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Katies Endometriosis Remission Story

The below Endometriosis remission story has been shared by Katie of the most beautiful website (website crushing!) HealEndo.com . She has just launched her new book ‘The 4-Week Endometriosis Diet Plan.’

No one tells you remission may be possible when you get diagnosed with endometriosis. Au contraire. Upon diagnosis you hear the worst, be it from doctors or online, or maybe you hear the incorrect advice to get pregnant to “cure” it. But no, remission is not a word that is often uttered during basic endo conversations. This is part of the devastating feeling of the disease, and also why you feel like you’ve found nirvana if one day you yourself achieves remission. This is my story. 

Nonetheless, I’m happy to say I’ve recovered from a life of chronic pain, chronic fatigue, and chronic gut issues stemming from my severe endometriosis symptoms for many years. Finding clinical remission is the reason I do what I do today – work with other women from around the world battling with endo – and I too hope to spread the word that remission or partial remission is absolutely possible.

My Story: The Diagnosis 

My own endo-story started at 23 after pelvic pain came on so suddenly and so intensely I thought I was dying. For me, this pain wasn’t associated with my period, so I didn’t even consider endometriosis – it was a deep, overwhelming pain that followed me around everyday. 

I was oddly lucky because, being on a small island, my local doctor had seen endometriosis many times before and suspected this was the case. Many women wait over a decade to be diagnosed, and I feel so incredibly blessed that 6 months of tests later my doctor came back with his diagnosis of endometriosis (side note: you need a laparoscopic surgery to officially confirm this, but his assumption was based on the blood and adhesions in my pelvis the MRI had picked up). 

The solution to endo is the worst of all: I was told there is none. What I had to look forward to was years of pain that I could only mitigate through synthetic hormones, pain killers, lupron, or maybe eventually a hysterectomy. Oh, it’s possible I couldn’t have kids too. This isn’t what a 23 year old hopes for at a doctors appointment… 

The New Normal 

The diagnosis was really only the first part of my unravelling. The combination of birth control and high doses of NSAIDs started really messing up my stomach, so I was also put on antacids to control the stomach pain. All of this wreaked havoc on my digestion and energy levels and I felt miserable. My boyfriend suggested I look into diet changes, which I found kind of funny at first (change my diet to heal my organs being stuck together?? Get real) but honestly I was willing to do anything. I stumbled upon this diet called the “endometriosis diet” where you cut out meat, dairy, gluten, sugar, coffee, and alcohol. You girls know it. Welcome to deprivation-central. 

Dietary changes are hard when mac ’n cheese with broccoli is your favorite “healthy” food, so I started my journey by cutting out gluten. THIS WAS NOT EASY, but luckily I was able to really master it thanks to my roommate who was celiac, and she helped be see items with hidden gluten (like those darn “corn” pizza crusts I loved so much) and I learned a gluten free pace of life. That helped me tremendously. 

But as much as it helped, it wasn’t my solution. Gluten free was definitely a piece of it – one I still abide by today – but it was only a part of the whole package, especially since I had replaced processed gluten products with processed gluten-free products. Not good for healing. As the pain progressed, I was popping ibuprofen like candy, and I needed to get surgery a year and half after my diagnosis. What type of surgery? Laparoscopic with cauterization. Recovery was terrible and the pain came back within 10 months. 10 MONTHS! 

As the pain came back I cut out other things: soy, my beloved dairy, alcohol. I felt like I couldn’t cut out coffee because I was so exhausted all the time it’s the only thing that kept me upright. I had lost a lot of weight and couldn’t keep it on, my skin looked pale, and my hair and nails were too brittle to grow. I got chronic sinus infections and my shoulders were so tight from all the stress I kept throwing out my neck. My endo belly was huge, every day, and I felt like I would pop at any moment. I was really sick at this point, sicker than I realized since the decline had happened slowly over the years. Somehow it had become my new norm. 

After two more years the pain had creeped back enough that I needed another surgery, but this time I knew enough about proper surgeries to be my own advocate. My insurance wouldn’t cover any specialist excision surgeon, but I was able to find a more competent doctor on Oahu who treated me well, didn’t cauterize, and my recovery was a thousand times better than my last surgery. As every endo-advocate says, it really pays to be an informed patient and know what you need from a surgery.

Reclaiming my Life: Gut and Nutrition 

There’s nothing like being sick and tired of being sick and tired to motivate you. I was sick of doctors continually prescribing me meds to cure the symptoms of my meds, sick of not being vibrant at 28, sick of being too tired to even smile. Worst of all, my endo symptoms started returning AGAIN after 8 months. I was scared, angry, nervous, and totally totally totally ready to get to the root of the problem once and for all. I wanted a baby gosh-darn it, I wanted a normal, healthy, happy life at 30. Was that too much to ask? Somehow anger at the unfairness of the situation gave me the energy I needed, and the fire inside me was lit. 

A typical “before” meal. looks healthy in theory, but really loaded with sugar,, low fat, blood sugar rollercoaster. this is a dessert disguised as a meal.

With a renewed vigor, I began studiously studying endometriosis and connecting the dots between the incurable and the reality. Finding that endometriosis is an immune-related disease more than a hormonal disease blew my mind, it changed the entire way I was approaching the disease. With an immune related issue, you can incorporate many diet and lifestyle approaches to help re-regulate the immune system, calm the inflammation, and heal from within. It allowed me to understand that a holistic approach wasn’t just helpful for endo like mine, but necessary. 

Finding a new perspective what endo is changed my healing perspective as well, and why I list “LEARN” as the first of 5 pillars on may site. Understanding about Terry Wahls, MD, who healed her advanced M.S. through diet and lifestyle (the Wahls Protocol), and how many millions of autoimmune sufferers have put their autoimmune diseases in remission through the Paleo AIP diet + lifestyle is truly inspiring. If they could do it, why couldn’t I? I read about Weston Price who travelled the world looking at ancestral diets and how these healthy people ate loads of organ meats, raw milk, shellfish, fish eggs – basically every food I thought would kill me. But…. but although Western medicine had kept me alive, I was so sick of the life I was living I was ready to try something completely new. It was time to go the full blown holistic route, so I thew out my birth control on the spot (my body hated that stuff), stopped my habit of preemptively swallowing ibuprofen at every small pang, and had an internal renaissance where I vowed to figure this out once and for all. 

Check out Katie’s brilliant blog post on sitting and Endometriosis (click here)

I also forked over money to go to a naturopath which was a godsend. She ran numerous tests that showed I had severe gut permeability, which was probably why I was also so nutrient deficient as well as allergic to so many foods. This opened up new solution-oriented doors for me as I began to see a way out, that there were things wrong with my body aside from the endo that I could actually fix through diet and lifestyle! That alone was more hope than I had over the previous 5 years of being told there was “no cure”, and I was so excited to see incredible progress with my digestion. 

For those who have dealt with chronic fatigue I can only describe this as a feeling of the “clouds parting”. It was a sort of spiritual experience where, as the energy I forgot I could ever have again came back, I realized I actually had the power in my hands to start healing myself. That angry energy turned to excited energy, and I kept on the path. 

Reclaiming my Life: Alignment work 

As I gained healing confidence I simultaneously was working on body alignment. I had chronic running injuries and, from being ill for so long, I ended up pretty bio-mechanically crooked and weak. I found Katy Bowman, a biomechanist who helps us “average joe’s” understand how to move properly. What I learned is that my movements, or lack thereof, could be directly impacting my endometriosis by inhibiting blood flow to my pelvis. It made sense, so I started working on my tight, inactive hips, glutes, and core and indeed began to see a shift in my pain levels associated with endo. This was a shock to me since I had always heard about diet helping endo, but never about body mechanics. 

My core on left when I was diagnosed with endo, weak and tipping forward. On the right after lots of alignment and movement work, knitted back together

Katy Bowman’s approach sat well with me. She advises to stop exercising and start “moving” more, little movements and big movements and, of course, the most ancient movement of all: walking. So I started walking every day, with a goal to get to 5 miles, while also doing corrective exercises to learn how to walk correctly. See, I had learned big, important muscles in my body (like my inner thighs and glutes) were completely inactive and weak. In order to bring circulation into my core and pelvis, these big guns of movement needed to start waking up. To de-stress, I would unplug from everything, leave my phone and ipod, and just walk through the forest for an hour letting myself have a conversation with my long lost friend: nature. After a few months found myself easily being able to walk 5 miles, and each month after that I felt my previously atrophied core becoming quite strong without ever feeling overwhelmed with “working out”. 

Now I was on a role. My body was feeling stronger, I was actually digesting and assimilating my food, my nails weren’t breaking and my hair was growing, and my energy levels were soaring. There were definitely times when issues arose, but I was diligent in researching the reasons from a non-endo perspective and could usually find answers that way. Symptoms like my “endo belly” – a term for the enormous, painful, and embarrassing bloating associated with endometriosis – started disappearing with the addition of heaps of veggies, probiotic rich foods, digestive aids, and actually chewing my food to mush before I swallowed. 

Check out Katie’s brilliant blog post on walking posture with Endometriosis (click here)

The lifestyle I developed for myself wasn’t a lifestyle of deprivation like the “endo diet” I tried before that, it was truly a lifestyle of infusion. I ate local, delicious, nutrient-dense foods that made me feel connected the the land and animals, I gardened, walk in the forest, did squats in the kitchen while laughing with my husband, and ate so much fat that craving sugar was a thing of the past. 

Two and a half years after I started my “healing journey”, I would say my body was in full clinical remission. Even more, my husband and I were finally over-the-moon to find out we were expecting our own bundle of joy – even after all the endo, after being recommended a hysterectomy, after many years of infertility. If this isn’t a “cherry on top” moment of healing, I don’t know what is. 

I hope my story offers you hope 

They say there’s no cure for endometriosis, and it’s true that once the genes associated with endo are turned on you can’t turn them off (yet). But, what I know based on my own experience and that of many of my clients is that it’s possible to heal the symptoms associated with endo to the point you feel as if you don’t have it or at least that you can live a normal life – this is what remission or partial-remission is. Maybe I still have endo lesions, maybe not, but I don’t have a single symptom of endo or any chronic illness symptom that I battled with for decades. 

If you’re looking for your own path, I hope you keep on going! I deeply believe with the correct approach, with looking at the whole body system and not just one aspect like diet or movement alone, there will be things that click into place. One after another they will all add up until you’re noticeably improved. Also, no two recovery stories will be the same, so listen to your body first before following in footsteps of another. Lastly, healing may be a huge journey (mine took 2 intensive years after all, not counting the 6 years before that laid a foundation), but an exciting one. Especially at the end when you wake up one day and finally feel, well, pretty great 🙂


If you have your own story of putting your Endometriosis or Adenomyosis into remission, then I would love to publish it. Click here, to submit and share it with the world so we can all learn from each other’s journeys. #EndoHopeStudy

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GRATITUDE

Gratitude doesn’t have to be saved up for the big events in life, it is something you can practice everyday. In fact, the more you begin to notice and be thankful for the small stuff, the more you are likely to begin to look out for things which bring you positivity. It’s time to learn to dwell on the good.

Why should I practice Gratitude?

You’ve had a long week at work and you feel worn out and exhausted, it can be so easy to mark it down as a crappy week. It can often be a struggle to pinpoint any positive moments and it’d be easy to mark the whole thing down as a negative. Now imagine, at the end of each day thinking about three small things that made you smile. They could be tiny moments: seeing a pretty flower by the curb, the sound of birds singing or the warmth of the first sip of coffee as you sat at your desk ready to begin your work. These are all things we can be grateful for, the tiny stolen moments that triggered a smile or a spark of warmth during a difficult day. The more you notice these moments, the more you will begin to look out for them. To make a note of them each time they happen. The more you write them down, the more you will begin to realise that the week wasn’t so bad at all, there was plenty to be thankful for.

What are the benefits?

Where to begin? The benefits are never-ending. A more positive outlook on life, a new sense of excitement for the little things, better sleep, a more compassionate nature, better moods, stronger immune systems! Practising gratitude also helps in becoming more present, to be more aware of surroundings and events happening in that moment. Rather than just drinking a cup of tea, you will start to anticipate and appreciate the magic of having the moment to yourself to drink the delicious warm mug of your favourite drink as you write your to do list at the beginning of the day. Remember to spend some time reflecting on why each moment gave you happiness, how it affected your mood and what it was about that exact moment in time that you are grateful for. Gratitude shifts the anticipation of negative outcomes to positive and creates a surge of feel good hormones including dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. 

Good luck!

Original article found here.

What is Hyperpigmentation?

HYPERPIGMENTATION, SUN SPOTS, DARK SPOTS – FIND OUT WHAT CAUSES THIS DISCOLOURATION OF THE SKIN AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT.

Often we women with gynecological things going on Endometoirsis or PCOS for example, often also then as a result of our hormones will get hyperpigmentation. Below is a great article by The Body Shop to hopefully help you out. Original article found here.

Hyperpigmentation is a discolouration of the skin caused by excess melanin, which results in dark spots and patches on the skin. It often crops up on areas most exposed to the sun, like your hands and face, and can appear anything from light brown in colour to black. Hyperpigmentation may look like small brown spots, or may cover a larger area. You might know it as age spots, sun spots, dark spots or melasma.

CAUSES OF HYPERPIGMENTATION

When skin is exposed to damage, melanin is produced to help protect it. This excess melanin can look like a tan, or it may appear in patches and spots. Most hyperpigmentation is caused by sun exposure, which is why it usually appears on the hands and face. Darker skin tones are more prone to hyperpigmentation. It can also occur as the result of medical issues, like a change in hormones, or damage to the skin like acne and inflammation.

HOW TO ADDRESS HYPERPIGMENTATION

If you’re suffering from any kind of hyperpigmentation, sun protection is your best friend. Since sun exposure is the main cause, SPF protection will help protect against further hyperpigmentation. Choose skincare products with ingredients that can help brighten the appearance of skin, like vitamin C. It’s really important to use products regularly to see results, so build a routine and stick to it.

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR SKIN FROM THE SUN

Protecting your skin from the harmful effects of the sun is the most important steps to help reduce future hyperpigmentation. Choose a high level of protection and apply it regularly, even if you’re going to be indoors a lot. Have a read of our expert advice about staying safe in the sun, and the best way to protect your skin.

How to Debunk Menstrual Health Stigmas in the Age of Consumerism

A conversation with Chris Bobel

Dr. Bobel is Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts, and is also President of The Society for Menstrual Cycle Research. She just published a book, The Managed Body, where she explores developing girls and menstrual health in the global south.

I spoke with Dr. Bobel about how misinformation spreads about menstruation, how myths and taboos persist, as well as her thoughts on why consumer products are not the answer.

Here is an excerpt of our conversation, edited for clarity:

Ava: What misinformation about menstruation do you see spreading in the global south?

Dr. Bobel: There’s misinformation being spread by some of the NGOs and social businesses that are addressing menstrual health. There is a tendency for organizations—understandably motivated by timetables, competitive funding, competition, and a dearth of resources—that many organizations are not fact checking things like, “one out of 10 African girls misses school when she’s on her period” or that the lack of menstrual pads is making girls sick.

Those are the two claims that are often made by very well-meaning organizations to advance the cause of menstrual health, to attract attention and resources to justify their intervention. But the truth is neither of them are suitably supported by the available evidence. When it comes to the menstrual health space, we’re kind of building the house while we’re were living in it. So we’re making assumptions that we have yet to prove.

So the research just doesn’t line up yet to prove that there’s a clear relationship between access to menstrual materials and school attendance. And there’s not clear evidence that when using cloth for instance—or something else that’s not a commercial single-use menstrual pad—that people will get sick. And yet those claims are often made.

Ava: Are they myths?

Dr. Bobel: I wouldn’t call them myths per se, I would just call them assumptions or claims that are made. They hold up because they repeat what somebody else has said, or they think they heard it from UNICEF or they think they read it in a UNESCO report, or maybe they read a report on a piece of research that was done in a small population in Sierra Leone, but then they extrapolate that to a site in India.

It’s bad politics of citation, right? So people don’t get to the bottom. They don’t go to the source and actually read the study, or they don’t find out that there is no study it’s just one NGO was quoting one news article that quoted a different NGO that’s quoting a different news article and you get to the bottom and you realize there’s nothing there.

Ava: Are there other examples?

Dr. Bobel: There’s another example of this under-reliance on the evidence and over-reliance on what are called spectacles. In the absence of good science, what people often do is tell the most heart-wrenching story about the young woman who died because she wore a cloth as a menstrual absorbent and there was a rusty hook in it and she contracted tetanus and died.

These are real stories, but to position them as the norm to justify intervention, I find this problematic. It is intended to create awareness and empathy, but I think it actually serves to create distance between other people, different people. Right? So that we then sort of see the brown and black people of the global south as the savage, as ignorant, as not knowing better. I don’t think that’s actually a way to challenge inequality and improve the lives of people globally.

Ava: What role do you think consumer products do or don’t play in changing stigmas around menstruation?

Dr. Bobel: I recognize that language of menstruation, particularly in the west and increasingly in the global south, is a language of products. We equate menstruation with a mess. We equate menstruation with something that needs to be cleaned up. That’s why I titled my book “The Managed Body” because of this idea that, that the menstruating body is one in need of management. We don’t construct it as a vital sign. We don’t construct it as something neutral, normal, or healthy. We construct it as a problem that needs to be solved. And the menstrual care industry has been brilliant at delivering the “solution” and the solution comes in a box or bag.

I don’t want to eclipse menstrual discomfort, pain, or disorders. Those are a reality. But for most people, menstruation is a normal event, but it gets socially constructed. It could be constructed as a nuisance, as something you have to hate, and we just want to make it go away. And that’s the work of stigma. There are complex reasons why that has to do with gender and embodiment and in some, in some cases, race as well as class. And so, of course, people will do whatever they can to keep it quiet, keep it hidden. And this is true in consumer culture more generally—your body grows hair, but you then need to make it go away.

So the personal care products are very effective at showing up very quickly and saying, oh, we’ve got the solution for you. But they also helped to construct the problem, right? It’s shameful that you leak, the leak is a social crisis. Or, you don’t want anybody to know that that’s a tampon, so we’re going to wrap it in neon bright wrappings or make it small enough that it fits in your hand so that you can discreetly walk from the classroom to the bathroom. Or the scented products, particularly scented tampons, which are absolutely unnecessary because there is no menstrual odor if you’re wearing a product internally.

And so, of course, we want to smell like a flower. We don’t want to smell like a woman, a human woman. So that’s my worry about this emphasis on product. It’s nice to have options. I think it’s great. I’m not against options and innovation, but I think it’s a false belief that if you give people more options, that’s going to fight stigma. That doesn’t fight stigma—that accommodates stigma.

Ava: What else needs to be done to fight these taboos? Is it education to flip the script girls have internally about their menstruation?

Dr. Bobel: Yes. I think we do need to change the script, but it needs to be for more than girls. It needs to be for boys, parents, religious leaders, teachers, coaches, doctors, nurses. I did a workshop with school nurses—they were so hungry for information. They know that they have an opportunity to talk with kids about their bodies in ways that are body positive and to promote menstrual literacy. But guess what? Many of them felt constrained because they didn’t feel supported by the administration.

It wasn’t okay to talk honestly about bodies, it wasn’t okay to talk about menstruation. And we need to. We need a massive educational overhaul, where menstrual health and more generally puberty and reproductive health are wheeled not just into health class but show up in lots of places: history, political science—it can be a really productive lens to think about a lot of things.

And it will normalize it because it’s just part of the conversation. But right now we marginalize. It’s so acutely that we have some schools—even to this day—it’s one day of education about menstruation. And the boys and the girls are separated. Sometimes the boys get to play basketball and the girls see a video, right? And then no wonder kids are clueless and no wonder they weaponize menstruation because they don’t understand it and it makes them uncomfortable.

It’s weird when you think about it—blood comes out of your body, but you’re not dying. What strange thing; You need to unpack it. We really need to invest in education and I’ve talked to lots of tech innovators and startup people and I don’t think I’ve talked to anyone that’s innovating and education. They’re all innovating in product and I would really like to see some innovation in the direction of education and awareness campaign.

I would really like to see a really serious effort to teach menstrual literacy in the context of body positivity. And I don’t mean everybody has to love their period. I think that’s exchanging one tyranny—hating your period—for another one, loving your period. I don’t want to assume anybody’s relationship to their body, especially for people that are gender nonconforming or trans.

But if you don’t have good information, you can’t make informed decisions about how to care for your body. You’re operating in the dark. We have to turn the lights on and literacy training in a variety of settings—not only schools and not only for girls but for everybody—is the way to do that. I think we should do that at least as much as we do the product innovation.

Ava: What else could we be doing?

Dr. Bobel: Menstrual health is a gateway to all kinds of conversations about sexuality, about sexual violence, about healthcare decision making across the lifespan beyond the menstrual cycle. For me, this is why this issue is so fascinating—you open your mouth and start talking about menstruation and pretty soon you’re talking about 10 different issues. But how can you draw in more people into more of these conversations? How can people leverage body literacy to think critically about lots of dimensions of their life? Because it’s not only fertility that people need to learn about.

The only way forward for the mental health movement is if we build linkages with other movements. Otherwise, we’re going to languish on the margins as some kind of weird fringy cause. People say why are you talking about periods when there’s sex trafficking and there’s massive mass incarceration, and there are school shootings. But it’s the beginning of the body hatred that puts into motion an entire lifetime of disregard for staying in tune with the body—and that is powerful. And if we do it right, early, then I think we can change the script. It’s never too late. It’s not too late for somebody that’s 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 or for boys or for parents. And I think we’ve got a great opportunity there.By Lindsay Meisel | Feb 7, 2019


Lindsay Meisel

Lindsay Meisel is the Head of Content at Ava. She has over a decade of experience writing about science, technology, and health, with a focus on women’s health and the menstrual cycle. Her work has been featured on The Fertility HourThe Birth HourThe Breakthrough Journal, and The Rumpus.

Original article found here.

REFLECTION

Setting aside time to reflect on what is important to you can be a great way to discover more about yourself and your values and ensure that you are on track to being the best version of you. Reflecting on the words of others can be a great way to question ourselves and our beliefs, why we hold certain beliefs and whether the beliefs keep us in protection mode or allow us to grow. So let’s dig a little deeper into what reflection can bring us.

Why Reflect?

Have you ever read a quote and sensed a real connection with the words? Maybe it has caused you to re-evaluate the way you looked at a certain situation or caused you to understand the response of somebody that you previously didn’t agree with. It is important to take time in our busy lives to question ourselves, to allow ourselves the space to check in on our behaviours and ensure we are heading in a positive direction. When we do this regularly, reflecting on the same quotes or statements over prolonged periods of time,  we can start to notice any improvements or changes we are making… or not making as the case may be.

Reflection does not need to be a solo activity either. If there is a particular quote or statement that has got you questioning the way you view the world, it is something you can create discussions around. Reflecting on beliefs with friends or colleagues can be a great way to get different viewpoints and opinions and that in turn can further enhance your personal development.

What are the benefits?

Reflection has huge benefits including raising self-awareness which in turn can build emotional intelligence. Questioning the way your mind works can help you to understand deeper levels of your personality and view of the world. With a greater understanding of yourself, you can start to implement changes (if necessary) in a positive way which can allow you to grow and develop as a person. This can also lead you to stronger and more meaningful relationships with others both in your personal and work life.

How do I do it?

There is no real right or wrong way to reflect and should be done in a way that feels right for you personally. However, here are some guidelines to get you started:

Set aside time specifically for the reflection. This should just be done whilst busying yourself with other activities. Give yourself dedicated time to truly clear your mind of other focuses and channel all of your energy into the reflection.
Make notes – writing down your reflections can be a great way to measure your progress or growth over time. These do not need to be long journal entries, they could be bullet point notes on any thoughts or emotions that come up whilst reflecting on specific events or quotes.

Our Reflection category has 9 different thought-provoking quotes to get you started on this. Read the quote and really give some thought on what it means to you, what emotions arise when you read the words, what meaning do you take from them? Do the quotes make you question any previously held beliefs? How can you use that to grow and develop yourself? If you select the same card twice over time, get out your previous notes and compare and contrast your thoughts between then and now. Check in to see if and how you have used your learnings in the time passed.

Reflection can be difficult to begin with but if you persevere you will find yourself becoming a happier, more fulfilled, more understanding and more efficient you.

Original article found here.

What Does Progesterone Do? The Top 8 Impacts.

Poor progesterone—it doesn’t get nearly as much attention as estrogen. Everyone knows estrogen as the “female” hormone but hardly anyone talks about estrogen’s partner in crime, progesterone. And it’s too bad, because progesterone is a super hormone with the power to help women sleep better, grow stronger, and feel more relaxed.

To increase your hormone IQ, read about the top eight impacts of progesterone.

Sustains the uterine lining

High levels of progesterone after ovulation help thicken and maintain the uterine lining. A short luteal phase (under 10 days) can indicate low levels of progesterone, which can make it harder to get pregnant.

Builds strong bones

The process of maintaining strong bones involves the removal of old bone (accomplished by cells called osteoclasts) and replacing it with new bone (created by osteoblasts). While estrogen is involved in maintaining existing bone, only progesterone can help build new bone by stimulating osteoblast activity. Both irregular cycles and short luteal phases are risk factors for bone loss.

Boosts metabolism

You know how your basal body temperature rises by a half a degree after ovulation? That’s because of rising levels of progesterone. Progesterone increases your metabolic rate, causing your body temperature to rise, increasing your appetite and energy levels.

Helps you quit bad habits

A recent study from the University of Pennsylvania showed that during the luteal phase, when progesterone was high, there was a stronger active connection between a part of the brain responsible for cravings and rewards, and a part responsible for decision making. The researchers hypothesize that the change may enhance cognitive control, making it easier to quit bad habits like smoking and drinking.

Aids sleep

Progesterone is known to help women fall asleep faster, have less disturbed deep sleep, and stay asleep longer.

Protects against breast and endometrial cancer

Progesterone counteracts estrogen’s stimulating effect on breast and uterine tissue.

It makes you constipated

It’s a muscle relaxant, so it can have a dampening effect on the normal bowel contractions that help you stay regular. High progesterone is the reason why so many pregnant women complain of constipation, and it’s also the reason why some women get constipated after ovulation.

Protects against coronary artery disease

Researchers have long pointed to estrogen as the reason why women have heart attacks when they are 10 years older, on average, than men. However, a large randomized controlled trial found no support for the idea that estrogen therapy prevented heart disease. Recent research indicates that during the 30 – 40 years of a woman’s reproductive life, normal levels of both estrogen and progesterone are needed to prevent or delay heart disease in women.By Lindsay Meisel | May 16, 2017Tags:luteal phaseprogesterone


VIEW SOURCES

Influence of menstrual cycle phase on resting-state functional connectivity in naturally cycling, cigarette-dependent women

Progesterone and the Luteal Phase

Progesterone and Bone: Actions Promoting Bone Health in Women

Progesterone reduces wakefulness in sleep EEG and has no effect on cognition in healthy postmenopausal women.

Effects of conjugated equine estrogen in postmenopausal women with hysterectomy: the Women’s Health Initiative randomized controlled trial.

Progesterone Within Ovulatory Menstrual Cycles Needed for Cardiovascular Protection: An Evidence-Based Hypothesis

Original article found here.

What Causes Brown Discharge and What Does it Mean?

It can be disconcerting to notice brown vaginal discharge in your underwear or when you wipe. Most of the time, it’s nothing to worry about. Brown discharge is usually related to spotting in the days before your period begins, or old blood from your period taking a bit longer to leave the uterus. 

What is Brown Vaginal Discharge?

Brown discharge is cervical mucus that is tinged with old blood. As blood ages in the body, it turns brown instead of a bright red. The color of your discharge changes during your cycle due to changes in your reproductive hormone levels. Cycle tracking can be helpful for understanding where you are in your cycle and what changes are occurring. 

What Are the Different Types of Vaginal Discharge?

Vaginal discharge is the fluid that comes out of the vagina as a result of the bacteria and fluids secreted by your vaginal cells. During different phases of your menstrual cycle, you may notice different consistencies and colors. The amount and frequency of discharge can vary from woman to woman. 

Here are the different types of discharge:

  • Brown: This is most common during your period; usually it’s just cervical mucus tinged with blood. It can also sometimes occur during early pregnancy—around the time that you expect your period (but don’t mistake it for implantation bleeding!)
  • Thick and white: This type of discharge is common just before or just after your period. If it’s accompanied by itching, you should talk to your doctor because it may indicate a yeast infection.
  • Clear and stretchy: Usually seen in the middle of your cycle, this type of discharge indicates that you are approaching ovulation and are highly fertile.
  • Clear and watery: Similar to clear and stretchy discharge, clear and watery discharge also indicates peak fertility—especially if there are copious amounts of it.
  • Yellow or green: Can be a sign of infection, especially if it’s chunky like cottage cheese, or has a foul smell. Talk to your doctor if you notice this type of discharge.

What Causes Brown Discharge?

In most cases, brown discharge is normal and nothing to be concerned about. You can best determine the cause of brown discharge by examining some of the other circumstances and symptoms that surround it. Possible causes of brown discharge include:

Perimenopause

Sometimes during the beginning stages of menopause, you may experience brown discharge or spotting as a result of changes in your hormones. These early stages of menopause typically begin after the age of 40.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is an infection that can cause brown discharge. Its main characteristic is a fishy smell coming from the vagina coupled with brown colored discharge. Bacterial vaginosis is common in women who are pregnant, and the condition tends to occur as a result of imbalances in certain bacteria in the vagina.

Irritation to the cervix

Irritation to the cervix from things like a gynecological exam or pap smears and even over-enthusiastic sex can cause brown discharge.

Your period

Brown discharge does sometimes occur at the very beginning or very end of your period. If it is happening around the time that you usually expect your period, it might actually be part of your period. 

Ovulation

Some women experience light, pinkish brown spotting that coincides with ovulation. Mid-cycle spotting is most likely caused by the dip in estrogen that occurs after ovulation.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

If it occurs in conjunction with irregular or missed periods, acne, weight gain or excess hair on the face or body, then brown discharge could be a symptom of PCOS. PCOS is a hormonal problem that is estimated to occur among 5-10% of young women and teens.

Endometriosis

If it occurs with intense pelvic pain, and a very heavy period, brown discharge before or after your period can be a sign of endometriosis. It happens when the lining of the uterus begins to grow outside of the uterus, such as around the ovaries, rectum, fallopian tubes, or vagina. If you notice these symptoms, you should contact your doctor right away as severe cases of endometriosis can cause infertility if not treated.

Sexually Transmitted Disease

If it occurs in conjunction with other symptoms like fever, a burning sensation when urinating, pain during or after sex, abdominal pain, or foul-smelling discharge, then it could be a sexually transmitted disease. Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, genital warts (HPV), vulvovaginitis and pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID) can all cause spotting or brown discharge.

Ovarian Cyst

An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms on or inside of the ovary. Most of the time, it is benign, though it can cause pain or pressure, dull lower backache, and pain during sex or menstruation. Some ovarian cysts are asymptomatic. The only way to detect an ovarian cyst is via ultrasound.

Cervical Cancer

In very rare cases, brown discharge could be a sign of cervical cancer if it occurs with unusual weight loss, painful intercourse, heavy or more prolonged periods, breakthrough bleeding during periods, or weakness. This is the most severe cause of brown discharge, but it is also quite rare. (The National Cancer Institute estimates that only 0.7% of women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in their lifetimes.) However, if you experience any of these symptoms or are at all concerned, talk to your doctor.

Is a brown discharge a sign of pregnancy?

Pink or brown discharge can be an ovulation symptom. At the beginning of your cycle, estrogen levels are rising, which causes the uterine lining to grow. After ovulation, progesterone levels increase, which causes the uterine lining to thicken and mature. Spotting around the time of ovulation may be because the uterine lining has grown due to high levels of estrogen, but has not yet thickened since progesterone is not yet at its peak.

For some women, brown spotting occurs in very early pregnancy. It can be scary when this happens, but most of the time, spotting during pregnancy is nothing to worry about (though it’s still a good idea to let your doctor know).

While brown spotting can occur during early pregnancy, it shouldn’t be considered a sign that you are pregnant. Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that implantation bleeding really exists. There are not any apparent symptoms of implantation that are in any way distinguishable from signs of your impending period.

That’s why, if you think you might be pregnant, the most conclusive way to really know is a positive pregnancy test (find out when to take a pregnancy test).

When should I talk to my doctor about brown discharge?

If you notice occasional brown discharge, you probably don’t need to do anything. But it’s a good idea to jot down when you see it so you can track how frequently it occurs and see if it is associated with a specific phase of your cycle or a particular activity.

If the brown spotting lasts more than a couple weeks, frequently happens after sex, or is accompanied by other symptoms such as vaginal itching, weird smells, or cramping, then it’s a good idea to call your doctor to make sure it’s not a sign of infection.

If you notice any of the following, call your doctor:

  • Itching
  • Any pain or discomfort
  • Rash
  • Unusually heavy periods
  • Bleeding or pain during/after sex
  • Pain while urinating
  • Foul smelling discharge
  • Abnormal bleeding between your periods (lasting three days or more)
  • Unusual spotting (occurring for three or more consecutive cycles)

Original article found here.

Hormones 101: Finally Understand Your Reproductive Hormones

If you’re a woman of reproductive age (and if you’re not on hormonal birth control), your body goes through some drastic cyclical changes in hormones every month. You may be aware of these changes (hello, pimples and cramps and mood swings) or you may have no idea, but either way, they are happening. What’s driving all this? Hormones. A great many different hormones, in fact.

This all may sound pretty complex, and it is, but every woman should be able to understand the basic hormones that drive the major phases of the menstrual cycle. This post will go over what hormones are, and what you need to know about the major ones in relation to the cycle, fertility, and pregnancy.

What are hormones?

Hormones are chemical messengers that are produced by endocrine glands, which include the ovaries, thyroid gland, hypothalamus, and pituitary gland. These messenger molecules travel in the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body to impact processes like menstruation, ovulation, and pregnancy. Most hormones are made from cholesterol.

These molecules can also affect other systems like mood—via hormone signals in the brain—and hunger—via hormone signals in the gut. That’s why symptoms like mood swings, nausea, or weight change are often the first signs of something happening with your hormones.

Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH)

What is the role of GnRH in the menstrual cycle?

The primary control center for reproductive hormone changes is the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus sends signals to the pituitary gland, which then sends signals to the ovaries, which then makes estrogens and progesterone in females. This system is called the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis (or HPG axis). Men have a version of the HPG axis too, but it regulates testosterone at the end instead of estrogens and progesterone.

Throughout the cycle, the hypothalamus is constantly taking in information about your body and using it to create a rhythm of GnRH pulses. The frequency (number of pulses) and amplitude (how strong the pulses are) of these GnRH pulses encode information about the menstrual cycle.

During the follicular phase (from day one of your period until you ovulate), GnRH pulses are high frequency and low amplitude, leading to stimulation of follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone from the pituitary gland (both hormones discussed below). Once estradiol and progesterone reach a certain threshold, the hypothalamus slows down the GnRH rhythm and the pulses switch to low frequency with high amplitude.

What can GnRH tell you about your fertility?

When the pulses of GnRH are thrown off, ovulation doesn’t happen. For example, hormonal birth control sustains estradiol and/or progesterone at high levels, which essentially tricks the hypothalamus into keeping GnRH pulses low and you don’t ovulate (which means you can’t get pregnant).

If you’re planning on using artificial reproductive methods to support your fertility, your doctor will give you medication that essentially quiets your GnRH levels temporarily so that many follicles can develop (aka “superovulation”) and be collected.

What is the role of GnRH during pregnancy?

GnRH activity remains low during pregnancy and lactation. The placenta creates its own GnRH during pregnancy.

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)

What is the role of FSH in the menstrual cycle?

FSH is the hormone that stimulates multiple follicles in your ovaries to mature during the first half of your cycle, called the follicular phase. Each of these follicles is a fluid-filled sac that contain an immature egg (or oocyte). Eventually, one of these follicles becomes dominant, and begins to produce high levels of estrogen, which is necessary for ovulation to occur.

What can your FSH level tell you about your fertility?

If you’re over 35, then your doctor may test your FSH levels on day three of your cycle. The reason for this test is to check ovarian reserve. Measuring FSH early in the cycle indicates how hard is the system working to stimulate enough follicles that cycle. The higher the FSH level, the harder the system needs to work to make enough, which may mean ovarian reserve is low.

What is the role of FSH during pregnancy?

Once you’re pregnant, FSH is no longer active and stays quiet until you resume cycling after birth.

Estrogen

Estrogens are one of the most recognizable hormones that you may associate with being a woman. There are three different types of estrogens, and women always have all three of them: estrone, estradiol, and estriol (so yes, it’s actually estrogens, not estrogen). Each one has a different profile:

  • Estrone (abbreviated as E1): the predominant estrogen after menopause
  • Estradiol (abbreviated as E2): the predominant estrogen during reproductive years
  • Estriol (abbreviated as E3): produced at high levels during pregnancy

What is the role of estrogens during the menstrual cycle?

Estradiol is the major hormone during the follicular phase (the first half of your cycle, from day one of your period until ovulation). As the follicles in your ovaries grow, they produce estradiol, which builds up the uterine lining.

Around day 10 of the typical cycle, the dominant follicle starts producing enough estradiol to stimulate a surge in luteinizing hormone (explained more below), which leads to ovulation. Estradiol also triggers changes in vaginal discharge, and is directly responsible for making more fertile cervical mucus, the sperm-friendly fluid that increases odds of fertilization.

What can your estrogen level tell you about your fertility?

If the follicle doesn’t produce enough estradiol, then there isn’t a signal for stimulating luteinizing hormone, which means no ovulation. Family or personal history of ovarian cysts increase the likelihood of low estrogen levels. Over-exercise, undereating, calorie deficit, and physiological stress can also contribute to low estrogen levels, sometimes leading to a condition called hypothalamic amenorrhea. Signs to watch out for are irregular cycles, amenorrhea (not getting your period), and vaginal dryness. If you’re concerned about possibly having low levels of estrogens, talk to your doctor about testing for it.

In the case of PCOS, hormones like estrogen are thrown off balance which can lead to anovulation (or no ovulation) and can be a fertility complication.

What is the role of estrogens during pregnancy?

The placenta produces an incredible amount of estrogens during pregnancy. In fact, from the beginning to the end of pregnancy, levels of estradiol and estrone increase 100-fold and levels of estriol increase 1000-fold! These hormones support the placenta by creating new blood vessels and increasing blood circulation, which helps shuttle nutrients to the baby.

Low estradiol during pregnancy have been linked to pre-eclampsia, and researchers are still working on figuring out exactly why and how this happens.

Luteinizing Hormone

What is the role of luteinizing hormone (LH) during the menstrual cycle?

Towards the end of follicular phase, the dominant follicle produces lots of estradiol. Once estradiol levels reach a certain threshold, it stimulates the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland. This triggers the dominant follicle in the ovary to release its egg. After the egg is released, the follicle transforms into the corpus luteum (which is why it’s called luteinizing hormone, and why the next phase of the cycle is called luteal phase). The primary role of the corpus luteum is to secrete progesterone, which we’ll discuss in the next section.

What can your LH levels tell you about your fertility?

Ovulation tests measure LH in your urine, and a LH surge is a pretty good indication that ovulation is happening soon. But, a drawback is that how long the LH surge lasts can vary considerably from woman to woman. So, if you have a short LH surge, it might be more difficult for the tests to catch it. And if you have a long LH surge, you might get several days of positive LH tests before ovulation, making it harder to predict exactly when you will ovulate.

Something interesting about LH: its molecular structure is very similar to hCG, the hormone that confirms pregnancy (explained more below). Because both hormones are so biologically similar, LH tests cannot tell the difference between LH and hCG in your urine. So, if you’ve missed your period and have a positive LH test, it’s possible that you’re pregnant (but it’s still better to use a pregnancy test designed to be sensitive to hCG levels specifically).

What is the role of LH during pregnancy?

Like FSH, LH also doesn’t do much once you’re pregnant.

Progesterone

What is the role of progesterone during the menstrual cycle?

Progesterone is the primary hormone during the luteal phase (from ovulation until your next period begins). After the dominant follicle in the ovary releases an egg, the follicle transforms into the corpus luteum and begins to secrete progesterone. This rapid rise in progesterone sustains the uterine lining that estradiol created earlier in the cycle.

Progesterone is responsible for many of the unpleasant symptoms associated with both the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Progesterone raises your metabolism, which can make you hungrier and lead to cravings. This increase in metabolism also leads to an increase in basal body temperature.) It relaxes your digestive muscles, which can lead to constipation before your period and during pregnancy. It’s also associated with breast soreness.

If you’re trying to get pregnant, all these normal progesterone symptoms might make you suspect that you’re pregnant. Unfortunately, physical symptoms during the luteal phase are not a reliable indicator of pregnancy, since progesterone levels are high at that point in the cycle whether you are pregnant or not.

If you don’t get pregnant that cycle, the corpus luteum shrinks after about 10 – 16 days. Progesterone levels drop, and the uterine lining can no longer be sustained, and is shed during your period.

If you do get pregnant that cycle, as soon as implantation is complete the fertilized egg begins producing a hormone called hCG. This hormone sends a signal to the corpus luteum to keep producing progesterone (in the medical literature, this is referred to as the “rescue” of the corpus luteum). Since progesterone levels remain high, your uterine lining is not shed and you don’t get your period.

If you don’t ovulate during that cycle, your progesterone levels never rise. In this situation, you may experience breakthrough bleeding instead of a true period.

What can your progesterone level tell you about your fertility?

Without enough progesterone, your luteal phase may be shorter than normal (less than 10 days between ovulation and menstruation), or you may experience spotting before period. There is some controversy around the topic of progesterone and luteal insufficiency, but some doctors and researchers believe it can reduce the chances of pregnancy by interrupting the process of implantation.

If your luteal phase is at least 10 days but you’re still struggling to conceive, then your doctor may want to test your peak progesterone levels. Peak progesterone can indicate that ovulation is normal and progesterone levels are sufficient. But, it’s important to know that progesterone peaks about seven days after ovulation. Based on the conventional 28-day cycle, some doctors assume ovulation happens on day 14 and test progesterone on day 21, which would not be accurate if you ovulate on any other day besides day 14. Tracking your cycles and temperature can help you determine when ovulation happens in your cycle, and you let your doctor know so you can get the most accurate results.

What is the role of progesterone during pregnancy?

The placenta produces an incredible amount of progesterone during pregnancy. Not only does this support growth of the placenta, it also suppresses your immune response so that foreign DNA (hint: your baby) can thrive as well as relaxes the uterine muscles until labor, which may be important for some cases of preterm birth.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG)

What is the role of hCG during the menstrual cycle?

Every woman has a tiny amount of the hormone hCG—baseline levels tend to be below 5 mIU/ml. But, it is only made in high quantities by the placenta. So, during in a normal cycle, you wouldn’t expect to see significant levels of hCG.

What can your hCG level tell you about your fertility?

If you’re pregnant, hCG levels will approximately double every 48 hours after implantation. An over-the-counter pregnancy test can detect hCG. The best pregnancy test for early pregnancy detection are the ones that can detect very low levels of hCG.

What is the role of hCG during pregnancy?

After implantation, the placenta produces hCG steadily to protect fetal growth. The downside? It may be the reason for morning sickness.

Something to be aware of with pregnancy tests and hCG levels: it’s possible to get a lighter line or negative pregnancy test a few weeks after a positive pregnancy test. This weird phenomenon, known as “the hook effect”, has to do with the fact that the structure of hCG has multiple variations. Depending on how far along you are and how sensitive the test is for different hCG variants, you could see a negative result but still be pregnant. This is more likely to happen starting from about two weeks after your missed period.

So, try to take a pregnancy test early, and if you see a positive test, follow up with your doctor for a confirmatory blood test (rather than taking more over-the-counter pregnancy tests).

During early pregnancy, slow or erratic rising hCG rising patterns may be a sign of miscarriage or non-viable pregnancy. If hCG patterns look weird—meaning erratic or high levels but no embryo in the ultrasound—these may indicate ectopic pregnancy.

Original article found here.

The Top 8 Reasons Why You Need a Period Tracker

A friend’s daughter got her period last year at 12 years old. As her first menstrual period—known as menarche—came to an end, she looked up at her mother, rolled her eyes and groaned.

“I cannot believe this happens every year,” she said.

That’s right: Mom said month. She heard year.

Yes, periods can be uncomfortable, annoying, and frustratingly taboo. But more than ever before, women are paying attention to their menstrual cycles. If you’ve picked up a magazine or scrolled through your news feed recently, you’ve probably noticed: period tracking is a thing.

But other than letting you know when to wear black pants instead of white, is tracking your cycle really beneficial?

The short answer? Yes.

In fact, there’s a grassroots movement of researchers and healthcare providers who believe that the female menstrual cycle—long ignored and notoriously under-researched in scientific studies—is the “fifth vital sign” of overall health. (It wasn’t required by law that women be included in clinical studies until 1993.)

Here, we’ll review 8 things you can learn from tracking your fifth vital sign.

1. Learn your unique cycle length and patterns

Do you have a normal cycle? This answer, of course, depends on how you define “normal.” The length of a menstrual cycle is the number of days between the first day of menstrual bleeding of one cycle to the onset of menses of the next cycle. And the median duration of a menstrual cycle is 28 days with most cycle lengths between 25 to 30 days.

First, a quick visual overview of the phases of your cycle.

But what’s “normal” on average for a population of women is pretty irrelevant to what’s normal for you. Do you tend to have a delayed period when you’re extra stressed at work or travel overseas? (Lots of women do.)

If your cycle is irregular, meaning that it occurs more or less frequently than about every 28 or so days, do you have an underlying issue that needs to be addressed?

Keeping track of your cycle can help you determine what’s “normal” for you.

2. Discover physical symptoms that dovetail with your cycle

Are you hungrier during a particular phase of your cycle?

Many women find that they are hungrier during the luteal phase compared to the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, and several studies have supported the hypothesis that women tend to have higher caloric intake during the luteal phase.

Why? Studies (like this one published in the European Journal of Nutrition) suggest that progesterone may stimulate, and estrogen may suppress, appetite during the cycle.

Do you tend to have a pattern of gastrointestinal issues that are tied to your cycle?

Many women do. According to this study, published in BMC Women’s Health, 73% of the women studied experienced one of the primary GI complaints either just before or during their period: abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation.

3. Detect possible mood changes at different phases of your cycle

It’s long been understood that estrogen is linked to mood, and scientists have been studying the connection between the menstrual cycle and psychological wellbeing for over 50 years. But there is still so much that we don’t know.

Here’s what we do know:

  • The amygdala, hippocampus and other parts of the brain involved in mood regulation, and have consistently demonstrated sensitivity to fluctuating levels of sex hormones such as estrogen.

Although the exact relationship between mood regulation and fluctuating hormones is not well understood, we do know that there’s a connection somehow.

Tracking your cycle can help you understand patterns and connections that are valuable for you, individually. Do you tend to get anxious several days before your period comes? If so, you can adjust for that, making sure you get extra rest, reduce stress as much as possible, or schedule self-care during that time.

Knowledge is power, and when you know where you are in your menstrual cycle, you can be more aware of physical or emotional patterns. When you understand the why behind your appetite or mood changes, you become empowered, and can be much better equipped to handle the how.

4. Be aware of potential underlying health issues

Do you have heavy bleeding? Missed periods? Abdominal pain or other issues you may need to have checked out? This certainly isn’t the case for everyone, but tracking your cycle can help you determine whether any physical discomfort or pain might be connected to your menstrual cycle.

It can also help you determine whether or not you’re ovulating. Many women assume that if their cycle is around 28-days, they are ovulating. But that isn’t always the case, since it’s possible to have breakthrough bleeding.  Dr. Jerilynn Prior, Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of British Columbia, points out in her research that ovulation is highly variable for all women.

Dr. Prior authored an extensive study of over 3,100 healthy, regularly menstruating women between the ages of 20 and 49.9, which found that only 63% of these women ovulated during the cycle that was tested, meaning that 37% of them did not ovulate and had what’s known as an anovulatory cycle.

5. Collect data that you can provide your doctor

When you’re recording daily data on your cycle and your physical and emotional health—you’ll have a little database of information to pass along to your healthcare provider.

6. Know when you’re in your fertile window

Increasingly, women are turning to period tracking tools to determine their fertile window.

If you do use period tracking for this purpose, make sure you pick one that’s been clinically proven to be effective, as studies, like this one from the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, have shown that some are not. (Check out our full post on ovulation trackers.)

Also, when it comes to getting pregnant, there’s a lot of misinformation out there—learn the fertility facts.

7. Maximize your physical performance

Researchers are beginning to understand how the menstrual cycle might affect physical performance. Studies have shown that there is an increased incidence of female athletic injuries during the luteal phase and the first days of the menstrual period. Another study also found that heavy menstrual bleeding was associated with anemia, iron supplementation and slower performance time in elite athletes.

More research needs to be conducted to understand whether this is meaningful for women who are not elite athletes, but by recording your own data, you can determine whether these factors are relevant to you.

8. Plan your major events for times when you’ll feel your best

Some women who are significantly affected either mentally (anxiety, mood swings, trouble sleeping) or physically (bloating, cramps, heavy bleeding) by their menstrual cycles, like to know precisely when their more challenging menstrual cycle phase is coming so that they can plan ahead.

But how many women are negatively impacted by their cycle to the point where it’s difficult to work or socialize?

More than you may think. Severe pain and heavy bleeding affect about one-third of women. According to this study by the Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which examined 1,547 women:

  • 32% had heavy bleeding

And of those women:

  • Almost 25% said they refrain from social activities because of bleeding
  • Over 90% said they find it to be bothersome
  • 16% said they take time off of work because of it

Original article found here.

The Case for Bleeding: Think Twice Before Using the Pill to Skip Periods

Writing for the Guardian, Nicole Davis makes a strong claim: that there’s no need for women to get their periods. Pushing back against the recent wave of feminist authors and activists calling on women to embrace their periods, Davis points out that periods are inconvenient and cause pain and discomfort in some women. And further, having a period every month may not be as “natural” as it seems, because in earlier days women experienced far fewer periods due to more pregnancies and breastfeeding. 

And then Davis drops a bombshell: she quotes a couple of medical doctors who suggest that 99% of women do not need to bleed and there is no health benefit to doing so. The doctors she quotes argue that hormonal contraception can be taken continuously to prevent any bleeding, with no negative consequences.

These are glaring claims, and what’s missing is any evidence to support them. It seems it is the opinion of the few doctors interviewed that menstrual cycles are not necessary, but opinion does not equal fact. Especially when this opinion directly contravenes the endocrine society practice guidelines around amenorrhea[1].

Bleeding itself is not a health benefit, but it is evidence that ovulation is occurring. Why does it matter that ovulation is occurring? Because a large body of research demonstrates unequivocally that there are benefits to ovulation and the hormonal changes that accompany it. As a follicle grows and the egg inside matures, estrogen increases by about 10-fold[2]. This leads to a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH), which causes ovulation. After ovulation, progesterone levels increase by more than 25-fold over baseline[3]. There are many other hormones involved in the menstrual cycle[4] as well. 

What are the benefits of the hormonal changes associated with ovulation?

The best examples come from the health effects in women who have either undergone natural or surgical menopause[5] (where ovaries and uterus are removed for medical reasons). By far the most serious change after menopause is a sharp decline in bone density[6]. We know that both estrogen and progesterone[7] are heavily involved in increasing and maintaining bone density from puberty on, as well as a number of other hormones related to the menstrual cycle such as inhibins[8], IGF-1[9], and FSH[10]. We also know that women with amenorrhea[11] tend to have lower bone density. 

Women who have gone through menopause are more likely to experience cardiovascular disease[12], and there are even studies that show that in regularly cycling women, heart attacks are more likely during the follicular phase[13,14] when estradiol is lowered. Younger women with amenorrhea show impaired vascular function[15].

There are also suggestions of increases in dementia[16] and other neurodegeneration[17] after menopause, as well as increased rate of death due to neurological causes after surgical menopause[18].

The Guardian article goes on to discuss the virtues of hormonal birth control, with mentions of a few negative side effects such as anxiety and possibly elevated cancer risks, but overall little regard for the health implications of preventing natural ovulations, on which there simply is not sufficient data.

One area where studies have found detrimental effects of hormonal contraception, even in women who were cycling normally before contraception, is lower increases in bone density than expected as compared to controls[19, 20, 21]. In addition, use of oral contraceptives may lead to deficiencies[22] in various micronutrients[23]. There are also reports of increased anxiety and depression[24] with hormonal contraceptive use in some populations.

In women who are experiencing missing periods due to underfueling—known variously as hypothalamic amenorrhea, hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, female athlete triad, or relative energy deficiency in sport—the detrimental effects of absent periods[25] can be even more stark: abnormal thyroid function, abnormal growth hormone patterns, infertility (due to lack of ovulation), digestive effects, possibly alterations to the immune system, decreased bone density leading to stress fractures, being prone to other injuries …

Hormonal birth control provides exogenous estrogens and progestins, but these are not provided at the same level as physiological estrogen and progesterone during the menstrual cycle. Indeed hormonal birth control results in much lower levels of endogenous (physiological) estrogen and progesterone[26].

Not to mention there are around 20 different hormones, enzymes, and other molecules[27] that are involved in our cycles, including GnRH, FSH, LH, inhibins A and B, prostaglandins, IFG-1 and -2, EGF, estradiol, progesterone, 17-OH-progesterone, testosterone, HETE, and more. To argue that replacing just one or two with synthetic versions that may or may not activate receptors in exactly the same way as the natural form is going to fulfill all the same functions as those 20+ hormones is not logical.

It is irresponsible to ignore years of medical literature and make the claim that there is no need to bleed (and by extension, no need to ovulate). It is irresponsible to gloss over side effects of hormonal birth control and make it sound like a panacea, particularly if it is taken to correct a period issue with a treatable medical underpinning.

Of course, every woman has the right to make her own choices around reproductive health care, and for many women, the hormonal birth control pill or other options that prevent ovulation and bleeding may be the best option. For other women, a non-hormonal method of birth control that ovulation intact is preferable. Importantly, making the optimal choice given needs, desires, and health, requires accurate and complete information. Medical professionals and journalists should be presenting women with a summary of ALL the evidence so they can make truly informed decisions.By Nicola Rinaldi, PhD | Aug 5, 2019Tags:hormonesmenstruationovulation


VIEW SOURCES

[1]Catherine M. Gordon, Kathryn E. Ackerman, Sarah L. Berga, Jay R. Kaplan, George Mastorakos, Madhusmita Misra, M. Hassan Murad, Nanette F. Santoro, Michelle P. Warren “Functional Hypothalamic Amenorrhea: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 102, Issue 5, 1 May 2017, Pages 1413–1439

[2]Mikael Häggström “Reference ranges for estradiol, progesterone, luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone during the menstrual cycle” WikiJournal of Medicine

[3]ibid

[4]Beverly G Reed, MD and Bruce R Carr, MD. “The Normal Menstrual Cycle and the Control of Ovulation” 2018 Aug 5. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-.

[5]Google search, term=”surgical menopause”

[6]Karlamangla AS, Burnett-Bowie SM, Crandall CJ. “Bone Health During the Menopause Transition and Beyond.” Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2018 Dec;45(4):695-708.

[7]Sundeep Khosla, L Joseph Melton III, B Lawrence Riggs “The unitary model for estrogen deficiency and the pathogenesis of osteoporosis: Is a revision needed?” J Bone Miner Res. 2011 Mar;26(3):441-51.

[8]Daniel S. Perrien, Sara J. Achenbach, Samuel E. Bledsoe, Brandon Walser, Larry J. Suva, Sundeep Khosla, Dana Gaddy “Bone Turnover across the Menopause Transition: Correlations with Inhibins and Follicle-Stimulating Hormone” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 91, Issue 5, 1 May 2006, Pages 1848–1854

[9]Southmayd EA, De Souza MJ. “A summary of the influence of exogenous estrogen administration across the lifespan on the GH/IGF-1 axis and implications for bone health.” Growth Horm IGF Res. 2017 Feb;32:2-13.

[10]Daniel S. Perrien, Sara J. Achenbach, Samuel E. Bledsoe, Brandon Walser, Larry J. Suva, Sundeep Khosla, Dana Gaddy “Bone Turnover across the Menopause Transition: Correlations with Inhibins and Follicle-Stimulating Hormone” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 91, Issue 5, 1 May 2006, Pages 1848–1854

[11]Keen AD, Drinkwater BL “Irreversible bone loss in former amenorrheic athletes.” Osteoporos Int. 1997;7(4):311-5.

[12]TAVIA GORDON; WILLIAM B. KANNEL, M.D., F.A.C.P.; MARTHANA C. HJORTLAND, Ph.D.; PATRICIA M. McNAMARA, “Menopause and Coronary Heart Disease: The Framingham Study” Ann Intern Med. 1978;89(2):157-161.

[13]Hamelin, Bettina A et al. “Influence of the menstrual cycle on the timing of acute coronary events in premenopausal women.” The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 114, Issue 7, 599 – 602.

[14]G W Lloyd, N R Patel, E McGing, A F Cooper, D Brennand-Roper, G Jackson. “Does angina vary with the menstrual cycle in women with premenopausal coronary artery disease?” Heart 2000;84:189-192.

[15]W. A. Rocca, J. H. Bower, D. M. Maraganore, J. E. Ahlskog, B. R. Grossardt, M. de Andrade, L. J. Melton. “Increased risk of cognitive impairment or dementia in women who underwent oophorectomy before menopause.” Neurology Sep 2007, 69 (11) 1074-1083.

[16]Noriko Yoshida, Hisao Ikeda, Kenzo Sugi, and Tsutomu Imaizumi. “Impaired Endothelium-Dependent and -Independent Vasodilation in Young Female Athletes With Exercise-Associated Amenorrhea” Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2006;26:231–232.

[17]W. A. Rocca, J. H. Bower, D. M. Maraganore, J. E. Ahlskog, B. R. Grossardt, M. de Andrade, L. J. Melton. “Increased risk of parkinsonism in women who underwent oophorectomy before menopause.” Neurology Jan 2008, 70 (3) 200-209.

[18]Rivera C.M.a · Grossardt B.R.b · Rhodes D.J.a · Rocca W.A., “Increased Mortality for Neurological and Mental Diseases following Early Bilateral Oophorectomy.” Neuroepidemiology 2009;33:32–40.

[19]Talita Poli Biason, Tamara Beres Lederer Goldberg,corresponding author Cilmery Suemi Kurokawa, Maria Regina Moretto, Altamir Santos Teixeira, and Hélio Rubens de Carvalho Nunes. “Low-dose combined oral contraceptive use is associated with lower bone mineral content variation in adolescents over a 1-year period.” BMC Endocr Disord. 2015; 15: 15.

[20]Rizzo ADCB, Goldberg TBL, Biason TP, Kurokawa CS, Silva CCD, Corrente JE, Nunes HRC. “One-year adolescent bone mineral density and bone formation marker changes through the use or lack of use of combined hormonal contraceptives.” J Pediatr (Rio J). 2018 Jun 28. pii: S0021-7557(18)30069-X.

[21]Gersten J, Hsieh J, Weiss H, Ricciotti NA. “Effect of Extended 30 μg Ethinyl Estradiol with Continuous Low-Dose Ethinyl Estradiol and Cyclic 20 μg Ethinyl Estradiol Oral Contraception on Adolescent Bone Density: A Randomized Trial.” J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2016 Dec;29(6):635-642.

[22]Prabhudas R.Palan, Amy T.Magneson, MoniqueCastillo, JamesDunne, Magdy S.Mikhail. “Effects of menstrual cycle and oral contraceptive use on serum levels of lipid-soluble antioxidants.” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Volume 194, Issue 5, May 2006, Pages e35-e38.

[23]M. PALMERY, A. SARACENO, A. VAIARELLI, G. CARLOMAGNO. “Oral contraceptives and changes in nutritional requirements.” Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2013 Jul;17(13):1804-13.

[24]Robakis T, Williams KE, Nutkiewicz L, Rasgon NL. “Hormonal Contraceptives and Mood: Review of the Literature and Implications for Future Research.” Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2019 Jun 6;21(7):57.

[25]Mountjoy M et al., “International Olympic Committee (IOC) Consensus Statement on Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S): 2018 Update.” Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2018 Jul 1;28(4):316-331.

[26]Elliott-Sale, K & Hicks, K 2018, Hormonal-Based Contraception and the Exercising Female. in J Forsyth & C-M Roberts (eds), The Exercising Female: Science and Its Application.Routledge Research in Sport and Exercise Science, Taylor & Francis.

[27]Beverly G Reed, MD and Bruce R Carr, MD. “The Normal Menstrual Cycle and the Control of Ovulation” 2018 Aug 5. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-.

Nicola Rinaldi, PhD

Nicola Rinaldi has a PhD in computational biology from MIT. The author of No Period Now What—a comprehensive guide for how to recover from hypothalamic amenorrhea—Rinaldi has been counseling women on how to recover their missing periods for over a decade.

Original article found here.

Fermented Foods: Health Panacea Or Just Another Fad?

Friday, 18th October 2019by Dr Megan Rossi, Registered Dietitian, Research Fellow at King’s College London and author of Eat Yourself Healthy

With the fermentation craze growing fast, by now perhaps you’ve dabbled in kombucha or kefir – but what actually are fermented foods and what does the science say? Here’s the inside scoop on fermentation and the evidence behind the proposed health benefits.



What is fermentation?

Fermentation is when bacteria and yeast ‘pre-digest’ food and drink, producing a range of vitamins, beneficial organic acids and other health-promoting compounds. Generally, anything that uses microbes to transform simple ingredients fits the ‘fermented food’ bill. They may have boomed recently, but fermented foods have been around for thousands of years! Some of my favourites include kombucha (fermented tea), kefir (fermented milk, or sugary water if you use water grains), live yogurt and sauerkraut (fermented cabbage).

The health benefits: where’s the evidence?

Traditional fermented foods are associated with a whole host of potential benefits, including increasing vitamin concentrations (such as folate and vitamin B12), reducing anti-nutrients, lowering blood pressure, supporting our immunity and having a calming effect. Fermenting may also lower gluten and lactose content in some sourdough bread and dairy, respectively.

Although I am a big fan of fermented foods and anecdotally, I’ve seen first-hand the physical and mental benefits of them, with my science hat on, I must declare the clinical evidence for most types is currently limited. The exception being fermented dairy, where there is decent evidence for the health benefits across heart health, bone health, digestion and weight management. The clinical evidence aside, our ancestors have been having fermented foods for thousands of years and associating them with benefit, not to mention they are so full of flavour. So yes high-quality clinical studies need to be done, but in the meantime I do recommend people include fermented foods into their daily diet.

They may also contain live microbes, although it’s worth noting that’s not the case for all fermented foods, as many die off in the processing.



Fermenting at home: a beginner’s guide

Despite the rumours, fermenting is surprisingly little effort – once you’ve prepared it, you just leave it and allow the microbes to do all the hard work. You can later return to a dish that’s transformed and ready to serve. Some fermented foods (such as kimchi or sauerkraut) do require more love and care, but there are plenty of time-efficient options, including kefir, yoghurt and my sourdough wraps (recipe in my book!).

Before you begin, I should also make you aware that, as with dietary fibre, going from a little to a lot too quickly could make some people extra gassy (while your inner community of microbes have a feast!) so it’s best to increase gradually. Chat to your GP first if you have a weakened immune system or are pregnant too.



Megan’s Favourite Kimchi Recipe, Eat Yourself Healthy, published by Penguin Life

An iconic condiment in Korean culture, this ancient flavour bomb is said to be one of the secrets behind the Koreans’ long and healthy lives. Kimchi is known as a ‘wild ferment’ as it uses the microbes naturally found on plants and in the air (versus a culture-based ferment like kefir). I love kimchi with eggs (my favourite), salads or feta on crackers – the options are endless.

Equipment: 500ml glass jar with lid
Ingredients (Serves 8, 40g portions)

Base:

  • 200g Chinese cabbage (or cabbage of choice)
  • 25g sea salt (don’t worry, you won’t be eating this)

Toppers:

  • 1 carrot (50g), grated
  • 1 spring onion, diced
  • 50g daikon radish, chopped into matchsticks
  • 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp gochugaru powder, OR 1/2 tsp chilli powder and 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)

Method

  1. Rinse the cabbage leaves under running water (to get rid of any residual soil) before chopping to the desired thickness.
  2. Put the cabbage and salt in a bowl. Firmly massage the salt into the cabbage.
  3. Pour 500ml of water, filtered or de-chlorinated, over the cabbage and submerge it by sitting a plate on top. Let it soak for 2 hours.
  4. Drain the soaked cabbage, and rinse three times to get rid of the excess salt. Squeeze out any excess water in the cabbage and place back in a bowl.
  5. Add all the topper ingredients and mix well, before transferring the mixture into a 500ml jar and, using your fist, punching down so there’s a layer of juice separating the raw kimchi and the air above.
  6. Place your glass weight or mini jar on top of the raw kimchi, making sure to submerge all the vegetables.
  7. Screw the lid on and leave at room temperature (ideally, 18–22°C), out of direct sunlight. Each day, check on your kimchi and release any gas that has built up by untwisting the lid a little to let it out.
  8. After 3 days (more in colder climates, less in warmer climates) your kimchi is ready for its first taste. If you’re missing that acidic bite, leave for an extra day or two.
  9. Once it’s reached your preferred flavour, pop it in the fridge with the lid sealed tight to trap in the gas, creating the fizziness of traditional kimchi. Leave it for 2 weeks to allow the flavours to develop – and enjoy!

About Dr Megan Rossi
Dr Megan Rossi (The Gut Health Doctor) is considered one the most influential gut health specialists internationally. A practicing Dietitian and Nutritionist for the last decade with an award-winning PhD in gut health, Megan is passionate about empowering others to take control of their health and happiness from the inside out. A leading Research Fellow at King’s College London and founder of The Gut Health Clinic, Megan is currently investigating nutrition-based therapies in gut health and has recently written her first book Eat Yourself Healthy, with the perfect mix of science, anecdotes and practical tips for optimal gut health and beyond.
@TheGutHealthDoctor            www.TheGutHealthDoctor.com

Original article found here.

What Every Woman Should Know About Her Luteal Phase

The luteal phase is the second half of your cycle, beginning after ovulation and ending when you get your next period. It’s something most women don’t pay much attention to unless they’re having trouble getting pregnant (a short luteal phase is associated with difficulty conceiving and early pregnancy loss/chemical pregnancy). But the luteal phase is an important part of not just your fertility, but your overall health.

If you’re not being treated for infertility, it’s likely that your doctor has never asked you about your luteal phase. But this is a particularly important part of the cycle. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently declared the menstrual cycle the “fifth vital sign”—as important to your health as blood pressure or breathing—and the luteal phase is a big part of the reason why.

What is the luteal phase, anyway?

The luteal phase is the latter half of your cycle, after the dramatic and exciting stuff has already happened. You’ve had your period, you’ve ovulated, and now your body is waiting, with bated breath, for a possible pregnancy. If you were planning a surprise party for your husband, the follicular phase would be the part where you bake a cake, gather all your friends together, and hang streamers all over the living room. The luteal phase would be the part where everyone sits quietly, the tension building as you all wait for him to get home.

After you ovulate, the corpus luteum—a structure inside the ovaries that holds a developing egg—collapses and begins to produce progesterone. Progesterone helps thicken your uterine lining so that if there is a fertilized egg, it has a nice, soft bed in which to implant itself. If no egg implants, the corpus luteum stops producing progesterone after about 10 – 16 days, and you shed your uterine lining in your period.

Why is the luteal phase important for women who are trying to conceive?

When we think about pregnancy, most of our minds jump straight to conception—when the sperm enters the egg. But pregnancy doesn’t really begin until the embryo implants in the uterine lining. For implantation to happen, your body must be making enough progesterone in order to build up a thick, healthy lining.

If your body isn’t making enough progesterone, your luteal phase may be on the short side. Anything shorter than 10 days can make it difficult to achieve pregnancy.

Why is the luteal phase important for women who are not trying to conceive?

The length of the luteal phase can sometimes serve as a proxy for your progesterone levels. If your luteal phase is under 10 days, it’s a sign that your body may not be making enough progesterone. And even if you aren’t trying to get pregnant, your progesterone levels matter. Adequate progesterone is crucial for maintaining healthy bones, long-term heart health, sleeping well, and feeling your best. Read more about the health benefits of progesterone.

What causes a short luteal phase?

When your body doesn’t make enough progesterone, your luteal phase may end prematurely. There are a few different reasons why you might not be producing enough progesterone:

How do you know if your luteal phase is too short?

By tracking your cycle. Count the number of days between ovulation and the start of your next period (first day of full bleeding, not spotting). Ideally, you want 12 or more days. But if your luteal phase is fewer than 10 days, you may have low progesterone.

How do you test your progesterone level?

Progesterone spikes after ovulation and continues to rise for several days. Progesterone should be tested when progesterone is highest, in the middle of the luteal phase. Typically, doctors ask women to come in for a test on day 21 of their cycles, because in the average 28 day cycle, day 21 falls in the middle of the luteal phase.

Your cycle, however, may not be the typical 28-day cycle with ovulation on day 14. Let’s say you have a 35-day cycle, with ovulation on day 23. If you get your progesterone tested on day 21, it will be very low, because you haven’t ovulated yet. But if you tested on day 29, your levels might be perfectly normal. If you know when you ovulate and how long your luteal phase typically is, you can let your doctor know the right time to test your progesterone levels.

How can you lengthen your luteal phase?

Treatment for a short luteal phase will vary depending on what’s causing it. But a few supplements have been shown to help lengthen the luteal phase:

  • Vitamin C: A study in Fertility and Sterility showed that Vitamin C increases fertility in some women with short luteal phases. In the study, 25% of the women who received Vitamin C had gotten pregnant within six months compared to the placebo group in which only 11% got pregnant.
  • Progesterone supplementation or cream: You can get progesterone cream over-the-counter, or in topical or suppository form from your doctor. Talk with your healthcare before adding progesterone supplementation. It’s also important to only use it during your luteal phase. Adding progesterone during your follicular phase could prevent ovulation.

Original article found here.

KINDNESS

Acts of kindness don’t have to cost you money or take a lot of time to do. They can be premeditated or spontaneous, an action or simply words. However you choose to do it, studies show that people who experience kindness are more like to pass it on which will ultimately create a happier world for everyone. Sounds good right?

Why kindness?

Kindness: the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.

We all appreciate people showing us kindness. The warm feeling when someone holds the door open for you or offers you their seat on a busy bus. But did you know that it’s not just the receiver of kindness that benefits from it? Research has shown that giving kindness to others, rather than to yourself can cause lasting wellbeing. Kindness triggers the same physiological changes in the brain that are associated with happiness. Acts of kindness can help with self esteem, improved mood and long lasting wellbeing.

What are the benefits?

Kindness stimulates the production of serotonin which benefits your health, keeps you calm, reduces stress and anxiety and makes you happy, research has also shown people to feel stronger and more energetic after helping others. If this all wasn’t enough, kindness can help people to live longer. Altruism produces oxytocin, known as the ‘cardio protective’ hormone which reduces blood pressure. It can also help to build up strong networks of friends and family which has been found to reduce your risk of heart disease.

How do I do it?

Being kind doesn’t need to cost you anything. Try a supportive smile to a stranger on the street, compliment a colleague on their work, phone an elderly relative for a catch up. LSW Mind Cards has an entire category dedicated to kindness with lots of ideas to get you started. Start building them into your daily behaviours and notice how much positive your outlook becomes.

Original article found here.

RITUAL

Rituals are a fantastic way to boost happiness and create a grounded, calming sense of being in the world. Creating rituals out of positive habits can help us become more present, create more awareness and more appreciation for what we love. 

Why should I create Rituals?

We, as humans, have become accustomed to having everything at our fingertips. Access to everything we need or want is only a click away. Our streets are lined with an abundance of shops, cafes, supermarkets, fast food joints. Our hands always just a moment away from a smart phone, computer or tablet filled with all the information we could ever dream of needing, our social lives, our data, all held within our personal technology. We no longer need to think about what would bring us joy, it’s presented to us, advertised to us, at every turn. 

We have understandably lost track of what truly brings us happiness. The little things, the daily things that spark an instant of bliss. That first breath out as we lower ourselves into a hot, candle lit, bubble bath. The relaxation of the jaw and forehead muscles as we take the first sip of a steaming mug of our favourite tea or coffee. The pleasure of allowing ourselves a nighttime routine that helps us to unwind as we prepare for a good nights sleep. Whatever it is that seems to stop time in our busy lives and gives us 10 minutes to simply… be.

What are the benefits?

Rituals help to bring us moments of peace in an otherwise hectic world. They help to create a recognition for the things we take for granted. Teaching us to love those moments or activities that are often forgotten amongst the mountains of work, family and life. Rituals can reduce anxiety, increase confidence and positive wellbeing. As Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do”, if we do at least one thing that brings us happiness each day, we will ultimately become happier as people.

How do I do it?

Begin to create a list of ‘things that make me happy…’ you can add to it whenever something comes to mind. These can be big things or little things, obvious or random. The important thing is that they bring you joy. When doing the ritual, try to notice any sights, sounds, smells or feelings associated with the act. Breathe into them, allow these positive feelings to flow through you like waves. This will teach your mind to connect the ritual with the positive emotion. This is described as an anchor. The LSW Mind Cards Ritual category has 9 different ideas to get you started.

Enjoy!

Original article found here.

JOURNAL

Why should I journal?

It can be very easy to drift through life, going through each day in the same manner as the last. To use the popular expression: we eat, sleep, work, repeat. It can also be easy to wonder why nothing is changing when we do nothing that will bring about that change. The only way to make a difference is to do just that… make a difference. If you tried to open a tin can with a broken tin opener would you just keep trying again and again with the same result? Or would you try using a different tin opener? The answer seems obvious doesn’t it? The same should go for our psychological behaviours. We have all been guilty of it at one point or another; repeating the same habits day in, day out, wondering why nothing has changed when we are not actually making any conscious effort to change our habits. It is only when we take the time to step out of our routine to look back over our daily actions that we can begin to pinpoint negative patterns.

What are the benefits?

Journalling is hugely beneficial for self development, it can help us to review what we are doing and decide whether it is working for or against us in terms of growth. When we journal we learn to evaluate our behaviours and thoughts which can help us to become more rounded, emotionally intelligent individuals and have a better understanding of our needs, goals and ambitions both in the workplace and in our personal lives.

How do I do it?

There are many different elements we can reflect upon when we journal; emotions, productivity, values, reactions, drives, feelings, thought processes, defences, goals. Approaching these simultaneously can sometimes become overwhelming so it is important to break them down into bite size chunks. By allowing ourselves to focus in on one small area of life each day we can give it our full undivided attention which in turn allows us to get the most out of keeping a journal. Writing the answers to the same questions repeatedly at regular intervals is the best way to keep track of how our responses changes over time. If a negative answer remains the same, what can we do to change it? To grow from the learning? What can we take from that answer to ensure we are responding to the situation in the best way we can in order to live the best we can? That has got you thinking hasn’t it? See, you’re ready to start writing!

What are the questions I should be asking?

It is important when we journal to ensure we are asking the right questions. The 9 JOURNAL cards within the Mind Cards pack contain questions which are varied across different elements and specifically chosen to ensure you are asking the right sort of questions to stretch you and your limits. This is to allow you to be honest and open about whether you are living your life as the best version of you. Make sure you keep your answers in one notebook so you can reflect back on previous answers when you pick a card a second or third time.

Original article found here.