Wednesday, November 29, 2017

How to keep healthy and sane while Mommying

As moms, it is really hard to remember to take care of ourselves. Some days you are just trying to make it out alive on the other side, with everyone fed and clothed. Not going to lie, often times my meals consist of eating the scraps of food that my children left on their plates with coffee as my only hydration. But with a little bit of effort, I've gathered some tricks to make sure that I take care of myself  throughout the day.

  • Drink water. This is so simple, but I often find that I am just chugging caffeinated beverages and not drinking enough water throughout the day.  I have a large water bottle with a straw (no idea why but having a straw makes me drink more) that I keep in my kitchen, another one on my desk in the office, and a stainless steel water bottle in my purse. I fill them in the morning and don't go to sleep until I have drank everything. Trust me, hydration does wonders on tired mommy skin.
  • Use your child as an piece of exercise equipment. I have used my boys at various weights for different exercises. When they were infants I would hold them out and do squats, put them in a carrier while I danced, lift them up and down for an arm work out, and do ab twists while holding them. Basically, they were used as medicine balls. They loved it and I fit in a workout. Now that they are older I give them airplane rides on my feet or legs for a great ab routine, bench press their bodies, do push up contests with them, play tag, and have raging dance parties. They get out their energy and I fit in some physical activity - a win-win situation. 
  • Meal plan: Ok, I am the LAST person who thought I would be able to do this, since I am not exactly a planner. But in attempt to not starve myself or my kids (oh yeah, and the hubs. He eats too.), I decided to take a stab at grocery shopping once a week and planning ahead. I have a bunch of super quick, easy, and healthy meals that I like to make.That means instead of opening up the fridge, staring for 5 minutes, giving up and ordering in pizza, I already know more or less what I am going to make. It also allows me to do some prep work during nap time or during the rare instances that my kids are playing quietly. 
  • Healthy Snacks: I stock up on not just snacks for the kids, but for MYSELF. Yes, you are a person too! I always have some yummy healthy snacks that I can grab on the go. Larabars, baby carrots, apples, whatever. And if my kid eats a fruit, I slice extra for myself. If I'm not prepared I usually end up munching on whatever random food I can get my hands on, so may as well have healthy options to grab.  
  • Carve out time for yourself: When my first son was about 4 months old, I had a major meltdown one day, screaming at my husband that I no longer had a life. Now this wasn't exactly true, but between the constant nursing and the lack of sleep, I basically felt like a zombie getting through the day. As a solution, we have instituted that one night a week is for ME. Just me. I get to do whatever I want.  I'll go to a yoga class, get my nails done, meet friends for dinner - doesn't matter, but I am off duty. It isn't always feasible that it is the same day every week, and some weeks are so crazy with plans or late work hours that it doesn't happen, but for the sake of my sanity, I need a couple hours to do WHATEVER I want. 
None of this is rocket science, but dealing with tiny humans gets crazy and taking care of ourselves falls to the bottom of the list. But as a wise momma once pointed out, just as you would on an airplane, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others - so make sure you keep yourself healthy so that you can take care of your littles.  

Monday, November 20, 2017

7 Skin and hair must haves when you are on Accutane

A little while back I wrote about my healthy skin diet - the low-glycemic, high anti-oxidant, no dairy diet that helps with acne and makes your skin all glowy. After a year of not having ANY sugar, I really really wanted a cookie. Badly. So I did. And then I broke out. After a couple more test runs with a sweet here and there, I realized I may not be able to have sugar ever again if I don't want to break out. Finally I succumbed to my dermatologist's advice, and I went on Accutane (3rd time's a charm!!), and will be done with it next month. I have to say, my skin looks awesome. I am still on the diet for the most part, since I do feel better overall not having sugar or dairy, but I can finally have a sorbet after dinner if I want.

I figured I would share my top items that I have been using while on Accutane. I have been diligent about using them, which has kept the side effects to a minimum.
  1. Lip balm: Aquaphor.

    One of the first side effects of being on Accutane is your lips drying out. It takes chapped lips to another level. I have tried pretty much every single lip balm and keep coming back to Aquaphor. I keep some in each purse, by my bed, by the kitchen, and by the couch. There is no way to make it through a course of Accutane without some.

  2. Facial sunscreen: Elta MD UV Clear

    This stuff is my favorite sunscreen of all time.  I started Accutane in the summer, and while I use this everyday regardless, this sunscreen really is amazing. It goes on smooth, blends in well, looks great under makeup, and has a high enough SPF to really protect your skin.

  3.  Everyday sunscreen: Aveeno Active Naturals Daily Moisturizing Lotion SPF15.

    Aveeno makes a great, unscented everyday body lotion that has SPF 15. It isn't for when you are really out in the sun on the beach, but it is perfect for walking around town.

  4. Heavy night cream:

    I have fallen in love with Cerave's skin renewing night cream. I would probably never dream of putting this on my face when I was acne ridden and oily, but right now it is exactly what I need. It is thick without being the least bit greasy, extremely well moisturizing, and I wake up with my skin feeling SO soft.

  5. Gentle face cleanser: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil.

    This is another awesome product that I use all the time, but it really is a necessity when on Accutane. It is super gentle and removes make up like a breeze. It is a little counterintuitive to smear oil on your face to clean it, but this cleanser rinses totally clean leaving your face super soft and not the least bit oily.

  6. Heavy duty conditioner: Redken Diamond Oil Conditioner

    Accutane dries you out all over, including your hair. While I don't need to wash my hair for days now (which is all together amazing), this conditioner makes my hair silky and shiny.

  7. Hand lotion: Aveeno Skin Relief Hand Lotion

  8. Using hand lotion religiously is always important in the winter, but when you are on Accutane, it is crucial. Accutane makes your skin very sensitive, and since you use your hands all the time, you are more prone to nicks and cuts. This hand lotion is not just great at protecting your hands, but does a miraculous job healing the most chapped and cracked of skin.
On top of the products listed here, make sure you drink plenty of water and be gentle with your skin! 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Post C-section body: The shiz no one tells you

I could probably write a book or two about all the things that happen to women's bodies that no one prepares you for. But what I found the most shocking is what happened to my body after I had a c-section that no one told me about.  I'll post another day on the actual surgery and recovery, but for now I'll concentrate just on what happens appearance wise.

First things first, you may not have pushed a human out of your vagina, but that doesn't mean your lady parts don't get mangled. Your labia will swell up something crazy. It may not swell evenly. It may scare the bejesus out of you to even look down there. You will worry that this is what your lady bits will look like forever. I promise you, the swelling will go down! And quickly - give it a week or two, and your lady lips will be back to normal.

Then you take a gander down to your incision, which is a little scary. Just remember, your belly was CUT open and then a child was yanked out and then you got stapled or stitched back together (I had both done - no real difference either way).  You will have these surgi-strips along your incision, which come off on their own in about two weeks, and a thin line that is kind of smile shaped. It may look crooked in the beginning - not to worry,  you are swollen and your belly is all sorts of mush in the beginning. It evens out, and eventually the scar will be so thin that you kind of forget it's there.

Because of the vast amounts of fluids that are IVed into your body both before, during, and after surgery, your legs may swell up to tree trunks. The first 24 hours you have to wear these leg compression contraptions to prevent clotting since you are laid up. But after that, you may look down and realize that you no longer have ankles. Make sure you WALK as much as you can when you are in the hospital - it helps get those fluids moving and out of your body.

And your belly - oh the joys of the weird, squishy, enormous uterus post-partum belly. You expect to pop out that baby and then have your belly and uterus shrink back down just the way it was. Sadly, this does not happen (and if it happened to you, bravo!). Instead your belly becomes this like empty sack for a while. You will lay on your side and your belly just kind of flops over. But like everything else, this too shall pass. I'm not promising that your abs will return to their former glory, but that squishiness goes away as your uterus shrinks back. Think about it - your little uterus, usually the size of a small fist or pear, gets as big as a watermelon when you are pregnant. That doesn't reverse itself overnight (and if it did, again, good for you).

I could wax poetic about how it is amazing that you created a beautiful life, and that is what you should be concentrating on right after birth. And yes, much of that is true. But that is a disservice to  how much our bodies have been through, and how crazy it all feels at the time. It's okay to be freaked out! Take a deep breathe, sniff that baby head, and remember this too shall pass.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fertility and PCOS: When PCOS can be a POS

PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is a total bitch. Ok, I'm tired and lashing out but really PCOS can be a POS (or piece of sh!t) when it comes to fertility. What exactly is PCOS? It is a relatively common hormonal imbalance that brews trouble with the ovaries (don't remember the ovaries do? Here is a refresher), where eggs may not develop or release as they should. The wonky ovaries then cause you to miss or have irregular periods. And contrary to the name, you may not actually have cysts on your ovaries and still have PCOS. Often women will have too much androgen, which is a male hormone that women normally only produce a small amount.

About 5 to 10% of women of reproductive age have PCOS, and it is the most common cause of infertility in women. A lot of women don't even know they have PCOS until they are trying to get pregnant! The symptoms of PCOS can include:

  • whacky periods - either missing them or getting them too often
  • being especially hairy on your face and chin
  • acne
  • thinning hair - think male pattern baldness
  • weight gain or trouble losing weight
  • darker skin along the neck , groin, and under your breasts
  • fatigue and trouble sleeping
  • skin tags the armpit or neck area. 
Having one of these symptoms alone isn't going to mean that you have PCOS - I have acne and plenty of skin tags. And god knows I'm tired (I think I already mentioned that).  But if you have several of these symptoms, particularly those that are associated with male hormones (acne, hairiness, thinning hair) it might be a good idea to check in with your lady parts doctor. 

PCOS can be treated, but much of it depends on your symptoms. Some will be encouraged to lose weight to increase ovulation function, while others will be put on medication to stimulate ovulation. If PCOS is treated correctly, you can get pregnant once you start ovulating. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

What's the thyroid got to do with it? The connection between thyroids and fertility

If you are trying for a baby and haven't been having luck, you should get your thyroid checked out. In fact, I suggest that BEFORE you try to get pregnant you ask your lady parts doc to run a thyroid panel. Why you ask? Well, there is sometimes a link between a hypothyroidism (when your thyroid isn't working up to speed) and infertility. The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in your neck that makes a bunch of hormones that regulate everything from how quickly you burn calories to your heartbeat. It also produces the hormones needed for menstruation (your period) and sexual function.  A normally working thyroid is super important for getting pregnant and staying pregnant.

A study in 2015 found that almost 25% of infertile women had a low functioning thyroid, or hypothyroidism. With hypothyroidism, your thyroid doesn't produce enough of certain hormones, which can screw up with the release of an egg from your ovary (ovulation). Also, some of the underlying causes of hypothyroidism may also make it hard to get pregnant. The good news is that after treating for hypothyroidism (usually taking hormone therapy to correct thyroid levels), over 75% of women were able to get pregnant.

Since you can be having thyroid problems and not even know it (many women have no symptoms), asking for a simple blood test can save you a lot of aggravation later on.  Treatment for a wacky thyroid is pretty safe and easy, and can fix the problem within weeks. One thing to note, that while thyroid function may come back within normal range, in order to get pregnant and maintain a pregnancy, your thyroid levels need to be within a smaller range. Make an appointment with your lady parts doctor to get yourself checked out, and if need be, an endocrinologist can also be a great resource. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Stop putting random things in your lady parts!

I'm just going to put this out there - unless there is a medical reason, you shouldn't put random things in your vagina. Like ever. Jade eggs for example. Definitely do not do this. It is a terrible idea to put rocks in your vagina. Penises, tampons, menstrual cups, fingers - sure. Rocks - definitely no. Wasps nests - my god, the horror. Putting random items in your lady parts can cause a host of problems. From infections, to vaginal wall scratching, to just plain getting stuck (um, super awkward). Also, by forcing your vag muscles to constantly contract, you end up screwing them up and will have problems releasing them properly.

There are other ways to strengthen your lady part muscles without walking around with an egg in there. For example:

  • Kegels: You've probably heard of these, but are you doing them right?Here is a quick guide. Don't forget that releasing the pelvic floor muscles are just as important as tightening them. This is an interesting visualization aid using a corkscrew (please don't go put a corkscrew up your lady parts. Watch the video). 
  • Squats - yes, good old fashioned squats. But make sure you are properly aligned and using the right muscles. Shins should be vertical (up and down), and your booty should be out (untucked). 
  • Bridge pose where you lift and lower your hips while engaging your pelvic floor muscles. 

And don't fall for the vaginal weights either. They seem to be the rage (seriously, what is up with everyone sticking heavy things in their lady parts?!) but studies have shown that they didn't really do anything.

As always, if you are having any pain, discomfort, problems with peeing, make an appointment with your lady parts doctor!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Fertility 101: Problems with Ovulation

In a previous post I gave you the 411 on how ovulation SHOULD work. But sometimes it doesn't go as planned, and those little eggies don't get the memo.  There are several reasons why this may happen, some of which can be easily treated.

Anovulation is when the ovary doesn't release an egg for over three months (as opposed to once every 25-28 days). While the time between ovulation can vary quite a bit during puberty and right before menopause, for non-pregnant women ages 16-40, not ovulating is not the norm and can be the cause of infertility. In fact, in 1 out of 3 women having trouble getting pregnant anovulation is the problem.

Irregular/Infrequent Ovulation could also be the problem. This is when you don't ovulate every month.

Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) is when you stop ovulating regularly before you hit the big 4-0. You basically ovulate less often and  your periods are all over the place, and some can get menopause-like symptoms.

How would you know if you are having ovulation issues? Most times your period will be all out of whack, if it comes at all. Your period might be very light or very heavy, or you may not have the usual fun period symptoms like bloating and boob pain. A lady parts doctor will want you to keep track of your periods (there are plenty of apps for that), and may want to do some blood work and ultrasounds to see if you are actually ovulating.

Ovulation problems can happen for a variety of reasons. Hormone imbalances, structural problems (like an ovarian cyst), thyroid issues, being over or underweight, or even just stress can throw ovulation off. It is important to first understand the reason you may not be ovulating before you treat it.

If you are trying to get pregnant, get an period tracking app, start peeing on ovulation sticks, and take it from there. And as always, check in with your lady parts doctor if you suspect anything is off!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ovarian cancer: Signs and symptoms

Ovarian cancer is a bitch. A real motherf@cking bitch. Difficult to detect in its early stages. less than 1 in 5 cases of ovarian cancer is found early. But first things first. where are the ovaries and what do they do??

First, see where the ovaries are in the picture above ↑. Find it? Great. The ovaries are pretty much the most important part of the whole lady part system. Como say wha? Yeah, the most important part. They actually control the hormones that make you a lady (estrogen and progesterone)  and can make you a mama, since they control and house all our potential eggs (or follicles).  After puberty, ovaries are about the size of a large grape, and they are held in place by ligaments that are attached to the uterus.

I went into some detail about the ovualation cycle here - feel free to read that and come back. You done? Ok. Moving on.

Now back to the topic at hand: ovarian cancer. First things first, about 1 in 75 women will develop ovarian cancer. It is not the most common of the lady part cancers, but it is the most deadly. See, the problem is that ovarian cancer systems are VAGUE. And by the time you pick up on the fact that something is really wrong, many times the cancer has already spread beyond the ovaries.
Here is a list of the symptoms:

  • Pain in the pelvis or abdomen (belly)
  • Bloating in the abdomen
  • Urinary urgency (needing to pee right away)
  • Urinary frequency (having to pee often)
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Feeling full quickly while eating
  • Having difficulty eating
  • Vaginal bleeding or other discharge that is different than normal
  • Back pain

I am pretty sure I have one or more of these symptoms at least once a week. I mean, my middle name is Bloated with Back Pain. But here is the IMPORTANT part of these symptoms -if they are PERSISTENT, go to your lady parts doctor. And be pushy! Yes, chances are that it is something that can be solved by exercise, or a change in diet, but if it is not, bring up ovarian cancer.  It is a bitchiest of the cancers, so take it seriously.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

You are what you eat: My healthy skin diet

For those of you that follow my Instagram (and for those that don't, you should!), you know I started following a healthy skin diet many months ago. I figured it was about time I posted an update, and what exactly this diet entails.

First of all, I have struggled for a LONG time with hormonal acne. Painful cysts, unslightly scars, and uneven skin tone made me an expert in make-up application, but at my age I reached my breaking point. I was done. I have tried LITERALLY (and I really mean literally) every single prescriptive skin medication. I have done two rounds of Accutane, antibiotics, lasers, retinoids, you name it. I have tried it. And nothing really worked. Not for long at least. So I decided I needed to tackle things in a whole different way. 

One night, after a particular awful breakout, I started researching anti-acne diets.  There are several diets and guidelines out there, but I decided to put them all together in what I felt was feasible and backed by science. Here is what I have been doing:

  • Low glycemic.  Spikes in sugar  increseases insulin levels which then throws the whole body into a tizzy - triggering various other hormones, an inflammatory response, and increasing oil production, which all leads to clogged pores and acne. Basically, eating sugar feeds the oil in your face. I have cut all refined sugar out of my diet. Yup, no sugar for me. So I skip on dessert, the sugar in my coffee, and also do not eat white carbs of any kind. Whole grains are great, but it is important to check the labels on any processed food - they sneak sugar into everything these days! 
  • No dairy. Not everyone has this problem, but I am sensitive to dairy in general, and my skin apparently doesn't like it either. I tried to incorporate back in to see if it would make a difference and I immediately broke out. Yogurt and kefir are apparently helpful in terms of probiotics, so I just take a probiotic supplement instead. Many dairy products are also loaded with sugar, so it is just easier to avoid in general. 
  • Foods high in Omega 3 -Dr. Perricone is a big proponent of this, and I decided to take his lead. Foods like salmon (and other cold-water fish like trout and herring), avocado, nuts, flaxseed, and dark leafy greens are all sources of omega-3 which is a known anti-inflammatory, And if you think about it, much of acne is an inflammatory response, so this just makes sense. 
  • High anti-oxidant foods.  Anti-oxidants battle skin damage on a cellular level, increasing cell turn over, and protecting skin from things like sun damage and pollution. So I pack my diet with lots of fresh fruits and veggies, particularly berries, I have also started drinking green tea instead of coffee (ok, I still have a little coffee in the morning. Otherwise I am not a functional human) since green tea is high in anti-oxidants AND helps with the caffeine situation. 
  • Water.  Lots of it. Keeps the skin glowing and hydrated.
  • Lean meats. Now I love burgers. I mean, I really really love burgers. And I won't give them up completely. But I have been decreasing my burger and read meat load in general, and well, I just feel better. Backed by science to help with acne? Not at all, but you just feel healthier when you aren't including burgers and fries as a major food group.

There you have it folks. It is a lot of clean eating. And yes I miss dessert. But this diet, more than anything else I have ever tried, has cleared up my skin. I have tried getting off of it and I break out immediately. So for me, whatever yummy treat I am eating will not counter balance the set of pimples and subsequent scars that it brings. It takes willpower, but it is worth it!! 

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