12 Days of Period Health

Christmas fruit, nuts, and cookies covered in snow

In honor of the 12 days of Christmas: 12 tips for period health!
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Did you know the 12 days of Christmas actually start on Christmas? That means after the usual festivities, you’ve got another set of days to celebrate! In the spirit of the traditional song, here are 12 tips for optimal period health as we see the year out.

On the first day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of movement. Sitting for long periods of time can be bad for your back, not to mention your overall health. And if you’re already feeling down that time of month, why make things harder on yourself? Take a break and move!

On the second day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of hydration. It’s no joke trying to get in the recommended 8 cups a day, but optimal water intake is essential for your health, not to mention curbing the worst PMS and period symptoms.

On the third day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of looking fabulous while exercising. You know exercise is important for alleviating cramps and other symptoms, but why not look fantastic while you’re at it?

On the fourth day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of cutting back on caffeine and sweets. We’re not saying you have to give them up entirely—especially around the holidays!—but you’ll definitely have fewer PMS symptoms if you make a special effort to keep to the carrots rather than the cake during that time of the month.

On the fifth day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of plenty of sleep. Being on your period can make you extra sleepy, so make sure you go to bed and get up at the same time every day to regulate your circadian rhythm.

On the sixth day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of motivation. This one can be especially tough during winter, so make sure you reach out and get the support you need to keep up those healthy habits and keep away the PMS symptoms!

On the seventh day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of a healthy breakfast. Don’t skip it! Starting the day with a healthy meal will keep your metabolism in gear and give you energy for the rest of the day—especially important during that time of the month.

On the eighth day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of Love Uninterrupted. Check in with yourself and your partner about expectations hopes for your relationship so you’re starting off the year in a great place to weather the inevitable ups and downs. Don’t have a partner? Make sure your friends, family, and other loved ones know how you feel!

On the ninth day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of a walk outside. Get in a solid dose of daily sunlight and exercise, and watch your mood soar!

On the tenth day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of a soothing yoga session. Relax and alleviate period cramps and other symptoms at the same time with a gentle yoga routine.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of a supportive bra. Nothing beats sore breasts like a bra that’s well-fitted and meant to last!

On the twelfth day of Christmas, I gave myself…the gift of a month’s supply of GirlU! The compact is super chic, but the best part is beating the PMS symptoms…for good!

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.
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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.

5 Ways to Soothe Period Bloating

Woman with puffed cheeks holding her abdomen

Many people deal with period bloating, but there are simple ways to fight the bloat!
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Many of us suffer from period bloating during that time of the month, likely caused by hormonal fluctuations that happen naturally during the menstrual cycle. Just another uncomfortable symptom to put up with, right? Think again! There are plenty of small, simple things you can do to soothe the bloat. Here are just a few to get you started:

  • Cut the caffeine and alcohol. Or at least cut down significantly! Your body has a harder time dealing with hormone fluctuations if it also has to deal with caffeine and alcohol, so be kind and give it a break. Try a soothing herbal tea as an alternative.
  • Slow down on the sugar. Sure, you might be craving it like mad, but you do have other options—maple syrup, sugar-free honey, raw coconut sugar—that are likely to be less harsh on a body already dealing with overactive hormones.
  • Eat well. This holds true basically all the time, but it’s especially important when dealing with period bloating. Dark green vegetables (broccoli, kale, watercress) and complex carbohydrates (whole wheat, rye, brown rice) are especially good for providing needed nutrients, in particular fiber. You may also want to try up to six small meals throughout the day instead of the typical three to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
  • Try avoiding soy. Soy contains estrogen, which can interfere with the normal balance of sex hormones. This means products like soymilk and tofu can cause problems with bloating during your period. You’ve got other options, though: regular cow’s milk, oat milk, and coconut milk can all be good substitutions.
  • Avoid cooking or re-heating foods in plastic. When plastic heats up, tiny traces can leak into the food, which can wreck havoc with your hormones. Better to use ceramic some other material instead.

You mileage may vary on which tricks to use, but in the end, it’s important to keep track of when the period bloating hits, how it interacts with other symptoms, and what the experience is like for you—so you know how to soothe bloat quickly and get back to living uninterrupted!

 

How to Fight Period Fatigue

Tired woman with head on laptop keyboard

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

Woman with sore breast

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

How to Stay Motivated to Be Healthy

Resources for motivation to be healthy

Staying motivated to be healthy can be tough, but there are resources out there to help you!
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However good your intentions may be, it’s hard sometimes to work up the motivation to stick with healthy habits like workouts or eating well. But there are a lot of resources out there to help keep you motivated to be healthy!

  • Insurance perks. Some insurance programs actually reward healthy behavior with benefits like discounts on their services and prizes ranging from movie tickets to a free iPad! Be sure to check with your insurance company to see what they offer.
  • Health blogs. Of course you’ll want to research the claims and make sure they’re backed up with solid data, but blogs are a great way to connect with fitness and health professionals as well as others trying to get and stay healthy. The blog format also lets you ask questions, make comments, and maintain a community of like-minded folks who can keep your motivation going.
  • Health apps. There probably is an app for that—whether “that” is tracking calories, organizing a workout, or a cool way to gamify your healthy habits. Some of these apps will even reward you with real cash: The app Pact lets you set goals and, once you’ve achieved them, get financial rewards. And that’s not even counting all the apps that help you find bike routes (BikeNav), interpret nutrition labels (Fooducate), and more.
  • Social networks. Sure, you could use your Facebook account to kvetch about work…or you could use it to team up with other people who are trying to make healthy choices. Just like in the offline world, finding people who support your efforts means a better chance of achieving your goals.   In fact, Penn State has done the research: people who had the support of a friend, family member, or significant other logged more fitness hours than those who didn’t.
  • Find healthy habits you love. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it really works. When you love what you’re doing to be healthy, you’re more likely to do it. Try lots of activities and recipes until something really strikes your fancy.

Staying motivated to be healthy can be tough, but when your motivation is lacking, know you’ve got plenty of resources out there to help you get back on top of your game!

Fitness Tips That Can Help Relieve PMS Symptoms

image005We were recently quoted in the Edmonton Journal. An excerpt of the article on fitness tips for relieving PMS is listed below.

Cardiovascular exercise stimulates endorphins, a group of hormones that improve your mood and stoke your energy. It also makes you sweat, which can help if one of your PMS symptoms is bloating, says Mayling Kajiya, a New York-based certified strength and conditioning specialist and PMS expert, with an extensive background in nutrition.

They don’t have to exercise at a high intensity or the intensity they usually work out at. Walking, using a recumbent bike or cross-trainer, some light stretching, can help flexibility and relieve muscle tension.”

Mayling says: “If you can get out of bed and you can exercise, you should. Don’t be afraid of PMS or let it bother you.”

To motivate herself to get out and exercise during that time of the month, Mayling starts to listen to her workout music while she gets ready to go to the gym. She also visualizes the workout she’s going to do and how good it’s going to make her feel after.

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