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!

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!

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!

The Coolest, Most Comfortable Workout Clothes for Your Shape

Outfits arranged by body type

Try these workout clothes based on your shape!
Image: Polyvore.com

Bodies come in all shapes and sizes—but that doesn’t mean that only some people get to look good while exercising! Here are some tips for looking great and feeling comfortable in your workout fashion.

  • Pear shapes: You’ll want to stick with lighter colors higher up on your body, so they draw attention away from your thighs. Flared pants can help balance and lengthen your overall shape. And avoid those pants with stripes down the side—they’ll make your hips look fuller!
  • Rectangle shapes: Create some curves with tops that cinch or have ruching at the right places—generally along the side of the garment.   Also, dare to use that lower-cut tank with a slightly padded sports bra—it will accentuate the best parts of your body! You should avoid wearing all one color, though.
  • Apple shapes: You want loose tops that cinch toward the bottom and help define your middle and conceal any unwanted tummy. Fitted capris are a great way to show off your toned legs. Unlike pear shapes, you want to avoid flared pants, since they’ll throw off your body proportions.
  • Hourglass shapes: Try V or scoop neck shirts with detailing near the middle to help accentuate the waist. Instead of shorts, try the ever-versatile skort. Stay away from loose-fitting clothes; you want to show off what you’ve got!

At the end of the day, an old t-shirt and sweats are just fine, too. Exercise is the important thing! (We promise the folks from What Not to Wear will not pop out from behind a treadmill to complain that your sweats have holes in them!).

However, sometimes a workout is just that much better, or we feel inspired to push a little longer or a little harder, when we feel confident about our bodies and the way we look. The right clothing can provide that boost.

What workout fashion has worked out best for you? Join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter—or show us your most flattering and comfortable exercise duds on Instagram!

Phases of a Period Workout

Woman jogging on dirt road

Here are some great exercises for each phase of your menstruation cycle.
Image: Shutterstock

Building on our blog post from last week about period workouts, here are some specific exercises for each phase of your menstrual cycle, straight from GirlU founder Mayling Kajiya.

 

Menstruation Phase

Day 1 signals the first day of menstruation (bleeding). I wouldn't recommend doing too much on those days because you are probably uncomfortable. A simple walk or hike is sufficient.

 

Follicular Phase (Yay My Period is Over!)

Right after your period is over (maybe day 5) is the optimal time to really kick into high gear.

Yay my Period is Over Workout (YMPO Workout)

Warm up - light jog and stretch

3 rounds for time, no stopping between sets:

20 Burpees

15 Chair Stepups

15 Chair Pushups

20 Chair Tricep Dips

 

Ovulation Phase

It's time to turn it down a notch and go for longer, low-intensity exercises

Warm up - light jog or stretch

1 round:

20 Walkouts with legs straight, walking body out into a pushup position and walking back with straight legs

20 Forward Lunge with arms raised over your head and back knee almost touching the floor

20 Side Lunge (Lateral) with knees inline, toes and pushing your butt back

20 Curtsy Lunge

30 Ab Curls with legs resting 90 degrees on a chair

 

PMS Phase

This is the perfect time to go for a light jog, 3 miles max. Try going outside so you can enjoy the scenery! Or check out that Hatha yoga class that you’ve been eyeing. Even a meditation class would be great.

4 Reasons You Gain Weight During Your Period—And What to Do About It

Woman's feet in colorful socks on  scale

Weight gain during your period is common, but there are a bunch of small, easy things you can do.
Image: Shutterstock

Weight gain during your period is common—most women gain anywhere from one to ten pounds leading up to and during menstruation. But why does the weight gain happen…and what can you do about it?

Basically, it all comes down to the fluctuation of hormones and the changes happening in your body.  Some common reasons for weight gain:

  • Water retention. Bowel problems and the natural drop of progesterone during your period seem to be the most common reasons for this.
  • Bloating. This could be caused by increased gas in the intestine or just more inactivity than usual (sometimes it’s hard to keep the exercise regular when you’re not feeling your best!).
  • Food cravings and overeating. With sugar levels fluctuating, period cravings may begin affecting what—and how much—you eat, which can lead to weight gain.
  • Decrease in magnesium. The magnesium levels in your body tend to go down just before your period, which causes insulin levels to rise. That’s why you crave sugar, which can lead to reaching for an extra candy bar…and gaining a few pounds in the process.

So that’s the bad news. Now…what can you do about it?

It’s important to note that period weight gain is often temporary. Particularly when you’re younger, you’re likely to lose the weight again right after your period without having to switch up your diet or exercise much.  As you get closer to menopause, however, the weight gain can get worse—as much as 15 pounds or more—and harder to lose.  So here are a few tips on stopping that weight gain in its tracks:

  • Reduce sodium intake. Yes, it’s hard to cut out the fast food when you’ve got the craving, but too much sodium can cause water retention and weight gain. So you’re better off cutting back on the salt as much as possible.
  • Reduce bloating. We’ve got some great tips on how to do that over here.
  • Increase your magnesium and calcium intake. Cooked spinach, black beans, and pumpkin seeds are all good sources of magnesium. Keeping an eye on your calcium intake by drinking milk and eating leafy green veggies can help prevent water retention. You can also look into taking a nutritional supplement.
  • Try yoga. The exercises can be soothing while still keeping you active. Depending on how you feel, there may be certain poses you need to avoid, but it’s worth giving it a try with these yoga poses for menstruation.

Weight gain during your period is no fun, but it’s not necessarily something to worry about. Just keep these tips in mind, and stay as active as you can, and you’ll find maintaining your ideal weight much more easily.

How to Fight Period Fatigue

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Tired of being tired on your period? Here are some tips to wake you up!
Image: Shutterstock

Sure, cramps and cravings are bad enough, but one of the worst period and PMS symptoms out there could very well be period fatigue. How are you supposed to do all the things you're expected to do (and that are supposed to help with the other symptoms) if you're just too darn tired? Fear not! We've got a whole list of ways to fight period fatigue below.

But first, what exactly causes it? The jury's still out, but one study from the University of Adelaide in Australia suggests that it has to do with hormone levels. From about three days before menstruation until ovulation, estrogen and progesterone, the two main hormones associated with the menstrual cycle, are at their lowest. According to Leanne Redman, who reported the study findings, low levels of these two hormones means more waste products like lactic acid and carbon dioxide when you consume carbohydrates. "This can contribute to muscle soreness and premature fatigue," Redman said.

While we may not know precisely what causes period fatigue (though hormone levels are a good start), we do know there are plenty of things you can do to fight it:

  • Keep down the carbs. Foods that are high in fat, sugar, and carbs—like fast food, candy, or soft drinks—can not only cause the hormonal imbalances described above, but also mess up your sleep schedule and quality...which just makes you more tired.
  • Get the nutrients you need. Women always need plenty of iron, but this is particularly important during menstruation. Load up on lean meats, leafy green veggies, eggs, and dried fruit. Other nutrients to keep an eye on include vitamin C (which helps you absorb iron—try oranges and broccoli) and magnesium and B vitamins (which help fight fatigue—nuts and seeds are a good source).
  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, so you'll want to keep water on the menu as much as possible. And if you're drinking water instead of sugary soda and juice, you're double helping yourself out by cutting down on fat, sugar, and carbs.
  • Exercise. This one's tough, especially when you're already tired, but exercise will help your body release endorphins, which raise both your energy and your mood (not to mention reducing stress and helping with other period symptoms). But be kind to yourself! If you're not up for a full-on gym extravaganza, you can always do several shorter, lighter workouts in ten-minute intervals. Even just making an effort to get some walking or stretching in can help.
  • Talk to your doctor. If your period fatigue is completely overwhelming, you may want to see a doctor to rule out any medical conditions like anemia (caused by iron deficiency), folic acid deficiency, or a thyroid issue. It might be worth your while to start taking a multivitamin, too, to make sure you're getting all the nutrition you need.

If you're tired of being tired right before or during your period, know there are things you can do to fight period fatigue. Give the tips above a try, and you'll feel better in no time!

What to Do About Sore Breasts During Your Period

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Sore breasts can be...well...a pain. Here are some tips for dealing with them!
Image: Shutterstock

Breast pain is one of the most common symptoms experienced during the menstrual cycle—in fact, reports of sore breasts in the medical literature go back all the way to 1829! More recently, a study found that 69% of women attending an ob-gyn clinic had regular premenstrual breast pain. For some, the pain is so severe and lasts so long (at least seven days) that it’s referred to as cyclical mastalgia, which can interfere with sleep, work, school, social functioning, and sexual activity.

If you’re dealing with sore breasts every month, no matter what the severity, don’t worry! Though science isn’t entirely sure what causes it (most believe it’s related to the fluctuations of hormones), there are lots of things you can do to feel better right now.

  • Make sure you’ve got a really supportive bra. It’s estimated that 80% of women wear bras that don’t fit right, so make sure you’ve got the right size and style for your body! You might also try wearing it at night for extra support.
  • Take some time out. Relaxation techniques can do wonders to calm the nutty hormones behind sore breasts. Try soothing music or progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Go herbal. You’ll want to talk to your doctor to be sure you cover all the angles, but herbs with anti-inflammatory elements--including the herbs in GirlUninterrupted!—have been shown to reduce breast soreness.
  • Diet.  Keep an eye on your salt and caffeine intake. If you can manage to completely avoid salt for 1-2 weeks before your period—or at least cut way down—you’re less likely to encounter the more annoying PMS and period symptoms. You’ll want to cut down on high-fat foods, too.
  • Exercise.  You’ve probably heard this before, but exercise really can help relieve PMS symptoms, especially sore breasts. And, of course, it’s good for you! Even if you’re not up for your usual routine, try to do a little something every day.

Of course there are medications you can take as well, both over the counter and prescription. But the first line of defense should be taking a stab at these natural (and mostly free!) options. Just a few small changes to your daily routine can make a world of difference in dealing with sore breasts, not to mention other PMS and period symptoms.

What to Wear on Your Period

Clothing examples for what to wear on your period

Try these styles when you want to look office-ready but aren't feeling up to the usual wardrobe.
Image: Polyvore

When That Time of the Month hits, there are definitely mornings when you just want to stay in bed and not have to worry about what to wear. Unfortunately, you probably still have to go to work or school—even if you’re feeling bloated and cranky and nothing seems to fit right. Has all hope of decent office attire run screaming out the door?

No way! There are plenty of ways to be both comfortable and chic enough for the daily grind—even when you’re not feeling your best. Here are a few fashion ideas for days when you want to look good but also give yourself an extra bit of TLC:

  • Dressy shorts. If your workplace allows it, a nice pair of shorts made of comfortable material—and an elastic waistband!—can be just the ticket. Darker colors at about knee-length will make you feel both sleek and comfortable.
  • Cashmere sweaters. Any shirt made of soft, flowing material that’s still dressy enough for work or school will keep you soothed and also looking great. If you’re worried about bloating around your belly, try a top with drapes or ruffles.
  • Shift dress. The style is simple and clean, and the lack of waist means no definition, particularly where you least want it!
  • Maxi skirt. Flowy and loose, these skirts come in a variety of shapes and sizes, all conveniently covering your legs while still allowing a full range of movement.
  • Oversized cardigan. If you can’t stay in bed, at least take your blanket with you! Larger cardigans feel comfy and bathrobe-like while still looking professional.
  • Jeggings. If you’re going for the clean-cut jeans look but your usual denim just isn’t happening, try jeggings—the classic look of jeans, but with the feel of stretch pants. Just make sure you don’t get them too tight!
  • Tunic top. From a t-shirt style to more of a sweater, a tunic top generally has a round, flattering neckline and little to no collar, making it a stylish and comfortable option.
  • Comfortable shoes. Leave the six-inch heels for another time! When you’re suffering from cramps and other period-related effects, you definitely don’t want aching, too! Instead of making your feet suffer, too, pamper them with flats or dressy clogs.

Just because you’re dealing with your period doesn’t mean you can’t look and feel great, even when you’re out in public! Aim for looser fits in comfortable styles to ensure your office attire won’t suffer—and you won’t, either.