The first time I heard about menopause was when I was in grade school. My family was visiting my great aunt who is always theatrical and fun, and I remember seeing her have a hot flash. She got up and walked around fanning herself vigorously and all of the adult women in my family giggled together. Since my aunt is already so theatrical, I thought she was just being silly. I didn’t understand what a hot flash was or how intense it could be.

Menopause is something I suppose I have always known I would experience one day, but other than knowing my baby-making hormones will slow down, I’ll stop getting my period, and I’ll have horrible hot flashes, this period of time seems almost like a caricature or something scary and unknown. So other than feeling uncomfortable and having intense hot flashes, what really happens to our bodies during menopause, and what are all of the side effects?

What is menopause?

First thing’s first: menopause is when your period stops permanently and your estrogen and progesterone levels go down. You are officially in menopause when you haven’t had your period for one year. The time leading up to the last menstrual cycle that we typically think of having hot flashes and other side effects are actually called perimenopause or the menopausal transition. This transition into menopause can happen anywhere from four to seven years before your last period, and after you’re in menopause, many symptoms can last for up to 14 years!!! That’s crazy to me! That means that even after your body has gone through these hormonal changes and you’re officially not producing reproductive hormones, you can still experience these pesky symptoms for up to over a decade. How did no one ever tell me this?!

People typically enter into perimenopause between ages 45 and 55, although it could be a little earlier or a little later. This transition begins when your body naturally starts producing less estrogen and progesterone, which are your reproductive hormones. During this transition, you’ll still get a period and can still become pregnant, although your periods might be irregular due to the hormonal shifts. Other side effects during this transition period include hot flashes, migraines, anxiety or depression, vaginal dryness which can lead to pain during sex, memory loss, and trouble sleeping. 

All about hot flashes

Hot flashes are due to these dropping hormone levels and can come and go at any time. Many women will experience really bad hot flashes at night, waking them up from their sleep. These can be treated with hormones, so you can see your doctor and get help managing those. The fluctuating hormones can also cause mood changes and anxiety or depression. Similarly, you can see your doctor about this and find a treatment plan.

Because your reproductive hormones are significantly decreasing, your vagina no longer produces natural lubrication. This can lead to pain during penetrative sex for many women, and can even lead to a lower desire for sex because of how uncomfortable it is. This can be treated by using a water-based lubricant during sex, and can even be treated with vaginal moisturizers, which are put into the vagina and can be used daily or every other day to treat dryness—not just for sex-related purposes. You can also use estrogen cream or talk with your doctor about taking hormones as well. Your sex life doesn’t have to end just because you’re hormones are shifting!

Some women experience memory loss during perimenopause or feel foggy-headed and confused. Getting enough sleep, staying active, and staying social can help with this, but if memory loss is a big problem for you, talk with your doctor. These symptoms slowly start happening as you approach your last period, and like I said they can start four to seven years before that even happens. Once you do have your last period and are officially in menopause after a year of no periods, these symptoms persist. Just like any other hormonal-related thing, some people are affected more than others. Some women experience minor menopause symptoms and are generally unaffected, while other women experience hot flashes so intense they have to eat dinner outside on a cold November day to cool off (a true story my mom told me).

Talking more about menopause

Regarding menopause, I’m most struck by how no one has ever really talked to me about perimenopause and menopause, and what exactly these symptoms look like. I had no idea these symptoms lasted so long and could carry on way past your last period. From the time I was a kid, I remember hearing all about when I would get my first period and what that would be like, but no one talked with me about this transition as well. I spend a lot of time reading and writing about women’s sexual health, yet I somehow still knew very little on this topic. 

I’m honestly quite overwhelmed thinking about all of these symptoms and anticipating this time in my own life, and I think talking about menopause openly with young women could help make this time seem less scary. Women already have to work to manage their periods and period symptoms as well as their fertility during their whole reproductive life, and then after that time winds down, we then have to manage a whole new set of symptoms. We should talk more openly about our reproductive hormones and what all menopause entails. This not only will empower women as they enter menopause themselves, but will also offer support for those women who are already experiencing it.

If you’ve ever worked in any service job, you’ve probably dealt with managing your emotions to keep the customer happy. If you work at a restaurant and you bring food to your table, and the customer says their sandwich came with a sauce on it they didn’t ask for, you need to stay positive and offer a solution to keep the customer also feeling positive so they’ll return to your restaurant. You have to manage your feelings while also managing the emotions of the people around you. This idea of managing emotions, feelings, and expressions is called emotional labor. With Mother’s Day in May, it feels especially right to discuss emotional labor, as women often exercise it most. 

What is emotional labor?

The concept of emotional labor was first fully explored by sociologist Arlie Hochschild in her 1983 book The Managed Heart. When Hochschild was first discussing emotional labor, she mostly explored this concept in regard to work relationships. Other professions that require a great deal of emotional labor are teachers, nurses, flight attendants, or hotel management, just to name a few.

Since Hochschild’s initial writing on the topic, many other sociologists have delved deeper into studying emotional labor. This topic has now been expanded beyond just showing up in work situations. Emotional labor also is present in people’s everyday domestic lives, and unfortunately, women often bear the brunt of emotional labor in many relationships.

Examples of emotional labor for women

The first time I heard the term “emotional labor” and saw a lengthy explanation of it was a Harpers Bazaar article written by Gemma Hartley. In the article, Hartley describes how she asked her husband to hire a house cleaning service for her as a Mother’s Day gift. She wanted her husband to handle it all so she could relax and enjoy a clean home. She didn’t want to have to go through the trouble of looking up cleaning services, comparing prices, and reading reviews—she wanted her husband to do that for her as part of the gift.

Instead, her husband cleaned the bathrooms himself, which is a nice gesture, but Hartley describes that she ended up watching their children and cleaning up some clothing and a box her husband left out in their closet. Her husband says she should have just asked him to put the box away, and as the author expresses, the whole point is she doesn’t want to have to ask. She wanted to feel cared for by her partner in the same way she cares for him.

Bearing the full responsibility of managing a household and making sure everyone is cared for is a lot of work. Updating a calendar with everyone’s schedules, packing lunches for children to take to school, washing and folding laundry, asking your partner to clean up after themselves, asking them a second, third, and fourth time to clean the bathroom even though it’s their responsibility and they shouldn’t need to be reminded. These are all examples of emotional labor women often are responsible for in a home.

The actual, physical work isn’t the emotional labor— all of the little things you do for others that make their lives easier, and the process of asking your partner to also do their work and share in the responsibilities is the emotional labor.

How can we manage emotional labor?

Having conversations with your partner about them pitching in more, being considerate of their feelings, making sure they understand you asking them to help out and do their chores without being asked multiple times is not an attack on their character, is emotional labor. All the while you just do what needs to be done because if you don’t do it, no one will.

So why is it that women often bear a great responsibility for this? There’s the old stereotype that men will go out into the world and work a full-time job while women stay at home and raise the children and look after the house. Maybe some of this is due to old gender norms sticking around, but honestly, I’m not quite sure. But many modern relationships have both partners working full time, so shouldn’t the housework and in-home responsibilities be split equally?

Obviously, every relationship won’t have this exact dynamic, but if you google “emotional labor,” you’ll find article after article citing specific examples of women handling emotional labor in the home. Think about your own upbringing and who was in charge of domestic and emotional care in your home. Think about those responsibilities in your own life now and who takes care of them in your various relationships.

Do what works for you and your relationship

Everyone has to do some sort of emotional labor in their lives, but if you are thanklessly responsible for the majority of this labor in your home, you should feel able to change that.

If you’re feeling like you are bearing the brunt of all of this in-house labor and you’re having to constantly remind your partner to do their share of housework, run errands, etc., then it might be time for a conversation with them about equally distributing work. Yes, you’ll want to be considerate of their feelings when you talk with them, but you are not nagging! You’re simply asking for an equal share of responsibility. And if your partner loves you and cares about you, then they should want to actively share the responsibility. 

The vagina is an absolutely amazing organ. It can bring life into this world, it helps facilitate your menstrual cycle to let you know your body is working properly, it can be used for sex and pleasure, and it’s totally self-cleaning. And since it’s a self-cleaning organ, that means vaginal hygiene products are totally unnecessary.

Why do vaginal hygiene products exist?

If your vagina is self-cleaning, then why do “feminine hygiene products” like Summer’s Eve and other brands exist? To be perfectly blunt, these products exist to make you think your vagina’s natural discharge and odor is dirty and unnatural so you’ll want to buy feminine hygiene wipes and douches to “cleanse” yourself. Not only do vaginal hygiene products use people’s insecurities and shame regarding their vaginal odor to make money, but these products also are harmful to your vagina’s health and can throw off your vagina’s pH balance, leading to infections or other complications.

The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, using discharge to flush out any bad bacteria. Discharge is one hundred percent normal and essential for your vaginal health. A specific odor likely accompanies this discharge, and for some reason, people are made to feel ashamed of the way their vagina smells. Vaginal odor is also completely normal and healthy. In fact, a person’s vaginal odor will likely change throughout their menstrual cycle, and can also change depending on diet. The only time you should be concerned about your discharge or vaginal odor is if either one changes drastically. If your discharge changes color or consistency and your vaginal odor change significantly, consult your doctor. You could have an infection.

Cleaning your vulva versus vagina

Although the vagina cleans itself, the vulva does not. Your vulva is the folds of skin (labia) on the outside of your body. The best way to clean your vulva is with warm water. Doctors also recommend warm water and mild soap. If you have very sensitive skin, unscented soap would work best, but again, just water is fine as well. Since all you need for a clean vulva and vagina is warm water, the chemicals in vaginal hygiene products can be harmful to users.

Summer’s Eve has a whole host of products such as cleansing wipes, sprays, cleansing wash, body powder, and douche products. It’s important to note that Summer’s Eve is not the only brand that sells these types of products. I am just using them as an example because they are very widely known and easily available. No matter the brand name, these products are unnecessary and can be harmful. 

Most importantly, do not douche

If you gather only one thing from this article, let it be this: do NOT douche. Douching is a method to wash out the vagina using a formula that is sprayed directly into the vagina. Douching products can contain water, vinegar, antiseptics, and fragrances, all of which can be harmful to your vaginal hygiene. People douche to wash out bad bacteria from the vagina and to feel “fresh and clean.” While you are washing out the bad bacteria, you also wash out the good bacteria your vagina needs to maintain a healthy pH balance. Side effects of douching include bacterial vaginosis, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, pregnancy complications such as ectopic pregnancy, and an increased risk of cervical cancer.

Summer’s Eve website contains no ingredients for any of their products, which I find alarming. Through my research, I found one source that listed some ingredients, some of which include “fragrance” (which the product does not elaborate on what makes up this ingredient), methylisothiazolinone, methylchloroisothiazolinone, cocamidopropyl betaine, and many more. For a full list of ingredients you could of course look at the products in the store. However, if I am using something to clean my vulva or vagina, I would like to be able to pronounce it.

I also found that Summer’s Eve cleansing wipes contain octoxynol-9, which is a spermicide. There is no warning on the packaging that discloses this information. The wipes are not viable forms of contraception, however, it is unclear if the octoxynol-9 is strong enough in the wipes to affect someone’s ability to get pregnant. 

Your vagina’s smell is normal!

This is no joke! Your vagina doesn’t need to be flushed out with water and other chemicals. Your vagina is not smelly or dirty. This harmful narrative that vaginas are dirty and smell bad is incredibly harmful to your physical and mental health. Being told that your vagina is dirty and literally needs to be flushed out with fragrances in order to be clean and desirable harms positive self-image and feeling good in one’s body. I understand wanting to feel clean or wanting to “freshen up” before a sexual encounter, but as mentioned above, all you need is water for that. No chemicals or artificial scents are necessary.

I’m here to tell you that the messages sold to us by these hygiene companies are lies. There is science to prove how harmful these products are and to reiterate that vaginal odor is normal and healthy! Your vagina is not supposed to smell like flowers or baby powder. You are not a flower or a baby. Your vagina should smell like vagina! 

 

It’s that time of year again—spring cleaning! The sun begins to shine, we hear birds begin to chirp, everything that’s been frozen over is beginning to come back to life, and so do we! With this newfound zest for life in the spring, we want to clean up our homes and do it the right way. In this day and age, long gone are the days of using smelly and slightly toxic cleaning supplies. We’ve got options, honey. Here are some ways to do your spring cleaning the sustainable way.

1. Donate your old stuff during spring cleaning

If you have yet to read Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” I suggest you begin here. Kondo wrote this book many years ago, and it’s regained popularity the last several years with the premiere of her Netflix show, which I also recommend. Kondo offers a foolproof method for cleaning out your entire home in a way that ensures you won’t have to do a deep-tidying ever again.

After going through your belongings and deciding what you’re ready to part with, consider donating. You could donate old clothes to a local women’s shelter, Goodwill, or even a friend. If you have any beauty, haircare, or menstrual products, consider donating those as well because those are also needed at shelters. Not only is donating used items thoughtful, but it’s also better for the environment than throwing away your clothing for it to end up in a landfill.

2. Use eco-friendly chemicals in your cleaning products

Let’s be real – everything has chemicals in it. We just want to make sure that the chemicals we are spray and scrubbing all over our home are not bad for us. Brands such as Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyer’s make high-quality cleaning products that smell good and are safe for your home. Other brands that are eco-friendly even have biodegradable packaging. Sure, these might cost a bit more than the store brand cleaner, but the environmental impact of eco-friendly cleaning supplies is worth the cost if you ask me.

3. Switch to package-free, reusable products

Besides using eco-friendly products for your spring cleaning, there are also many clever products that are reusable or package-free. Consider swapping out some products in your home and see how much waste you save. Switch to reusable sandwich bags, a reusable trash liner, wool balls instead of dryer sheets, reusable Swiffer covers, refillable surface cleaner—the list goes on and on. Again, these items might be a bit pricier, but they last a long time and have little to no packing. It’s a win-win.

4. Use essential oils and soy candles

Although burning a candle in your home can put the cherry on top of a freshly cleaned space, traditional candles use chemicals that can release soot into your space or even stain your walls over time. Soy candles are better for the environment, burn longer, and are made from soy, which is a renewable resource. Essential oils can also help fill your home with a fresh scent, and those are made from plants and are safe. Essential oils can also be used in homemade cleaning products and can be used for light cleaning as well as being diffused. Some essential oils are not safe for animals, so if you have pets, do a little research first before bringing those into your home.

Now go forth and spring clean your space the sustainable and safe way!

It’s good to be educated about our bodies every month of the year, but with Endometriosis Awareness Month observed in March, it’s an excellent time to learn about this condition that up to 10 percent of people with uteruses have—endometriosis.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is when the tissue that lines your uterus grows outside of your uterus as well. This tissue is called the endometrium. During your menstrual cycle, the endometrium tissue builds up, sheds if you have no fertilized eggs, then leaves your body through your period. When this tissue grows outside of the uterus, it still builds up as part of your menstrual cycle, but then it has nowhere to shed and exit the body. Endometriosis develops over time, usually several years after your first period, and affects up to 10 percent of people with uteruses ages 25-40.

What are the symptoms?

Since everyone’s bodies are so different, endometriosis symptoms can be mild to severe and vary for everyone depending on their body. The severity of your symptoms does not indicate the severity of the actual tissue buildup. This tissue can grow on your ovaries, bowel, and pelvis, and comes with a wide variety of symptoms. Because this tissue is building up and isn’t shedding, it can become increasingly painful over time. The most common endometriosis symptom is pelvic pain and cramps. This pain and cramping hit you in the same areas you might feel period cramps, but it’s much more intense. This cramping can be just during your period, but for some people, there’s constant pelvic pain. These cramps aren’t like normal period cramps. Some people experience cramps so intense they can’t go to work or function normally.

In addition to painful periods, other symptoms include pain during or after sexual intercourse, pain with bowel movements or peeing, as well as diarrhea, constipation, and bloating, heavy bleeding during your period, or bleeding between periods, and in some cases, infertility. About 30 to 40 percent of people with endometriosis experience fertility issues. These issues can be discussed with your doctor, and there are options to maximize your fertility with endometriosis.

Because the tissue can grow in several places in your body, it can affect these places in different ways. Another symptom is developing scars on your ovaries and pelvis, as well as adhesions or tissues growing so that they bind your organs together. Because the symptoms are so general, endometriosis can be hard to diagnose initially. People can be misdiagnosed with Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, ovarian cysts, or even Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Are there treatment options?

Although endometriosis is not curable, there are several different treatment options. The growth of your endometrium outside of the womb is due to varying levels of estrogen in your body. Your changing hormones during your menstrual cycle that promote the growth and shedding of your uterine lining are the exact hormones promoting the growth of this tissue as well. Remember, the only difference is this tissue has nowhere to go once it’s grown. Hormone therapy or hormonal contraception can be used as an effective treatment. Hormonal birth control pills are a popular treatment for endometriosis because they shut down ovulation. If you’re not ovulating, your uterine lining is not building up to shed, so it should stop the growth of this tissue outside of the uterus as well. Any hormones that help stop menstruation could help treat endometriosis. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists and antagonists can be used to treat endometriosis as well. GnRH is used to essentially create early menopause by stopping the production of estrogen in the body. Because it puts you in an early menopause, side effects would include vaginal dryness and hot flashes. This treatment sounds intense, and I’d guess it would likely be used for severe cases. Danazol is another medication that can stop your period and help stop the growth of endometrium tissue. These treatment options can help with pain and help stop tissue growth, but they don’t necessarily help with fertility.

If you are wanting to get pregnant or have a severe case of endometriosis and hormones haven’t helped, surgery is another option. During the surgery, the excess tissue growing outside of the uterus is removed. The surgery is called laparoscopy, uses lasers, and is minimally invasive. Again, this is the only treatment option that can help improve fertility. In extremely severe cases, and if you are not wanting to get pregnant, you could also have a total hysterectomy. This is a surgery to remove your uterus and cervix. This is usually only recommended for severe cases or for someone who knows they do not want to get pregnant. Once your uterus and cervix are removed, you won’t be able to get pregnant because your uterus will be gone.

What is the cause of endometriosis?

The exact cause of endometriosis is not known, which can be frustrating. One theory is that during menstruation the blood flows back into the fallopian tubes, causing build-up, while another theory suggests that hormones transform cells outside of the uterus into ones similar to those inside the uterus, confusing the body. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, or even just have incredibly painful periods, go see your gynecologist. They will likely do a physical exam and an ultrasound to see what your uterine tissue looks like. Once diagnosed, your doctor will discuss the severity of your case with you. If left untreated, endometriosis can get worse over time because of the continuation of tissue building up. Once your doctor tells you the severity (minimal, mild, moderate, or severe) you can work together to discuss treatment options. Although endometriosis isn’t curable, you can still live a relatively pain-free life with it. If you are planning on having a family and want to maintain your fertility, be sure to mention that to your doctor.

If you suspect you have endometriosis or have incredibly painful periods, speak up and talk to your doctor about it. Intense period pain isn’t normal or something you should live with! It can indicate there’s a deeper issue going on. Talk with your doctor to find a solution.

It’s no secret that here at Just Jenn I LOVE talking about sexuality! We’ve discussed all sorts of things sexual health related here, and I’ve got another fun thing to add to our discussion: a Desire Journal. 

I first heard of the idea of keeping a desire journal from a sex educator on Instagram named Dr. Wendasha Jenkins Hall PhD (@thesensiblesexpert). Dr. Wendasha brought up the idea of keeping a desire journal in one of her Instagram videos where she discusses a different topic related to sexual health each week. The Sensible Sexpert describes a desire journal as a journal where you write down all of your sexual desires and explore the possibilities of your desire. I love this idea and totally think we all should start keeping desire journals, like, ASAP.

What is a desire journal?

As The Sensible Sexpert describes, a desire journal is a place for you to explore your sexuality and desire in private. if you want to share these desires with a partner now or in the future, of course you can, but the journal is just for YOU. Even just writing about your desires and allowing yourself to explore new ideas can help you better connect with your sensuality and sexual self. 

Why keep a desire journal?

There are SO many possibilities of what to write about in a desire journal. There are no rules! You could write about past sexual experiences that you’ve enjoyed, and why. You could write about past experiences you didn’t enjoy, and why. You could write down fantasies and let yourself explore them in detail. An important note about fantasies and a desire journal in general – just because you fantasize about something doesn’t mean you ACTUALLY want it to happen. That’s why it’s a fantasy. Besides, no one else is going to see these pages, so let yourself roam free with your sensual imagination. 

Suggestions for your next journal entry

You could make a list of sexy things that turn you on, non-sexual things that turn you on, ways you turn yourself on. Make a list of how you like to be touched by someone else, how you like to be touched by yourself, places you like to have sex, places you want to have sex. You could also use the pages of your journal to create a sex bucket list or a list of sexy things you’d like to try. Again, no one but you will see these ponderings, so let yourself explore your desire without shame! Are there any new sex positions you want to try? Write about it! Are there sex toys you’d like to try? Write about it! Is there a type of lingerie you want to try but never have? Write about it! Write down any and everything you desire, even if you don’t actually want to try everything you explore in the journal.

Being connected to your own desires and feeling safe and comfortable to express and explore them with yourself will help cultivate a more open, healthy relationship with your own sexuality and sensual self. Exploring your desires in a safe place such as a journal could help make it easier to express your desires to a partner as well. We are not often encouraged to explore our desires, or we’re shamed for being in touch with them. I’m here to tell you there is NOTHING wrong with exploring your desires, and in fact, I think it will improve your overall relationship with yourself. Get to writing!

It’s tough to look cool when you’ve got a twitchy eye. And yes, you can quote me. Seriously, what is up with that?

In case you’ve been spared, you can just be binge-watching Workin’ Moms, and next thing you know, there’s this weird flicking sensation in your eye. A doctor might explain an eyelid twitch (or myokymia) as a repetitive, involuntary spasm of the eyelid muscles. A twitch usually occurs in the upper lid, but it can occur in both the upper and lower lids.

For most people, these unpredictable spasms are very mild, last a few seconds or a couple of minutes, and feel like a little eyelid tug; some people have blepharospasm that causes both eyelids to close completely. What causes these? Heck if I know. It’s weird. If I’m really tired, I’ve been reading or using the computer a lot, or I’m more stressed than usual, I notice them with some frequency. I’ve heard some people say caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco will bring them on as well.

The even more strange benign essential blepharospasm (the blinking in both eyes) is actually more common in women than in men, and, according to Genetics Home Reference, it affects approximately 50,000 Americans and usually develops in the middle to late adulthood. The condition will likely worsen over time, and it may eventually cause blurry vision, increased sensitivity to light and even facial spasms.

If the eye twitches become more frequent and seem more serious, it’s probably time to reach out to the doctor as in extremely rare cases; it can signal a serious brain or nerve disorder. Contact your doctor if you’re having chronic eyelid spasms along with any of the following symptoms:

  • Your eye is red, swollen, or has an unusual discharge.
  • Your upper eyelid is drooping.
  • Your eyelid completely closes each time your eyelids twitch.
  • The twitching continues for several weeks.
  • The twitching begins affecting other parts of your face.

Thankfully, most folks will just experience the annoying twitch. You can probably follow the advice of the old comedy routine, “Does it hurt when you do that? Don’t do that.” If your eyes twitch when you’re exhausted or stressed, have had too much alcohol or coffee, cut back on that stuff! You can also use some over-the-counter artificial tears/eye drops or a warm cloth for relief.

Otherwise, wait a couple of minutes and return to binge-watching.

I’ve heard quite a lot about probiotics lately. Do I need to take one? Will it solve all my problems? Quite frankly, I’ve already got enough supplements to worry about, so is all the hype worth it?

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are mostly healthy bacteria that are good for your gut. Probiotics are in foods like yogurt, tempeh, kimchi, and fermented teas like kombucha. Recently people have been talking about probiotics like they we should take them as regularly as your daily vitamins. Although probiotics have many health benefits, including aiding in digestion, weight loss, balancing vaginal pH, enhanced immune function, and healthy skin, there isn’t enough conclusive research done to make a blanket statement that probiotics can help you with all of these things, no matter who you are.

If you don’t have any digestive issues and you start taking a probiotic to target digestion, it probably won’t do anything for you. If you do have digestive issues, though, and consult your doctor about probiotic options, they can likely recommend a specific probiotic that can help.

Just like the hundreds of bacteria in our gut, there are different probiotics for different things. If you have a specific issue that you think probiotics could help with, such as your digestion, you need the specific probiotic for that. People often think there is just one general probiotic that will work for everything.

What do Probiotics Do?

probiotic icon, line gradient bacteria icon, good bacteria, healthy digestion.

Probiotics can help with so many different issues if taking the correct one because there are so many bacteria in your gut. Anywhere from 500 to 1,000, to be exact. Your gut health and microbiome affects everything in your body. Some scientists view your gut flora as an organ because of all it does for our bodies. Your gut flora helps produce vitamins like vitamin K and B vitamins, and also turns fiber into fats, stimulates your immune system, and aids in digestion. Because your gut bacteria does so much for your body, if you get unhealthy bacteria in there, stuff can get thrown off. Some science is even suggesting that people who are healthy and fit have different gut bacteria than less healthy people.

Supplementing the healthy bacteria, you already get from your food with specific, targeted probiotics could help balance some things out. Doctors suggest eating probiotic-rich food to address gut bacteria-related issues first. If you aren’t incorporating healthy bacteria into your diet at all, merely taking a probiotic won’t be the most beneficial. It’s like if you spent every single day inside and never saw the sun, and just took a Vitamin D pill. You wouldn’t be living your best life.

For example, if you have issues with vaginal infections or a lot of urinary tract infections, taking a probiotic for vaginal health could help. Much like your gut, your vagina also has a bunch of healthy bacteria inside it. Wild, right?

If you’re interested in taking probiotics, talk to your doctor before you start popping them each morning with your gummy vitamins. If you take a probiotic for something you don’t need it for, it could throw off your gut health. Talk to your doctor and see what they say first.

Irregular periods. Fluctuating hormones. Bloating, cramping, insomnia, hot sweats, night sweats, headaches, exhaustion, AND osteoporosis?! Welcome to perimenopause where any, or all, of these symptoms could show up at any time. Fun!

Oh, and for no reason let’s throw in the added unpredictability of the age perimenopause begins. In your 30s, 40s, 50s? Yes, it might begin then. No, I can’t be more specific. It just depends.

What was that? You want to know how long perimenopause will last? Oh, that’s easy…4-8 years. Again, no. I cannot be more specific.

Flash Dance

It wasn’t until I was standing with my head shoved inside a convenience store cooler that I even thought about perimenopause. I had no idea that what I was experiencing was a hot flash. All I knew was that I was going to spontaneously combust if I didn’t get inside that cooler.

Raging HormonesAn estimated 35-50% of perimenopausal women experience hot flashes to some degree. Oh, you were curious about how long those lasted? Again, it depends. 10% of women experience hot flashes for years after menopause. Woo-Hoo!

Triggers for an episode can be hot air temperatures, hot beverages, or spicy foods. You’ll have the joy of discovering which of these is your particular on-switch. Just know that I’ve moved far north, drink nothing but water from a local iceberg, and only consume beige foods.

Raging Hormones Part Deux

Remember how amazing puberty was? How you woke up every day and thought, “Wow! I love being a temperamental, moody human with brand new things happening to my body that I can’t control! Super!” No? Me neither.

The fluctuating estrogen levels experienced during perimenopause can cause 10-20% of women to have mood changes. However, if you take a low dose birth control pill, it will keep the hormone levels even during this time which will improve the symptoms. It has the bonus of regulating your menses which is a word I hate to type. Sorry. Had to.

Variables, Schmariables

There is so much about perimenopause that depends on each individual experiencing it that nailing down specifics is difficult. The nature of perimenopausal symptoms will show up in each woman differently and for different reasons. Some through surgery (a hysterectomy) or through aging.

Consult with your doctor, take care of yourself, and keep an open mind to walk in cooler therapy. I’m thinking of opening a store full of just coolers where women can stick their faces in anytime they need to.