Is it PMS or Perimenopause?

 

WIt could still be PMS when you are in your 40’s, but the symptoms of perimenopause are strikingly familiar to PMS.    Hormone fluctuations are at the root of both PMS and perimenopause. There are a whole host of physical and emotional symptoms associated with perimenopause and like PMS, not every woman has the same experience or symptoms.   As with PMS, there are natural ways to deal with symptoms through diet, exercise, healthy lifestyle and getting enough sleep.  Is perimenopause just PMS when a woman is in her 40’s?

Perimenopause is state of transition in a woman’s reproductive cycle that typically starts somewhere in the 40’s.  Hormone fluctuations are different during this phase.   Ovaries produce less estrogen but follicle stimulating hormone rises so…get ready for this…menstrual cycles shorten.   What was once a 28 day cycle might become a 25 day cycle.  Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) stimulates egg growth and development, but when ovulation becomes erratic and cycles shorten, your “flow” can go from normal to very heavy.

Perimenopause, as a coined term, is relatively new.  The four to five year time frame before menopause was only labeled peri or pre menopause roughly 20 years ago.  Most women realize things are changing because approximately 40% of women in their 40’s report symptoms, like mood swings, irregular cycles, heavy flow or hot flashes, but it is difficult to define how long you have been perimenopausal or exactly when menstruation will cease.

As with PMS, there are ways to treat and handle the unpleasant symptoms of hormonal fluctuations in our cycles.  They will sound familiar to you!

Exercise regularly-Abdominal fat starts to appear but regular exercise can melt fat, improve your mood and reduce your flow.  Mixing it up with strength training, cardio and yoga covers you for decreasing muscle loss, melting fat and providing a little “zen.”

Avoid Hot Flash triggers-Pay attention to your body!  If you drink wine or coffee, does that trigger a hot flash?  How about spicy foods or overly warm environments?  Try to avoid what ails you!  And if your hot flash is interrupting your sleep in the form of night sweats, invest in some pajamas that wick moisture away from your body.

Sleep-If an eye mask and ear plugs help, use them.  Try chamomile tea, practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques.  Poor sleep quality does not help your mood or your food choices during the day.  Keep experimenting with pillows until you find one that keeps your head supported, maybe have another pillow handy so there are three cool sides to the pillow at all hours of the night!

It is common to experience a little sadness when menstruation finally ceases, but then not having a period becomes extremely liberating!

Grown Up Coloring Books to De-Stress

IMG_3191Coloring is part one of our #GirlUBeWell blog series featuring analog pursuits to relax, de-stress and to boost low self esteem by focusing our attention on pen and paper and away from a screen.

The New York Times published an article in the business section a few weeks ago about The Secret Garden coloring books for adults and their creator, Johanna Basford.    This article, and others like this Pure Wow  piece, suggests that our fragmented attention as we bounce from social media to email to a text message to cat videos leaves us frazzled.

Coloring was something we all did as kids!  Some people scribbled outside the lines with reckless abandon and others meticulously selected colors and never strayed outside the lines, either method, though, was enjoyable and carefree.  As Ms. Basford said in the New York Times, “Part of the apparent appeal is the tactile, interactive nature of the books, which offer respite to the screen-weary. ‘People are really excited to do something analog and creative, at a time when we’re all so overwhelmed by screens and the Internet,’ she said. ‘And coloring is not as scary as a blank sheet of paper or canvas. It’s a great way to de-stress.’”

The smell of a fresh box of crayons alone may bring a flood of happy childhood memories, but there are also neon gel pens or retro tins filled with colored pencils from the artist supply store to choose from for achieving different looks.

We tried it and found coloring to be extremely soothing.  It presented an opportunity to create something unique and to step away from screens in an engaging, and yet mentally unchallenging way.  Just focusing on the design, colors and for some of us…staying in the lines…brought us each a short period of mental calm and an opportunity to let our minds just wander.

You don’t even have to buy a coloring book, here is a “zentangle” technique we posted on our Pinterest board!  Try it and happy coloring!

Monthly Cycle + Low Self Esteem

148027218The monthly clash of hormones can lower your self esteem in an instant.  As hormonal acne sends a blossom of zits across your T-zone and PMS bloating has the zipper of your jeans digging into your stomach, it is easy to feel horrible about the way you look!   The bloating and acne is never as exaggerated or as apparent to other people, but those PMS days can serve as a blow to your ego.

Wellness encompasses all aspects of our lives, like sleep, nutrition, friends, family and fitness.  What happens to us when we have negative feelings due to added water weight or acne?  I’ll insert another “ask” here for you to help us with our research by taking our survey on how PMS affects us at work because we wonder if low self esteem also plays a role in a woman’s reluctance to negotiate for a higher salary or not taking credit for her work.

Plus, as stated in this Huffington Post article, women are prone to dwell on the negative and ruminate, even on stupid things like thinking that everyone is talking about the pimple on your chin or that your skirt is a little snug.  And when you are busy mulling all of your perceived shortcomings, coupled with looking at people’s perfectly curated lives on social media…well, the self loathing can get worse!

Here are a few quick self esteem activities to boost your confidence:

Get outside.  Take a walk and be mindful of the sun on your face, the budding trees and the daffodils sprouting after a long winter.  Natural settings improve mood.

Avoid emotional eating.  This is the time when sticking to a healthy diet is truly difficult because you might want to stuff your face with donuts or ice cream or potato chips for that quick fix, but that junk food won’t help in the long run.

Take a nap.  Can you put your head down on your desk for 20 minutes?  Sometimes just a little rest will make you feel like yourself again.

Sweat. Take it all out on the elliptical or on the treadmill.  Feel good endorphin's will help you bust through your personal pity party.

Take a screen break.  Seriously.  For the next few weeks we will be writing about some analog pursuits!  Our #GirlUBeWell campaign will explore ways to spend an hour or two offline.  We are hoping this will spark your creativity and give you even more ideas for some positive self esteem activities!

Check back soon or look for #GirlUBeWell on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Does PMS Affect You at Work?

workReading about the #EqualPayDay campaign got us thinking about the $.78 women earn for every $1.00 a man earns.  Men don’t get a period.  As women, do our cycles affect our productivity?  For those of us who deal with PMS, the 3-5 days when you are in the midst of surging and crashing hormones don’t automatically fall on weekends and holidays!

We want to hear from you before we make any decisions on this idea and so we have designed an anonymous, 6 question survey centered around this topic.  Completing the survey takes under 1 minute and we will report back right here when we have compiled enough data to formulate a thoughtful response.

Please share this link with your friends and family and ask them to take the survey too!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/KQRCQJD

A Healthy Diet & PMS

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We spend a lot of time on the GirlU Blog talking about the importance of a healthy diet to help mitigate symptoms of PMS because, let’s face it, you are what you eat and what you eat matters.

Here is how a balanced diet can help with an assist from Epicurious.com and some easy recipes for one dinner!  The delicious GirlU dinner menu is Jamaican Jerk Salmon with Mango, Pineapple Salsa with sides of Sautéed Spinach and Brown Rice.

Will this dinner “cure” you of your PMS symptoms? Probably not.  One salmon dinner can’t stop the hormonal fluctuations going on inside you!  But, will a steady habit of good food choices help you maintain better balance of important vitamins, minerals and nutrients and ease hormonal fluctuations? Probably!

Look at the major ingredients from these recipes as examples of why good food choices matter.

  • Salmon                Omega-3 Fatty Acids to help ease bloating
  • Mango                  Vitamin A for clear, glowing skin
  • Pineapple            Bromelain is muscle relaxing and Manganese reduces irritability, decreases menstrual flow
  • Black Beans        Fiber alleviates water retention
  • Spinach                Iron helps keep blood sugar in check, which keeps emotions in check and Magnesium reduces stress, lifts mood, helps regulate serotonin, fights bloating
  • Brown Rice          Vitamin B6 helps alleviate mood swings and fatigue

Each of these foods has many other important vitamins and minerals in them that do other important things to support health in other parts of your body.

Add a tall glass of cucumber-infused water and you will have added quercetin, which helps fight bloating, and treat yourself to a glass of red wine and some dark chocolate squares for dessert  and you will have added antioxidants.

Cheers to making good food choices!

10 Ways to Stay Healthy at Work

healthy_at_workIt’s easy to get a bit…well…lazy at work, especially cushy office jobs where you sit most of the time in an air-conditioned building with plenty of access to treats.  But don’t worry—making healthy choices at work is actually a lot easier than you might think!  Whether it’s taking some time out for deskercise or bringing healthy snacks for when you get the afternoon munchies, health in the workplace is just a few easy tricks away!

  • Get up and move!

Not only is more movement good for variety during the day, it can be great exercise, too.  Try parking farther from your place of work and walking in, or getting off the bus one stop earlier.  And when you’re in the building, take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.

  • Stock up on healthy snacks

Have healthy options handy for snack time to avoid being tempted by treats and vending machines.  Nuts, granola bars, and fresh fruit are easy to carry and not too expensive to keep around for that 3 o’clock snack break.

  • Pack your lunch

It’s easier to make healthy choices at work if you’re deciding ahead of time—not when you’re stressed and hungry at noon.  Pack your lunch, even if it’s just a simple turkey sandwich on whole grain bread.  This makes it easier to control portions and make sure you know every ingredient you’re consuming.  If you don’t have easy refrigerator access, try bringing a small fridge you could keep under your desk.

  • Make healthy suggestions

Want to go out to lunch with your coworkers?  No problem, if it’s only once in awhile—but why not suggest a place with healthy options?  You can also check out the restaurant’s menu online before you go so you know the healthiest dishes available beforehand.

  • Take mini exercise breaks

Not everyone has an office door they can shut, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a bit of exercise in!  Gentle stretching or using resistance bands or small hand weights can do wonders.  You can also stretch a bit at the water cooler or do 15- to 30-second leg lifts underneath your desk.

  • Get up and move some more!

It’s important to take breaks throughout the day.  Try taking a walk during your lunch break, or walk to a coworker’s desk instead of emailing.  Have you tried walking meetings?  Sometimes discussing challenges while moving can generate new and interesting solutions!

  • Drink lots of water

Aside from keeping you hydrated, drinking a lot of water will ensure that you have to get up fairly regularly to use the restroom—and even that little bit of movement can be great for your health!

  • Preplan office holiday treats

It seems like it’s always a holiday or someone’s birthday, which means treats in the break room—often not very healthy treats.  It’s totally okay to splurge once in awhile, but if you feel like the treats are getting out of hand, consider arranging with the rest of your coworkers for one day a month to celebrate.  That will keep the empty calories from piling up.

  • Keep happy hour tame

Happy Hours can be a great way to blow off some steam and bond with coworkers, but they can also lead to less-than-healthy food and drink choices.  Try limiting yourself to one drink instead of three and maybe fewer Happy Hours throughout the month.

  •  Try standing rather than sitting

A lot of people swear by standing desks.  There are a variety of options, some cheaper than others, and by standing rather than sitting all day, you’re likely to keep moving.  You could also try using a balance ball instead of a desk chair to keep your posture in check. Other tips on limiting the amount of time you spend sitting can be found here.

Got a great workplace health tip?  Share with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

How to Beat PMS Acne

period_acnePMS acne doesn't affect everyone who has a period, since we all react to hormonal shifts in our bodies differently, but it’s actually pretty common:  a study from the Archives of Dermatology found that 63% of acne-prone women experience premenstrual acne flare ups, usually about seven to ten days before their period.

It’s those lovely up-and-down hormones that can wreck havoc with our skin.  Rising levels of progesterone mid-cycle can cause a build up of sebum, a thick, oily substance that acts as a natural skin lubricant.  For some, this means a healthy-looking glow; for others, though, it means increased breakouts.

It’s important to note that these breakouts aren’t due to your hygiene regimen; it’s far more related to hormones, which, unfortunately, you can’t do a whole lot about.  But don’t worry—there are things you can do to keep your skin healthy and happy, minimizing the effect of a PMS acne breakout!  Here are some tips:

  • Avoid touching your face—your hands can help spread dirt and bacteria, exactly what you don’t want during a breakout!
  • Clean your cell phone regularly. Phones can store up a lot of bacteria, and if you’re not keeping your phone clean, you’re introducing that bacteria to the most vulnerable parts of your face—your jaw line and chin.
  • If you’re working out at the gym, put a towel down on the mats to protect yourself from other people’s germs.
  • Don’t smoke—smoking contributes to all forms of acne.
  • Stay hydrated! Drinking lots of water can help flush toxins out of your body, which is great news for your skin.
  • Wash your face twice a day. Make sure to avoid products that include oil.  You may even want to step it up a notch and try a facial mask for added self-care and relaxation.
  • Consider herbal supplements, including zinc, vitamin B6, and chaste tree berry. Chaste tree berry, incidentally, is one of the herbs in the GirlU supplement, so be sure to check that out!

PMS acne can be one of the more frustrating PMS symptoms, but there are plenty of natural options for beating it!

What to Do About Nausea Before Your Period

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A lot of us have to deal with uncomfortable PMS symptoms every month, and few are as debilitating as nausea before your period.

Like many other symptoms, PMS nausea is likely caused by fluctuations in hormone levels, in particular, estrogen.  Changes in the amounts of progesterone and hormone-like substances called prostaglandins don’t help, either.  These hormones all ensure that your body does what it needs to do in terms of preparing for childbirth, and luckily, symptoms like nausea usually go away once you actually start your period.  But what can you do until then?

First, you should make sure the nausea isn’t caused by something other than your period.  For example, nausea is a typical symptom during pregnancy, particularly right around when your period usually happens.  Another possible culprit, endometriosis, happens when the cells that make up the uterus lining start growing outside of the uterus, which can cause nausea, bloating, diarrhea, rectal pain, and cramps.  So you definitely want to check with your doctor to make sure your symptoms aren’t related to either of these conditions first.

If they’re not, you’re likely just experiencing another fun PMS symptom that could use a little attention and possibly an herbal remedy.  Here are some tips to rid yourself of that nausea right away so you can get back to living life uninterrupted.

Eat consistent, well-balanced meals.  Nausea before your period can be caused by low blood sugar, which affects the chemical levels in your body.  If you make sure you’re eating well and at regular intervals, you can stave off the worst of it.

Keep track of when the nausea occurs.  Use a period tracker like this one to record when the symptoms hit.  This is the best way to determine if it’s related to your period or something else entirely, which might require a different approach.

Go herbal.  Tried-and-true remedies like ginger, mint tea, cayenne, and raspberry leaf are good choices for combatting nausea.  Ginger in particular has had the most clinical study done on its effectiveness, and it’s been ranked the most effective herb for menstrual nausea and vomiting.

Try antacids.  Sometimes PMS nausea isn’t so different from nausea that’s not related to your cycle.  It’s possible that excess acid in the stomach during the menstrual cycle is causing your distress, so popping a Tums could really help.

Turn to GirlU!  The GirlU herbal supplement is an all-natural way to fight PMS symptoms and have you feeling better fast.  Particularly if nausea isn’t your only symptom, GirlU is the way to go.

Don’t let nausea before your period put a damper on your day!  Try the options above and feel better fast!

Which PMS “Type” Are You?

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Did you know there are different types of PMS? In 1980, Dr. Guy Abraham at UCLA developed a classification system grouping more than 150 reported PMS symptoms into “types.” Many of us are likely to suffer from more than one type, but in general, our symptoms fall into these five categories:

TYPE A (Anxiety)

Symptoms: You suffer from a high estrogen/low progesterone ratio, making you nervous, tense, and anxious. Your mood swings are legendary. Your period often starts suddenly and is heavy with clots.

What to do: Try increasing your intake of Vitamin E, calcium, and magnesium. Chamomile tea might be helpful, too.

TYPE B or P (Pain/Aggression)

Symptoms: Pain is what you feel most during PMS, particularly in your joints, lower back, abdomen, and head. You may also experience weight gain, swelling of the hands and feet, and breast tenderness. Some scientists theorize this is due to inflammation, which means the key to feeling better is to reduce that inflammation.

What to do: Try increasing your intake of Vitamin C with bioflavonoids. In addition, decrease your salt intake. When you do need salt, consider using sea salt, which has beneficial trace minerals.

TYPE C (Cravings)

Symptoms: Fluctuations in blood sugar levels cause headaches, fatigue, and moodiness. You’re dealing with increased appetite and cravings, often for sugary foods.

What to do: Eat smaller meals and snacks more often to keep your blood sugar level. You may also want to increase your magnesium intake.

TYPE D (Depression)

Symptoms: You’re troubled by emotional symptoms most of all, including depression, forgetfulness, and insomnia. It’s believed that this is caused by low levels of estrogen and serotonin.

What to do: EXERCISE! Even if you’re not feeling it, getting your body moving will do wonders for these particular symptoms. Certain herbs like red clover and chaste tree berry can help, too—and you can get both of those (and more!) in the GirlU supplement.

TYPE H (Hyperhydration)

Symptoms: You retain water like nobody’s business. Bloating, breast tenderness, and swollen hands and feet are the bane of your existence during that time of the month.

What to do: Even though it seems counterintuitive, keep hydrated! You’ll also want to increase your intake of potassium-rich foods like bananas, avocados, apricots, and broccoli.

No matter what your PMS type, all the usual suggestions apply: eat well, watch the amount of sodium, caffeine, and sugar you consume, drink lots of water, and run through all of your favorite de-stressing techniques.

What PMS type are you? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter…or take a snapshot of your favorite healthy remedy for your PMS type and share it with us on Instagram!

Beat Winter with These Healthy Crockpot Recipes!

Want to eat something healthy, warm, and easy, but just don’t have the time to put a decent meal together? Enter the ever versatile crockpot! Crockpots, or slow cookers, can solve your mealtime woes by helping you to prepare something great in advance—with very little effort!—so that you can munch on something fantastic when you get home from work or school in the evening. Just put some ingredients in a pre-warmed crockpot, let it simmer all day, and come home to deliciousness! Plus, crockpot recipes make for easy-to-store leftovers.

We’ve put together the 5 healthy, filling crockpot recipes below to get you started on your culinary adventure.

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Mixed Bean Chili from Culinary Adventures in the Kitchen.

Mixed Bean Chili

Most chili recipes include beans, but what happens when you make beans the starring attraction? This fantastic medley of healthy mixed bean goodness, that’s what! This one’s vegan as well.

 

Indian Style Curried Eggplant

Indian Style Curried Eggplant from Veggie Wonder.

Indian Style Curried Eggplant

Indian cuisine has a fantastic mixture of unusual spices and flavors, but people often get scared off because it seems so complicated, not to mention time-consuming. Don’t worry! This curry is simple, healthy, and delicious.

 

Slow cooker chicken fajitas

Slow-cooked chicken fajitas from Barefeet in the Kitchen.

Not-So-Slow Cooked Chili Chicken Fajitas

Mexican food works well in the crock pot, too, and it’s pretty simple to make it a healthy option. While most crock pot recipes require you to set something up to cook pretty much all day, this one is a whole lot quicker.

 

Slow cooker jambalaya

A yummy jambalaya from Cooking Bride.

Hearty Slow Cooker Jambalaya

Cajun-style cooking is spicy and includes a diverse mix of ingredients…and with a crockpot, it’s easy, too! This jambalaya recipe will help you get your seafood on without agonizing over complicated, time-consuming recipes.

 

Salsa chicken in a wrap

A versatile salsa chicken from Bodybuilding.com

Easy Salsa Chicken

The folks at Bodybuilding.com have put together this easy-to-follow video that details an easy chicken recipe you can do just about anything with. Eat it as a wrap, with rice, or however you like!

Crockpot recipes were made for those of us who want to eat well but are too busy to spend hours in the kitchen. Let your slow cooker do the work for you!

If you’ve tried one of the above recipes—or a different one—please share your experience with us! You can find GirlU on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.