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It’s that time again. Aunt Flo is planning her visit. You’re almost surfin’ that crimson wave. Your period is on its way.
And everyone around you can tell, too. No, they aren’t psychic, and no, they haven’t memorized your cycle.
Maybe it has something to do with the way you yelled because someone forgot to buy more of your favorite chips, so now you’re stuck with cheddar and sour cream when you were really craving some salt and vinegar?
And the worst part is after being rude and irritable for a week, then there’s a week of actually having your period.
So how do we deal? Once a month for the next 25-30 years we will have PMS. Yes, it makes for a good excuse when we feel like lashing out on someone, but with a little effort, we (and the poor, innocent bystanders) can survive PMS.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests some lifestyle changes that can reduce the nasty symptoms of PMS:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthy foods (fruits, vegetables and whole grains)
- Avoid salty and sugary foods, caffeine and alcohol
- Try to sleep at least 8 hours every night
- Release stress in healthy ways, such as talking to a friend, exercising or writing in a journal
- Do not smoke
- Take a multivitamin every day that has 400 micrograms of folic acid. Calcium supplements with vitamin D can also help.
- Over-the-counter pain medicines can help ease cramps and other aches associated with PMS.
Besides these helpful tips for dealing with PMS, there are a few more creative ways to get past the crappy attitude and put a smile on your face, even with gut-wrenching cramps. My personal PMS Survival Guide looks slightly different:
- Go shoe or accessory shopping. Absolutely not clothes shopping… there’s no worse time to try clothes on than when you are crampy and bloated. But shoes and jewelry look good even when you don’t feel confident about the rest of your body. Plus a little retail therapy can cure any slump in your mood.
- Get a really great book, throw on some sweats and curl up on the sofa. Taking time to relax by yourself will clear your mind and give you less of a chance to get annoyed by something that somebody says.
- Watch reality television. I can’t really explain this one, but for some strange reason, trashy television shows are like comfort food. Just try it and you’ll understand.
- Make something. A collage, friendship bracelets, whatever. Channeling the stress to concentrate on something creative and artsy helps a lot.
I have found that combining my own feel-good tricks with recommended PMS reducers helps me cope. Just because our hormones are doing back flips and our bodies insist on bloating and aching, it doesn’t mean that we don’t need to keep our attitudes in check. This month, try to control the freak outs. You’ll feel much better, and so will everyone around you who would have been caught in the line of fire.
With cold and flu season fast approaching, you’re probably dreading rummaging through your medicine cabinet with its awful tasting cough syrup and odd smelling remedies that your grandmother swears by. But instead of torturing your taste buds to stay healthy, why not raid your fridge? The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, dubbed the father of medicine, had just that idea. “The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine.” You have the tools to steer clear of sneezing and sore throats in your own kitchen, and they’ve been under your runny nose this whole time.
Garlic is one flavor-packed ingredient I can’t seem to leave out of a recipe. It’s a natural immune booster that assists in multiplying infection-fighting white cells and increasing antibody production. These properties are largely due to its sulfur-containing compounds like allicin and sulfides. Garlic is one of many so-called “hot foods” that contains mucolytics, which liquefy mucus that builds up in the sinuses and breathing passages when you’re under the weather. Ancient Egyptians even considered garlic holy and used it as currency!
Your local supermarket may not be too keen on you paying in garlic cloves, but next time you’re there, be sure to add bell peppers, ginger, and broccoli to your shopping list. As a member of the nightshade family, bell peppers are packed with nutrients. They’re loaded with beta carotene and vitamin C. Surprisingly, they even have twice the vitamin C per gram of most vitamin C-containing fruits and vegetables. We need Vitamin C because it maintains the skin, which is the body’s guard against microbes and viruses.
The next item that should be on your shopping list is ginger. There’s nothing like the smell of freshly grated ginger root permeating your kitchen, so if you’re not a habitual ginger grater, you will be soon. Ginger actually makes you sweat more, so we can get rid of germs by sweating out toxins in our system. It also helps to settle your stomach, which is why we reach for a can of ginger ale when we’re sick.
Lastly, despite your less than fond memories of being forced to eat broccoli as a child, grab some before you hit the cash register. Your parents were on to something. Broccoli is a great source of vitamins A, C and E. It’s also high in glucosinolates, which stimulate the body’s immune system. On the downside, broccoli can cause gas and bloating problems, but lucky for us, this can be easily combated by eating it with garlic and ginger!
So with garlic, bell peppers, ginger, and garlic, I would go for an Asian – inspired dish. Here’s one of my recipes for noodles that I make at home all the time. It’s as quick and easy as noodle dishes get, so you can spend less time cooking and more time eating towards better health!
3 to 4 servings
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 pound spaghetti
1 red bell pepper, julienned
½ cup broccoli, fresh or defrosted
1 sprig scallions, chopped
5 tablespoons of the hot water (for a saucier consistency)
2 tablespoons (brown/white) sugar
Cook the pasta and set aside. In a saucepan, heat vegetable oil and a splash of sesame oil over medium-low heat. Add the scallions, ginger, garlic, and bell pepper. Cook and stir for a minute until soft. Then add the sugar, peanut butter, soy sauce, and hot water (from the pasta). Stir until the sugar dissolves and the peanut butter has a smooth consistency. Toss in broccoli and remaining spices, and cook through for one minute. Mix noodles with the sauce. Add more sesame oil to taste.
To wash all this down, why not have a cup of green tea? Green tea originated in China and is rich in polyphenols (plant antioxidants) and other chemicals to help fight off the cold or flu. Now, all you need is a fortune cookie to finish off the meal. Let’s hope it predicts good health for the coming season! Happy eating
By Kelli Curtis
You’ve felt it before. The seemingly never-ending buzz of activity in your brain, with countless thoughts darting to the forefront of your mind. They bombard you with obligations, deadlines, relationships, and the realization you need to scrub the shower.
You rub your head, ignore the dishes piling up in the sink, and wonder if you will have time to sleep.
Psychological and physical stress affect the body in the same way — it doesn’t distinguish the difference. The body reacts to those perceived threats with the “Fight or Flight” response, even if it’s addressing the mental stressor of arguing with a friend: Your heart pounds, your breath quickens, and your strength increases.
And while some stress can have positive effects (including improved focus and concentration), too much stress becomes detrimental to mental, emotional, and physical health. Finding that balance, and learning to manage your stress, is key.
The Causes of Stress
The potential reasons for stress to be present are endless: friends, family, significant others, school, jobs, chores, finances, health, etc. And these days, “everyone is stressed out,” says Cheri Augustine Flake, a psychotherapist and coach that specializes in stress reduction. “Our inability here in the United States to live in the moment and accept ourselves for who we are and what we can do is putting us all at risk for stress and stress-related health concerns.”
The root of stress comes down to being judgmental, says Meredith McEver, a licensed clinical social worker who leads mindfulness-based stress reduction and cognitive therapy groups.
“The most important stressor is being judgmental about yourself,” McEver says. “For example, of course your job is stressful, but thinking you can’t do it or you’re incompetent is where the stress comes in.” She attributes that to a fairly common attempt to change things people have no control over, and then internalizing those problems.
“People need to consider professional assistance when their stressors or their reactions to the stressors become overwhelming, or when the stress or the reaction to the stress is actually interfering in their lives,” says Beth Altman, a licensed clinical social worker.
However, it seems that people frequently look down upon seeking professional help — especially men. “Women tend to be more socialized to be more aware and to be more expressive,” Altman says. “Men are more likely to be less in touch — generalized — and frequently keep it more to themselves. And men, more than women, are likely to manifest their stress more behaviorally; they may drink more, bury themselves in their work more.” Thus, the stressors build as people deny the present cause and push away the feelings until it’s overwhelming.
“Address the problems earlier when it’s easier to treat,” McEver says. “If you’re someone who gets stressed out easily, you can learn to not get stressed out. It’s a skill you can learn, and what a difference in your life it would make to learn that skill.”
The Physical and Emotional Effects of Stress
If chronic stress goes unchecked, the problem manifests physically in increasing severity. “In the long-term, there isn’t any part of your body that isn’t impacted by stress,” McEver says. “Especially when you’re young, you don’t see that huge of an impact from stress. But you’re sowing the seeds down the road for illness.”
What may begin as chronic headaches can ultimately contribute to any of the following:
• Hair loss
• Heart disease
• Obsessive-compulsive or anxiety disorder
• Sexual dysfunction
“I am a firm believer that stress causes disease,” Flake says. “Look at the word: ‘dis-ease.’ A lack of calm and clarity causes illness. [And] when your thoughts are colored with the ill effects of stress, everything looks and feels worse.”
One thing to be frequently compromised by the effects of stress is relationships, McEver says. The anxiety, depression, mood swings, and irritability that may be felt because of stress ultimately create difficulty in connecting with others, which creates interpersonal conflicts. “You may feel unable to have meaning in your life,” she says.
Much of that tension is unknowingly carried in a person’s shoulders, McEver says, and one way to combat stress is to be aware of your body.
“Most people walk around all day with their shoulders tense and tight, and what that does is that it keeps building,” she says. “You can only change it when you acknowledge it; otherwise you don’t even know what’s going on.”
Flake emphasizes the need of practicing daily stress management before ever reaching a “breaking point.” “Sometimes, every day is just a battle to get ahead,” she says. “When this happens, hopes, dreams, good ideas, and things you wish you were doing or feel that you should be doing get lost along the way.”
Ways to Manage Stress At Home
Meditate for 10 to 15 minutes each day. This is a free, easy way to approach stress management. Flake suggests you find a quiet spot, sit comfortably, close your eyes and focus on a mantra or your breath. When thoughts try to disrupt your focus, revert back to your mantra or breath.
Think about how you “catastrophize certain situations,” Flake says. “Consider a Catastrophe Scale ranging from 1 (not a stressful situation at all) to 10 (the most stressful situation of all). See how you may be rating all of your situations, even a flat tire, as a 7, 8, 9 or even 10 … Now consider something that is truly a 10 — say, a hurricane that wipes out your house, everything you own and everyone you love, as well. The flat tire looks more like a 1 or 2 now, doesn’t it?”
Learn to categorize your “ought tos,” “need tos” and “really want tos,” and find the right balance for your lifestyle.
Practice mindfulness based stress reduction, in which the emphasis is on being “present.” “When there’s a stress that comes up, go towards the stress instead of running away from the problem,” McEver says. “Experience what’s going on in the moment — be really grounded.
Notice your body sensations, tensions, relaxations, present emotions, present thoughts. Notice what’s going on with you and don’t be judgmental about it, don’t try to deny what’s present or push away bad feelings.” Pay attention to your shoulders on a regular basis, she says. When you notice your shoulders are tight or tense, that means you aren’t relaxed.
Take a few moments each day to do something you enjoy, be it music, art or writing. If you need to, begin scheduling your day to allow for a specific time for your hobby and personal enjoyment.
Altman recommends taking care of yourself in every sense: Exercise, eat well, get adequate sleep, and develop a reliable support system.
Utilize any method of stress management before the problem escalates. You can manage it more easily the earlier you confront the situation. And if you feel unable to handle your stress on your own, feel no shame. A professional can work with you pursue the best course of treatment for you and your lifestyle. “Therapy would help [people] understand better why they’re feeling the way they are, and what changes they could make to better adapt,” Altman says.
The Different Types of Stress
Eustress: Short-term stress that occurs during moments of physical activity, enthusiasm, and creativity. It’s positive, fun, and exciting. (ex: racing to meet a deadline, the feelings before competing in a sports event)
Distress: Negative stress that produces discomfort, especially when a routine is interrupted.
Acute Stress: A type of distress that is intense but short-lived.
Chronic Stress: Long-term stress that can exist anywhere from a few weeks to years.
Hyperstress: Stress that occurs when a person is overwhelmed, which can lead to strong emotional responses from small triggers.
Hypostress: Stress that occurs when a person is bored, restless, and uninspired.
Information from The Health Center
By the Numbers breakout box
Two-thirds of all office visits to family physicians are due to stress-related symptoms.
23% of women executives and professionals, and 19% of their male peers, say they feel super-stressed.
64% of Americans say they are taking steps to reduce stress in their lives.
Information from Foundation for Integrated Research in Mental Health (2007) and American Psychological Association (2005)
By Rebecca Toback
While the new Yankee Stadium hosts over 400 places to spend your hard earned cash inside its massive walls, that was not the most shocking number I experienced on my first visit to the big new ball yard in the Bronx this spring.
My friends and I always ate sushi when we were on diets, and my mom, sister and I have had sushi dinners almost weekly for as long as I can remember. So I can say it was beyond a surprise when I arrived at the food court in the new and improved Yankee Stadium and saw that a simple California roll was over 250 calories, and a tuna roll was impending 200! How many calories are tu(na) many?
Six small pieces of tuna, rolled in sticky rice and seaweed accounting for one-tenth of my daily recommended caloric intake? I don’t think so. Studying the menu with my family brought a sense of communal incredulity about the calories packed into the tiny Japanese delicacies, now passing for ballpark grub. (“Buy me some peanuts and …. Alaska Roll?”)
What if I was wrong, and sushi was not as healthy as everyone had made me think for the last 19 years. Come to think of it Seinfeld, I have seen some fat fish at the aquarium.
According to Glamour.com the carbs in one roll of sushi are equivalent to that of three pieces of white bread. Again, do the math that means just two rolls, equal three sandwiches! Carbs-information.com, says that ½ a cup of sushi rice usually contains 48 grams of carbs, or about one fifth of your daily carbohydrate count.
A few weeks back I took a trip to a neighborhood health food store, and made a b-line right for the sushi aisle. I picked up a lobster roll and a brown rice California roll, and strolled to the counter looking forward to a healthy, satisfying lunch.
Just after cracking open the chopsticks I plated my 16 pieces of sushi and was about to toss the containers, when I glimpsed from the corner of my eye the nutritional stats of my meal. Yikes! Half of one roll was again over 200 calories. You do the math. My first instinct was to throw the rice balls away. I wanted a healthy lunch, not a carb laden imposter. I felt like banging the chopsticks together and starting a rally against all those people who had guaranteed me that sushi was healthy for so many years. Some guarantee that was; I want my money back!
Not only is the nutritional value of sushi something to be concerned about, you must also be thinking about toxin levels of the fish and where your raw fish has been bathing.
In 2008, The New York Times visited 20 New York City restaurants and stores to test the mercury levels in their tuna sushi. Five of the 20 venues were selling fish with mercury levels high enough for the Food and Drug Administration to take the raw fish off the market. According to The New York Times only six pieces of sushi from some of these eateries a week would exceed an acceptable mercury level in the human body.
In late 2008, Jeremy Piven stepped down from his roll in “Speed-the-Plow” claiming to have been stricken with a “sushi-induced” case of mercury poisoning. The Entourage actor said he had been previously warned about having high mercury content, from 20 years of sushi eating, but fans and reporters across the country were skeptical about how realistic the never substantiated mercury poisoning was.
Still, mercury poisoning is just one more thing to think about before ordering your next piece of tuna sashimi. A thought provoking sushi story recently broke on ABC News about a study that showed that salmon tapeworm infestations tripled in Kyoto, Japan, in 2008.
As river dwellers, salmon are susceptible to ingesting one of the many tapeworms inhabiting inland waterways. But, lets face reality, while the chance of you eating a salmon laced tapeworm is low, I know I would not be happy with a parasitic worm squirming inside of me for up to 30 years, growing as large as 39 feet. Pass the barf bag, please.
The solution is simple, if not appetizing: to eliminate chance of hosting a live tapeworm in your stomach, cook your fish. If tapeworms scare you as much as they do me, fish like tuna, and other deep ocean fish, are safer choices. When trying to pick a low-in-calorie dinner, sushi may not be as “safe” a choice as you and I once thought.