Symptoms of Perimenopause and Menopause

Menstruation. The ‘necessary evil’ in every woman’s life. And if you thought easing into it as a young girl wasn’t so pleasant, well, bidding goodbye to it isn’t a piece of cake either!

You and your body will need time to accept the new normal. And if you’re wondering as to why Aunt Flo suddenly decides to stop visiting when women turn 50, and don’t mind some science-speak, here’s why it happens.

Simply put, menopause is the time of life when menstrual periods end and on an average, most women in the United States go through menopause at around 51 years of age. In a woman’s body, the ovaries produce the female hormones, estrogen, and progesterone that control periods and many other processes. And around middle age, the ovaries start making lesser and lesser of these hormones, making periods irregular at first for a few months, until they finally stop altogether.

The time leading up to menopause is known as perimenopause. It lasts for an average of 3-5 years and this is when the body begins to show hormonal and biological changes, a few of which are uncomfortable and will need some management and getting used to.

What to expect

The symptoms of Menopause and Perimenopause vary greatly in women, with some women experiencing mild to no symptoms and others going through severe to disabling ones. Here are a few of the commonly experienced ones:

  • Irregular periods— You can have irregular periods for many months to years before your periods finally stop. It’s important to remember that any bleeding that happens after a year of no periods is abnormal and warrants a doctor’s evaluation. So does extremely heavy or prolonged bleeding during perimenopause.
  • Vaginal dryness— As your hormone levels fall, there’s a decrease in the vagina’s natural lubricants leaving the vaginal lining dry, thin, and less elastic. This might make sex uncomfortable and makes a woman more susceptible to urinary and vaginal infections.
  • Hot flashes— A symptom widely associated with menopause, a hot flash involves feeling suddenly hot, flushed, and uncomfortable in the face and neck for a few minutes. Hot flashes are also a result of a change in estrogen levels which changes the way blood vessels relax and contract.
  • Sleep disorders, Irritability, and Depression — Poor sleep caused by night-time hot flashes can lead to mood swings, irritability, and a risk of developing depression.
  • Osteoporosis —A drop in estrogen increases the risk of osteoporosis, a condition that results in the thinning of bones that in turn increases the risk of fractures, especially in the hips or spine.
  • Cardiovascular disease — Menopause also increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes in women.

Making the transition easier

This period of extraordinary change in a woman’s life can get a tad overwhelming at times. But instead of fighting these changes, a better approach is to gently support your body and help it ease gracefully into its new normal.

Studies suggest that simple measures like regular exercise, not smoking, limiting one’s caffeine intake, and giving the body enough Calcium and Vitamin D can reduce the uncomfortable symptoms and greatly improve the quality of life during these tough years.

And as women from around the world have also learned, sometimes what can also work, is a natural way to help the body take the pressure off itself with herbs like black cohosh, red clover, lavender, sage, etc., that have been offering relief to women for a couple of thousand years now, in various brews and concoctions.   

And today, when you can harness the wisdom of both traditional and modern health systems to improve the way you feel every day, here’s to successfully riding this wave of change with positivity and comfort!

10 Herbal Teas For Menopause Support

Menopause is defined as the cessation of menstruation. The levels of three important hormones, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, fluctuate and gradually reduce through perimenopause and menopause. Some feel it hard, some barely, but the fact remains that your body is going through change.


There may be natural ways to help the body manage these common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause:

  • Hot flushes, sweating
  • Sleep disorders
  • Depressive mood, nervousness, nervous irritability and generally impaired performance and memory
  • Cardiac complaints, and joint and muscle symptoms
  • Disorders of sexuality, urinary complaints, and vaginal dryness
  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain
  • Bone loss


Herbal teas are a great option.


Whole herbs brewed in hot water are naturally gentle and safe, and their flavor and aroma play an important role in their effect on the body. We should not underestimate the importance of the tea-brewing and tea-drinking experience.


A cup of tea forces you to slow down, and be mindful. Quite often, that’s all your body needs to take the pressure off itself.

10 Herbal Teas for Menopause Support

Here are 10 herbs that have been used by women across the world – some of them with a history of continuous use over at least a couple of thousand years – to help their body manage the extraordinary changes that happen during perimenopause and menopause. They make great ingredients for your daily cup of tea.

1. Black Cohosh Root

black cohosh for menopause support


The root of black cohosh is a Native American remedy for problems associated with menopause – especially hot flashes, debility, depression and bone health.


Isoflavones in black cohosh are thought to have an estrogenic action and reduce the levels of pituitary luteinizing hormone thereby decreasing the ovaries’ production of progesterone.

2. Red Clover Flowers

red clover for menopause support


Native to Europe and Asia, and naturalized in North America and Australia, red clover is used primarily to treat hot flashes and night sweats in women with menopause.


Flavonoids in red clover flowers contain phytoestrogens, a plant-based form of estrogen, which helps to improve the hormonal imbalances caused by menopause.


Red clover is also known to be beneficial for heart health and bone health.

3. Sage Leaves

sage leaves

Sage, known most commonly as a Mediterranean culinary herb, is also of great medical importance. Its Latin name Salvia comes from salvare which means cure.


In Chinese medicine it is a yin tonic with a well-deserved reputation as a nerve tonic, helping both to calm and stimulate the nervous system.


Though its hormonal action is not completely understood, it is known to help reduce the severity and intensity of hot flashes, as well as help the body adapt better to hormonal changes.

4. Shatavari Rhizome

shatavari

Shatavari holds great value in Ayurveda, the Indian traditional science of health, and is invariably a mandatory component of formulations for women’s health.


It owes most of its benefits to a group of compounds called steroidal saponins. Pigment compounds called flavonoids also pull their weight.


Shatavari helps balance out hormonal fluctuations, that may stem from irritation to the ovaries by molecules called free radicals. Shatavari’s compounds can help round up and nullify free radicals, allowing the ovaries to do a better job with hormone regulation and production.


Shatavari also helps reduce mood swings and vaginal dryness. It is also recommended as a vitalizing tonic to improve metabolism, bone health, and heart health.

5. Dong Quai Root

dong quai In Traditional Chinese medicine, Dong quai, also known as female ginseng, is known to build blood quality and improve blood circulation, and of great use as a vitalizing and restorative tonic for both body and mind.


Its cholesterol reducing properties are excellent for heart health and assist with weight management. It is also known to strengthen liver function, and therefore has a detoxifying effect on the body.

6. Lavender Flowers

lavender Lavender is an important relaxing herb. Its volatile oils and flavonoids are known to reduce nervous excitability, calm the nerves, and reduce muscle tension.


Lavender is an excellent herb to help deal with the mood-affecting symptoms of peri-menopause and menopause. It reduces irritability, alleviates depression, and helps balance mood swings.


It also has a soothing effect and provides excellent support for optimal sleep.

7. Lotus Flowers

lotus flowers Native to India and Southeast Asia, Lotus flowers have been used for their cooling and healing benefits, attributed mainly to their anti-inflammatory properties.


Lotus flower tea can soothe the gastrointestinal tract, help with hot flashes and night sweats, and also help regulate glucose-metabolism and fat-metabolism.


The sweet and astringent flavor and aroma of lotus is also useful in reducing mood swings and irritability.

8. Rose Flowers

rose flowers Rose flowers, with origins in Eastern Asia, have a history of culinary and therapeutic use for several thousand years. Rose water and rose tea are known for their cooling properties.

Rose tea has anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant properties.

It is an excellent mood elevator and also promotes optimal sleep.

Rose tea also helps with fat-metabolism and is good for heart health.

Raisins

raisins Raisins are highly recommended in Ayurveda for their cooling and revitalizing properties. It is common practice to soak raisins in water overnight, and then consume the raisins as well as drink the raisin water in the morning.


The antioxidants in raisins are known to help regulate fat and glucose-metabolism, support healthy cardiovascular function, and promote healthy bone density.


Raisins are also known to help with detoxification.

10. Rooibos Leaves

rooibos Naturally caffeine-free, Rooibos, with its distinctive earthy, smoky, nutty, and sweet flavor is a wonderful base for herbal teas. It is also associated with several health benefits due to its antioxidant properties.


Rooibos tea is known to support healthy fat and sugar metabolism, and beneficial for heart health.

A Note of Caution

While some of the herbs listed above might be useful for hormonal balance in general, some ingredients such as black cohosh are intended to be used specifically during perimenopause and menopause. It is best to avoid these ingredients if your menstrual cycles are regular and especially if you are pregnant, or trying to conceive.


Also, the interactions of herbs with prescription medication cannot be ruled out, in general. Some of the herbs, when consumed in large quantities, are known to interact with medicines that are metabolised in the liver, and with blood thinners. If you have a medical condition, or if you are on regular medication, you must consult your physician before consuming these or any other herbal teas or supplements.

The Takeaway

Symptoms of menopause range from hot flashes and night sweats to vaginal dryness, mood swings, and even decreases in bone density. Herbal teas, made with ingredients that are backed by traditional wisdom and modern research, can offer the mild and gentle support your body needs to help manage menopause symptoms better.

Can Virgin Coconut Oil Help Treat COVID-19?

Coconut oil is making headlines again.

In a statement published by Ateneo De Manila University, researchers, Dr. Fabian Antonio Dayrit from Ateneo De Manila University and Dr. Mary Newport of Spring Hill Neonatology (USA) have suggested that the anti-viral properties of Virgin Coconut Oil might be useful in treating COVID-19 patients.

Here’s what they suggest:

1. There is significiant evidence for antiviral action of Virgin Coconut Oil.

Several in vitro, animal, and human studies support the potential of coconut oil, lauric acid and its derivatives as effective and safe agents against a virus like nCoV-2019.

Mechanistic studies on other viruses show that at least three mechanisms may be operating – disintegration of the virus membrane, inhibit virus maturation, and prevent binding of viral proteins to the host cell membrane.

2. Conduct clinical studies on the effect of Virgin Coconut Oil on COVID-19 patients.

Given the considerable scientific evidence for the antiviral activity of coconut oil, lauric acid and its derivatives and their general safety, and the absence of a cure for nCoV-2019, we urge that clinical studies be conducted among patients who have been infected with nCoV-2019. This treatment is affordable and virtually risk-free, and the potential benefits are enormous.

3. Use Virgin Coconut Oil as a general prophylactic.

On the other hand, given the safety and broad availability of virgin coconut oil (VCO), we recommend that VCO be considered as a general prophylactic against viral and microbial infection.

 

Canva - Coconut Oil in a Jar

Marketed widely as a superfood, this kitchen staple is all set to be tested by Philippine Council on Health Research and Development as a potential treatment for COVID-19, with clinical trials starting soon, as confirmed by their executive director, Dr. Jaime Montoya.

References

FILIPINAS, VIVA. “WATCH: DOST to study benefits of virgin coconut oil on COVID-19 patients.”

 

 

A ‘Spectacular’ Way To Monitor Your Eating Habits

If you’ve been trying to eat healthy or keeping a food journal, you must know how hard it can be, to remember everything you eat or drink throughout the day – especially when the eating and drinking happens around others or while you’re busy doing something else.

Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University might have a solution for you, in their latest innovation – FitByte, a wearable diet monitor that attaches to your eyeglasses.

How Is ‘FitByte’ Different?

Canva - Woman Sitting on Wooden Chair Eating Bread (1)

The act of eating, isn’t as simple as we think it is.

It involves several actions like bringing the food or drink close to your mouth, sipping, biting or chewing and swallowing and for a sensor to capture accurately what you eat, it needs to focus on all of these. The monitors designed so far, have had a rather narrow approach and recorded only on one of these aspects which made them unable to gather reliable data in noisy, daily-life environments.

FitByte uses a combination of high-speed accelerometers, a number of gyroscopes, and infrared proximity sensors to detect and track hand-to-mouth gestures, chewing and swallowing. A camera at the front of the glasses detects all food intake, including soft things like ice cream and yogurt, detecting which had so far been a technological challenge.

The superior technology used in FitByte allows it to be highly accurate in many everyday situations like when the user is at a meeting, watching TV, snacking alone, at the gym, or hiking outdoors.

Canva - Focused man with bowl of popcorn watching TV at home

Apart from detecting all stages of eating and drinking, FitByte can even track eating behaviors. It can tell you, for instance, in what situations you tend to eat the most, when you’re binge-eating, whether you eat more when others are around or when alone, etc.

With this invaluable information at your fingertips, you can stay mindful of patterns in your eating behavior and stay close to your health and diet goals. 

References

Bedri, Abdelkareem, et al. “FitByte: Automatic Diet Monitoring in Unconstrained Situations Using Multimodal Sensing on Eyeglasses.” Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 2020.

Drink Filtered Coffee. It’s Good For Your Heart.

If you’re holding onto a steaming mug of coffee as you read this – we hope it’s filtered. And not without good reason.

Recent research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, found strong and convincing evidence linking coffee brewing methods and the risk of heart attacks.

The study examined 500,000 coffee drinkers, between the ages of 20-79 over a period of 20 years, and here’s what it found brewing in their cup of coffee.

So, What’s In Your Brew?

Canva - Person Poured Liquid on Container With Paper on Top (1)

  • Unfiltered coffee contains substances that cause an increase in ‘bad cholesterol’, which increases the risk of heart attacks. (This also includes coffee made using a cafetière)
  • Using a filter removes these lipid-raising substances, reducing the risk of premature deaths from heart attacks, by 15% on average. 
  • A single cup of unfiltered coffee contains 30 times the concentration of this lipid-raising substance compared to a cup of filtered coffee.
  • Drinking filtered-coffee is better for you than having no coffee at all. 

So, if you’ve been brewing yours without a filter, it might be time to invest in a few of these life-savers. Think Coffee. Think Filtered-Coffee!

So, How Much Coffee Is Good For You?

Canva - Woman With Black Manicure Holding White and Grey Floral Ceramic Cup

Your coffee habit might be doing you more good than you realize.

In fact, if you’re having 1 to 4 cups of filtered coffee a day, you might be reducing your risk of death from cardiovascular diseases by 12%, if you’re a man and a whopping 20% if you are a woman.

So, all you coffee-lovers out there, go right ahead and enjoy your coffee with a clear conscience. Just make sure it’s filtered!

 

 

References:

  1. Aage Tverdal, Randi Selmer, Jacqueline M Cohen, Dag S Thelle. Coffee consumption and mortality from cardiovascular diseases and total mortality: Does the brewing method matter? European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 2020; 204748732091444 DOI: 10.1177/2047487320914443

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Ways To Train Your Tendons And Avoid Injuries

It’s doesn’t come as a surprise that regular exercise is not just good, but crucial for health. And if you’re someone who’s built breaking a sweat into their daily routine, being confined indoors, (in the current climate) wouldn’t have changed things too much.

If you’ve already been working on your muscle strength and endurance, we’d like to draw your attention to your tendons – the conduits that attach your muscles to your bones, allowing them to express their power and make all your movements possible.

Unfortunately, even when they play such a crucial role in keeping us on the move, the only time we really pay attention to our tendons and ligaments is when we suffer an injury. How about we look at a few ways to train and strengthen them, without waiting for one?

Canva - Photo Of Man In Red Shirt Exercising

But before we start, here are a few basic things to keep in mind.

  • Tendons have two properties – stiffness and elasticity. You need some of your tendons to be stiff and some to be elastic. And unlike the sound of it, tendon stiffness is a good thing. It helps you transmit more force. And having low tendon elasticity is desirable, as it means your tendons waste lesser energy in recoil.
  • Since tendons receive less blood flow than muscles, strengthening them takes more time and work, than training muscles.

Here’s How You Can Train Your Tendons

Canva - Woman sitting and stretching on grass field

  1. Eccentric Movements: Tendons respond well to eccentrics like walking downhill, lowering yourself slowly to the bottom pushup position, eccentric bicep or wrist curls, and anything that puts a load on the muscle-tendon complex while lengthening it.
  2. Partial reps: Partial reps of extremely heavy weights along with focus on the final 4-6 inches before lockout of the primary exercises, like bench press, overhead press, squat, and deadlift can help increase tendon strength.
  3. Plyometrics: Explosive movements can help strengthen the recoil response of tendons.
  4. Explosive isometrics: Explosive movements against something immovable, like trying to push a car with its parking brakes on, or pushing your fist against a wall, can help strengthen tendons too.
  5. Rock-climbing: Indoor or outdoor rock-climbing and other movements like holding on to a ledge with five fingertips, are a great way to increase tendon volume. The increased volume, in turn, lends them strength.
  6. Intensity training: Tendons need stress to be able to gain stiffness and elasticity – stress that’s more than what is provided by your daily activities.
  7. Deep Stretching: Deeper, longer stretches like a front squat with the hip-crease dropping below the knees, or pectoral stretches taken a bit further against a door frame, or a calf-stretch using stairs or the curb to lift toes closer to shins can help build tendon strength.
  8. Massages and foam-rolling: Massages can increase blood flow to your tendons and strengthen them. Using foam rollers and lacrosse balls is a good idea too.

Canva - Woman Stretching Beside Wall

It’s important to keep in mind that mild discomfort is okay, and you can push yourself a bit, but not so much that it causes pain. Also, your tendons will need that push every day to get stronger. And you can’t rush it. The idea is to give your tendons enough time to build collagen density while making sure you’re not too harsh on your body.

Here’s to healthy tendons then, that make you stronger, more explosive, more powerful, and more resilient!

References

How to Strengthen Tendons and Ligaments for Injury Prevention

We Are Unique. And Respond Differently To The Same Food.

Here’s an interesting fact: you share 99.9% of your genes with your neighbor. And your colleague. And the rest of the human population.

And what’s more interesting is, that despite this huge similarity, you and every single one of us, are unique. 

And a recent study published in Cell confirms just that.

The study, conducted on 800 individuals who were given the same food, tracked not just their post-meal glucose levels and major blood parameters but also took into account other factors like their physical activity, lifestyle behaviors and their gut-microbiota.

And here’s something very interesting that it revealed.

Different People. Same Food. Different Blood-Glucose Levels.

Canva - Group of People Eating Together

There’s a big difference in how we process food and two people don’t respond to the same diet in the same way.

More importantly,

  • People show different blood glucose levels even with the same food and their gut-microbiota has a lot to do with how they process food.
  • Dietary ingredients cannot be universally ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for everyone and one-size-fits-all diets are of little help.
  • Personally-tailored diets can successfully bring down elevated blood glucose levels and prevent the onset of metabolic syndrome.

Canva - Women Practicing Yoga

Interestingly, this seems to be quite in-line with the Ayurvedic concept of a ‘Metabolic Personality’ which lends people their uniqueness, and influences how their body functions – the part of them that drives their natural tendencies, the health conditions they might be prone to, and decides the complementing personalized nutrition they need, to stay in their balanced, happy state.

You can learn more about your Unique Metabolic Personality Type, here.

References

Zeevi, David, et al. “Personalized nutrition by prediction of glycemic responses.” Cell 163.5 (2015): 1079-1094.

The Same Mechanism That Protects Brain-cells Also Regulates Sleep

Here’s another very good reason for you to get your sleep schedule in order.

While it is already established that chronic sleep loss increases the risk of Alzheimer’s, it turns out, sleep and the ways that the brain protects its cells from degeneration, have a profound connection too. The same mechanism that protects your brain from degenerative illnesses like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s may also be responsible for regulating your sleep, says new research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Canva - Pug Sleeping Beside Woman on Bed

And here’s why this research is so significant.

A Signalling Pathway That Controls Abnormal Protein Build-up

This is the first time that scientists have been able to tie sleep with the protein removal mechanism of the brain, concluding that one of the important functions of sleep may be to reduce cellular-stress caused in the brain by wakefulness.

When you sleep, the brain steps up the removal of potentially harmful proteins – proteins similar to the ones that clutter the brain in diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. More specifically, researchers discovered that a signaling pathway known as PERK, that the brain uses to prevent the accumulation of abnormal protein in brain cells is also used for sleep.

Canva - Woman Sleeping

Ashwagandha – Beneficial For Sleep and Brain Cells

This connection between sleep and brain-cell protection also brings the herb Ashwagandha to mind – it is known for both these benefits.

Aswhagandha or somnifera (Latin for ‘sleep-inducing’) is known to help you sleep better. It has also been shown to increase levels of key antioxidant enzymes, clear protein plaques, increase dopamine levels, and reconstruct nerve networks and synapses. It prevents, repairs, and heals brain cell damage and helps improve muscle control, movement, balance, and memory – all of which are beneficial for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s patients. Whether it does this using the PERK signaling pathway is of course, unknown.

In the meantime, you can do your bit in helping your brain reduce cellular-stress, by making sure you get the right amount of z’s.

References 

  1. Sarah Ly, Daniel A. Lee, Ewa Strus, David A. Prober, Nirinjini Naidoo. Evolutionarily Conserved Regulation of Sleep by the Protein Translational Regulator PERKCurrent Biology, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.02.030

The Immune System Works Differently In Men And Women

Latest research on body fat has uncovered two things for us lay folk:

  • Body fat isn’t just fat. It is an organ.
  • Immune system in men and women operates differently.

The new study published in Nature has brought to light that men and women might be prone to different illnesses. Men, for instance, are more vulnerable to diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Women, on the other hand, are more prone to autoimmune illnesses like lupus and arthritis.

And here’s why they are.

The Difference Lies In Their Body Fat

There’s more to body fat, than what we think. It isn’t just fat stored in the body, but an organ in itself that plays a crucial role in making hormones and molecules that regulate metabolism. And here are 3 main differences between male and female body fat.

  • Males have almost 4 times as many Regulatory T cells than females. These cells help limit harmful inflammation in the body.
  • Males also have some male-specific immune cells called stromal cells, that females don’t.
  • Male fat has an abundance of pro-inflammatory cytokines, molecules that trigger an immune response.

These findings show that the immune system that operates in men and women is starkly different. And that the male body is more prone to inflammation than the female body, explaining why men have higher rates of obesity and metabolic diseases that are usually associated with inflammation.

Is Gender-Specific Healthcare The Future?

Canva - People Standing Near White Wall

One of the biggest implications of this study, which has brought to light the differences in the metabolism of men and women, might be the realization that the medication, treatment, and even the approach to healthcare that may work for one sex, may not work for the other.

And personalized healthcare tailored for gender, may soon become the norm, and not just remain a school of thought.

References

Vasanthakumar, A., Chisanga, D., Blume, J. et al. Sex-specific adipose tissue imprinting of regulatory T cells. Nature 579, 581–585 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2040-3

Social Distancing: Why It’s Not Okay To Meet ‘Just One Friend’

‘Maybe visiting just this one friend should be okay.’ After being stuck indoors for weeks, this is one thought that’s crossed many, many minds across the globe. So many in fact, that two leading network epidemiologists, Steven Goodreau and Martina Morris, decided to create a new website just to answer this one question.

And here’s the answer that it gives.

That one seemingly simple visit, isn’t as simple as we think and could potentially undo the effect of the entire, carefully orchestrated Social Distancing initiative. Each household deciding to have contact with just one or two others, would lead to reconnecting most households in that community, providing easy means for the COVID-19 virus to spread.

Canva - Person Holding Covid Sign

Here’s what the website tells us:

  1. When the community follows no social distancing, it behaves like a giant cluster, where each household has plenty of social interactions including ones that could spread the COVID-19 virus.
  2. When the community follows social distancing, most households are isolated. The essential jobs still generate interactions in 26% of the community. This leaves most of the households with no potential exposure to the virus.
  3. When people visit ‘just one friend’, the community gets reconnected quickly, with 71% households connected in one large cluster. A single COVID-19 case in one of these households can potentially spread it to 3/4ths of the community.

As we know, the COVID-19 virus can spread through social interactions like hugging and kissing or even by just being in the same room. And social distancing measures like staying at home, wearing face masks and keeping at least six feet distance from others when out making essential trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, ensure that this spread is contained as much as possible, leading to a ‘flattening of the curve’.

Canva - Photo of Girl Using Black Smartphone

So, do meet the one friend. But online, for now. By not visiting them you’ll not just be helping your immediate neighbors, but ensuring your entire community’s safety. The way they are ensuring yours.

References

Skums, Pavel, et al. “Global transmission network of SARS-CoV-2: from outbreak to pandemic.” medRxiv (2020).