Genetics Vs. Lifestyle – What is the Real Cause of PMS?

Genetics-LifeStyle-PMSMore than half of all women who menstruate have some form of cramping, and 15 percent of women have severe cramps. Menstrual cramps usually (but not always) improve, as a woman gets older, especially after giving birth. Of course, this doesn’t mean cramps go away as you age—they just often become a little more manageable.

Like many other things in life, genetics affect everything – even PMS! Unfortunately, if your mom and grandma had bad cramps, chances are you probably will too. Regardless of what runs in your family, don’t let nature rule your life!

Many women overlook the influence that their lifestyle and health has on the symptoms of their period. Being overweight and inactive can actually exacerbate symptoms of PMS. This is because high amounts of body fat indicate higher levels of estrogen, which can worsen your PMS. Being inactive also means that you aren’t letting your body help you out. Working out causes your body to produce nature’s painkillers, endorphins. Even though we don’t usually feel like it, it’s always a good idea to stay active during your period – and all other times of the month.

What you eat also has an effect on how good or bad you feel. Too much sugar, caffeine, or alcohol can worsen PMS. Too much dairy consumption can also worsen symptoms, due to hormonal imbalances. High stress levels can also worsen the symptoms of PMS.

The moral of the story: there’s a lot to thank our moms for – just maybe not the cramps! Luckily for us ladies, we have the personal power to stay healthy and active before, during, and after our periods. Not only will this help with PMS symptoms, but it will also produce a healthier you. What’s not to love?

Why Does PMS Cause Water Weight?

Water Weight During Period

UGH. Do you ever get that balloon-like feeling? PMS and other hormonal changes can really affect how your belly feels. Many women get cramps, headaches, back pain, and more during their periods – but your body changes before your period as well. That uncomfortable bloating around the abdomen, hips, and thighs that we disdainfully refer to as “water weight” is a product of an imbalance of magnesium and potassium in the body. This is due to a change in hormones.

While it may seem like a lot, it is common to gain between 1 to 6 pounds before and during your period. This can happen regardless of how healthy you are. Some women will have a noticeable weight gain, while others don’t. Remember not to panic either way - this is totally normal!

Some girls try diuretics to reduce the bloat, but in the long run, diuretics rob you of important minerals that your body needs to function. Here are a few options to reduce this water weight gain:

  1. Avoiding salty foods will reduce the chances of water retention.
  2. Make sure you’re getting enough calcium.
  3. Keep yourself hydrated. Drinking more water doesn’t mean you are going to gain more water weight!
  4. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies.
  5. Cut back on refined sugars.

While these are great tips, we also just recommend a “roll with it” approach. Help your body out with these tips, but don’t feel bad if you occasionally give into that chocolate bar. Whether it’s yoga pants to the library or a flowy dress to the office, wear something loose and comfy so you don’t feel miserable all day. Plus, remember that the mind tends to blow the actual appearance of bloating waaaaaay out of proportion. You still look great, and the bloating will go away as soon as your period comes!

Why do I crave junk food when I am PMSing?


You’re about to sit down for your weekly network TV episode and while you might not even be hungry, your brain starts in with “I want nachos or ice cream or a cupcake.”  That is your brain “craving” a carbohydrate fix!   Junk food cravings are usually a response to a stress hormone in your body called cortisol, but mostly, they’re all in your head! The carbohydrates in the sweet and salty foods we crave promote the production of serotonin, a stress-relieving neurotransmitter. Essentially, our head tells us to satisfy the craving as a way to deal with the stress.

Food cravings are also linked to our memories. The brain attaches feelings of happiness and satisfaction to certain foods depending on the memories we associate with eating them.   But that still doesn’t justify sitting down to eat half of Mom’s good ole’ apple pie just because your hormones are fluctuating!

PMS-related cravings are relatively predictable. If you know that your hormones are in flux around a certain week of the month, then you can predict when your food cravings are going to happen.  There are lots of apps out there to track all of the elements of your cycle.   If this is the case, try to reason with yourself on these cravings.  You really won’t feel better if you get to the bottom of a potato chip bag or eat an entire sleeve of packaged chocolate chip cookies.

But, don’t expend all of this energy fighting yourself either.   Think about stocking the pantry with healthier snacks- hummus and pita instead of chips and dip, fruit instead of candy, Greek yogurt instead of ice cream, or a dark chocolate bar instead of M&M’s.  There are substitutions that will satisfy that sweet or salty tooth without completely destroying a healthy diet.

Sleepytime Snacks


Tummy grumbling before bedtime? Steer clear of tempting processed foods while finishing up a late-night TV show, and try one of these! They all have 5-HTP, or oxitriptan, a neurotransmitter associated with aiding weight loss and regulating sleep patterns. Note: we’re talking sleepytime snacks here, not meals, so watch the portions!

1. Cherries. Fresh and dried cherries are one of the only natural food sources of melatonin, the chemical that controls the body's internal clock to regulate sleep. Researchers who tested tart cherries found that they contain high levels of melatonin. Eat them an hour before bedtime or before a plane trip to help you catch your much-needed and much-deserved beauty rest.

2. Bananas. Bananas are an excellent source of both potassium and magnesium, which are natural muscle relaxants. They also contain the amino acid L-tryptophan, which gets converted to 5-HTP in the brain. The 5-HTP in turn is converted to serotonin (a relaxing neurotransmitter) and melatonin (a neurotransmitter that helps you snooze.)

3. Toast. Carbohydrate-rich foods trigger insulin production, which induces sleep by speeding up the release of tryptophan and serotonin to relax you and send you to sleep. A piece of whole wheat toast is the perfect snack to satisfy your stomach and help you catch some z’s.

4. Oatmeal. Like toast, a bowl of oatmeal will trigger a rise in blood sugar, activating insulin production and the release of sleep-inducing brain chemicals. Oats themselves are also rich in nature’s best sleep aid, melatonin.

5. Warm milk. Like bananas, milk contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, which turns to 5-HTP and releases serotonin. It's also high in calcium, which also promotes sleep.

Sleep is such an important part of overall health and wellness, and you know you will toss and turn if you go to bed hungry, so choose one of these snacks to quiet a talking tummy.  Sweet dreams!


Is PMS Cramping Your Style?


What is actually causing the pain of cramps

It’s that time of the month. Like a snake shedding its skin, the lining of your uterus must contract to bring the uterine lining down and out of the body. The uterus is made of smooth muscle tissue, and just like any other muscle in your body, doing hard work can cause it to cramp. Unfortunately, this muscle movement must happen for your period to occur. For most women with moderate cramps, an over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory medicine works well.  If the pain is unusually severe, please see your doctor just in case there is something else causing that pain.

Though getting up and moving around may be the LAST thing you feel like doing during your period, exercise helps manage the discomfort and pain of cramps. The endorphins released during and after exercise are natural painkillers that help alleviate the pain of cramps.   Go for a walk or a quick bike ride so you can take your mind off your misery and put all of your muscles to good use.

Guilt-Free Smoothie for PMS

Did you ever think your blender could help alleviate PMS discomfort?   There is some science behind these ingredients, but this GirlU smoothie is not only enjoyable but also incredibly healthy.  PMS is a challenge, but at GirlU we like to find natural and plant based solutions!  Here are a few of the ingredients and the reason why they are important for lessening PMS symptoms.

Main Ingredients:

  • Bananas are sweet and creamy when blended and they have a high potassium content that can help reverse the water retention often associated with PMS.
  • Cocoa powder is rich in anti-oxidants, but we put it in the smoothie as a healthy alternative for sweet and chocolaty cravings.
  • Maca powder is rich with vitamin C, D and E and is used for making those cramps, body pain and mood swings less painful and annoying.  Maca Root is a “superfood” that most people have not discovered yet, but it definitely enhances your energy level so it’s best consumed early in the day.

Here’s a #GirlUTip, for frosty, refreshing results, use frozen bananas. The easiest thing to do is to peel a banana, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the freezer so it is ready to go.  The last thing you want to do is wrestle the peel off when you are already in a bad mood!

Throw all of your ingredients in the blender and then sit back, drink up and enjoy!

For the full PMS smoothie recipe and nutritional content check out the video below!

Break up the Grind and Deskercise

Whether you’re on the grind in the library or at work, chances are that you spend quite a bit of time sitting at a desk. Our bodies aren't naturally structured to sit for prolonged periods of time, so it’s important to break up that feeling of being chained to the desk every so often. Take quick mini-breaks throughout the day with these quick fixes to work those “good posture muscles” while you work:

  • Make “desk angels”: Bring your arms up 90 degrees as if you’re lying down to make a snow angel. Move your arms up and down, squeezing the spot between your shoulder blades. Reactivate your upper body, bring your shoulders back from a slouchy position, and channel your inner kid with this move!


  • Grab elbows behind back: Just as it sounds. Squeeze your shoulders down and back for a natural posture lift.  If you can’t reach your elbows, grab your forearms - now you have a flexibility goal to work for!


  • Push your chin back: Fight upper cross syndrome (characterized by slouchy, rounded shoulders and an obvious curve to the neck and upper back) with this fix. The chin tends to jut forward when sitting at a desk, and the added pressure can cause back and shoulder aches. We don’t notice because we’re usually looking at a computer screen, not a mirror! Push your chin back every 30 minutes or so to maintain good posture.


A Happy, Healthy 4th of July BBQ


Who doesn't love a day off in the middle of the summer to get together with friends and family to celebrate? BBQ’s usually start early in the day but the party never ends until after the fireworks so the number one tip is to pace yourself!  Don’t show up hungry and start stuffing yourself with the chips and dips the moment you get there.  Two reasons why you should offer to bring an appetizer to the BBQ.  First of all, you get the “good friend” credit with the offer and second, you ensure there will be some healthy snacks available.

The 4th of July is the ultimate hang out and play holiday, so be sure to join in a beach volleyball game or lead everyone in a game of tag football.  Throw a frisbee in your bag, or pick up one of those bean bag toss games...just don’t turn it into a drinking game because it all goes back to tip #1, pace yourself.

Remember, a can of beer has about 150 calories and 13 g of carbs and they go down pretty quickly on a hot day!  But, three of those and “BAM,” you've loaded yourself up in more ways than one. That heavy, bloated and gassy feeling is from the carbonation and that sloppy drunk thing in the middle of the day isn't worth it either.

Use common sense and stick to the 4th of July “food pyramid!”  Vegetables can be eaten in unlimited amounts.  Add your protein during a reasonably sized meal as you settle into the celebration, like, a burger, some ribs or chicken from the grill.  Go easy on the chips, pretzels, cookies and brownies that are always in abundance at these parties.  Drink a bottle or a glass of water in between those cocktails, helpful hydration in more ways than one.

Be safe, have lots of fun, eat for your health and HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!

Torch the Fat & Ditch the Face Paint: Simple Workout Makeup


We don’t always feel so glamorous while we’re breaking a sweat. Most of us won’t go barefaced to the gym, but pre-workout, skip that full makeup routine! The full foundation+blush+eyeliner regimen that you might have been rockin’ ever since you renewed your 24-Hour Fitness membership looks a little…well, weird.  And chances are that once you hit that target heart rate, your hard work will turn into a runny mess.

I have yet to develop a line of “run-free” makeup, but it is totally possible to strike the balance between a workout-ready and a put-together face for the gym. Taking a minimalist approach, follow these basics for your workout makeup:

  • DO: Concealer- Who said diamonds were a girl’s best friend? Apply concealer to soften the look of under-eye dark circles, zits, and blemishes.
  • DO: Tinted lip balm- The secret to keeping the lips moisturized while giving you a little color!
  • DON’T: Mascara- Unless you’re positive that the “waterproof” label is bona fide, avoid wearing mascara for the gym. Nobody likes the look of smudged mascara running down your face. (Definite respect for beads of sweat though!)

Stick to these guidelines, and let nature do the rest! You’ll get a natural, healthy glow from a solid training session. Now you know how; look good and feel good before, after, AND during your workout!

Bikini Season Bloat


Worried about bikini season bloat?  Usually bloating lasts a couple of days before your period starts so in all reality you should have 3 bloat free bikini weeks each month. There is the good news.

Sometimes the day you are feeling really bloated happens to be on the weekend when everyone is making plans involving bathing suits. Diuretics are the most effective way to reduce bloating, but dehydrating yourself before a long day in the sun is... in a word... stupid.

Have you seen the summer fashion magazines? One piece bathing suits are everywhere and not just in boring, yet slimming, black. There are metallic tanks, crazy prints and a variety of high and low leg cuts. Check out the retro high wasted bikini bottoms and boy shorts as well. Sometimes a more functional bathing suit is better than a really skimpy one…less adjusting, fewer wedgies and a lower probability of losing a top or bottom in the waves!

Think about this though, you could just skip this weekend and go see a movie. The other good thing about summer is that all the summer blockbusters come out and the movie theater is nicely air conditioned. It is ok to put your favorite sweat pants on instead of a bathing suit for now because you’ll be back to your fabulous self in a bathing suit next week.