Women And Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia causes debilitating pain and fatigue. The illness affects 5 million American adults aged 18 years or older. While anyone can exhibit the disease regardless of age or gender, it affects women disproportionately.
According to WomensHealth.gov, 80 to 90 percent of the people suffering from the disease are women. The disease presents with intense aches and pains throughout the body, however certain "tender" points correspond to increased pain when applying pressure to them.
In addition to pain pressure sensitive tender points in the neck, shoulders, arms, back, legs and hips, other symptoms may manifest:
• Impaired cognitive and memory function
• Sleep disturbances
• Muscle stiffness, particularly in the morning
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Menstrual pain
• Diminished sensation or tingling of hands and feet
• Sensitivity to temperature
• Sensitivity to loud noises or bright lights
• Restless leg syndrome
The cause of fibromyalgia remains unclear. It can be linked to certain diseases and lifestyle circumstances. Fibromyalgia occurs more often in people with various form of arthritis, lupus, or a family history of the disease. It also occurs in the absence of other diseases.
The disease also appears more often in people who sustain repetitive motion injuries, experience traumatic events, spend time in war zone environments and experience infection or illness.
Fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose sense its symptoms mirror those of many other diseases.
Once other potential diseases have been excluded, fibromyalgia may be diagnosed if the patient exhibits:
• Pain throughout the whole body for a period of 3 months or longer
• A set of 18 prescribed tender points which trigger a pain response when pressure is applied to them
Treating fibromyalgia requires a multilayer approach. As a systemic disease, the kaleidoscope of symptoms it causes must be treated with a synergistic approach. Successful treatment often requires the input of professional from a variety of medical and alternative therapy disciplines.
Several medications are available to treat fibromyalgia. They address different symptoms of the disease with the intent of providing extended relief. Two of these medicines, pregabalin and duloxetine, are FDA approved. Pregabalin, commercially known as Lyrica, is an anticonvulsant; it treats fibromyalgia related pain and improves the ability to perform daily tasks. It may cause dizziness drowsiness, swelling, and weight gain.
Duloxetine, commercially known as Cymbalta, is an antidepressant. Its side effects include nausea, insomnia, dizziness, and others. These drugs need to be prescribed and should be used with close medical supervision.
Antidepressants are generally recommended to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms, but they do not effectively treat the chronic pain associated with the disease.
Alternative therapies work well with other treatment methods to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms. According the American Pain Society, the objective of these therapies is to relieve chronic pain and improve daily functions for the patient.
Some of these treatments are:
• Myofascial release therapy
• Relaxation exercises
• Breathing techniques
• Cognitive therapy
Several lifestyle choices ease the symptoms of fibromyalgia. They include:
• Exercise - While pain and fatigue may make a regular exercise challenging, it is a proven means to maintain mobility and build functional fitness levels.
• Nutrition - A healthful diet assists with overall health maintenance and helps prevent the onset of other diseases. It supports healthy energy level as well. While no direct link between fibromyalgia and certain foods are documented, you may choose to monitor your diet for foods, which seem to aggravate the condition.
• Sleep Hygiene - Ensuring you get the appropriate amount of restful sleep eases fibromyalgia pain and of course addresses the issue of fatigue. The quality of the sleep is equally important to the length of time a person sleeps; on average, most adults require seven to eight hours of sleep.
• Work-Life Balance - Maintaining a work schedule may be difficult for a person coping with fibromyalgia. They may need to adapt their career choice or work conditions (work hours, equipment, and ergonomics) in order to continue to work while managing the disease.
While fibromyalgia can be very debilitating, it is a manageable disease. If you experience, four or more of the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia for three months or more seek medical attention. It may not be fibromyalgia, however the symptoms indicate something serious may be amiss with the body.
There are many treatment options, which can be adapted to your needs if you are diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Consult with your medical care provider to determine the appropriate course of treatment for you.
Women And Arthritis
Arthritis affects people of all ages. Diagnosis of most forms of arthritis occurs between the ages of 40 and 60 years old. The rates of arthritis are three times higher in women than in men.
The disease is characterized by chronic joint inflammation. Stiff joints with limited mobility and pain are common symptoms of the disease.
Over 100 forms of arthritis are recognized with three of them being the most common: rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and psoriatic arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. A person may develop the disease due to normal wear in a joint, overuse, injury, or obesity (which places undue stress on the knees and hips). More often than not, the only symptom associated with this form of arthritis is pain resulting from cartilage having worn away from the ends of the bones within the joint. Cartilage and synovial fluid cushion the bones as they move against one another within a joint.
Psoriatic Arthritis causes inflammation of the skin and joints. Raised red, white, and scaly patches of skin develop on the body and one or more joints become inflamed. The fingernails may also become pitted and discolored with this form of arthritis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is actually an autoimmune disorder. Its exact cause remains unclear. Information presented by WebMd on the topic indicates, it may be a residual response of the immune system following a viral or bacterial infection. Doctors think the body mistakes its own tissues as a remaining threat and concentrates its attack in the joints.
Arthritis Statistics In Women
Arthritis affects 52.5 million American adults based on the data from the 2012-2012 National Health Interview Survey. Approximately 1.3 million adults suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, the autoimmune form of the disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects women disproportionately; the number of women with the disease is three times higher than the number of men.
The way rheumatoid arthritis manifests in women also tends to be more severe:
• Women are diagnosed with the disease at younger ages than men are.
• Women report more symptoms of greater severity compared to those of men at the same stage in the disease.
• Women do not experience the same level of symptom relief as men when give the same treatments.
Hormones also seem to play a role in the way women experience rheumatoid arthritis. Pregnant women with the disease seem to experience fewer symptoms during pregnancy, but the disease may resurge post-delivery. Breastfeeding also seems to offer some protection against developing the disease.
The treatment of arthritis varies depending on the patient and the type of arthritis they have. Available treatments for arthritis include pharmaceuticals, surgery, and alternative therapies.
Alternative therapies like yoga, tai chi, biofeedback, and massage work well in conjunction with medicines and nutritional and herbal supplements to alleviate arthritis related pain and other symptoms.
• Medications - A variety of medications are prescribed to treat arthritis: analgesics (painkillers), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, counter irritants containing menthol or capsaicin, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs and steroids. The goal of most medications used to treat the disease is to decrease pain, heat and swelling in the affected joint(s).
• Surgery - If medication and other therapies fail, a doctor may recommend surgery. Joint replacement surgery has become more common. The damaged joint is removed and an artificial joint put in its place. Knee and hip replacement surgeries occur fairly frequently. Joint fusion surgery locks the ends of two bones within a joint together. The ends of the bones to be fused are removed and the remaining bones bound so they heal together. Small joints like those in the wrists, fingers, and ankles are considered for this type of surgery.
• Alternative treatments - Complementary medical procedures, like acupuncture, and alternative therapies, like yoga or tai chi, generally assist with controlling pain, improving range of motion and building strength in the muscles around the joint.
Early diagnosis and early treatment are the keys to successfully managing arthritis. Given the unclear causal factors of psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, they may not be preventable.
It may be possible to prevent osteoarthritis with behavior modification and the use of orthopedic equipment to support the joints during repetitive and strenuous activities. Consult with your doctor if you believe you are experiencing arthritis symptoms.
The Weight Bench is Not Just for Men: Strength Training for Women
Strength training may be regularly thought of as a masculine activity. Weight benches are often occupied by men and when you think of weight rooms, you probably imagine a lot of guys hanging around working on their triceps, biceps, calves and quads.
However, weight training is certainly not just for men, and women can engage in this exercise and enjoy the various results. Whether in the gym or at home, women can start their own strength training routine that can help tone muscles, increase endurance, burn fat, and of course, enhance strength.
Why Strength Training
While many think of strength as having big muscles and the ability to lift tons of weight, it is actually much more than that. Strength is represented by your endurance, your ability to keep going both mentally and physically, your sense of purpose, and of course, the power of your muscles and how much you can lift. Weight is equivalent to growth, meaning that the more you practice, the more you can take on, and the better you become.
For women, strength training is a skill of freedom, power, safety, and control. It gives them a sense of independence and allows them to better themselves both mentally and physically. Strength training is also the fastest way to improve your muscles and your physical endurance, and it can help you perform everyday tasks. However, the very best part about strength training is that it helps you to use muscles you never have before, which helps you strengthen your body even in the places you didn’t needed toning up.
Strength training for women is incredibly useful and impactful. As a woman, there’s a lot of heavy lifting in your life. You work, you create, you lift your children in to the air for an embrace, you carry briefcases to and from the office, and you do so much more. Even everyday activities that seem mundane like cleaning or reaching up to grab something off of a shelf or bending low to put something away can work muscles you didn’t know you had, and strength training supports this type of functional fitness.
Also, keep in mind that the more lean muscle mass you have, the more fat you will burn, even when at rest!
Strength training also supports and promotes healthier aging, since the human body loses about 1% of a 1/3 pound of muscle mass every year after the age of 30. One study also showed that quality of muscle degrades, meaning that strength declines faster than actual muscle mass.
Whether you choose bodyweight exercises, weight machines, or free weights, a ripped toned body, healthy weight management, functional fitness, healthier aging, strength, and endurance are waiting for you!
Try these moves and search for others to continue your strength training and journey and discover just how fit you can really be.
Moves To Strengthen Your Mind And Transform Your Body
• The Side Shoulder Raise: You perform this by beginning with your arms hanging in front of your thighs with elbows slightly bent and your palms facing one another. Then, raise both of your dumbbells outward to the height of your shoulders while still keeping your elbows bent. Lower to the first position and start again. Do this 5, 10, 15 times in row, slowly working your way up as you build strength and muscle.
• The Upright Row: This one helps to tone the shoulders, neck, and upper back. To begin, take a stance similar to the one for the side shoulder raise: arms in front of your thighs with palms facing towards the thigs and hold the free weights close together. From here, you keep your palms close to your body and slowly raise the dumbbells up until they are touching your chin. Lower and repeat.
• The Biceps Curl: To build up your biceps, begin with your arms hanging at your sides with your palms facing away from you. Make sure that you keep your elbows tucked close to your sides and curl the dumbbells upwards to your shoulders. Lower and repeat—you should feel a slight strain or pull in your upper arms to tell you that it’s working.
• Alternating Dumbbell Press: This last move is designed for your front and outer deltoids. To perform, sit on the weight bench with a straight back. Raise your dumbbells to your shoulder height while keeping your palms and elbows in. Then, press one dumbbell straight up by extending your arm completely. Lower, and do so with the other arm. Be sure not to lean or swat with the motion, but rather stay rigid and be sure to move with your breath: inhale as you raise the arm up, exhale as you bring it back down. Be sure to do the majority of the work using your shoulders and arms and keep your body planted and strong as you work.
What Healthy Senior Women Are Up To At The Gym
Many studies out there show the benefits of seniors making a regular trip to the gym. In fact, the older we get, the more we need to keep our muscles strong.
As the years go by, the muscular cells in our body waste away due to lack of use or by the damaging effects of free radicals, inflammation, and hormonal imbalance during menopause, or mitochondrial dysfunction. All together, these factors are called Sarcopenia, the natural weakening of the muscles through aging.
To reverse this process, progressive and regular use of resistance training was proven to increase mitochondrial and antioxidant production, balance hormones, and strengthen muscles on a genetic level.
Why Is The Loss Of Muscle Tissue So Bad?
- Muscles burn more calories than fat. If we have fewer muscles and eat the same amount of food than before the loss of muscle tissue, we will gain more body fat. This can result in major heart health issues, increased risk for type 2 diabetes and premature death from various obesity and overweight related conditions that threaten the health of aging women.
- Muscles are also essential for the body’s skeletal system. Muscles hold our spine tall and straight. Without those muscles, we could have severe back pain.
- Muscles also help our joints, keeping us nice and limber.
- In addition, strong bones reduce the chances of injury and also help prevent osteoporosis, which afflicts thousands of women ages 55 and over.
So What Are Smart Senior Women Doing At The Gym To Keep Their Bodies Strong?
• Senior Group Classes - Most gyms have classes created especially for senior citizens. These classes are perfect because they already took into consideration safety and ability when creating these classes. These are also great for social interaction and making fitness fun because you will be in a group of people just like you. They can also be a source of stress relief and you won't feel intimidated by your fitness level because of your advancing age. Everyone else will be in the same stage of life and you won't feel so out of place.
• Tai Chi or Qigong - These types of ancient wellness practices can usually be found at your local senior or community center or even at the gym. They are great for balance, stress relief, and muscle strengthening. Because of the slow pace movement and low impact exercise, this is a very popular strength program for senior women. It is easy on the joints but still helps to strengthen your entire body. It also helps to keep you flexible and limber.
• Yoga - This is another low impact form of exercise that is popular with the senior community. Like everyone else, seniors can gain strength and flexibility through a regular yoga program. It doesn't require any special equipment so you can even do these at home after you've learned the moves or watch a video and follow along. One of the best thing about yoga is that there are modifications to almost every move for those who may have limited mobility due to health issues like arthritis.
• Water Aerobics - Many seniors can be found moving and smiling at the local pool. These water aerobics classes are great for strength training seniors without causing any injury. The weight of the water against the movement of the body creates a natural resistance training to keep the muscles strong without the jarring and joint problems. Another great aspect of water aerobics is that it controls the body temperature with the cool water, so no nasty sweating!
• Power Walking - Power walking is another simple, no equipment workout that seniors can do anywhere. It is best to do at the gym because most gyms have a padded track that will be easy on your knees.
If you feel you are strong enough to tackle what the 30 somethings and 40 somethings are doing, more power to you! If you don’t you can still do many of the low impact workouts that promote good health, like swimming and yoga. Just make sure you are getting the okay from your doctor and taking safety to heart.
Squats Vs. Kegel Exercises For A Healthy Pelvic Floor In Women
Women have been doing Kegels for years trying to undo the damage done to their pelvic floor due to weak muscles surrounding that area. Signs of a weak pelvic floor include a lack of the curve of the lower back, lack of glutes (that's right, flat butt syndrome), and poor posture while sitting or even standing.
Pelvic Floor Disorder or a weak pelvic floor can lead to having sneeze pee, laugh pee, or cough pee, all results of incontinence, meaning you accidentally pee yourself a little while doing any of these three things. It can also cause you to be unable to hold your number two.
It can be shown through hip pain, tailbone pain, and can be shown in both women who have had births or women who have never been pregnant. Even men can have PFD.
Been noticing any of these symptoms in yourself? It turns outs that Kegels may not be the exercise of choice.
What Are Kegels Anyway?
Kegels are an exercise that has been touted as a pelvic muscle strengthener for many, many moons. Kegels can't really be seen when you do them because you are in essence just tightening the muscles inside your vagina as if holding in your pee.
The recommended Kegel exercise consists of tightening these muscles for five seconds and releasing for five seconds, repeating this ten times, three times per day. For many people, it was very difficult to isolate the right muscles.
Tightening the wrong muscles could lead to harmful effects. All Kegels will do, even when performed correctly, will only tighten, or shorten the pelvic floor muscle. PFD is due to the inability to relax these muscles, not contract them.
Do Squats Instead
According to Katy Bowman, a biomechanical scientist specializing in alignment of the body, and mother herself who has strengthened her pelvic floor, the best exercise to promote the pelvic floor is the squat.
She says that in order to keep your pelvic floor in line and where it needs to be, you have to strengthen the opposing muscles, which are the glutes. The squat is the best workout to strengthen your glutes, so she recommends making this move on your daily to do list.
Squatting is a natural movement that we repeat on a daily basis, unless our lifestyle is sedimentary. Squatting can't just be a lazy bend over and pick something up squat but the kind you learned in safety training when they taught you to lift with your legs not your back.
Our luxury life of toilets and the Lazy-Boy chair have made us squat a lot less in our lives as opposed to before when we had to squat in the field and use a leaf to clean up.
It is crucial, however, to do squats correctly in order for them to repair your pelvic floor. The correct way to do a squat is…
- Stand with your feet a little wider than hip width apart, looking straight ahead.
- Keeping your chest up and your shoulders back, bend your knees, push your butt behind you, and go as low as you can. Make sure your knees don't go past your toes or you are putting strain on your knees and you won't use the right muscle to push up.
- Hover here for about 5 seconds then use your hamstrings and glutes to push your bodyweight back up into standing position.
Voila! You've just performed the perfect squat.
How Can A Strong Pelvic Floor Help Women?
• Well, for one thing, you won't have any more incontinence, which saves you a lot of embarrassment.
• You will have higher chances of orgasms (bonus!) and discourage any menstrual problems or any pain during intercourse.
• If you are pregnant or planning on getting pregnant your delivery and post-delivery recovery will be much easier as a strong pelvic floor will help you to relax your pelvic bone and open up plenty of room for the baby to fit through. This means no tearing or bleeding during birth.
By the way, squats have many more health benefits beyond the pelvic floor, as they improve balance and functional fitness, which allows us to be stronger and perform better in our daily lives, especially as we age.
Heard enough ladies? Get to squatting!
Key Factors In Weight Management After Menopause
Women tend to suffer from a difficulty in losing weight and some begin to gain weight after menopause.
30% of women ages 50 to 59 are not just overweight, but obese.
Risks of weight gain are well documented and include, high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, just to name a few. Increased weight around the waist poses even more risks and belly fat is more likely to increase after menopause, any measurement over 35 inches is of great concern.
Reasons For Post-Menopausal Weight Gain
• Some women tend to exercise less as they age, in fact, 60% of all adults are not getting enough exercise, and this is more prevalent among the senior population. Aging women are also at a greater risk for hypothyroidism, which negatively effects their metabolism. The rate at which the body uses up energy during exercise declines with age, this means that an increase in both time of workouts and their intensity is required to achieve similar results.
• Age related muscle mass loss also lowers resting metabolism that contributes to weight gain.
• Reduced estrogen may also lower metabolic rate, the lack of estrogen may plays a role in the body using starches, and the body uses blood sugar less effectively that increases fat storage in the body, and makes weight loss more difficult.
All of these factors play a role in the difficulties post-menopausal women face when trying to lose weight or preventing weight gain from happening in the first place.
How To Overcome These Issues And Maintain A Healthy Weight
The trick is to override the body’s slow metabolism and to watch the caloric intake and exercise output. The more active you are, the less weight you're likely to gain.
A National Institutes of Health review showed that people who did aerobic activities every day for 10 or more minutes had 6 fewer inches around the waistline compared to people who didn't exercise.
After menopause, women may need to beef up their exercise in order to improve metabolism. This means getting out for a brisk walk every day for a half hour at a time, bicycling or taking up a low impact aerobic activity such as swim aerobics or simply swimming. Low impact aerobic exercises will be easier on arthritic joints and won’t add to the wear and tear on joints.
Another good exercise for women in the post-menopausal years is to start weight lifting or using weight machines. These are anaerobic exercises that build and tone muscles, exchanging fatty tissue for muscle tissue. Muscle has a higher metabolic rate when compared to fat so you burn calories faster and easier. Weight lifting is also good for bone health and can prevent osteoporosis.
Eating after menopause should include the fact that women over menopause have a naturally lower metabolic rate (metabolic rate is directly related to age). The caloric content of the diet should therefore be lower in postmenopausal women.
A diet rich in whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy and lean meats, avoiding processed foods and high fat, high sugar foods, is the diet of choice when trying to lose weight after menopause.
The caloric content should be between 1500 and 2000 calories per day. This quantity of calories along with exercise is usually enough to help a person lose weight, even after menopause.
Women should be screened for hypothyroidism after they go through menopause. Hypothyroidism can often have few symptoms, such as low mood, dry skin, dry hair, and weight gain. Women with subclinical hypothyroidism have a particularly difficult time losing weight.
Only when identifying the low thyroid hormone content and elevated TSH on laboratory studies can a woman begin to receive the hormone supplementation necessary in order to begin to improve their metabolism and have an easier time losing weight. Usually, the thyroid hormone supplementation is necessary for life although adjustments in dosage may need to happen over time.
Health Risks And Concerns
Postmenopausal women need to keep a normal body mass index/weight because they are at a greater risk for things like diabetes and heart disease after menopause. Premenopausal women have a protected cardiovascular system by virtue of having estrogen and progesterone around to help prevent heart disease; however, when this is lost at the time of menopause, the risk of heart disease increases.
This is why other risk factors, such as obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol need to be treated and managed to the fullest degree in postmenopausal women. Even if a woman has not attempted to lose weight or exercise before menopause, it is not too late to start exercising and eating for a low cardiovascular risk profile. This is especially true in a woman who has a family history of heart disease, including heart attacks, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.
This added exercise and reduced caloric intake can reduce the incidence of obesity, therefore reducing the risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women.
Is the Paleo Diet an Optimal Choice for Women?
The Paleo diet is all the rage now and some men swear by it for weight loss and building lean muscle mass.
But, Is it an optimal choice for women?
Does it give women the nutrients they need to reach their weight loss goals without lacking a vital source of vitamins and minerals?
It’s no secret that men have a different bodily makeup than women and so it’s only fair that each diet be valued with gender in mind. The Paleo diet does have some disadvantages but as a whole, it is a very good choice for women.
• Restricts Sugar - Sugar is evil for women. It’s one of our biggest cravings but wreaks havoc on our hormones. It’s also really easy to over eat sugar causing unnecessary weight gain. Being overweight causes excess estrogen. Excess estrogen makes women crazy women with mood swings, cramps, and really bad PMS. On the flip side, consuming too much sugar causes testosterone to be produced in the ovaries of all places. This can decrease fertility and libido, and cause acne and facial hair, not something that anyone woman wound want.
• Eliminates Grains - Grains are a hard thing to give up. They are a big source of energy but come with a price. Grains are things like pasta, bread, and cereals and they are called carbohydrates. Our bodies use this for energy but what is not used is broken down into sugar, which as previously mentioned wreaks havoc on a woman’s body. Most grains contain gluten, which many have an intolerance for and can lead to digestion problems, rheumatoid arthritis, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Many also become addicted to starchy carbs and overeat them.
• Easy To Follow - Unlike many other diets, the Paleo diet doesn’t make you count calories or cut back drastically on your food consumption. It teaches you to be in tune with your body and eat when it tells you to and stop eating when you are full. This balances out our hormones to a good level. There is nothing worse than feeling as if you only have half of your energy because you haven’t eaten enough to keep you going. With this diet, you will have plenty of energy to face the day.
• Whole Food Diet - The Paleo diet only allows for whole food and nothing processed. This eliminates junk food and its harmful effects and includes only natural real food that supports healthy weight management and overall good health.
• Highly Nutritious- Another factor that gives you plenty of energy is the quality of the foods you are eating. In the Paleo diet, all of the food you eat is very nutrient-dense. Berries and green veggies have the highest content of antioxidants and in a Paleo diet; it is a regular part of your meals. Eating animal products that are grass fed and pasture raised keep the meat full of the good nutrients the animals eat from the ground and not from hormones that are fed to them by traditional farming methods.
• Good For PMS- The foods included in the Paleo diet have a naturally high content of healthy fats and minerals that aid in a woman’s fertility and menstrual cycle. It is also low in any foods that may lower fertility and exasperate PMS. This is a nice added perk for women who practice the Paleo eating pattern.
There Are Only A Few Drawbacks To The Paleo Diet…
First, it can be expensive to follow. Have you seen the prices of grass fed beef? Nuts aren’t cheap either.
A good thing to do is to budget this diet into your plan before you start or you may end up without the necessary nutrition before the end of the week. There is a severe restriction on carb sources allowed in this diet. Without carbs, it can be really hard to have maximum energy level. You need to be creative in your energy sources but it can be done.
In addition, dairy isn’t allowed so finding another source high in calcium is essential because calcium is a very important mineral for women to promote bone health and prevent osteoporosis in older age.
Calcium is plentiful in plant foods that are allowed on the Paleo Diet, including:
• Orange juice, fortified with calcium
• Tempeh and tofu
• Almond butter
• Turnip greens, raw
• Kale, raw
• Bok choy
• Mustard greens
• Broccoli, raw
Of course, supplements are also available, including vitamin D that helps with absorption of calcium
Overall, following the diet with a few cheats every now and then could be a very successful diet to women and can really help one to kick-start the road to eating whole real food, which is always the best option for good health, weight loss, energy, and longevity.
How Yoga Can Improve Women's Health
Yoga has been a cultural buzzword for almost a century. Its practices and techniques have made claims to affect everything from blood circulation to insomnia. Whether by a friend’s anecdote or through a new story shared on a Facebook feed, women have heard of this practice. There are benefits to women’s health through the practice of yoga exercises.
What is Yoga?
It is important, however, to define exactly what “yoga” is, as definitions and practices can vary wildly.
The most common exercise practiced in the West is called Hatha Yoga, (though many other disciplines exist), which originated in India 2,000 years ago. Yoga made its first large-scale appearance in the Western world in the late 18th century and since then has become a wide umbrella of techniques from different religious backgrounds.
It wavered in and out of the culture for a few decades but became a permanent fixture in the 1980s, when Dean Ornish popularized the technique for purely physical benefits. While some conservative groups still frown on the practice, it has become a cultural norm since this time.
Today more than 20 million Americans practice yoga and many more millions around the world.
Holistic Benefits of Yoga
Geeta S. Lyengar believes that due to her study of yoga, she was able to overcome a childhood disease without medication, even after spending four days unconscious in a nursing home with severe nephritis.
She also studied the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu holy book, fervently and practiced meditation as well. Iyengar wrote largely of the holistic benefits of yoga.
She stated that it is a culture of:
• External and internal cleanliness
• Dietary control
• Proper exercise of the limbs and organs
• Physical and mental poise
However, she also cited its ability to help women specifically, especially in childbirth, menstruation, and menopause. It can be an art, science, and philosophy- or depending on the practitioner, none of the above.
More secular sources like the American College of Sports Medicine have called it an inwards and outward transition. How much of it is used in lifestyle versus physical exercise varies widely with each person who practices these poses, but common sense says that changing things like diets and cleanliness will improve lifestyle.
Health Benefits Of Yoga
Yoga has been cited by scholarly sources to show improvement of common ailments for women, including the American College of Sports Medicine.
Many Benefits Of Yoga
• Yoga improves flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance.
• It teaches the practitioner to reduce stress and better cope with stress.
• Yoga teaches mindfulness by shifting awareness to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that naturally accompany a particular pose.
• A study from Duke University Medical Center shoed that yoga benefits those who suffer from mental disorders, including depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety
• Yoga promotes good sleep and ease anxiety.
• Practicing yoga in a class setting promotes the production of oxytocin in the brain a feel good hormone that naturally promotes wellness. Something that is especially useful for aging women.
• Yoga along with meditation also results in higher serotonin levels, which is the mood boosting happiness hormone that can boost quality of life and general contentment."
• Couples often turn to yoga to increase chances of conception. Yoga promotes relaxation and reduces stress in the mother to be, both of which improve chances of conception. Yoga also plays a role in promoting blood flow to the reproductive organs, which improves organ function and hormone function.
• Posture improves because yoga strengthens the core.
• Yoga helps build lean muscle tone.
• Quality time in a class setting allows for social interaction, comradery and an emotional connection to others, which improves a woman emotional health helping to improve her physical health and reduce risk for heart disease.
• Being aware of and knowing how to stretch core muscle groups can be beneficial in managing menstrual cramps and childbirth without medication. They are also used in back strengthening techniques in older women at risk of osteoporosis.
• Core strength improves with yoga. Using yoga to strengthen core muscles can increase flexibility in women, which can improve overall health as well as comfort during pregnancy. These techniques are also valuable in sports practiced more often by women such as gymnastics and cheerleading.
• Proper breathing techniques have been used to help women in childbirth for decades. It can also be used to relieve anxiety and help with insomnia.
There is also evidence, though less conclusive, that yoga can benefit those under more severe ailments:
• Breast and Ovarian Cancer: Though yoga cannot change the physical consequences of cancer, many have reported a higher quality of life after practicing these techniques regardless of the severity of their condition.
• Depression: No conclusive evidence has been made, but the physical act of stretching and communicating with others in a class setting can help improve quality of life and alleviate mild depression.
Yoga can have positive effects on overall health as well as some specific disorders. Injuries are rare, and there is little equipment or training needed. It is easy to find certified yoga instructors at the local gym, or by visiting the site one of the most recognized organizations, Yoga Alliance. It can give women the extra punch they need to be in excellent overall health.
How Hormones Can Affect A Woman's Moods
Women have a relatively unique hormonal system when compared to men. Men have a relatively static hormone system with stable levels of pituitary and gonadal hormones throughout their daily lives, suffering from decreasing levels of testosterone after the age of 30-40. Usually this gradual change does not markedly affect male mood.
Women, on the other hand, spend much of their reproductive lives with a cyclical pattern of hormones that change on a day-to-day basis. The cycle repeats itself every month and the fluctuations alone can contribute to changes in everyday mood.
In the beginning of the cycle, the LH and FSH levels are low. The FSH gradually rises in order to stimulate an egg to grow and mature on the ovaries. An LH surge happens at the time of ovulation so that the egg is released and the ovary creates a large amount of estrogen and progesterone in the last half of the cycle. This is when many women experience hormonal changes consistent with premenstrual syndrome. It is possible for any woman to develop mood changes during the last half of the cycle but some women have hormonal changes so significant that it interferes with daily life. When it involves the ability to get through daily life, it is called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD.
What are the symptoms of PMDD?
Women with PMDD often experience mood swings along with physical symptoms that make it difficult to get through daily life. When the period arrives, the symptoms tend to abate for another two weeks until ovulation happens again and PMDD symptoms arrive.
Some symptoms of PMDD include the following:
• Fluctuations in mood that can change by the hour or by the day.
• Depressed feelings such as sadness, loneliness, and hopelessness.
• Increased anger, often leading to interpersonal relationship difficulties
• Anxiety and increased mental tension
• Lessened interest in hobbies and other activities you used to enjoy
• Increased irritability
• Problems with concentration
• Tiredness, sleepiness or fatigue during the day
• An increase or decrease in appetite
• Insomnia or other sleep difficulties
• Feeling out of control or overwhelmed by life’s challenges
• Uncomfortable physical symptoms, such as breast tenderness, bloating, headaches, joint pain, muscle pain or swelling
These symptoms can mean that, for two weeks out of every month, a woman can have difficulty functioning in life; this can affect her home life, her work life, and relationships in her life. If the symptoms are relatively mild, she can take vitamins, eat healthy, and exercise in order to improve many of the mood symptoms. If the symptoms are severe and a woman does not wish to become pregnant, oral contraceptives can even out the symptoms. Still other women see their doctor and get prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs like Prozac, Lexapro, or Celexa. These can reduce many of the emotional symptoms so typical of having PMDD or even milder premenstrual symptoms.
Women are at a higher risk of hypothyroid or hyperthyroid conditions when compared to men. This means they have a higher risk of these hormonally related conditions affecting mood and outlook on life. Hypothyroidism is much more common than hyperthyroidism but both syndromes can lead to mood disorders and mental symptoms.
In hypothyroidism, the main mood symptoms include the following:
• Depressive symptoms
• Tiredness or fatigue even when getting enough sleep at night.
• Difficulty sleeping
If the woman has hyperthyroidism, she likely has Grave’s disease, which has mood and mental symptoms of its own. These include:
• Mental and emotional weakness
Many times, these symptoms can be overlooked as a normal part of being a woman or due to menstrual symptoms, when in actuality; they are due to a physical problem with the thyroid gland. While jokes are often made about these types of mood conditions and PMS, these serious issues can be debilitating for women, and can seriously affect their lives and relationships.
Only a careful history, physical examination, and a laboratory analysis can allow the doctor to identify which symptoms are just mental and which are due to thyroid pathology. Take the time to look into these issues as help is available and there is no reason to let these problems fester.
GMOs and Hormonal Balance in Women
Genetically Modified Foods, or GMO's, have really been scrutinized lately. We all know why they exist. Corporations are looking to make a “better” product that they can make cheaper than the competition. They take their crops into their little labs and genetically engineer them to withstand many of the common crop problems today or other reasons.
The problem is, these foods aren't natural, and recent studies show that whatever scientists are doing behind the scenes are affecting our bodies. One such way directly involves women and their hormones.
Most Common Genetically Modified Foods
• Corn: Almost 85% of corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified.
• Soy is the most heavily modified food in the United States modified to have higher levels of oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid that may lower bad cholesterol, and is naturally found in olive oil.
• Alfalfa that is genetically engineered is made so to resist the herbicide Roundup.
• About 90% canola crops in the United States are genetically modified.
• 50% of all US sugar production is made up of genetically modified sugar beets and 95% of the sugar beet market.
• In America, cows are fed rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone to increase their production of milk. This practice is banned in the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
GMO labeling is not required in the United States or Canada, though severe restrictions and bans exist in many other countries.
Whole Foods Markets are planning to label GMO foods by the year 2018 as it does in their Britain locations, as they are required to do by the European Union
Studies Are Scary
As if women didn't have enough problems dealing with the effects of their hormones spiraling out of control, a few studies have shown that genetically modified foods are causing estrogen levels to heighten to dangerous levels in women.
One such study was done on rats eating corn that was genetically modified to withstand Roundup and then sprayed with Roundup as an herbicide. There were two groups of rats, one ate non-GMO corn and then given low doses of Roundup, and another group that was fed GMO corn and then given low doses of Roundup. The second group of rats grew huge mammary tumors and died 5 times sooner than the first group. Studies suggested that the tumors grew due to the disrupted hormones.
Another study done in Brazil showed that genetically modified soy was causing an onslaught of problems to the reproductive system of rats. Women start their menstrual cycle naturally at a certain age. Rats on the other hand, need to have male rats around them to get their bodies to react and begin to ovulate. In this study, there were no male rats in sight, yet the female rats that were fed genetically modified soy had blossomed into womanhood on their own. A closer look at these rats' uterus showed the lining had thickened and the glands were dilated. What does this prove? The genetically modified soy was affecting the ovaries of these rats, without a doubt.
Another study done in Canada tested the blood of thirty pregnant women and their fetus', and 30 non-pregnant women who have had contact with GMO and herbicide treated foods. Their blood contained those pesticides and the BT toxin in Monsanto's foods. Monsanto is the leading company in using GMO's. These toxins were proved to have most dangerous to the fetus, but also adversely affects the women's reproductive system.
We Aren't Rats
It's understandable that we can't have studies done on women and our reproductive system isn't the same as female rats, but these studies prove one thing: GMO's aren't stable foods. They cause a change in the animals that eat them. We aren't rats but we are animals. If genetically modified foods do affect the reproductive system of women, the way it did of these poor rats it can cause a number of problems.
This hormonal change could lead to heavier than normal and much more painful menstrual periods and/or a problem called endometriosis, a painful and sad disease of women in which the menstrual cycle flows into the body instead of out of it. It could also cause infertility. In addition, it can cause significantly higher rates of miscarriage.
Are You Willing To Take The Risk
There is no real proof but great suspicion.
Why take the risk and eat genetically modified foods when it isn't necessary?
We can easily take extra precaution to eliminate or at least drastically cut down on the amount of these foods we eat.
Check the codes on your produce. An eight digit code starting with a five means it’s genetically modified.
The best way to make sure you don't eat GMO's is to eat organically and locally whenever possible. Find a local farmer that buys organic seeds and buy from them. Eat grass fed beef, free-range chicken, and wild fish. Eat smart and your hormones will thank you for it.
Get Your Core Bikini Ready
Baring your midsection to hundreds of strangers isn’t easy when you aren’t completely confident about the way you look. Never fear, there is still time to beautify your abs for bikini season.
Keep in mind that while ripped hard abs look great, there is more to having a healthy core. The core section of the body is the anchor that keeps everything else working at its best. A strong core, prevents lower backs, improves posture, boosts athletic performance and it actually underscores everything you do every day:
• Bending to tie your shoes
• Work that involves twisting, lifting and standing
• Promotes a healthy back that can handle life
• Housework, fix-it work, and gardening that often involves bending, lifting, twisting, carrying, hammering, and reaching are all improved by a strong core
• Balance and stability is also boosted by core strength because it stabilizes the body and allows it to move in any direction, so core strength decreases risk of falls
Of course, you are already doing all you can in the diet department, that is eating lots of greens, staying away from processed foods, and portioning well-balanced meals. Without a healthy diet, you can’t really see any progress from any of these exercises, even if you did them until you were blue in the face. So eat right and do these workouts 3 times per week.
There are three main sections to the abdominal muscles and they all need to be worked in order to have a perfect stomach.
The exercises are broken down by each section with two moves for each section. You can choose to perform all these exercises in one day or spread them out throughout the week. Don't be discouraged if you can't complete all rounds or all reps, just keep at it, and work your way up to the recommended amount. Have fun!
- Scissor Kicks With Pull-Ins - These are done sitting on the floor with your elbows propped behind you sitting back. Using your elbows for support, lift your legs off the floor about a foot and hold them up using your lower abdominal muscles for strength. Scissor your legs slowly and methodically for 30 seconds, rest for 15 seconds. Repeat three times.
- Pike Plank - This workout is done in elbow plank position. Start in a strong straight line from head to toe then bend at the waist and stick your butt in the air keeping your knees and spine straight. Bring your butt back down slowly and realign your body from head to toe using your abdominal muscles to hold yourself from going all the way down. It’s harder than it sounds. Do 15 reps three times.
- Weighted Crunch - Everyone knows how to do a crunch but make it powerful by adding weights! Hold a three to five pound weight in each hand close to your chest while you lie on the ground. Crunch your chest up and jab your right arm across your body. Lower yourself back down and then repeat, this time jabbing with your left arm. Do 30 repetitions alternating arms.
- Toe Touches - Lie down on your back with your arms and legs extended. Bring your arms and legs up towards the ceiling not bending your elbows or your knees. Bring your fingers as close to your touching your toes as you can. Straighten back out down to the floor. Repeat 30 times.
- Bicycle - This is a classic. It works all the muscles of the abs but it is really good for the sides or obliques. Get your body in a v-sit up position. Alternate bringing your left elbow to your right knee then your right elbow to your left knee, never touching the ground with your shoulders or your feet. Keep this up at a moderate pace for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
- Side Plank Bends - Lie on your left side on the floor and prop your upper body up on your left elbow. Using your obliques lift the rest of your body off the ground in a straight line. Hold your body up for 10 seconds then pulse your hips down halfway to the ground 8 times. Lift back up again and hold for 10 more. Repeat 8 more pulses halfway down with your hips and hold up again for 10 more seconds. Repeat this exact same thing on the right side. Man, you really feel those afterwards!
These six moves will get your core ready to bare in a bikini this summer and also strengthen the entire mid-section of your body.
Remember to hydrate well before and after the workouts and eat a healthy diet to ensure the most well-rounded and optimal results for your core and your overall fitness.
Dealing With The Emotional Impact Of Menopause
Menopause is a time of great hormonal fluctuations. When doctors measure hormone levels in perimenopause, the years just before the periods finally stop; they find that the levels can change markedly from day to day. This can lead to emotional upheaval that can last for several years.
This is a time when women are transitioning from being young and fertile to being middle-aged and infertile. This loss of fertility can be emotionally taxing over and above the hormonal changes menopausal women are experiencing.
During menopause and in the perimenopausal years, the estrogen levels gradually decrease and the ovaries put out less progesterone. This results in a rise in FSH and LH, which can be measured as part of the diagnosis of menopause although “menopause” is a clinical diagnosis, meaning that it is declared “menopause” when a woman has not had a period for more than a year. The cause of menopause is primary ovarian failure. The ovaries simply run out of eggs and do not produce the same amount of gonadal hormones as were made during the fertile years.
Emotional Impact Of Time Gone By
For some women, the motional impact of menopause stems from the simple fact of getting older and all that it may entail. Some women have real issues with age, and menopause is a landmark time that typically marks the end of middle age.
Emotional Impact Related To Womanhood
For some women, menopause may trigger feelings of depression and sadness because a lot of their personal identity in womanhood is tied up in being able to bear children. There are also those women who may have not had a chance yet to bear children or as many as they wanted to or planned to which lends itself to feelings of sadness, anger, grief and loss.
Emotional Impact From Hormonal Fluctuations
Menopause can be associated with an emotional impact even when the woman looks forward to not having periods anymore or being fertile. This is because the fluctuations in hormones directly affect the neurotransmitters in the brain. Low levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, for example, can be found in menopausal women. These low levels contribute to feelings of depression and irritability. Women are more likely to suffer from an episode of major depression during these years and often need selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are medications that have been found to biochemically lift depressive symptoms.
A Time Of Loss
Menopause is also a time of loss. It is during this time when many women are having personal upheavals in their lives, such as the loss of children who have grown and have moved away from home, the changing face of relationships, and the coming of older age. These things can cause anxiety, irritability, agitation, and depression in women who otherwise would be able to handle these life changes.
Health Problems That Effect Motions
The menopausal years are also peak times for women to suffer from health problems that can affect their emotions. Hypothyroidism can occur during these years and many women deal with things like breast cancer and other health crises.
Improving The Emotional Outlook
In order to cope with these emotional changes—both biochemical and environmental—women need to improve the quality of their lives in other ways. It means eating healthier foods such as whole fruits, vegetables, and completely grains along with lean meats and dairy products to prevent bone loss. It also means developing hobbies that include exercise.
These middle-aged years are not too old for developing a walking program or doing things like yoga or aerobic swimming classes. Riding a bike for half an hour a day can bring about a better mood and improved outlook on life.
Just adding a hobby can improve the outlook and depressive symptoms of menopausal women. Women who have social hobbies tend to feel better than those who have isolative hobbies but actually, having any kind of hobby will improve mood and increase wellbeing. Exercise especially can improve the sleep disturbances seen in women in menopause.
Because women are at higher risk for heart disease and bone loss after menopause, this is the time when exercise, watching one’s weight and lowering cholesterol can help, too. Emotional improvement can be seen with exercise as much as physical improvement.
Staying social helps women of menopausal age cope with the changing of emotions. This means finding and having friendships with other women and keeping up a healthy relationship with one’s loved ones. Simply keeping a good social calendar can combat feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, and depression so often seen at this time of a woman’s life.
For those with deep seeded depression, and sadness, professional therapy is always a good option, especially when depression begins to effect quality of life and persists into a long term situation.
Can Birth Control Affect Results At The Gym?
We consider a lot when we choose our birth control.
Is it safe?
How much does it cost?
Would it be convenient?
Does it fit my lifestyle?
Would my partner be okay with it?
These are all valid questions. How about how your birth control affect your results at the gym? Have you ever thought about that?
Most women have no idea that the hormones in birth control pills can affect their fitness progress and results. With so many choices in birth control methods available today, it is indeed important to learn about how each effects our bodies and the repercussions they may entail, and hormone based contraception, like birth control pills is a good place to start.
What Hormones Do To Our Bodies
The biggest difference between men and women, besides the obvious, is the difference in our hormones. These hormone levels make us unique. Men have testosterone that allows them to get big, strong muscles, think about sex half the day, and respond in a competitive, dominant way. Women have testosterone, too, but in much smaller amounts.
Women have estrogen, the hormone that makes us soft, and round in more places than one, able to give birth, and causes us to have menstrual cycles and mood swings. Estrogen and testosterone levels as well as progesterone, another hormone women have, all fluctuate depending on our monthly cycles. Testosterone levels are highest when ovulation is occurring.
Birth control was meant to throw all that out of whack so we can't get pregnant and in particular, the cycle where a woman’s body produces testosterone to facilitate conception. Birth control pills change the chemical makeup with synthetic or fake hormones.
So how does this affect our workouts?
Testosterone And Muscle
As already mentioned, testosterone is what makes men able to get strong, manly muscles. It does the same for women, to an extent. We only have enough testosterone in our bodies to create lean muscle and strength. That's why women have to try extra hard to lose weight and get lean. Don't you hate it when you and your man go on a diet and he loses 10 lbs like nothing while you are straining to lose 5? It's all in our chemical makeup, people.
Therefore, when you take birth control pills that inhibit what little testosterone is being produced in your body, you're making it extra hard on yourself. Your results at the gym could come to a screeching halt. Your energy levels will take a dive; you will lose strength and the ability to create sexy lean limbs.
Apparently, that wasn't enough however, as birth control pills have another detrimental effect on your testosterone levels through a side effect called sex hormone binding globulin. It’s a very long word for trapping whatever testosterone is left in your body so you can't use it.
Other Medical Problems
Birth control pills can seem like a girl’s best friend and save her from responsibility before she is ready for it but there are so many dangerous side effects of birth control that really make you think twice.
• Venous Thrombosis - This is a fancy word for blood clot in the veins. Birth control greatly increases your chances of getting a blot clot in your vein because of the amount of synthetic (remember-fake) hormones that it pumps into your liver making it increase its clotting factors and platelets. If left untreated this can result in a pulmonary embolism. Dangerous!
• Heart Attack - Birth control has been proven to increase the user’s risk of a possible heart attack, even if you are young and healthy and especially if you smoke.
• Breast Cancer - The earlier you start using birth control the more your chances are of developing breast cancer. This is because the synthetic estrogen causes an increase in new breast tissue before the natural breast tissue is fully developed through puberty. These mutated cells in the breast result in breast cancer.
Put all these things together and you have a recipe for not only disaster in your workout program, but also potential disaster in your life.
Birth control is definitely a necessity for some women but it may be time to look into non-hormonal methods of birth control for your own health. Talk to your family doctor or gynecologist to learn the options that are available.