Get Rid of Cramps with Heat!

Sometimes the best course of action when cramps are ruining your life is to place something warm on your belly and let heat work its magic.   Here is a product roundup of hot water bottles and heating pads to get rid of cramps.

SpaComforts Cozy Comfort Hot Water Bottle, Spa Girl Pink

$9.99, Walgreens.com

SpaComforts Cozy Comfort Hot Water Bottle

 

This old-fashioned hot water bottle has a stylish, plush cover with a little girlfriend reminder to “relax.”  Fill it up with hot water and place it on your belly for hours of heat therapy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Size Heart Warmer Pillow Red

$11.01 on sale, Bucky.com

heartwarmer_flat-hr_765155507230_3_1__38692.1415127403.1280.1280

It is a little heart shaped hug and at 5”x 5” in size, it is discrete enough to use the office kitchen microwave and place on your lap at work.  Whole buckwheat seed is used in spas since it provides a gentle, moist heat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CVS Heatwraps Menstrual Cramp Relief

$5.99 for 3 patches, CVS.com

cvs heat wraps

They are not sexy, but a patch provides 8 hours of heat exactly where you need it and no one will ever be the wiser!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunbeam Moist/Dry Heating Pad

$12.99, Drugstore.com

heating pad

The electric heating pad is great for those days on the couch in sweatpants when long-lasting, steady heat is the only remedy for those cramps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heat is an all natural way to deal with the pain of PMS cramps and the good news is that there are many affordable options for relief.

 

PMS Food Cravings

cupcakesFull disclosure: This blog was drafted in writer’s head on a walk to coffee shop for decaf skim latte to avoid office birthday cake temptation!

As rational women, here is what we know.  We know that diet is critical to mitigating PMS symptoms.  By eating small meals throughout the day to avoid extreme hunger and by choosing vegetables and lean protein, we can fill our bodies with the food it needs to maintain balanced blood sugar and avoid food cravings.

But food cravings are powerful and fluctuating hormones can sometimes be hard to overcome.  During our PMS days, stress hormone, cortisol, can spike and feel-good hormone, serotonin, drops.  What temporarily boosts serotonin? Carbohydrates boost serotonin.  And the problem is that we crave the most fat and sugar filled carbohydrates during stressful and emotional times of the month.

We asked for coping strategies from a sampling of women and here are their answers.

  • Taking a walk and sipping on a warm beverage are two coping strategies. Both light exercise and caffeine can provide a boost.  If you are stressed out, go easy on the caffeine because you really don’t need a boost, you need the Zen affect of sipping something warm and soothing.   A dusting of chocolate or cinnamon to the top of a latte or cappuccino provides a dessert type flavor to the coffee, satisfying a sweet tooth for some.
  • Chew gum. Sugarless grape bubble gum was the respondent’s choice for a sweet pick me up, but mint or bubble gum flavors are also fine.
  • Have a conversation with yourself to understand the craving. Ask yourself if you are really hungry or are you bored?  Are you eating your emotions and is there something else you could do instead (take a walk, pick up your knitting, write in a journal) to work through the emotions?
  • Make a satisfying substitution. One respondent said that she eats a few dark chocolate covered almonds versus a candy bar and rationalizes it by saying that the almonds are healthier than a candy bar from the vending machine.  Plus, it satisfies the craving for chocolate.

Here is a little secret that most women don’t know, your metabolism revs up during your PMS days.  It is Mother Nature’s little offset for those PMS food cravings!  Try to bust through cravings by distracting yourself or substituting a healthier option, but forgive yourself and move on if you find yourself in a miserable mood finishing a bag of chips.

The Right Bra for Sore Breasts

braDuring those PMS days of the month, breasts may become sore, swollen and tender and a bra that fits correctly goes a long way to keeping “the girls” comfortable. Have you had a proper fitting for a bra? If you answered “no,” you are like most women who guess their bra size by trial and error. However, most women pick out the wrong size and that can have consequences!

Department stores and lingerie stores have employees who are trained to measure and fit a bra properly. Everything about getting fitted, buying one bra at that store and paying a higher price for the right size, is worth it. Most of the support from a bra comes from the band and the right cup size will prevent squishing, spillage and extra movement.

Here are a couple of key tips for wearing the most comfortable bra every day, but especially on PMS days.

The Band – The band should rest on the top of your rib cage. This is especially important if you are wearing an underwire bra. If the wire or band is digging into breast tissue, this can be very painful on PMS days.

The Cup – Breasts not only move up and down, but also side to side during normal everyday activity. A cup that is too big allows a larger range of motion, which can be painful during PMS. A too small cup will squish breast tissue, which is also uncomfortable when breasts are swollen and tender.

The Support- Breasts don’t have a lot of built in support, "Cooper’s Ligaments" hold your breasts up. This tissue is responsible for the “shape and lift” of your breasts, so excessive bouncing can damage the tissue.

We have written extensively about how exercise is good for combating PMS, like here and here, but if your boobs hurt that could really make exercise unappealing. So sports bras need to fit well too! A good sports bra will restrict bouncing which is important on PMS days. A good rule of thumb is to replace a sports bra when you replace your sneakers since the elastic wears out with frequent wear and washing!

If your breasts are sensitive to the touch during PMS, pick a bra with a soft lining versus a lace bra. Even a layer of padding will be helpful if your breasts are really sensitive.

One last note, the band and the shoulder straps should not leave visible marks on your body when you remove your bra. Use this as a quick check to see if you are wearing the correct bra size. If the straps dig into your shoulders and you have an imprint of the band around your chest, then do yourself a huge favor and get properly fitted for a bra as soon as possible!

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

What to Do About Nausea Before Your Period

period_nausea

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?

pms_types
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.

bean-chili2-300x275

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.