Friday, 22 June 2018

These Experts Explain Why Stress Can Wreak Havoc on Your Menstrual Cycle

There's a lot to be stressed about in life, from relationships to work, even to what is going on in the political world. And that can result in a lot of serious life complications. Stress, both physical and emotional, can affect our body in a lot of ways, and that includes your period.

Physical stress, caused by intense exercise, extreme dieting, or severe sleep deprivation, can impact periods by making them few and far between. "Women who participate in marathon, or even Olympic, training often skip periods sometimes for months at a time," says Dr. Wendy Goodall McDonald, an OB-GYN who practices at Women's Health Consulting in Chicago." This is our body's way of trying to discourage pregnancy during times of physical stress and strain. The brain literally stops communicating in a normal fashion with your ovaries, the evidence of which can be seen in hormone testing (hypothalamic hypogonadism)," says Dr. Goodall McDonald.

It is important to note that while fertility is reduced in these times, it is not eliminated. "The absence of a period is NOT a reliable method of birth control," says Dr. Goodall McDonald.

Stress works on a physiologic level to change cortisol levels. "Interestingly, there is a link between stress hormone control in the pituitary gland of our brain and other hormones released by the pituitary," says Dr. Natalie Rochester, an OB/GYN at UCHealth Women's Care Clinic - Greeley. Key hormones that regulate ovarian function, ovulation, and menstrual cycle are released from the pituitary. "These hormones are necessary in certain amounts to prepare the body for pregnancy, to trigger release of an egg, as well as helping maintain/prepare for early pregnancy. They also control our menstrual cycle regulation and timing," says Dr. Rochester. "Just with other endocrinologic disorders, stress and stress hormones can interfere with menstrual cycle regulation and changes. Changes in hormone levels can lead to early, late, or even skipped menstrual cycles," says Dr. Rochester.

Emotional stress sends similar stress hormones throughout our bodies. "I commonly see women have an unexpected period, spotting, or have a heavy or irregular period when preparing for a big moment in life (think moving to a new state/country or for a big presentation at work)," says Dr. Goodall McDonald. "I call this your 'periodic weirdness' moment to explain unexpected bleeding in times of emotional stress," says Dr. Goodall McDonald, who tells her patients, "Every woman is entitled to periodic weirdness every now and then. But if it persists, we should check it out."

The point is, a one-off period that is few and far between is every woman's right. If every month is a surprise or a mystery, however, this is something you should look into. Contact your doctor.



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60+ Healthy Lunches That Help You Lose Weight

Cooking and packing up a quality healthy lunch is a good idea for so many reasons. Whether or not you're trying to lose weight, bringing your own lunch to work keeps you in charge of the ingredients that fuel your body and helps you perform at your best both at work and in the gym. Regardless of your dietary limitations and preferences, (at least!) one of these healthy recipes will fit the bill and make its way into your lunchtime rotation.



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All You Need Are 2 Towels to Carve Chiseled Arms and Abs

Elbow plank is already hard, but hold on to your leggings because it's about to get even harder. Grab a pair of hand towels (or paper plates on carpet) and try this sliding elbow plank.

  • Begin in an elbow plank position with a small, folded towel under each elbow. Keep your elbows directly under your shoulders, your back flat (with a neutral spine), and your core tight!
  • Slide your right elbow forward until your arm is nearly fully extended. With control, bring the right elbow back to center.
  • Repeat on the left side. This completes one rep. Continue alternating for 30 seconds.
  • If you need to modify, you can drop to your knees (while keeping your back straight and core tight); you'll still work the core and triceps!


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Here's Why I Chose the Birth Control Shot and Never Went Back

Can you point to one specific decision in your life that changed things for you pretty drastically or permanently? It seems like almost everyone has some sort of story like this, whether it be a big life event or a small one. For many, this could be the decision to get married, to go back to school, to quit your job, to start a new one, and so on.

My life-altering experience was finding the birth control shot, Depo-Provera. Since finding it, it is the birth control method I swear by. Why am I so stoked about this birth control discovery? It empowers me to choose when I will start a family and with whom, it is discreet, and it puts the choice of whether or not to have a baby at all firmly in my control.

What Are Your Options?

Whether we know it or not, we as women have a plethora of birth control options available to us (at least for now . . . ). For many people, the pill is the first that comes to mind, but there are a host of other great options available. Some of them, such as sponges and condoms, are readily available over the counter.

Sadly, we know these over-the-counter forms of birth control aren't 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. They do offer, though, protection from some STIs if used properly, and since they are available without a prescription, they are better than nothing, for sure!

And, of course, there is the pill in its many formulations. There are also implants that can be inserted into the arm, as well as IUDs, which may or may not dispense hormones, depending on the type. There are even implants that can be inserted into the Fallopian tubes to act as a sort of tubal ligation without the need for surgery.

What I Considered

The first reason I chose this method was convenience. Look, I have a busy life. So do many of us. And this reason alone is supported by plenty of research on the birth control pill. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, 15 percent of women aged 15 to 44 report skipping at least one pill per month, and 16 percent report missing two or more. Of those missing two or more pills, 27 percent resulted in an unwanted pregnancy.

Wow. To think an 18-year-plus commitment can stem from missing just one or two little pills? That's a "No, thank you!" from me. I prefer the Depo-Provera shot over the pill simply because I know all too well that I am human, I forget things, and I don't want a baby right now.

I will admit that I looked into Essure. But when I found that this most likely would cause permanent scarring that could keep me from getting pregnant ever, even if I later wanted to, this wasn't an option. There is a chance, slim though it may be, that my maternal instinct may exist and may kick in.

I also looked into an IUD, which is a reversible form of birth control. However, after reading about the issues others have had after getting the Mirena IUD, I chose to take a hard pass on that. I briefly considered a copper IUD, but I decided the additional benefits that hormonal birth control provides me - like less acne, for example - outweighed the benefits.

I needed something that lasted long-term. I needed something that didn't require me to remember to take a pill every day. I needed to still have the option of becoming pregnant in the future. I needed something, too, that was under my control.

Maybe I spend a bit too much time looking up urban legends online, but when trends like "stealthing" are being perpetuated in our culture, I just can't leave something so important in the hands of someone who may have bad intentions. In a perfect world, I wouldn't have to worry, but we can't always know who's going to royally screw us over, can we? (Pun intended.)

Why I Chose Depo-Provera

Enter the Depo-Provera shot. The birth control shot, as it is commonly called, is highly effective, with a more than 99 percent rate of successful pregnancy prevention, according to Planned Parenthood. Not only that, but the shot is also extremely private to use. All it takes is a quick 10- to 15-minute visit to your doctor roughly every three months and you're protected. And no one can take that protection away from you as long as you continue to get your shots on time at regular intervals. Most failures from Depo-Provera come when women wait too long between shots.

The birth control shot is also reversible, meaning that I have full control over when I want to start trying to get pregnant. And there are extra benefits, too! For example, by taking the shot, I run a lower risk of endometriosis and uterine cancer. Plus, while the shot does work differently for everyone, many - including me - experience less acne and shorter, less painful periods.

I could blast the benefits of the birth control shot to the skies for days! However, I am a realist, and I know no one form of birth control works well for everyone. For example, before I started the shot, I had friends tell me they'd heard women experience a lot of spotting while on this form of birth control. Even knowing this, I still chose to give the shot a try, and I barely get a period at this point.

Recently, I went on an investigation to figure out just how unique - or maybe totally normal - my experience was. In an email to POPSUGAR, Dr. Kenneth J. Oken, chair of the OB/GYN department of UPMC Pinnacle, sang the benefits of the Depo-Provera shot:

"Depo-Provera is an excellent form of birth control with very good compliance rates from the women who choose this method. Many women will experience lighter periods, and for some their period will go away completely, with very few side effects. Women do need to get an injection every 12 weeks, but most women are very happy with their decision to use this form of birth control," Dr. Oken told POPSUGAR.

Of course, that's not meant to discredit anyone who claims to have had a different experience. Everyone's body is different, and there are many possible adverse side effects that could come with any form of birth control. Some who take Depo-Provera may experience side effects like weight gain and mood changes. Other women may simply have concerns about how long the shot takes to wear off before they can get pregnant, which does vary somewhat.

Again, these are common possibilities with almost any form of birth control, so the most important thing is being open to exploring your options. Do what you have to do to protect yourself while keeping your body healthy and your mind happy and at ease. While no drug works for everybody, Depo-Provera has been life-changing for me. If you think it could work for you too, please don't wait! Talk to your doctor and get yourself protected.



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No Matter What Your Mood, We Have a Treadmill Workout For You

While there's nothing quite like running outdoors, unruly weather sometimes makes it impossible. For those rainy or blustery days, there's the trusty treadmill. Whether you're a beginner runner or have a few marathons under your belt, we've got a running workout for you. From a run that mimics going up and down San Francisco hills to another that has you ascending a mountain, you'll swear you're actually running outside.

  • Getting started: If you're new to running, then try our 40-minute beginner treadmill workout. The workout combines walking and running to get your heart rate up while also priming your body for distance and speed. If you feel like the workout is too easy or hard, then play around with the speed, but be sure to give your body time to adjust to the physical demands of running for the first time. Once you're ready, try out our 300-calorie workout, or if you need something a bit shorter, try our 30-minute beginner treadmill workout.
  • Walk-jog workout: Once you're feeling a bit more comfortable on the treadmill, give this workout that mixes walking and jogging a chance. The 60-minute workout alternates between walking briskly, jogging, and running slowly; plan to burn around 300 calories. If you're in a rush, this 42-minute version will put you to work.
  • Switch to sprints: Once you feel like you've mastered the walk and jog combination, try stepping up the pace. This 30-minute interval workout is a great way to start increasing your speed. Mix up your routine with a sprinting and walking workout to help boost your endurance. Then, once you're ready for a tough challenge, give this 60-minute interval workout a try.
  • Sweat like a celebrity: This 30-minute treadmill workout from celeb favorite Barry's Bootcamp is full of intervals, hill work, and sprints, which will challenge both your endurance and your speed. Or give the 25-minute version a try. In short: these workouts are anything but boring. Get ready to push it.
  • Pyramid intervals: Keep boredom at bay with this 30-minute pyramid interval treadmill workout. By changing your running speed every minute, you'll also be winning the war against weight gain. Have more time to spare? Up the ante with our 45-minute pyramid interval treadmill workout. If you have even less time to spare, you'll love the challenge of this intense 25-minute pyramid interval workout; designed by a running coach, it will help you become a faster runner.
  • Get in, get out: If you're short on time but still want to get in a solid run, then give this 20-minute treadmill workout a chance. Not only will you play with speed, but the incline also gradually increases, which means you'll get a challenging workout in under 30 minutes!
  • Work your way up the ladder: Push your endurance, raise your heart rate, and rev your metabolism with this interval workout, or try this 40-minute version. This ladder run, with the speed intervals increasing in duration as the workout progresses, is just the thing if you're looking for an extreme challenge!
  • The 500-calorie workout: If you can find about 60 minutes in your day to do this high-interval treadmill workout, then you'll burn about 500 calories. Do it four times a week, and you're already down half a pound.
  • Climb a hill: This treadmill hill workout will show you what it's really like to run in San Francisco. After doing the incline variations in this workout, running flats will seem like a breeze. If you prefer to walk up a hill, give this treadmill incline workout a try.
  • Go for a hike: Even if you can't make it to Yosemite, this treadmill hike workout will mimic what it's like to be in the great outdoors. The 45-minute workout involves walking and jogging up steep inclines, so you'll strengthen your quads and work your butt. If you're in a hurry, try this 20-minute version instead.
  • Graduate to a mountain: Once you've hiked up some hills, why not try for a mountain ascent? This treadmill mountain climb mixes a brisk walking speed with steep inclines.
  • Build strength: The treadmill doesn't have to be just about running. This 60-minute workout alternates between intervals on the treadmill and classic strength-training moves. This 45-minute plan starts on the treadmill and then finishes off with 15 minutes of strength training.
  • Blast fat: Intervals are one of the best ways to fight stubborn belly fat. Say goodbye to your muffin top with this 45-minute treadmill interval workout. You'll run your heart out and walk out with 421 fewer calories than you came in with! And just so you don't get bored, we're throwing in a fat-fry interval-mashup treadmill run. This butt-toning interval workout will help you burn up to 400 calories in less than 45 minutes.
  • Do double duty: Sometimes you need to mix things up. If you're just feeling bored on the machines, then try this two-cardio-machine workout that utilizes both the elliptical and the treadmill.


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