Lifestyle

PMS Decoded : Causes, Triggers and Remedies

Premenstrual symptom (PMS) is something that affects 80 % of women. Even though it is experienced by women, it is also ‘suffered’ by most men (who have a wife or girl-friend).

What is PMS?

It is that set of physical and emotional changes in a woman 2 weeks prior to her menstrual period. PMS symptoms include:

  • Muscle pain or cramps
  • Anxiety and Depressed mood
  • Mood swings and irritability or anger
  • Appetite changes and food cravings
  • Headache and Fatigue
  • Weight gain related to fluid retention
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Acne flare-ups
  • Constipation or diarrhea

Prior to understanding why we get PMS , let us acknowledge a few  facts about PMS and painful periods.

  • PMS is not normal
  • It is not inevitable
  • Ladies do not need sick leave or work from home option every month
  • It is not a girl thing and we don’t need to put up with for a lifetime
  • It is a clear sign of hormonal imbalance

Can a lady menstruate with no PMS, no bloating, no cramping and feel completely normal through out your cycle?

It’s totally possible if we understand our body, lifestyle, habits, environmental toxins and how they affect hormones.

PMS and Cramps

A complex controlled network of hormones are needed to menstruate and ovulate perfectly. Let us understand what happens to the two hormones:  oestrogen and progesterone. For the ease of understanding, this article will focus only on these two important hormones (even though they are not the only ones).

During the first and second week of the menstrual cycle (Follicular Phase), Oestrogen levels are higher. This is why ladies look more radiant, pain tolerance is higher and can work-out well and feel very good during this time.

During the second and third week (Luteal Phase), Oestrogen level, should ideally, slowly start falling and progesterone levels should start increasing. However, for those who have PMS, one of this does not happen.

This imbalance is what leads to PMS, breaking out/acne, irritability, depression, mood swings, breast tenderness etc. This also gives rise to Oestrogen dominance if continued and not intervened.

Progesterone – our much-needed saviour hero is also an anti inflammatory hormone and the lack of which obviously increases or doesn’t curb inflammation.

What causes or worsens this imbalance?

There are many factors, that are within our control to avoid PMS.

  1. Environmental toxins: Certain toxins act as synthetic estrogen and disrupt hormonal balance. These toxins are found in all forms of plastics (including BPA free containers and Styrofoam take away boxes), fertilizers, cosmetics and personal care products.

Remedy :

  • Avoiding plastic in all possible ways of your life: GO GREEN. We are all informed about how plastic pollutes the earth around Earth day, but most of us are unaware that plastic pollutes the hormones in our body too, as xenostrogens found in plastic mimics the action of estrogen.
  • Identify natural alternatives to cosmetics: Skin is our largest organ and whatever we apply on that gets absorbed. Most people have detox tea and smoothies (say something like to cleanse the body or something), but never think about that Lipcolor, shampoo, serum and conditioner on hair and lotions on our skin. The harsh truth is that they all have hormone disruptors and the skin easily absorbs whatever is applied on it.
  1. Poor digestive/gut health : Excess estrogen in the body does not get eliminated and is reabsorbed due to gut dysbiosis or poor gut health.  gut Bacteria  regulates circulating estrogen using an enzyme known as beta-glucuronidase and when your microbiome/bacteria is out of balance, these enzymes can’t properly metabolize estrogens, which leads to  estrogen dominance.

Remedy :

  • Avoid inflammatory foods such as refined vegetable oils, or those that might cause food intolerance or sensitivity like corn and soy.
  • Avoid laxatives , PPI or medicines for acidity and heart burn, pain killers, antibiotics as they are known to have negative impact on gut lining and gut bacteria.
  • Supplement with herbs, whole foods or natural sources of probiotics to improve your gut health.
  1. Nutritional deficiency and Unregulated blood sugar levels : when we don’t get sufficient Protein, good dietary fat, cholesterol( essential to make all hormones) and other micronutrients  like Vitamin B6, Vitamin E , Magnesium(read about this miracle mineral here), Potassium , Zinc and Copper , production of most reproductive hormones including progesterone is compromised. Apart from this high insulin levels also interfere with the production of hormones.

Remedy:

  • Nourish each and every cell in your body with good food rich in nutrients. Add in supplements to fill in the gaps if needed.
  •  Avoid Refined sugary food, processed and packeted junk food that harm your digestive health , deplete your mineral and vitamin stores and increase inflammation ( Snack bars are included in this too).
  • Good quality  Fats , proteins and carbohydrates are needed for producing hormones and maintaining it in our body. Focus on sustainable balanced plates and not on crash diets, which can wreak havoc on your hormonal balance.
  1. Lack of exercise and excess body fat : Excess body fat especially that stored in the hips, waist, and thighs acts as a source of inflammation and estrogen. Excess body fat is one of the leading causes of estrogen dominance and thus PMS.  Not only does fat tissue absorb and store estrogen circulating in your bloodstream, it also synthesizes estrogen from your other hormones.

Remedy :

  • Exercise : Workout helps you release mood enhancing chemicals called endorphins which help in combating the physical and emotional effects of PMS. Working out when you get or are about to get your PMS isn’t the way to go with this.
    Regular workouts, and yoga have been proved to reduce the effects of PMS. Randomized clinical trials have shown that exercise is very effective in reducing PMS.
  1. Chronic Stress and anxiety : They both increase inflammation and also come in the way of making progesterone.

Remedy :

  • Reduce stress, meditate and find time to indulge in activities that you love. When we feel stressed our bodies release cortisol, and an overabundance of cortisol can increase inflammation, lower our immune function, overwork our adrenal system, and put us at greater risk for depression and mental illness. So it’s no surprise that too much cortisol may also aggravate PMS systems.

In a research conducted by  Bertone-Johnson in University of Massachusets on around 3000 women , she found that women who were experiencing PMS displayed higher levels of internal inflammation—and we know that more stress leads to inflammation, and more inflammation can lead to PMS.

  1. Poor sleep  : Only during sound sleep can our glands secrete reproductive hormones like progesterone , testosterone etc.

Remedy :

  • There is no alternative for restorative sleep.  As per Ayurveda, Sleep is one of the three basic pillars of life. It is crucial for rejuvenation, repair, improving metabolism and also hormonal balance and also one of the most overlooked factors that affect health.
  1. Consumption of stimulants like Alcohol and caffeine : Alcohol increases the level of natural and synthetic estrogen in body.  Studies have proven that Asian women who drink  more than 2 cups of coffee a day have increased estrogen levels in their body.

Remedy :

  • Reduce consumption or give up on stimulants. If you feel the  need for a drink or a fag or cup of coffee or tea to feel good/fresh, it is a clear sign that your body is not getting enough nourishment from the food you eat.

The good news is that lifestyle changes mentioned above does not have any side effects, unlike the numerous over the counter medicines available to reduce PMS and period cramps.

However these lifestyle changes require commitment, consistency and  discipline.

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Lifestyle

What to do when diagnosed with Hypothyroid?

 

Thyroid issues and goitre were rarely heard until a few years ago. However, now-a -days, it will be tough to find a person who does not have a friend, cousin or family member having a thyroid issue.

To set things straight, Hypothyroidism is not a disease, but a condition where your thyroid is not able to produce enough thyroid hormones, which might be due to several underlying conditions/triggers like iodine deficiency, high stress, inactivity, environmental toxins, poor sleep , nutrient deficiency and poor gut health. It can be reversed once these triggers and factors cease to exist.

The results of hypothyroidism are known to most people. Hair loss, Weight gain, constipation, Low energy and Mood swings are those that interfere with our daily life. Vitamin D deficiency, muscle / heel pain, high triglyceride levels etc are the other symptoms that we often tend to ignore.

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It all starts when the doctor tells you to do a blood test and the report comes with a high level for TSH indicating you have a thyroid that is under active. At that point, your doctor tells you that you need to have a thyroid pill first thing in the morning and also to lose weight. Most patients don’t ask the doctor for how long they need to take the pill. If they do, the reply will mostly be lifelong or till the next blood test when the thyroid numbers are normal.

On your way home, you google about hypothyroidism and diets to lose weight and then start following random diets based on forwards you get on Whatsapp, FB or other social media posts. You cut out all fat, carbs (rice), and most of your staple diet.

You start feeling terrible and very low on energy. You are tired even before you get home after work, or in some cases find it tough to do work past noon.

You want to workout but cannot even imagine going to gym. You start losing hair, sleep, energy, temper, skin clarity (pretty much everything but weight).

Wait… Stop, slow down and think rationally

When the doctor told you to lose weight, they actually meant you need to improve your body composition i.e. reducing your body fat, increasing your muscle mass and enhancing your fitness (which will improve the insulin sensitivity). For that you need to workout and increase your activity. Keep in mind that Not all intense workouts are right for hypothyroid patients.

When your thyroid is already taking the brunt, reducing good carbs and fat will make it worse since your body needs protein and good dietary fat to produce the necessary hormones. You also need good quality slow digesting ( LOW GI ) carbs to improve your energy levels. This is possible only when you time your meals, plan it and eat balanced foods.

Just doing random crash diets that doesn’t focus on your hormonal balance, or take into account your lifestyle, fitness level, routine and genetic make up will only worsen your current condition.

Eating raw vegetables and salads, with no fats or seasoning will worsen the condition as  Sweet potatoes, peanuts, cauliflower, beans, cabbage, turnips, Kale etc when eaten raw have anti nutrients/Goitrogens that affect the absorption of iodine and thus the production of thyroid hormones.

Insulin resistance and inflammation are hallmarks of most metabolic diseases/conditions including  Hypothyroid. Apart from workout and nutrition, you need to focus on your sleep and reduce your stress levels to improve insulin sensitivity and energy levels.

Also, the thyroid pill isn’t a miracle. It will not help too much, unless you change your lifestyle.

Most importantly, your mental health, your attitude towards life, stress, depression, relationships and nutrition play a huge role in improving your thyroid. Much more than what the pill can, and with no side effect.

Tip : Start doing something you love – music, dance, painting, cooking, knitting, gardening, yoga, trekking, reading, blogging or your forgotten hobby for 30 minutes thrice a week. It should be something that uses your creativity, brain and should give you happiness and self-satisfaction. This will improve your hormones, energy and stress levels a lot.

Can you reverse this condition and give up the pill and get your thyroid bounce back to normal?

Of-course you can and you don’t have to take the pills lifelong.

We need balancing wheels only when we learn to ride the cycle/bike. Once we learn to balance it by ourselves, we can freely move around on with just two wheels.

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Fitness

5 Worst Gym Mistakes to Avoid

Do you know what are the 5  big mistakes people make in gym, irrespective of their fitness level?

The enthusiasm, energy and momentum most people have around the new year to join a gym and become fit, dies down by the end of the first quarter. Some people give up gym even after paying the annual membership.

Some factors or mistakes that lead to this loss of enthusiasm are :

  1. Injuries due to incorrect workouts and form
  2. Not knowing how to deal with muscle soreness
  3. Disappointment of not seeing results

What are the most common mistakes that we do in gym that hinder our progress or affect results?

  1. Jumping on to treadmill as soon as you enter the gym

This mistake might lead to injury and minimize the fat burn.
Both newbies and gym veterans err on this. Running on a treadmill isn’t the best exercise for our body.

If you have just started working out or are on the heavier side, running on a treadmill may cause more harm than good to your hips, knees and ankle joints.

Another disadvantage of treadmill is that for the self-satisfaction of running at a higher speed and incline, we tend to lean on the handle bars or change posture to accommodate the speed and incline. Both of the above practices are unsafe to our spine and hips.

Solution :  If your goal is to burn more fat, doing weights first and then cardio would yield much more result and aid in recovery than doing cardio first or just cardio.

  1. No stretching, warm up or cool down workouts

This blunder paves the way for workout injury and muscle soreness

Those who are regular to gym would know of people who walk into gym and start working out within a minute. Stretching and warming up your muscles for an intense /moderate physical workout is extremely important for an injury free workout and cramp-free body post workout. If you are one of those people who get headache or dizziness soon after you start a workout, it is a sign that you don’t warm up enough. Getting injured often during a workout, or while playing your favourite sport is also a sign of poor stretching before or after your activity.pablo (85)

Solution : Stretching and warming up relaxes and prepares our tensed muscles for the activity,  which ensures the workout we do doesn’t come as shock to the muscles when it is least expected.

 

  1. Looking at weights as though they are aliens.

Known mistake that reduces the fat burn and thus results.
If a fit body is your goal, treat weights like your best friend and not like an alien.

I have posted an article on why should we weight train. Many people get confused between muscle and fat.

More muscle you build, higher your metabolism and higher your fat burn.

Weight training is the best and most effective way to burn fat and get fit. Cardio burns fat only after 25 minutes of working out and only till you are performing the activity.  On the other hand, weight training has a profound effect on fat burn up to 48 hours after your weight training session(EPOC/afterburn). Although some trainers tell their clients that cardio is the best way to burn fat, studies have proven that the rate at which weight training burns fat or improves metabolism can never be compared with that of cardio

Solution: Spare a day or two per week for weight training, even if you are a woman.

 

  1. Doing 100 crunches right at the end of the workout for flat abs

This mistake makes the hard work, time and sweat in gym ineffective
Most moderate to well fit people commit this mistake. Right before finishing their workout, they focus on doing crunches. And proudly say they hit 75- 100 .

First things first , ab crunches are not the only workouts for six packs or flat abs.

Second, doing the same workout over and over again will not get your muscle to burn more fat.

Third, crunches do not target most of the core muscles, but only a small part.

Beyond all this, doing core strengthening workouts like crunches and more right at the end of your workout plan will not train those muscles as other workouts might  have exhausted their fuel. This means you recover less, burn less fat even after 100 crunches.
 Solution :  push core strengthening workouts and weights to the start of the workout, and make sure your workout involves more muscle groups than just upper abdomen.

 

  1. Doing ‘Insta Ready’ workouts.

This mistake diminishes or doesn’t give any result at all
There comes the last mistake of doing beautiful selfie worthy workouts. This is doing only exercises like bicep curls, wrist curls, heel raises for calf muscles and triceps extensions. Most women who go to gym do not go near weights, and if they do , it will be restricted to the above ones. Focusing only on the smaller muscles and not training the larger muscles like thighs, chest , shoulders and back ( Hamstrings, pec, traps and lats) is like planning all expenses for a month and leaving out the  ‘home loan EMI’.

Solution : Prioritize workout , in order of the size of muscles and train larger muscles first.

Needless to say, that we should not expect to see the transformation from a paunch to a washboard ab in a couple of weeks. Patience pays, especially if you started working out recently.

Working out is like a marriage. Just like we marry a person to be with them for a lifetime, and not just for immediate gains like having kids or buying house . Working out is meant to make us healthy and happy lifelong, not just to fit into an old dress or lose some pounds.

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