Menstruation – the good, the bad, and the ugly

Femininity is beautiful. Along with our curves, intuition, nurturing souls and strength, we are blessed to be bearers of the wombs from which all human life begins in this world. Every human alive today, begun life in the womb of their mother. Regardless of whether a woman bears children, or how many she bears in her lifetime, there is a special process her body goes through each month to prepare for this potential event. Each step in this process, signalled by hormones, ideally occurs without interrupting, or negatively impacting, a woman’s daily activities. Unfortunately, however, this is not the experience for all women. For some, menstruation is a heavy burden and the monthly reminder of this life-giving cycle is most un-welcomed.

Understanding the menstrual cycle…

The menstrual cycle can be divided into stages – the first stage, known as the ‘follicular phase’, orchestrates the release of the egg and begins preparing a cosy cushion of lining for the egg to take lodging in, should it become fertilised. The second stage, known as the ‘luteal phase’ continues building up the comfy cushion wall and watches for the signal a fertilised egg has arrived. If a fertilised egg arrives, a special glue sticks the egg to the cosy cushion lining, where it is nurtured and grows into a little person over the ensuing 9 months. If, however, a fertilised egg does not arrive, the cushion wall is deconstructed and the materials that formed it are removed from the body – this is known as menstruation, or a woman’s ‘period’.

Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luteal_phase#/media/File:MenstrualCycle2_en.svg
Wikipedia link for more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menstrual_cycle

Introducing PMS… when being a woman becomes unpleasant

Premenstrual symptoms are the changes in mood, behavioural and physical health that some women experience prior to menstruation. Common symptoms include breast tenderness, abdominal bloating, food cravings (how often have you reached for chocolate pre-menstruation!) depression, and anxiety. Symptoms diminish after menstruation but come back again the following month, as the woman’s body prepares itself yet again for the prospective arrival of a fertilised egg.

Commonly, 90% of women experience at least one premenstrual symptom at some stage during their childbearing years, and for most of these women, symptoms are minor, non-disruptive and nothing more than a quiet reminder of the life-giving process going on deep within their body.

And PMDD… most unpleasant

Approximately 30% of women experience more than one premenstrual symptom, at an intensity or frequency that is unpleasant and somewhat disrupting to their daily lives.

Of these women, 5-8% experience moderate to severe symptoms that cause significant distress and functional impairment, interfering with their ability to go about their daily activities, and leading them to seek treatment.

Premenstrual Dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is what practitioners call this most severe form of PMS. It is a disorder classified in the DSM-5, and able to be diagnosed by Psychologists, who can also provide treatment to support reduction in symptoms and severity. You can see a Psychologist as a private patient or speak to your GP about getting a referral – it’s recommended you call and inquire after a Psychologist with experience seeing PMS/PMDD patients, as not all are.

At our practice, we recommend Psychologist Michelle Nolan.

If you would like additional diet, exercise and supplement support, our Exercise Physiologist and Clinical Nutritionist, Felicia McQueen can support you. You may choose to see one practitioner only, however if you choose to see both, we will work collaboratively with you as a team to address your concerns and help you achieve your goals.

Reducing your risk for developing PMS/PMDD

Although imbalances in the steroidal hormones progesterone and estrogen were once believed to be the cause of PMS/PMDD, hormone therapy has been shown to be ineffective for symptom resolution in many cases. Despite ongoing, rigorous research, scientists have not yet been able to identify the pathophysiological cause and effect of PMS & PMDD. They do however have several theories, and thus far have identified four proven risk factors associated with its development.

The four proven physical, environmental, and psychological risk factors associated with the development of PMS/PMDD are:

  1. Cigarette smoking – if you smoke or have previously smoked (especially if you began smoking during your teenage years), you have an elevated risk for moderate to severe PMS symptoms. Risk for developing PMS increases with the number of cigarettes you smoke.
  • Obesity – For every kg/m2 you are above a healthy BMI, your chance of getting PMS rises by 3%.
  • Past traumatic events – although the underlying mechanism is unknown, experiencing a traumatic event increases your risk for PMDD.
  • Anxiety – if you have a pre-existing anxiety disorder, you’re at increased risk for developing PMDD.

Reducing your existing PMS/PMDD symptoms…

Addressing the above risk factors has proven to be successful in reducing symptoms, improving function and restoring quality of life.

If you are overweight, our Clinical Nutritionist and Exercise Physiologist can review your dietary and lifestyle practices, help you develop a plan and provide support to achieve your weight loss goals.

Psychological interventions such as trauma-focused therapy, EMDR, CBT, ACT, are utilised by our Psychologists in an individually tailored course of therapy to reduce your anxiety and psychological symptoms, and improve your coping skills, mental health and wellbeing.

For support in cessation of smoking – we recommend talking to your GP, Psychologist, Nutritionist and your other treating Health practitioner team about your decision to stop smoking – to put together a plan and support network to help you achieve your goal. The Australian government have put together a resource guide to stop smoking: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/smoking-and-tobacco/how-to-quit-smoking. There’s also handy apps available to track your progress and provide support from this US government site: https://smokefree.gov/tools-tips/apps

Stepping forward to a more comfortable you…

We invite you to contact us on 07 4637 9097 or thriveadmin@thrivewellness.com.au to discuss our professional services and how we can assist you to achieve your goals. Although we are based in Toowoomba, we provide support to women Australia-wide through video and telephone consultations.

When contacting us to book your appointment, we recommend you request a 50min appointment with Psychologist Michelle Nolan, and a separate appointment with Clinical Nutritionist & Exercise Physiologist, Felicia McQueen. Service provided and costs associated with these appointments are listed in the ‘Fees’ section of our website. You may also wish to discuss your concerns with your GP, and ask about your referral options and eligibility for Medicare’s Better Access Initiative, which provides partially funded Psychology appointments through Medicare. A valid GP Mental Health Care Plan referral is required for this.

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I’m drinking lots of water but can’t quench my thirst. Why?

What a heatwave!! (*pauses to wipe brow) Instinct has us reaching for water to quench our thirst, but for some of us, regardless of how much we drink, we remain thirsty. Why?

Did you know your body needs more than just water in order to hydrate? Specific minerals, called electrolytes – sodium, potassium and chloride especially – are necessary to hydration. While most people are aware their body is comprised 60% water, few realise the important role electrolytes (present in blood and other bodily fluids) play in enabling their body to hold onto and use the water they drink. Hydration is essential for healthy, happy cells, organs, hormones, brain health and absolutely everything!

So, in the midst of this heatwave, I thought I’d share this simple cocktail (and no, there’s no alcohol in this baby) to help you replenish lost sodium, potassium and chloride, as well as provide some wholefood Vitamin C, natural sugars and the plethora of nutrients, minerals and trace minerals found in oranges. This handy cocktail also serves as a balancing and restorative drink that supports your adrenals during times of stress, so feel free to mix up this delish cup of nourishment during the cooler months as well.

In terms of when to drink it, It’s best taken away from other food and drink. Ideally 10am and/or 2pm, but fit it in when you can. Please note that the cocktail is not a one-stop shop – meaning it’s absolutely not a replacement for water – you still need to drink plenty of quality, clean, mineral rich water throughout the day. The Electrolytes provided in this cocktail are only one part of the hydration puzzle – WATER still remains the major piece!

And of course, if you have any concerns about your health, or your Doctor has told you to restrict your sodium intake, please make an appointment to confirm this cocktail fits in with your specific health goals and wellness plan!

RECIPE VARIATIONS FOR ADRENAL COCKTAILS

Orange Juice recipe:
• 120ml fresh squeezed Orange Juice
• ¼ tsp cream of tartar
• ¼ tsp sea salt (unrefined)
• *provides approx: 62mg whole food Vit C + 372mg potassium and 485mg sodium chloride

Coconut water recipe:
• 1 cup coconut water (ensure 375mg potassium, each brand different amounts)
• ¼ tsp sea salt
• 60mg wholefood vit c

Recipe for Travelling:
• ¾ tsp cream of tartar
• ¼ tsp sea salt
• ½ tsp wholefood vit c
• 120ml water

*All Adrenal Cocktails should provide approx 60mg wholefood vit C + 375mg potassium + 460mg sodium chloride.

NOTES ON INGREDIENTS & WHERE TO PURCHASE

Where Wholefood C is mentioned, I recommend Eden Healthfoods Wild C powder. Wild C contains a mixed blend of organic, wild berries and greens, dehydrated at low temperatures and ground into powder – using whole foods ensures necessary co-factors like bioflavonoids, and other vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients are available, making it both non-toxic and more bioavailable compared to isolated Vit C.

I made a lot of phone call enquiries to companies marketing different brands of wholefood C products in Australia – I was surprised at how many admitted to knowing nothing about how the raw ingredients had been grown or processed, or whether they’d been heated or frozen along the way! They simple bought in various powders, mixed them together and marketed their product. In contrast, Eden Healthfoods are passionate about delivering quality wholefood supplements from nature to home and answered every question I asked in detail!

They’ve offered to give 10% discount to our readers. Use the code THRIVE at checkout, or click here for it to be automatically applied.

With regards to sea salt, choose unrefined Celtic Sea Salt (white-ish grey colour) or Himalayan salt (pink). ‘Salt of the Earth’ is a Celtic Sea Salt brand our family loves and can be purchased from most Organic Grocery stores and Health Food shops.

If juicing your own oranges, remove skin and pips and blend in food processor or similar. If buying orange juice, source WHOLEFOOD juices without additives or preservatives – eg. Nudie brand “Nothing But Oranges” available at supermarkets.

Eat well, think well

A new study has found that changes to diet (using the “Modified Mediterranean Diet“) can lead to significant improvement in moderate to severe clinical depression. At the end of a 12 week program, close to a third of participants were classified as being in remission, compared to less than one-tenth of the control group.

You can read the full publication of the research project here:
A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial)

For a plain-language description of the research and findings, follow the link below:
Food & Mood Centre – SMILES Trial.
Healthy fruit

Secrets to achieving more in less time

Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Everyone seems to notice how busy our lives have become — and how hard it is to allocate time to all the important things we want to get done.

Sundial

“Sun Dial” by russellstreet (CC BY-SA 2.0)

You’d think, by now, in the year 2017, something would have been done about it. Where are our leaders on this issue? Why hasn’t our government done something and added at least two, maybe three hours to each day? With that bit of extra time, maybe we could all do those things we just can’t find the time for!

Of course, I jest. But while lengthening the day is not possible, some people try a close alternative: reduce the hours spent sleeping. For some people this seems to work … but most of us just end up tired, grumpy, and even less able to use those precious minutes and hours productively.

But what if there was another option — to take less time on each task?

For many people this is a very real option — an untapped boost to productivity just waiting for you to take advantage of it. The good news is it is also very simple.

Here’s the key to getting more done in the time you have:

Do less.

Don’t go away! This isn’t a trick. Read on …
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Hungry hungry hippocampus: Diets and your brain

DSC_6903Wanting to eat better, lose weight or improve fitness is one thing … for many of us, actually achieving these goals can prove elusive. Common sense is not always enough to achieve lasting change, and there is such diverse and too often contradictory information out there on health, fitness and dieting.

ABC’s All in the Mind aired a story in late October exploring some lines of research that may shed some light on some of the challenges of dieting – and how we might overcome them.

You can listen to the full program, or read the transcript here: Diet on the Brain

Particularly interesting in this program is reference to some research on how the brain might be “trained” to prefer certain types of food, depending what you typically eat when you are most hungry. More information on that research can be found here:

Train Your Brain to Prefer Healthy Foods

Evidence-based eating – has science been making us fat?

A recent New York Times article, What Really Makes Us Fat, highlights how scientific research may sometimes lead us to wrong conlusions.

In terms of diet and nutrition, as the results of research roll in, science is beginning to agree that the food behaviours humans had for thousands of years (higher fat & protein, lower carbohydrates) were better than the typical high carbohydrate (and fructose!) diets of the last 50 years – contradicting some of the advice that had come from earlier research.

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10 free, healthy activities in Toowoomba

Tree in Autumn, East Creek, ToowoombaSo you’re one of those lucky people who live in Toowoomba… and maybe you’ve been reading some of our recent articles about the benefits of exercise – like that exercise is good for brain neuroplasticity, or that exercise can help prevent dementia. Now you want to get outdoors and do something healthy, right?

One of the reasons you’re lucky to be living in Toowoomba is that there are so many opportunities in this area to be active. Here are a few ideas to get you started – 10 free and healthy things you can do in Toowoomba:
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