Chocolate for PMS, a benefit or a cliché?

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You have seen the gif files of emotional women stuffing their faces with chocolate for PMS symptoms.  Does chocolate really provide PMS relief or is it yet another goofy claim to manage fluctuating hormones?

Chocolate begins with cacao, which is loaded with flavonoids and antioxidants.  Both are more prevalent in dark chocolate and chocolate with 70% cacao is the best choice for health purposes.  Here are a few of the good things our research showed about controlled chocolate consumption.

  • Chocolate is good for cardiovascular health.
  • Chocolate keeps the brain healthy and prevents memory decline.

But does it help with PMS?  According to our research, it might have a temporary “feel good” benefit.  Carbohydrates help brain cells make more serotonin, which is the “happy” or “feeling good” brain chemical.  This can damper the anger, irritability, anxiety and cravings women might be facing 3-5 days before menstruation.  As mentioned before on this blog, serotonin levels are thought to drop during the PMS phase of the cycle due to hormonal fluctuations.

Chocolate has sugar and caffeine, sugar is a carbohydrate and the caffeine will help with fatigue.  The key to all of this is “controlled consumption.”  A couple of pieces of delicious dark chocolate melting in your mouth might just make you feel a little better on a temporary basis, too much chocolate will send you crashing later on with a big time sugar low!

Think in terms of consuming one or two individually wrapped Ghirardelli
Squares, or Hershey Kisses or Dove Chocolate Mini Squares…not a gigantic Toblerone!

Friendship Is Good for Your Health

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Friendship and female companionship are key components for good mental health and feeling positive about life.  These are not your Facebook friends, these are your girlfriends who you actually talk to and actually go out with to do fun things.  This is the best screen free activity in our #GirlUBeWell blog series!

Face to face chatting, dishing, laughing and catching up are the underpinnings of a “girl’s night out.” A GNO doesn’t need to be an alcohol fueled, dressed to the nines kind of outing. It can be a night at a ceramics class, a dance lesson, a movie, a coffee shop or a shared pint of ice cream on the couch.

Even if you have a boyfriend or partner, make time for your girlfriends.  Put phones face down in the middle of the table and listen intently.  You never know who needs an attentive ear or some friendly advice or commiserating and you never know when that day will come when you will need someone to lean on in a crisis or to listen during an emotional time.

Research shows that friends are an important part of healthy aging and staying social helps you stay positive.  Start a book group or a knitting circle so you have to put dates on the calendar.  Other ideas are birthday dinners, walking group or spa weekend…just get dates on the calendar to spend time with your girlfriends!

Environmental Impact of Tampons, Pads and Panty Liners

garbage

Tampons were introduced approximately seventy years ago, so it is a relatively new invention, but the environmental impact of tampons has been massive.  When you read a lot about the cotton processing and how long an applicator or a pad lasts in a land fill, it does make you think.  Then, when you read a historical fiction book like The Red Tent or The Other Boleyn Girl, and period management is either sitting on a pile of straw in a tent or reaching for a personal box of literal “rags,” you see why innovation was necessary.  But, in these modern times, have we swung the pendulum too far in the direction of disposable products?

Back to the tampon, the word tampon actually means “plug” in French.  Cotton requires huge amounts of pesticide to grow and then in production cotton is bleached with more chemicals to make it white.  A plug of cotton is mixed with rayon…blah, blah, blah…other scary sounding ingredients are added and then it’s plunged into the vagina without a second thought to manage period flows.

While the farming and production of cotton is troubling, a plastic applicator is actually the worst part of the tampon as it takes “virtually forever” to biodegrade.  Neither part of a tampon is supposed to be flushed down the toilet, but a lot of applicators and cotton parts end up in the flotsam of oceans.  And one statistic said that an average woman uses 10,000 tampons in her lifetime.

Pads and panty liners are made from materials that are pretty much indestructible and do not break down in landfills.  Plus, most brands individually wrap each tampon, pad and liner which adds to the trash in landfills.

For more reading on this topic, click here and here.  We wrote about reusable period management products here and wondered if American women were ready to embrace the “ick” factor of washing out menstrual cups and leak proof underwear. After learning a little bit about the environmental impact of disposable products, does that make you more interested to invest in a menstrual cup and a set of leak proof underwear to manage a cycle?

We’ll look at a cost/benefit analysis next!

Period Management Products

menstrual cup

We are in the midst of an evolution, or maybe a revolution of period management products.  Menstrual cups, like Diva Cup, and leak proof underwear, like Thinx and Dear Kates, present women with a choice of reusable products to deal with a period.

Reusable products prompted two questions for our team. First of all, are women in the US embracing the “ick” factor of washing out a cup and dealing with blood in leak proof underwear in lieu of a panty liner?  Secondly, is it time we seriously understood the environmental impact of our disposable habits?

Founder of Girl Uninterrupted, Mayling Kajiya says she loves her menstrual cup.  “I love the freedom it gives me, 10-12 hours of protection and no carrying around tampons.”  Once you make the initial investment of the cup, the cost savings from not making monthly purchases of pads and tampons is significant.

As for washing out underwear, aren’t we doing it anyway? Nobody gets through a period without at least one episode of leaking…right?  Most of us have a set of grungy period underwear, probably consisting of underwear that has already sustained leaking damage! But maybe we need a set of cycle underwear that has great materials and technology to replace a panty liner? Just think of all the pajamas and pant inseams that would also be spared!

From the day of our first period until the day we are fully in menopause, period management is a monthly issue.  What do you think about embracing reusables?  Are you ready for it as a consumer?  Let us know at info@GirlU.com.  We’ll look at question #2 in our next post!

PMS #tbt

pms tbt_finalToday is a #tbt of some of our favorite PMS Relief blog posts!  There are many ways to naturally alleviate some of the worst symptoms of PMS, but it is really, really difficult to stay the course using healthy alternatives when your body is in revolt and your willpower is flagging.   Fatigue and pain sometimes get the better of us, so give yourself a break if you just need a nap or a candy bar.

PMS Bloating: One of the best things to do is disguise it with good wardrobe choices since this is temporary water weight gain.

Period Cramps: Bring on the external heat and double up with a cup of tea to warm up from the inside as well.

Food Cravings: The number one tip is to employ a distraction long enough so that the temptation passes.  But, there is nothing like a healthy diet and we offered up these smoothie recipes to help with PMS symptoms.

Sore Breasts: Breasts do get tender and swollen from hormonal changes, but check your bra size because squished boobs hurt even worse on PMS days.

Low Self Esteem:  Does it seem like everyone else is posting happy pics on social media? Take a screen break and take your workout outside.

PMS Acne: Don’t pick, just keep your hands off your face.  Have you seen those articles about all of the “yuck” on your smart phone? You do not want to transfer that to your pores.

PMS Nausea: Eat regular meals and good snacks so your blood sugar doesn’t plummet.

Mood Swings: To calm the drama, get a sweat going.

Period Headaches:  Good food choices and plenty of sleep can help keep these at bay.

Fight through the temptation and make smart food choices, get plenty of rest at night and get moving during the day!

Journaling for Mental Wellness

BWhat do Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl who hid with her family in an attic during World War II, and Susan Sontag, writer, filmmaker and political activist, all have in common?  Each of these women wrote in a journal, or kept a diary.  Journaling can mean different things to different people.  For some, a journal is more like a to-do list or a food diary.  Others keep a gratitude journal or work out deep thoughts, almost a written therapy of sorts.  And remember the Burn Book from the movie “Mean Girls?”  That was also a journal.

Journaling is the fourth installment of our #GirlUBeWell Blog series because keeping a journal is a great way to organize thoughts, work out problems, encourage personal growth and help sort through emotions, happy or sad.   Consider a journal a safe place for deepest, darkest personal issues or the place to park troubles at night in order to stop the brain from ruminating on problems and disrupting sleep.

On the flip side, a journal can be a place to write about experiences in order to document memories.  A journal can also be a place for ideas and creativity and organizing insights.  Some people have found that by writing down one note of gratitude per day one can refocus a general outlook on life to be positive in nature.

There are a variety of ways to keep a journal as well!  Some people prefer old fashion pen and paper, and the variety of artisan notebooks highlights the popularity of this medium.  There are also apps available to journal on your mobile device since most people have a phone close by 24/7! And there is also the trusty laptop or desktop if fingers fly across the keys more comfortably than holding a pen.

Let a journal be the place for a brain dump!  Once a thought is on paper, or in the journal app, have a conversation with the brain to let this issue go and to stop mulling it obsessively.  If something gets under the skin, complain loudly and use expletives in the journal!  Consider this journal a private place to scream, to face down your fears, to buck yourself up and to voice your dreams, desires and wishes.  A journal is a judgment free medium so it should feel liberating to keep a journal.  Be well!

Infused Water Recipe #2

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This infused water recipe has its foundation from a signature cocktail served up at Oceana in Condado, Puerto Rico called the “Nolita,” we want to give credit where credit is due!  The cocktail was very refreshing on a warm, tropical evening and a few elements of the drink would make very sip-worthy water on hot summer days.

Ingredients:

  • 1 sliced cucumber
  • Sprigs of fresh mint
  • 1 sliced lime
  • 1 cup of pineapple juice
  • Water

Use a large, one gallon pitcher and fill almost to the top with water.  Add the cucumber, mint and lime and let the flavors infuse for a couple of hours.  Stir in the pineapple juice and pour yourself a glass over ice!

Pineapple contains bromelain, which reduces inflammation.  Cucumbers have B vitamins, which are good for a whole host of health reasons, but cucumbers also add tremendous flavor to the water.

Keep cool and hydrated in a flavorful way!

Menstrual Hygiene around the World

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Menstrual hygiene and ample choice of supplies are things we take for granted in the United States, like clean pads and tampons.  Another thing we don’t even think about is that if we get our period at school or at work, we have options for dealing with it.  We can discretely ask to borrow a tampon or find a bathroom with a machine to buy one.  The worst case scenario is that we make a homemade pad from rolled up toilet paper to get us through the next hour or so until we can find a real one.

All of these will work and even the worst case scenario is better than using mud, leaves, grasses or literal “rags.”  In some countries the worst case scenario is bleeding through clothes and embarrassment, followed by staying at home because of a lack of supplies.  NPR recently wrote about this topic and you can find their compelling article here.

Unless your symptoms are debilitating, you typically won’t miss school or work due to period bleeding.  That isn’t the case for women and girls in other parts of the world.  May 28th is menstrual hygiene day…yes, one day.  Many diseases get a month, but a normal bodily function that affects 50% of the global population on a monthly basis has one day.  There was a lot of information shared on social media on May 28th about these issues.

If you have a Twitter handle, do a little research using #menstrualhealth.  You will see some charts from many worthy NGO’s that are dealing with the lack menstruation supplies in unique ways.  The bottom line for most of these organizations is to empower women through jobs by manufacturing supplies in a local setting and keeping young girls in school by giving them sanitary pads.

Just something to think about next time you are bummed because you have to stash a tampon in a clutch for an evening out.  We are so lucky to have clean supplies!

Infused Water to Increase H2O Intake

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Staying hydrated has never been more fun or flavorful!  Here is the first of three recipes to "wet your whistle" this summer.  It all starts with a pitcher of water adding fruit, vegetables and herbs that hopefully are plucked from your summer herb garden.

Watermelon-Mint Water

Ingredients:

  • Three Sprigs of Mints
  • Slices of Lime
  • Seedless watermelon chunks
  • Water

Directions:

  • Muddle (mash up) the mint sprigs and lime slices in the bottom of the pitcher.
  • Place chunks of watermelon in Cuisinart or Mini-Chopper to make a smooth puree.
  • Add puree to the pitcher.
  • Fill with water refrigerate.

Watermelon is loaded with Vitamin C and Vitamin Ad, plus it is a great source of lycopene, a powerful anti-oxidant.  Plus, watermelon is a source of manganese and magnesium, two minerals that both lessen PMS symptoms!

Enjoy, and if it is cocktail time, a splash of rum makes a lovely evening cocktail.

Plant a Summer Garden & Boost Self Esteem

gardenPart three of our #GirlUBeWell blog series to provide you with an off-screen, self esteem boosting activity is planting a garden.  If you start this weekend, you will be rewarded all summer long. Doing an activity outside gets you “back to nature” and an easy garden provides a soul satisfying experience of playing with dirt and nurturing a plant’s growth.

Even if your only outdoor space is technically a sunny kitchen window, or a balcony, you have enough space for a garden.  But even with acres of land, if you are a newbie, your best bang for the buck is to start off growing herbs.  They thrive in pots or in a small plot of land.

A trip to your local Home Depot, or Lowes, or hometown nursery will provide everything you need…the planters, soil and small plants of herbs.  Here is what we think will make the perfect starter herb garden!

Basil – Grows like a weed as long as it has good sunlight and regular watering.  Since is grows abundantly, pinch off leaves for a caprese salad, bruschetta or a quick pesto sauce.

Mint – Also a hardy plant that grows quickly!  If you put it in the ground, give it room to spread.  Mint is perfect for Mojitos and for infusing water.  Mix in chopped mint with lemon juice and Greek yogurt and you have a great topping for grilled food.

Thyme – Excellent all around flavor and easy to dry for winter use.  Thyme is great for a lemon chicken dish or in pasta sauce.

Marjoram & Oregano – Do you have a spice bottle of “Italian Seasoning?” These two herbs are staples in sauces.

Tarragon – Adds a rich, woodsy flavor to mushroom risotto or a chicken dish.

Rosemary – Excellent on roasted vegetables or potatoes and it smells heavenly in creamy sauces.

Sage – Another woodsy herb that grows quickly and the leaves are soft and fuzzy and a pale green that looks so pretty in the garden.

Chives - A subtle onion flavor and a welcome addition in salad dressing and on baked potatoes with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.

This is a satisfying way to spend a few minutes every day and there are plenty of other herbs to consider!  Fussing over the plants, either watering or picking some herbs, becomes a daily habit.  Your finger tips will be fragrant with whichever herb you pick and it feels good to grow some of the food you eat. You might find yourself looking for easy recipes using tarragon or sage if you have a bumper crop, or taking a bunch of basil in a mason jar filled with water to a friend’s house to share.  Who knows, growing herbs might entice you to try growing tomatoes or zucchini next summer.