how), the drop in estrogen confuses the hypothalamus—which is sometimes referred to as the body’s “thermostat”—and makes it read “too hot.”
Second, what are the benefits of a macrobiotic diet in relation to alleviating symptoms of menopause? Avoid hot flash triggers:
Relaxation and stress reduction:
Changing your diet over time, a healthy-fat diet helps some women with hot flashes. Losing excess weight helps, but losing too much weight, or being too thin, can worsen symptoms.
NG: For me personally, as I moved into menopause, I had a great deal of trouble with my weight. What can you say about macrobiotics, weight-loss, and maintaining a healthy body weight for women in midlife by adopting a macrobiotic diet?
Gabriele: At around 40 the enzymatic function is lessening and combined with the hormonal changes in the body digestion starts to slow down. Choosing a Macrobiotic dietary and lifestyle approach helps to provide your body with the necessary phyto-estrogen and enzymes to maintain a healthy body weight. We also have to eat less and exercise more to maintain our weight.
NG: Can you address some of the major health concerns specific to women at this stage of life and how macrobiotics can help?
Gabriele: Heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and now increasingly diabetics are of major concern not only during the midlife years. Macrobiotic food combinations – all whole and natural – include all components of healthy eating and are a rich source of fiber, protein, phyto-estrogen, oils, minerals and vitamins. All so important and whole and natural A balanced diet and exercise have been proven to be positive choices not only for women dealing with menopause, but also for those dealing with midlife issues like heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer. Testimonies from women and recommendations from medical doctors sympathetic to holistic health care confirm the findings of researchers: with a holistic and natural food lifestyle, midlife issues and the menopausal passage can be eased. Dr. Christiane Northrup who also endorses my book, recommends combining a grain-based diet rich in foods that contain plant-estrogens with exercise for menopause as well as for a strong heart, healthy bones, and decreased risk of cancer. The stories of many women confirm the importance of natural food and a balanced lifestyle in dealing with midlife health issues. I also discuss these issues and macrobiotic foods for these concerns in detail.
NG: Are there any common myths and misconceptions about menopause?
Gabriele: Menopause is a natural passage can last from two to fifteen years. It is a transformational process, a letting go of the old self with a rebirth of a new self. If a woman sees menopause as an initiation, then she can draw inward for a period of time and isolate herself. Then, the signs of hot flashes, headaches, and emotional outbursts become allies of wholeness instead of a problem. The ripping away of the old can become a period of mourning and desperation. The rebirth is seen as a total metamorphosis to a new self. If a woman chooses to experience menopause in this natural way, she is empowered to fulfill her life’s mission after completion of these three spiritual stages.
NG: Your photography and artwork also play a role, adding to the striking visual quality of your book. Tell me about your pursuits in these areas.
Gabriele: I have a BFA summa cum laude in photography and fine arts, and my art photography always evolves around the feminine. For this book it was important for me to connect with the menopausal women not only through their voices but also let their experiences emerge through my photography. My future work in Africa will bring more ethnographic research through stories and photography to my readers. This research will hopefully result in a new book.
NG: What do you hope people will take away from reading your book Embracing Menopause Naturally?
Gabriele: Women are the source and inspiration for great wisdom in the world that is passed from generation to generation. When they go through menopause and no longer give birth to children, they can direct more of their energy to nurturing their societies and communities. They can eventually become respected elders, with many years of experience and knowledge to give to others. This book is going to help women to find their spiritual gateway to their purpose in life.
NG: Where should people go to purchase your book?
Gabriele: The book is available where books are sold. Like Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, your neighborhood bookstore and even health food store. You can also order Embracing Menopause Naturally directly from my website www.kushiskitchen.com
NG: Your website, mentions counseling and coaching among other things. I don’t want to leave out something important. Tell us about what you do and how anyone who is interested can get in touch with you.
Gabriele: I like to travel, eat, lecture, write, counsel, coach, teach cooking classes, and I am a private chef. What you are probably mostly interested in are my macrobiotic holistic health and natural nutrition counseling sessions over the phone, Skype and e-mail. The easiest way to get in touch with me is to visit my website www.kushiskitchen.com, and send me an e-mail with your requests.
NG: Listeners, the information on where to get Gabriele’s book, Embracing Menopause Naturally is, as I mentioned before, also posted at the Blog Talk Radio page associated with this interview. You can bookmark this link or find it by searching Blog Talk Radio with the terms, “Interviews with Extraordinary Women”, and the name, “Gabriele Kushi”. Gabriel, thank you so much for being here with us today. You truly ARE an extraordinary woman with extraordinary insights and talents.
Gabriele: “Thank you Nadia, it was my pleasure.