Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Let's talk about perimenopause and menopause


Menopause is a normal, natural life event that occurs when a woman’s period stops. It commonly happens between the ages of 40 and 58. Smokers can start menopause up to 2 years earlier than non-smokers. Menopause happens because the ovaries naturally stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

A woman “officially” reaches menopause 12 months after her last period. However, changes and symptoms can begin several years earlier. Some of these symptoms include changes in the monthly cycle and hot flashes. The time from when these changes start to actual menopause is called “perimenopause.” 

Perimenopause often starts between age 40-50 and can last several years (4 to up to 14!). It begins with changes to the regular menstrual cycle. During this time the ovaries’ production of estrogen and progesterone decreases.

Perimenopause and menopause are unique to women. However, this stage is often seen as a taboo subject and is not well understood; even though, menopause can be a risk factor for biological and psychological health. As a result, women going through menopause can feel frustrated and isolated. Psychological resilience thus becomes important for perimenopausal and menopausal women as a protective factor against depression and anxiety.

Süss and Ehlert (2020) identified six categories of resilience factors: core resilience, spirituality, control, optimism, emotion, and self-related resilience. These resilience factors help women manage symptoms with less stress and better satisfaction which in turn leads to better psychological health. This perceived self-efficacy correlates with quality of life and general well-being. As perimenopause and menopause can co-occur with other life experiences such as divorce, caring for teenage children, and occupational changes, self-efficacy becomes important to help women through the menopausal transition.

Perimenopause and menopause are times of great transition and the hormonal changes affect women physically and psychologically. Physically, women undergo hot flashes, weight gain, irregular periods, incontinence, bone density loss, and hair loss. The hormone changes can cause mood swings, irritability, memory loss, and even depression. While hormone replacement therapy is helpful, and sometimes necessary, there are additional actions women can take to manage the effects of hormone fluctuation.

Nutrition during menopause is confusing as there are many fad diets that may not be suitable for all people. Understanding how to make small, sustainable changes can help women minimize weight gain, reduce the intensity of hot flashes, and improve mood. Fats, for example, are an important aspect of nutrition; however, not all fats are healthy. The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in fish, nuts, and avocados are very beneficial to weight loss, vitamin absorption, and protection against disease. In addition, fats may help protect against depression and cognitive decline as a woman ages.

The loss of estrogen is also linked to bone loss in perimenopausal and menopausal women. Exercise during menopause not only can help slow weight gain, it can also help moderate mood and help slow the rate of bone loss. However, the type and duration of exercise is important to moderate cortisol levels. Adjusting to less cardio and incorporating strength training exercises helps women burn fat without adding stress to their system. An added benefit of strength training is it helps build muscle mass, which increases the metabolism and reduces fat.

Weight training for women is also important as it helps build bone mass. As women age, they need not only calcium rich foods, but also weight training to help prevent osteoporosis. Estrogen helps protect bones; however, estrogen drops during perimenopause, making perimenopause and menopause risk factors for osteoporosis.

Understanding hormones, nutrition, and exercise during this period can help women reduce risk for injury and disease. If you have questions about how you can more naturally manage the symptoms of perimenopause or menopause, drop me a comment below. Or, if you are on social media, come follow my Facebook page or Instagram account. I also have some limited availability for one-on-one virtual trainings. You can sign up for a complementary initial consultation by clicking here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Fast Workouts for Busy People

When it comes to scheduling exercise into your calendar, it can often feel like shoving a puzzle piece where it doesn’t fit. You understand that exercise is crucial and quite necessary, but it can feel frustrating to struggle with actually finding the time to fit it in.   

If carving out an hour to make it to the gym isn’t feasible, there are plenty of ways to fit in a fast workout that still yields results — wherever you are. Prioritizing a few days a week at the gym and the rest of your workouts at home sounds a lot more doable, does it not? Take the pressure off and find what works for you and your schedule with these fast workouts for busy people — 15 minutes or less, wherever you are.

1. Planking 
Planking is a great way to target a lot of muscles in a short amount of time. When you assume the plank position, you are working out both your arm and your core muscles, and when you plank with your feet pressed against the wall, you are also targeting your glutes and legs. While you will only be doing them for a few minutes at a time, you will see the rapid results with this exercise. 

2. Burpees 
Burpees work well as a kind of cardiovascular exercise that also tones muscles. If you're not sure what a burpee is, it's simple to explain, but not quite as effortless to do! You will want to get down on the ground as if you are going to do pushups, do one, and get back up and jump in the air.  Repeat this for as many reps as you can. Now, keep in mind there are many, many variations of burpees. The one described is the basic version. I would love to hear your favorite version! Just drop a comment below.

3. Lunges & Squats 
Lunges and squats are both exercises that are very easy to accomplish, and you can get creative with working them into your day. You can do squats while you brush your teeth morning and night, lunges around the kitchen while dinner is cooking -- anytime you are standing still during the day, fit in some squats or lunges to pass the time. 

4. Sworkit App 
There are tons of in-home workout apps to choose from, and Sworkit is one that I use and adore. Customize your own HIIT workout, even choosing how long you have to fit an exercise in, and you’ll get a fantastic workout you can do in the comfort of your own home that has been customized just for you.    

5. Stairs  
Whether you have them in your house or somewhere nearby in your neighborhood, using a staircase to get in some great cardio is a fantastic idea. Run up the stairs, walk down, and repeat. Get in as many reps as you can, and you will have a heart-pounding workout in 15-minutes or less. 

So, no matter what workout you do, make sure you pick one that you know that you are going stick to. Working out really can be fun if you find some methods that you actually enjoy, rather than dread. For example, my favorite workout is doing a quick, full-body routine on the TRX; my least favorite is running. It really is all about finding what you enjoy. 

What's your favorite type of workout?  Drop a comment below and let me know; I'm always looking for new ideas. 

Also, be sure not to miss any tips and recipes by signing up for my newsletter here or by following me on Facebook or Instagram!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Benefits of Shopping the Bulk Aisle

The bulk aisle in the grocery store might seem a bit overwhelming or confusing at first, or perhaps you might misinterpret what it actually offers. Shopping in the bulk aisle is a great way to save money and the environment, and the quality, is sometimes better than the packaged alternatives! 

Here are a few of my favorite reasons to take a stroll down the bulk aisle: 

It’s More Environmentally Friendly 
If you have a goal to reduce single-use plastics and be more environmentally friendly this year, the bulk aisle is a great place to start. Shopping in the bulk aisle uses much less waste compared to buying the pre-packaged alternatives. All you need to store your bulk items is a bag or container. Most bulk aisles offer plastic bags, but the best practice is to bring your own instead. Bring some mason jars or other reusable containers to the store and put your bulk foods there. This way, you aren’t using single-use plastic packaging. Additionally, you only take however much of the ingredient you need, so you’ll be reducing your food waste as well. 

You’ll Save Money 
In the bulk aisle, you’re only paying for the weight that you decide to buy. This means that you can take only what you need; therefore, you’ll be paying much less than purchasing a standard package size. Additionally, advertising and packaging items cost businesses quite a lot of money, so bulk items tend to cost much less per unit compared to the same things in a package. Many foods in the bulk aisle are no-brand alternatives and while you may have a preference for a specific cereal or trail mix brand, other items such as beans, nuts, and seeds don’t differ much. You’ll be paying much less for the no-brand version than the same food with a fancy brand attached to it. If you’re using your own container, make sure to weigh it before putting in any items, or you may get charged for the extra weight. However, you will want to check with the store first.

You Can Test Out New Foods 
Taking as little as you need means that you can experiment with foods that you’ve never tried before. You can buy a sample of some new ingredients without having to commit to an entire package of an item that you may not end up liking. For example, you can get a small scoop of some flavored nuts or try out a different type of flour. You can also get yourself a few treats without having to go overboard. 

The Ingredients are Clean 
Bulk items sell out fast, so the supermarkets are continually replenishing their stock. You can be assured that the food you’re buying in the bulk aisle is fresh. Not only this, but you can see the ingredient list and nutritional value clearly on the bins so you know exactly what you’re eating. Items like spices and coffee are much fresher than their packaged equivalents, which contain many additives and preservatives to increase their shelf life. In some cases, you can clearly taste the difference in quality. 

Which items do you get from the bulk aisle? I prefer buying my nuts, oats, and seeds from the bulk aisle. 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Foods That Help with Everyday Overwhelm

We often put a lot of thought into doing things regularly to boost our immune systems. We know the necessary items that need to be present in our diet and lives to achieve this, and we boost them even more during cold and flu season. There's another issue we all deal with that can be combated with proactive habits -- anxiety and overwhelm. I first want to be clear that I am not speaking of clinical anxiety. If you are struggling beyond basic daily life overwhelm, please consult your doctor.  

For the overwhelm that comes with daily life, I like to look to ancient traditions. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, our kidneys are the body's central source of yin and yang. When our kidneys aren't functioning optimally, other health problems, including anxiety, arise. The world we live in today takes a significant toll on our kidneys, whether we know it or not. These issues can be small enough to go undiagnosed by physicians but can have a substantial impact on the rest of our bodies.  

Factors such as stress, poor sleep quality, environmental toxins, and alcohol can be extremely taxing on the kidneys. The adrenal glands and the kidneys can be viewed as the same organ. The adrenals are two glands that are located on top of your kidneys. They are responsible for the production and regulation of essential hormones, including those involved in the stress response. When the adrenal glands become overworked, through too much stress, lack of sleep, or those other factors, they are unable to function normally, resulting in adrenal fatigue. This leads to numerous symptoms, including insomnia, sadness, digestive problems, weak immune functioning, and especially anxiety.  

Thus, by treating the kidneys through specific foods and restoring the functioning of the adrenal glands, you can help ease some symptoms of overwhelm. To feed your kidneys optimally, you should eat tangerines, plums, grapes, grains such as amaranth, rye, oats, and barley, celery, asparagus, cabbage, and black beans. However, it is beneficial to know whether your kidneys are deficient in the yin or yang and treat them accordingly. The yin is responsible for cooling and hydrating the body. If they are yin deficient, you might experience symptoms such as insomnia, night sweats, dry skin, eyes, and mouth, and brittle hair. Chlorella is exceptionally beneficial for increasing the kidneys' yin.  

Spirulina, another type of algae, also works great. It would be best if you also were eating carrots, grapefruit, celery, cucumber, blueberries, soybeans, kidney beans, and watermelon. These are considered 'cold' foods that will help increase your yin.  

Yang, on the other hand, is responsible for stimulating and warming up your body. If your kidneys are deficient in yang, you might experience diarrhea, lower back pain, fatigue, and feeling cold. Generally, symptoms are worse in the morning. If this is your case, eat "warming" foods such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves, walnuts, quinoa, and black beans. Avoid any iced drinks and raw foods and try to limit your fruit intake as these are all considered 'cooling' foods that will only worsen your yin-yang imbalance. 

Aside from foods to help stimulate healthy kidney function, meditation apps can help tremendously with combating daily overwhelm.  Apps such as Headspace or Calm can help you fit meditation into your schedule in just a few minutes per day, and this time to clear your mind can transform your entire day. 

What are your favorite mind-clearing practices that help you stay calm? 
Hit reply and let me know, I'd love to hear how you handle this. 

Monday, March 2, 2020

Keep These Natural Items on Hand for First Aid

Having a first aid kit on hand can help to bandage up accidents quickly and efficiently. Keeping one in your home is a priority, and having one to keep in the trunk of your car can come in handy, too.  

Just to be clear -- these tips are for minor cuts and bruises. If someone has been injured, don't delay getting proper medical attention.  For other common occurrences that aren't severe, you can keep your natural first aid kit on hand to use at a moment's notice.  

- Soothe burns 
For those occasions you accidentally touch the edge of your baking sheet after you pull it out of the oven, resulting in a minor burn. Aloe vera gel is a great and natural solution to soothe burns of this type. You can also use calendula or an oil with St. John's wort, though aloe vera gel (the real stuff) is extremely easy to find and keep stashed for these purposes.  You could even keep an aloe plant in your home, for decoration and purpose.  

- Calm seasonal allergies 
When that pollen gets in the air, you might feel pretty miserable. If you want to rely on something more natural, stinging nettle and echinacea can help you. Each of these calms seasonal allergies by reducing inflammatory symptoms so you can get through your day without sneezing up a storm.  

- Quell the common cold 
When a cold comes on, if you have lemons or limes around, you're halfway to feeling better. Mixing those with raw organic honey, a touch of ground cayenne pepper, and a little warm water can do you better. 

- Relieve a pounding headache 
If you're tired of taking too many pain relievers to stop your head from aching, considering stocking up on essential oils instead. Specifically, lavender and peppermint are wonderful when diffused into your air space or even applied to your temples. Be sure to use a high-quality third-party tested oil, so you're sure it's not full of yucky chemicals.   

- Stop bug bites from itching 
Bug bites from ants or mosquitoes are bothersome. They're hard to avoid in the spring and summer months.  Fortunately, if you have that lavender essential oil around, you can apply it directly to the source and relieve that itching pronto.   

- Fix tummy troubles 
For anyone that's always had trouble stomaching over the counter medicines, try candied ginger or ginger extract when you feel a bit queasy or have an upset stomach. Ginger is naturally good at helping with digestion and is even safe for pregnant and nursing women.  

When you go more natural with your wellness routines, you'll start feeling better overall. Keeping these natural essentials around gives you a safer alternative to calming your ailments. Do you have a natural remedy you use and swear by? I would love to hear about it! Just remember, if you have a serious illness or injury, always see your health care professional.