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    Our Wellness Editor’s Go-To Supplements for Every Health Goal or Symptom

    As a wellness editor and holistic health coach, I consider myself well-versed in many things: plant-based eating, ancient medicinal practices, and self-love. However, the topic I get asked about most often is wellness supplements–what to take, when to take them, and what’s actually worth it. The interest in vitamins and supplements makes total sense to me: the supplement industry is confusing AF. We have countless brands, influencers, and experts telling us a magic pill is life-changing or a new powder on the market will have miraculous results. Identifying what we really need in a market filled with expensive miracle powders and magic pills is challenging.
    So, I’m sharing my supplement routine to serve as inspiration. I thoroughly research every brand, ingredient, and trendy new product and have tried countless pills, powders, and potions. (I legit have an entire closet dedicated to supplements.) The list below contains my tried-and-true, carefully selected supplements from a confusing and oversaturated industry.
    PSA: I’m not a doctor. My goal is to help you avoid spending more money on products that will collect dust on your shelves. I’m here to offer transparency on what works for me, and hopefully, you can use it as a starting point to find what works for you. Remember that every body is different. What works great for me might not work for you, and every supplement routine should be crafted with your doctor. I have my clients get lab work with their doctor to identify gaps in their nutrient and vitamin levels. From there, we add supplements based on health goals. So check with your doc, and use my go-to supplement arsenal as a starting point on your wellness journey.

    In this article

    To take every day

    Daily Softgels
    Important PSA: If you have not hopped on the CBD bandwagon to improve your focus, energy, stress relief, and even anxiousness, you are seriously missing out. CBD has made a huge difference in promoting a sense of calm and stress relief without making me sluggish so I love taking these Equilibria ones to start my mornings off on the right foot.
    Use code theeverygirl for 20% off your first order at Equilibria!

    A huge problem with the supplement industry is it’s pretty unregulated, so we don’t always know how high-quality or clean the ingredients actually are. Ritual is committed to full traceability–like you can see on the website the exact farm, source, and geographical location where each nutrient comes from. Plus, it’s more absorbable because of the tiny beads within the capsule which have a delayed release in the right part of the digestive tract that absorbs the nutrients, and has more nutrients than typical multivitamins do, like omega-3 DHA.

    Sakara is another brand that I really trust their standards of quality–I do not want any additional chemicals or toxins in my body, and if I’m spending my money, I want to make sure its something that will actually make a difference. I love these probiotics because they’re derived from totally clean, raw, plant-based ingredients and contain food cofactors to improve absorption. In addition to the targeted probiotic strains, each pill contains digestive enzymes, systemic enzymes, and prebiotic fiber to ensure the probiotic bacteria can thrive in the gut, as well as other benefits.

    Pure Synergy
    I’ve been taking a B-Complex for years as recommended by my doctor. I’m a vegetarian who eats minimal dairy, so I’m not getting a lot of B-12 from my diet, and being on the birth control pill for 10+ years has depleted my B vitamins (again, all according to my doctor!). I love this one that’s organic and made from fruits and veggies. Now that I’m transitioning off of birth control and my vitamin B levels look normal, she recommended a B-complex every other day instead of every day, and we’ll adjust based on what my lab results say in the six months–testing is everything!

    Parsley Health
    Vitamin D3 + K2
    Did you know vitamin D is one of the most common deficiencies? Especially through the fall and winter when it’s darker out and we’re not exposed to sun very often. My doctor has said that everyone can afford taking a little vitamin D through the fall and winter months, but–as always–check your levels and talk to your doctor! I love these drops because they contain vitamin K and MCT oil for optimal absorption. I just add a few drops to my morning coffee or tea and it’s the easiest way to get in any vitamin.

    Magnesium is another super common deficiency that I think most people could benefit from supplementing or asking their doctor about. My doctor put me on an additional dose of magnesium citrate before bed to ease constipation and then increased my dosage before and during my period to help with cramps (think of it as helping to relax the muscles). It has many other functions, like lung function, bone health, and helping to metabolize carbohydrates. There are different types of magnesium too, like Magnesium Glycate, which is more beneficial for stress relief, the nervous system, etc.

    Sleep Capsules
    Before Arrae came out with their Sleep capsule, I only took sleep supplements for special occasions like travel (more below) or if I couldn’t sleep. But I’m so obsessed with the Sleep capsules that I take them on a nightly basis and have the best sleep. They are not made with melatonin or like any other common sleep supplement–instead, it’s a blend of herbs (like chamomile, holy basil, and valerian root) that works with your circadian rhythm to help regulate your body’s natural sleep cycle. So it’s kind of just assisting your body to sleep better on its own, and I truly get the best sleep of my life.

    To improve digestion

    Metabolism Powder
    I will talk about this powder until I’m blue in the face because of how it’s changed my life. I’m not typically a powder person and much prefer pills because they’re easier to remember or make time to drink a powder, but this is totally different. It tastes like a luxurious hot chocolate (just add raw honey!) and is my self-care moment every day–so tasty, it’s helped me replace my coffee habit. But because of the superfood plant-based ingredients, it has also hugely helped my digestive issues like reducing bloat and healing gut lining.

    Dr. Schulze’s
    Intestinal Formula Supplement
    I have tried just about everything to relieve constipation–including prescription medication from my gastroenterologist–but no supplement or prescription has really helped besides this one. I only take one capsule every night after dinner and–not to brag–I have a bowel movement every single morning, which is kind of a miracle for me (#sorrynotsorry for the TMI). No, it doesn’t cause stomach aches or diarrhea for me, and it’s NOT a laxative–it contains herbs that help support your body’s natural detoxification system in the colon, like aloe leaf, ginger root, garlic, cayenne pepper, and senna leaf.

    Bloat Capsules
    I’ve tried a lot of digestive enzymes in my day–basically every food leaves me with painful gas, bloat, or stomach pains. These are my favorites to take after any meal because they genuinely help; I notice a major difference and I can actually eat foods I love without suffering. And–you guessed it–they’re full of good-for-you, plant ingredients from fruit and herbs like bromelain (good for speeding food breakdown), peppermint (to prevent gas), and even contains slippery elm to help protect your digestive system. If I’m eating something like broccoli that I know bothers me a little bit, I’ll just take one, but take two after a pasta and wine dinner out.

    Tomorrow’s Nutrition
    Prebiotic Fiber Supplement
    So you already know about probiotics, but PRE-biotics are just as important because they’re a type of fiber that serves as food for the good bacteria in the gut. Without prebiotics, probiotics cannot survive. I make sure to get prebiotics from food and my probiotics contain prebiotics as well, but I add a scoop of this fiber supplement to smoothies, yogurt, or coffee every few days for additional support, or daily if I feel like my gut health is struggling, like during vacation or a stressful time. I was taking inulin powder (another easy thing to look up and add to your diet!) but my doctor had me replace it with this Sunfiber because it’s a low-FODMAP option if everything triggers your gut like it did mine.

    For stress relief

    Calm Capsules
    If you can’t already tell, Arrae can do no wrong in my eyes–I am indeed a fan and daily user of every one of their products. I’ve struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember, and—while there’s no quick fix for mental health—this supplement is such an important part of my mental health toolbox. Regular therapy, daily meditation, etc. help keep my anxiety at bay, but taking a Calm Capsule (with ingredients like magnesium and passionflower) is one of the few things I’ve tried that actually works when a stressful meeting is coming up, I’m getting worried while traveling, or I’m feeling extra anxious one day.

    CBD Oil Drops
    I’ve been using these CBD drops for a few years now and I think they will always be a part of my daily routine. While the Arrae Calm tablets are for occasional moments of stress, I use the Daily Drops every day for better response to stress and anxiety over time. High-quality CBD is extremely effective at helping to regulate mood and stress levels. Bonus: they can also increase focus and relieve tension.
    Use code theeverygirl for 20% off your first order at Equilibria!

    To take when under the weather

    Pique Life
    Elderberry Liposomal Vitamin C Supplement
    Historically, the second the weather starts changing, I would get colds that would last well through winter. Now, I know to take extra good care of my body to avoid the dreaded cold or to limit symptoms to get through the season feeling as good as possible. In the fall and winter, I take one of these packets every day (and double up when I start to feel a cold coming on) and I swear it makes a major difference. It contains clean ingredients with no preservatives, unlike other vitamin C sources and immunity packets, and contains added antioxidants, zinc, etc. for an extra boost and better absorption. Also, it’s like a gel consistency you eat straight instead of a powder you add to water, which I prefer because it’s way easier.

    Beekeeper’s Naturals
    Throat Spray
    There’s A LOT of power in bee products, and propolis is known as one of the greatest superfoods of the world. Containing flavonoids and polyphenols that fight free radicals, as well as vitamin C, zinc, iron, B vitamins, and lots of other antioxidants, it’s incredible for fighting of colds and boosting the immune system. I even do an extra spray when I start getting a sore throat (like after a long day of podcasting when my throat gets scratchy) and it’s immediately gone.

    Tension Relief Supplement
    Whether it’s a hangover, tension, period-related, or just general stress, this all-natural product really works to ease headaches. The herbs used are pretty fascinating, like feverfew, which helps reduce sensitivity to headache triggers, or willowbark, that promotes head comfort. It also contains a concentrated dose of magnesium glycinate as I talked about above, that is extremely helpful to help muscles and the nervous system relax, good for both tension and stress related headaches.

    To take while traveling

    Greens Supplement
    By now, I have talked approximately 10 friends and family members into hopping on the 8Greens bandwagon. My #1 can’t-live-without health product will always be whole, leafy greens (one of nature’s greatest medicine, IMO). I always aim to add greens to at least two meals a day because it makes the biggest difference in my skin, energy, digestion, immune system, etc. However, when traveling, I don’t always have access to fresh, leafy greens. Enter: 8Greens. Made with spinach, wheatgrass, kale, blue-green algae, spirulina, chlorella, barley grass, and aloe vera, each tablet is packed with a variety of nutrients that make you feel amazing. In the form of a convenient tablet you just add to water—it’s like a DIY green juice on-the-go. I also drink 8Greens when I need an extra boost of nutrients in addition to leafy greens, like if I’m starting to get a cold or feel extra drained.

    Organic Green Tea Extract Capsules
    Dr. Christian Gonzalez (you can listen to him on Heal Thy Self Podcast) talks a lot about how the polyphenols and antioxidants in green tea (particularly a highly concentrated version like matcha) can help the body better absorb and detoxify alcohol. Now I have not checked out any other studies to back this up, so do your own research and check out his explanation/recommendations for yourself, but I do take a green tea extract supplement when on vacation (AKA when I’m drinking a lot more alcohol than usual). Do I notice an immediate difference? Not really, but I like knowing I am fueling my body with additional antioxidants. Note: You can also just drink green tea or matcha!

    Hydration Supplement
    You know when you just feel so deeply dehydrated, either from a plane, being in the sun more than usual, drinking alcohol, or just extra depleted from a long day of travel? In order to be optimally hydrated, your body doesn’t just need water–it needs electrolytes that allow your body to hang onto and absorb the water. There are a lot of electrolyte drinks and supplements out there that are full of added sugars, dyes, and toxins, so I like to add some lime juice and a pinch of Himalayan salt for natural electrolytes in my water, but I also like these packets from Cove, which are sweetened with stevia, so they have no added sugar. You’ll feel an immediate hydration, on a deeper level than you would from chugging a glass of plain water.

    Love Wellness
    Sleep Supplement
    Even going from the west coast to the east coast can totally knock off my sleep schedule (a three-hour time change makes a huge difference when trying to fall asleep at night!) so I like to travel with these capsules to help me fall asleep during nights when I know it will be difficult for me to sleep or I’m dealing with jet lag. They contain a small dose of melatonin, which lets the body know it’s time to sleep and release more melatonin, but also uses magnesium and herbs to relax the body and ease stress so you can fall asleep naturally too (and stay asleep!).

    Please consult a doctor or health professional before beginning any supplements or treatments. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or health goal. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.

    10 Items Our Wellness Editor Swears Have Made the Biggest Difference in Her Life

    This post is sponsored by Equilibria, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board. More

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    What This Viral Hormone Expert Eats in a Day to Balance Hormones

    I don’t have to tell you that hormones can be a bee-och: Whether we’re on our period or not, it can feel like we’re at their beck and call. They affect everything from our emotions and mood to sexual function and sleep, after all! The good news is we can keep our hormones in check naturally (music to my ears) and live our best lives PMS-free with some simple tweaks in the kitchen. Thanks to functional nutrition and women’s hormone expert and creator of The Cycle SyncingⓇ Method, Alisa Vitti, I’ve got the holy grail of balancing hormones down to each phase of our cycles, and I’m letting you in on it. Ahead, the foods to hack your way to hormonal bliss, proving once and for all that food is medicine.

    Meet the expert
    Alisa Vitti, HHC, AADP
    Alisa Vitti is a functional nutritionist and womens hormone expert, the founder of modern hormone health care company FLO Living, bestselling author of WomanCode, and creator of MyFLO, the #1 paid period app on iTunes. She has made expert appearances on The Dr. Oz Show, Women’s Health, MindBodyGreen, and The Huffington Post.

    How does diet affect hormonal balance?
    Let’s face it: What we eat can make the difference between optimal health and not functioning at our best (and who doesn’t want to be their happiest and healthiest self?). When it comes to balancing those pesky hormones, your eating habits make the call. “Diet is one of the main drivers of hormonal balance—what you eat affects your insulin, cortisol, estrogen, and progesterone levels—and so any issues you are having with your hormones, skin, weight, moods, cycle are all tied to your diet and can all be improved dramatically by using food strategically to support and optimize endocrine function,” Vitti explained. 
    Vitti revealed that women have an unknown second biological clock called the Infradian Rhythm, which we experience over the course of our monthly cycles, and it affects everything from your metabolism, brain, and immune and stress response to your libido, fertility, and cycle. And, yes, your diet plays a major role in supporting the Infradian Rhythm. The moral of the story? “Change the foods you eat and caloric levels to match the four phases of your cycle to optimize blood sugar stability and hormonal balance.” Read on to learn how to do just that. 

    What to eat in each of the four phases of the cycle 

    Follicular phase
    During the follicular phase, the metabolism is slower, so focus on fresh, vibrant, and light foods that will make you feel more energized. Prioritize healthy fats that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and cruciferous vegetables that can help flush out excess estrogen. As for fresh produce, opt for artichokes, broccoli, carrots, parsley, green peas, string beans, and zucchini, which have a lot of the nutrients needed during this phase. Vitti recommends trying these easy, yet tasty, meals: 

    Overnight oats with cashews, goji berries, and cinnamon
    Lentil tomato quinoa pilaf
    Chicken veggie buddha bowl

    Ovulatory phase
    Fill up on raw veggies for fiber and fruit for high levels of glutathione to ensure your body easily metabolizes and eliminates any estrogen surplus. If you experience any cramping or acne during this time, you may have issues breaking down estrogen in your liver and gut. Eating fiber-rich and cruciferous vegetables during this time helps flush excess estrogen from the body. Load up on asparagus, brussels sprouts, chard, escarole, scallions, and spinach during this phase. Channel your inner Ina Garten and try out these recipes: 

    Sweet green protein smoothie
    Hearty greens salad with salmon toasts
    Zucchini noodles with pumpkin seed basil pesto and grilled chicken

    Luteal phase
    During the luteal phase, your metabolism speeds up, so you should eat more nutrient-rich calories daily to maintain stable blood sugar, which helps balance insulin (a critical hormone that greatly affects the degree of PMS). Emphasize foods rich in B vitamins to stave off sugar cravings, eat leafy greens to boost your calcium and magnesium, and add roasted or baked root vegetables to help your liver and large intestine flush out estrogen. Think: 

    Avocado sweet potato toast with eggs
    Turkey tacos with corn, cassava, or cauliflower tortillas
    Chickpea pasta with garlic kale

    Menstrual phase
    Your hormone levels are at their lowest, so it’s important to eat adequate calories and get plenty of protein and healthy fat during your bleed. Protein, fats, as well as low glycemic veggies and fruits, will keep your blood sugar steady while adding fiber and antioxidants. Add in foods high in iron, like red meat and kidney beans, and some seafood or mineral-rich seaweed that helps replenish mineral levels in your body. Whip up the following eats that are sure to get a chef’s kiss: 

    Cream of buckwheat with almond butter and raisins
    Salmon soba miso bento
    Bunless bison burgers with mushrooms, baby spinach, and avocado

    Alisa Vitti
    In The Flo
    For details on the aforementioned recipes and more of Vitti’s go-to meals

    Why (And How) You Should Plan Your Workouts Around Your Cycle More

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    5 Ways to Make the Transition off Birth Control Easier, According to Experts

    When I talk to other women about their experiences going off birth control, I often hear different stories. Some women complain about irregular periods, painful cramps, or mood swings, and others say the transition was relatively easy. Studies have shown that 80 percent of women regain hormonal balance no less than three months after stopping the pill, but for some, it can take even longer. Our bodies are all unique, and birth control affects us differently. After experiencing my own side effects and speaking with other women about theirs, I realized that a lot of women are looking to stop hormonal birth control (for a variety of reasons) and want to make the transition off it easier. So I looked to the experts to share their best tips.
    I spoke with Dr. Trevor Cates, a naturopathic practitioner, as well as Jade Mesquita, a holistic nutrition practitioner and clinical herbalist. Before we get to the tips, both experts agreed that the first step should be remembering why you went on birth control in the first place. “When someone goes on birth control, it’s usually either for birth control or they’re trying to manage some symptoms,” shared Dr. Cates. If you originally started birth control for symptom management, there’s a good chance that “whatever was being suppressed hormonally is going to come back,” so work with your doctor to identify and heal the root cause of the symptoms. But no matter your reason for going on and going off birth control, read on for some expert tips to make the process easier.

    1. Eat nutritionally-dense meals
    The body is an interconnected organism, so it’s no surprise that what we eat can affect our hormones and help to balance them. Mesquita shared that the number one focus should be balancing blood sugar by making sure every meal or snack has a source of protein, fat, and nutrient-dense carbohydrates. “Instead of just eating a banana, pair it with greek yogurt for protein and almond butter for some healthy fats,” she suggested. She also explained the importance of never skipping meals (especially breakfast) and eating when you’re hungry. 
    Dr. Cates explained that B vitamins, such as B-12 and B-6, and certain minerals like magnesium, selenium, and zinc, are common vitamins and minerals that can get depleted by taking the Pill, so you may be low or deficient in them if you’ve been on hormonal birth control for a while. These deficiencies can cause symptoms to become worse, so Dr. Cates recommended boosting your intake of foods like dark leafy greens, healthy fats, and protein, and talking to your doctor about testing and/or supplementing these nutrients. 

    2. Boost your gut health
    The gut is the control center for the rest of the body. It affects so many areas, from detoxification to brain health, so it’s no wonder that ensuring good gut health during this transition is important for your hormonal health. “You want to start boosting your gut health by eating lots of fiber-rich foods, like chia seeds and cruciferous vegetables, or taking a probiotic,” Dr. Cates suggested. Jade agreed, recommending you get enough fiber to ensure you’re having at least one bowel movement a day so your body is able to properly detoxify. You should always listen to your gut (pun intended), and if you are having any gut issues such as bloating and constipation, talk to your doctor about ways to increase your gut health. 

    3. Reduce stress levels
    Stress can have a huge impact on the body, especially our hormones, which is why it’s helpful to prioritize practices that can manage stress levels. “If we’re really stressed out and we’re not getting a good night’s sleep, it can impact adrenal function, cortisol, and nervous system balance,” Dr. Cates said. She suggested getting at least 6-8 hours of sleep a night and going to bed at the same time every night so your body is able to get an optimal amount of high-quality shut-eye. Aside from sleep, practicing other methods of stress management, such as meditation, breathing exercises, journaling, or physical activity, is also a good idea.

    4. Opt for low-impact workouts
    While it’s fun to switch up the type of workouts you do every now and then, many experts recommend sticking with low-impact workouts during this period as your body is adjusting to a new hormonal balance. “High-intensity workouts can raise cortisol in the body, so during this period, reducing cortisol as much as possible can help to make the transition off birth control easier,” Jade explained. Luckily, there are so many low-impact workouts to choose from such as pilates, yoga, and—my personal favorite—walking. We want to make this process as easy for the body as possible, and if a low-impact workout helps, then a hot girl walk it is. 

    5. Have a reproductive health plan
    If you’ve decided to go off birth control, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place. If an unplanned pregnancy is a concern for you, Dr. Cates emphasized the importance of having an alternative form of birth control to put into practice immediately after (yes, you can get pregnant even soon after getting off the Pill). “Whether it be a non-hormonal IUD or fertility awareness methods, tracking your ovulation is a really powerful thing, and it’s something we don’t have access to when on birth control pills,” she shared. 
    While this transition can sometimes feel scary, it can also be an empowering time to better understand your body. And building a plan around your body’s natural cycle can make the process even smoother. If you’re going off birth control for the purpose of family planning, work with your doctor to balance hormones to improve fertility as much as possible. No matter your current goals, having a reproductive health plan is always important, and transitioning off hormonal birth control provides a good opportunity to rethink what’s best for your body, goals, and lifestyle.

    I Asked an OBGYN All the Questions You Feel Too Embarrassed to Ask More

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    I Asked an OBGYN All the Questions You Feel Too Embarrassed to Ask—Here Are Her Answers

    Women often have a lot going on BTS that we don’t think about unless something feels off. Many of us come up with excuses to put off going to see the doctor, whether it’s because we’re uncomfortable laying everything out there (literally) or afraid of the answers we might get. Long story short, going to the gyno isn’t exactly a walk in the park (anyone else shudder at just the thought of the scary-looking—not to mention, cold—speculum?). But we’re here to normalize regularly seeing your OBGYN if you have a vagina, as well as creating dialogue around all the topics related to female wellness.
    Enter: Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a practicing gynecologist in Westchester County, NY and advisor to Tru Niagen. From vaginal odor to birth control and everything in between, I probed (pun intended) Dr. Dweck on the most important questions to ask your OBGYN, and we left nothing off the table. Read on for her answers to questions you may be embarrassed to ask your own doctor.

    Meet the expert
    Dr. Alyssa Dweck
    Dr. Dweck provides care to women of all ages and has delivered thousands of babies. Voted “Top Doctor” in New York Magazine and Westchester Magazine, she has a special interest and expertise in female sexual health and medical sex therapy. Dr. Dweck is co-author of three books, including the newest release “The Complete A to Z for Your V (Quarto Press 2017),” and has appeared on The Today Show and Good Day LA. 

    1. What is my vagina supposed to look like? 
    While every vagina is unique (just like the person who it is a part of), Dr. Dweck explained what you can generally expect: “A healthy vagina, the internal canal, is typically a shade of pink, lush, sometimes glistening with normal clear fluid and with many folds called ‘rugae.’ The vaginal opening might have darker pigment and variable skin folds depending on history of childbirth, previous surgery, and/or sexual activity, for example.” Take a cue from Charlotte in Sex and the City and grab your trusty handheld mirror to get up close and personal with your vulva. 

    2. Is it normal to have vaginal discharge and odor? What causes them?
    Before you go down the Google rabbit hole, slow your roll. Dr. Dweck assured us vaginal discharge and odor are typically not causes for concern: “Most vaginas have a natural physiologic discharge made up of mucus from the cervix, vaginal fluid and cells, and cells/fluid from the uterus.” However, there are instances in which vaginal discharge and odor can raise red flags. “Infection with viruses, bacteria, and other microbes, including STIs (sexual transmitted infections), hormone changes, and/or external irritants, can disrupt the normal vaginal pH and microbiome and cause infection. In these cases, an atypical vaginal discharge or foul odor can occur.” The main takeaway? If you’re not sure and can’t decipher what’s what, it’s best to consult your doctor.

    3. Why do I have urinary or fecal incontinence, and what can I do to resolve it?
    If you experience loss of bladder or bowel control (AKA leaking urine or poop), you’re not alone (it’s more common than you may think). “Both can occur due to weak or relaxed pelvic floor muscles,” said Dr. Dweck. “Genetics, prior childbirth (especially for big babies or instrumented deliveries), and obesity may play a role.” So how do you address urinary incontinence? Dr. Dweck encouraged taking into account treating any underlying UTI (urinary tract infection), minimizing or eliminating caffeine (which can create urgency and frequency), practicing Kegel floor exercises, engaging with a pelvic floor physical therapist, and consulting with a urologist/urogynecologist for more intensive testing. “Similarly, for fecal incontinence, one may consider increasing fiber intake to bulk up stool, Kegel exercises, pelvic floor physical therapy, or seeing a colorectal or gastrointestinal specialist.”

    4. How many yeast infections or UTIs are too many? When should I see a doctor?
    One yeast infection or UTI is enough to send anyone into a frenzy. So how do you know when an OTC remedy will do the trick or it’s time to pay your doc a visit? “Recurrent UTI typically refers to greater than or equal to two infections in six months or three infections in a year,” Dr. Dweck clarified. “Recurrent yeast infection implies more than four infections per year. Both scenarios are best addressed by a HCP [health care provider]. Severity of infection is also a reason to check in with a HCP.”

    5. Why is it painful to have sex?
    PSA: Sex should only be pleasurable. So if you’re experiencing any discomfort between the sheets, seek help from your gyno or a pelvic floor therapist. As for what’s the culprit behind painful sex? “Painful sex could occur for a variety of reasons, including vaginal dryness, infection, hormonal changes, and mechanical or anatomic issues, such as fibroids, cysts, endometriosis, scar tissue, vaginal muscle tightness, and/or traumatic sex,” Dr. Dweck elaborated. 
    6. Can I have sex while I’m on my period? And is it possible to get pregnant during my period?
    While you may not feel the sexiest during that time of the month (there are ways to flip the script, BTW), if the mood strikes, Dr. Dweck gave the green light: “One can engage sexually while menstruating if comfortable and, in fact, period sex may relieve cramps or enhance pleasure for some. Precaution should be taken since blood-borne infection, including HIV, can be transmitted. It is possible, although unlikely, to get pregnant from sex while bleeding since some have irregular menses and unpredictable ovulation.”
    7. How do I determine what type of birth control is best for me?
    It goes without saying that birth control is a personal choice. It can be overwhelming and confusing to choose a birth control method that checks all the boxes for your needs and lifestyle. When deciding the best method for you, talk it out with your physician “[Determining the right birth control] is a shared decision made between patient and HCP based on menstrual habits, desired permanence of contraception or future fertility, medical history, and medications, lifestyle, and insurance coverage,” stated Dr. Dweck. “Keep in mind, condoms prevent against STIs while most other forms of contraception do not.”

    8. If my state outlaws abortion, what are my options for unintended pregnancy?
    In light of the reversal of Roe v. Wade, it’s no surprise there’s a lot of confusion and fear around reproductive health and abortion (it’s OK to feel all the feels, BTW). Whether or not you’re pregnant, arming yourself with information and resources from a trusted source (read: your OBGYN) is never a bad idea. But if you find yourself at a loss as to what safe recourse you have in the case of an unplanned pregnancy, Dr. Dweck pointed us in the right direction: “There are several online sites that will provide services, though travel may be required. Hey Jane is one example of a virtual clinic.” 

    9. Why can’t I have an orgasm?
    According to the Cleveland Clinic, only 10 percent of women easily climax. So if you’re part of the other 90 percent, Dr. Dweck shed some light: “This can be complex, but some reasons include not enough direct clitoral stimulation, pain during sex, medications (most notably antidepressants), medical conditions, prior surgery, or psychological factors.” Whatever the root cause may be, you can rest assured your OBGYN can help you find the solution that works best for you. Because we all deserve orgasms. 

    10. How do I talk to my partner about STIs/STDs?
    Sure, we can list a hundred things we’d rather do than get tested for STIs/STDs—let alone talk about them—but think of it as a form of self-care. And as awkward as it may be, Dr. Dweck emphasized that having a direct conversation about STIs/STDs with your partner is necessary. After all, you can’t go wrong creating a safe space for open and honest dialogue surrounding sexual health. It may just bring you and your SO closer and make the sex even better (talk about a win-win). 

    11. I feel lumps in my breast. How do I know if it’s something more?
    If you’ve ever done a breast self-exam, pat yourself on the back. Familiarizing yourself with “your girls”—from their appearance to how they feel—is a healthy habit to add to your wellness regimen. While breast lumps are common and most often non-cancerous, it’s nonetheless unnerving to find one (or more). So knowing what to look out for can help calm a bout of the jitters: “Lumps that are approximately 1 centimeter or larger are palpable,” Dr. Dweck pointed out. “A clinical breast exam with a HCP and imaging, including mammogram, sonogram, or MRI, are potential next steps.” During your next check-up, don’t hesitate to get some pointers on at-home protocols to maintain from your doctor. 

    Please consult a doctor before beginning any treatments. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.

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    Stress Can Mess With Your Vaginal Health–Here’s What You Should Know and How To Deal Accordingly

    It’s no secret that stress can take a toll on your body, so it’s unsurprising that it can mess with your vaginal health too. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Another thing I have to worry about?! Trust me, I get it—sometimes you get so caught up in trying to ward off  stress that you end up stressing yourself out even more because you’re stressed about not being stressed. It’s a vicious cycle and one that’s easy to fall into. That said, taking the time to learn about how stress truly affects your body can help you manage stress and its effects, or might even know what signs and symptoms to look out for that your body might be trying to tell you.
    A brief disclosure: If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned below, scheduling an appointment with your OB-GYN is never a bad idea. If stress is the root cause (or you feel a lot of stress, even if it’s pre-symptoms), make sure you’re also carving out time for yourself to practice self-care and using healthy outlets, such as meditating, journaling, or exercising as ways to manage stress. At the end of the day, finding what works for you and nourishing your mind, body, and soul is going to keep both you and your vagina happy and healthy. Keep scrolling to learn five major ways stress can mess with your reproductive health and how to deal accordingly, along with tips and tricks to de-stress so you can better take care of your mind and body.

    1. Changes in discharge and increased risk of infection
    Stress can suppress the immune system and may seriously disrupt the pH levels in the vulva. When this happens, you may notice discharge that smells funky, is thicker than usual, or darker in color. This occurs because your body’s defense mechanisms are lowered and your vagina has more difficulty weeding out bad bacteria, making it more susceptible to infection. Although discharge is totally normal and changes throughout your cycle, think of it as a window into your body’s overall health: If there’s an abrupt, drastic change in it, it’s usually a telltale sign that something more is going on.
    It may be an isolated incident or an infection, like bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection. Talking to your doctor about any changes in discharge or concerns about possible infection is always a good idea as they may be able to provide you with a prescription or over-the-counter remedy. You could also talk to your doctor about trying over-the-counter supplements and vitamins like probiotics or vitamins D and C. Some types of probiotics may help the vagina maintain a healthy pH level, while vitamin D and C can help strengthen your immune system.

    2. Vaginal dryness
    Stress can reduce the amount of blood flow to the vagina, which in turn can reduce moisture and cause dryness. “With stress on your mind, hormone levels will begin to shift—as cortisol rises, testosterone (essential for your libido) will dip,” Dr. Alyssa Liguori, an OB/GYN based in Georgia, wrote for Northside Hospital. “Your body won’t be sending enough blood down there to increase moisture, so vaginal dryness and/or discomfort is more likely.” This dryness can also cause painful sex and an inability to orgasm—two things you definitely do not need in your life.

    3. Low libido
    When you have a huge work deadline looming, student loans to pay off, and a packed social calendar, sex is probably going to be the last thing on your mind. It’s normal, but it turns out there’s a medical reason for it. Because your testosterone levels dip as cortisol levels rise, you not only experience vaginal dryness, but may experience low sex drive as well, since testosterone is essential for libido. However, getting it on can actually destress you: orgasming regularly can improve your mood, release stress hormones, and keep your vagina from getting depressed (who else remembers the Sex and the City episode where Charlotte announces at lunch her vagina has depression?). Even if you’re not totally in the mood, it may be worth reaching for your vibrator to try to destress. However, if you’re experiencing zero interest or changes in sex drive, always talk to your doctor (remember that libido is an important vital sign!)

    4. Changes in menstrual cycle
    If you have a menstrual cycle, its completely run on hormones (the different changes in your cycle are due to estrogen and progesterone levels). If your stress hormones are out of whack, your menstrual cycle can become irregular, those notorious PMS symptoms can intensify, or you may skip a period altogether. This can also cause fertility issues since irregular periods can distress ovulation schedules and make getting pregnant more difficult. If you’re experiencing painful or irregular periods and have felt extra stressed, your cortisol levels could be to blame. As always, if you experience any changes in your menstrual cycle, always talk with your doctor to get to the root cause.

    5. Tight pelvic floor
    The pelvic floor is especially important for women with uteruses since it’s responsible for bowel and bladder movements, and provides support to the reproductive system. A strong pelvic floor makes sex more enjoyable and orgasms stronger. When we’re stressed, however, we can physically seize up (think: clenched jaw or fists) and that tension can reach our pelvic floor.
    A few early signs of a tight pelvic floor are constipation, pain during sex, and lower back pain. Hip, back, abdominal, or leg pain, a feeling of heaviness as though the pelvic floor is dragging, strain with bowel movements or emptying your bladder, or inability to completely empty the bowels or bladder, and a strong urgency to run to the restroom are also signs of pelvic floor dysfunction. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, consider seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist.

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    7 Habits of Women Who Always Have a Healthy Libido

    Just like exercising to stay in shape or maintaining a meditation practice for your mental health, establishing habits to get your libido in check doesn’t necessarily happen overnight. Sometimes it takes work. It’s important to keep in mind that every part of your body goes through phases over time—even our libidos. And while we would all love a healthy libido 24/7, sometimes our sex drives are going full speed ahead, and other times, they’re at a standstill. If you’re going through a phase where you just can’t get in the mood, know you are not alone and there are ways to get out of it. Everyone deserves to enjoy sex and look forward to it. Read on for seven habits women use to keep their libido healthy.

    1. Prioritize your alone time
    Self-care can apply to many different areas, including your libido. Spending time on your own allows you to reconnect with your body and check in on your mental well-being. Our bodies are interconnected organisms, and if we are stressed, it can often result in more than just symptoms of tiredness or irritability; it can manifest in physical pain (sore back, anyone?) or even low libido. Taking time for self-care—whether it be through exercise, meditation, journaling, a nice bath at the end of the day, or cooking a meal you love—is so important. It’s a mental break we all need to reset and feel more grounded and connected, especially when the outside world can feel overwhelming. 

    2. Try something new
    There’s no better way to stimulate libido than by trying something new. Maybe you and your partner have hit a rough patch and can’t connect like you used to, or maybe you’re single and your vibrator is starting to collect dust in your drawer. There’s no shame in either, but switching it up may be exactly what you need to break the spell. If you’re into solo sex, invest in a new sex toy, experiment with different porn, or set aside a night where you take a bath, light some candles, and indulge in pleasuring yourself. 
    If you are looking to boost sex with a partner, try choosing at least one night a week. Scheduling sex may sound uncomfortable, but it may be the thing to get you both out of a rut. You can also try bringing a sex toy into the bedroom, an aphrodisiac, or watching porn together. The best part? Whatever you choose, it can not only increase your libido but also build a stronger and healthier relationship. P.S. Don’t just stop at one—continue to try new things to keep your libido healthy.

    3. Figure out what you like and dislike
    Part of maintaining a healthy libido is knowing what you like and dislike (AKA what pleasures you or turns you on versus what doesn’t), but it’s OK if you’re still figuring that out—that’s part of the fun in experimentation. Perhaps you could try a new position and role-playing or lean into pleasure that may have felt shameful in the past. Try to vocalize what gets you going and what you could do without. Discovering what you like and dislike means throwing out the narrative you may have learned about what women should like and shouldn’t like about sex. You are allowed to enjoy whatever you like, and no one should tell you otherwise. It’s your body and your libido, so you get to call the shots. 

    4. Build strong trust and communication with your partner
    Whether you’re looking to improve intimacy in your relationship or you’re getting down and dirty with a FWB or casual hookup, you need to feel safe and secure in order to feel vulnerable enough to share your desires. If you feel like you’re lacking something, then it could be time to start an open dialogue with your partner about your needs. Start by planning a check-in or date night where you feel comfortable vocalizing your feelings and come to the table open and ready to share and listen. If you’re in a relationship, remember that your physical relationship can only be as strong as its emotional counterpart. And if you’re not in a LTR, you deserve to feel safe enough to communicate with anyone who’s lucky enough to be with you.

    5. Exercise regularly
    It should come as no surprise that those who exercise regularly are more likely to have a healthy libido. While working out has a plethora of benefits, the endorphins it releases and the effect it has on how we view our bodies directly impact our libidos. Studies have shown that there is “an association between body mass, a negative body image, and the avoidance of sexual situations.” In other words, if we want to feel confident in the bedroom and increase our libido, exercising on the regular and prioritizing our bodies is how we get there.

    6. Take the pressure off
    It goes without saying that women are under a lot of societal pressure. The pressure placed on women to fit into a certain box is prevalent, and I am here to tell you that it’s time to take the pressure off. We’re all wonderfully different, even when it comes to our libidos. Some people naturally have a higher sex drive than others, and that’s OK. Let go of any limiting beliefs surrounding your sexual well-being, and just listen to your body and enjoy sex on your own terms.

    7. Talk to your doctor
    The health of your libido deserves the same attention as any other medical concern you may have. And while your sex drive could improve with the aforementioned habits, there may be underlying factors that require further examination. Aside from mental blocks, including medications, physical changes, and hormonal changes, there are many other factors that can contribute to low libido. If you have a consistently low sex drive, it may be time to talk to your doctor. Maintain regular check-ups with your gynecologist, and prioritize your sexual health as you would any other part of your body.

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    Why (And How) You Should Plan Your Workouts Around Your Cycle

    Do you crush intense HIIT sessions one week only to slog through burpees the next? If so, cycle syncing your workouts can help you create a routine that honors your energy levels and improves your exercise results. Understanding how your hormones impact your training empowers you to choose the best form of movement for your body no matter where you’re at in your menstrual cycle. 
    Medical professionals and wellness experts have recently begun highlighting the importance of altering your exercise routine throughout the month to match your hormone levels. Functional nutritionist Alisa Vitti first introduced women to this concept in her book WomenCode. She’s since trademarked her hormone balancing protocol called the Cycle Syncing® Method. The Cycle Syncing® Method helps menstruating people move, eat, and work in a way that respects their hormones through each phase of their cycle. People who practice cycle syncing workouts often experience mental and physical benefits, including better sleep, reduced PMS, and increased energy. 

    Meet the expert
    Alisa Vitti, HHC, AADP
    Alisa Vitti is a functional nutritionist and womens hormone expert, the founder of modern hormone health care company FLO Living, bestselling author of WomanCode, and creator of MyFLO, the #1 paid period app on iTunes. She has made expert appearances on The Dr. Oz Show, Women’s Health, MindBodyGreen, and The Huffington Post.

    What are the benefits of cycle syncing your workouts? 
    According to Vitti, planning your workouts around your cycle can help you bio-hack your metabolism, increasing your workout’s effectiveness. “Your metabolism changes speed and your resting cortisol levels change in a cyclical pattern,” she said. “Since they are not the same every day, it makes no sense to eat the same amount of calories or do the same workout types or intensity each day. You want to match your caloric intake, workout type, and intensity with each phase of your cycle so you can optimize the use of stored fat as fuel and build lean muscle more efficiently.”
    Not only does cycle syncing help you burn more fat and build more muscle, but it also encourages you to reconnect with your body. Once I removed the pressure to exercise at peak intensity all month, I could listen to what my body needed. Some days I had the energy for an outdoor run, on other days I just wanted to stretch on my yoga mat. No matter the day, I knew I was moving in a way that aligned with my hormones and my energy level. 

    What to keep in mind before you start cycle syncing your workouts:
    If you’re a type-A gal like myself, you’ve likely already pulled out your calendar and begun meticulously scheduling next month’s workouts. While the Cycle Syncing® Method is a great tool to help guide your exercise plan, Vitti recommends letting go of perfectionism.  “Drop the perfectionism and instead embrace becoming dynamic and responsive. Listen to your body, track your cycle, track your symptoms, notice how you feel in each phase, notice how doing certain activities makes you feel in each phase, and reclaim the healthy relationship with yourself and your body you are supposed to have.”

    How to exercise during each phase: 
    Menstrual phase
    During your menstrual phase (AKA when you’re bleeding), your estrogen and progesterone tank. This causes you to have low energy and feel generally less social. If you’re feeling a little sluggish, don’t push it. Swap your high-intensity workouts for something more restorative, like walking or gentle yoga. Research shows that an hour of strenuous activity during your period can increase your chances of exercise-induced inflammation. You don’t want to add aching muscles on top of an aching uterus, so skip your intense workout class during this time.

    Follicular phase
    Your follicular phase starts on the first day of menstruation and ends at ovulation. During the middle of your follicular phase, your estrogen and progesterone begin to rise. You’ll likely notice increased energy and begin to feel more social. Now is a great time to check out a fast-paced group fitness class or see if a buddy wants to join you for a run. 

    Ovulatory phase
    During ovulation, your estrogen and testosterone peak, and your body is at its most fertile. You’ll likely feel full of energy, so this is a great time to hit fitness PRs (AKA personal records), like your max squat or fastest 5k. Thanks to your high hormones, you’re also your most aroused and confident. So go ahead and talk to that cutie you’ve been eyeing in spin class. Your spike in confidence might just lead to a hot date. 

    Luteal phase
    After ovulation, you enter the luteal phase of your cycle. Elevated progesterone levels will cause your energy to decline and you may feel more withdrawn. When you notice your energy taking a dip, scale your workouts down a notch. Replace high-intensity workouts with lightweight circuit training, walks, and yoga. It’s also a good idea to take your workouts indoors if you live in a warmer climate. Since your basal body temperature is higher in the luteal phase of your cycle, you may notice a decrease in your athletic performance when working out in the heat. 

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    I Started Loving My Period Instead of Dreading It—Here’s How

    Growing up, my period was never allowed to be the topic of any conversation. Around my brothers, my mother and I would shoot code words at each other, referring to pads as “things” and periods as “your stuff.” The shame even seeped into friendships: I remember waiting for one of my close friends to spill about puberty before I did (even though we all wanted to scream about our awkward, changing bodies) and boys joining in on the gossip of who got their period, who was developing, etc. Don’t even get me started on the “If you don’t use [insert any period product here], you’re not clean” conversations that bounced around my middle school and high school hallways. All this reminiscing is to say that talking (proudly) about my period hasn’t felt safe.
    The rise of more period products, period education, and period un-shaming in the last few years alone speaks volumes to the world’s changing view on women’s health. Although my friends and I can be much more explicit in the way we talk about our bodies now and my mother can finally say the word “period” in our house without checking around a corner first, there’s still lurking shame and trauma that exists for myself and women who dealt with these feelings. No amount of outside validation can heal that for anyone. I had to dig deep into the trauma, shame, and overall disgust I was taught to feel about my period. It took some time, but there are a few steps that have helped me dismantle my feelings of inadequacy and trade them for love and acceptance instead. Here are five things I did to change my perspective on my period and actually—dare I say—love my menstrual cycle.

    1. Binge *good* TV
    If you’re anything like me, you enjoy the slow-burn of reality shows. But finding meaningful TV shows or movies that actually help you tackle the reality of what you’re feeling can be a great substitute sometimes. This may be oddly specific, but I am absolutely obsessed with Big Mouth. Although it can be extremely explicit, this show is so authentic when it comes to puberty and women’s health. Although I wish I had a less awkward and more celebratory experience with my period like the characters in the show, finding media representation of others going through the same thing is a reminder that my body is normal and functioning the way it should. 

    2. Just talk about it
    Of course, this one might seem to be the easiest solution, but it was actually the most difficult for me. Talking to others about your period can be daunting. You might be thinking your body is weird or wrong, but unless there’s the need for medical attention, your body is operating the way it should. Everyone deserves a community, but taking the first step to make period talk not so taboo requires you to put yourself out there. Whether it’s swapping period symptoms, talking about cycle-tracking methods, or asking for advice on period products, work on getting comfortable talking about your period with others (whether they also menstruate or not!). 

    3. Recognize the significance of your moon cycle
    With the increased popularity of mercury retrograde and the eclipse cycles, it’s time we talk about how our menstrual cycles relate to moon cycles. I recently came across the Moonly app, a resource for understanding the eastern moon calendar, alongside rituals, meditations, and affirmations to connect with yourself during each moon cycle. Moon cycles are different phases the moon takes on as it adjusts from a new moon to a full moon, and there’s a lot of connection between menstrual cycles and moon cycles. In fact, many practices from ancient Greece to indigenous cultures to Ayurvedic traditions have used moon cycles to track female ovulation and fertility. 
    Finding out that my body was so connected to the universe changed my relationship with my period. I began a lot of the affirmations and practices recommended by the Moonly app, and I even dove into learning more about mythology (I especially connected with Selene, the Greek and Roman goddess of the moon, and worked on treating myself with the same love and affection she had). Bottom line: Our cycles are amazing, and we are our most in-tune and connected when we’re on our periods. If you don’t connect with the concept of moon cycles, find what will. Whatever type of goddess you prefer, be her. All women (menstruating or not) are truly magical, so don’t forget it.

    4. Notice (and stop) your unconscious behaviors
    Have you ever hidden a pad or tampon on the way to the bathroom? Maybe you’ve released a sigh of frustration when you get your period at an inconvenient time? Even negating painful cramps or taking prescriptions to stop your period altogether can be unconscious ways of shaming yourself and your body. I used to partake in these harmful behaviors all the time, but it only made me feel worse about myself. If you’ve never heard this before, please know that periods are normal. Too often, we hide ourselves and what we need from the world because we’re scared of being embarrassed. But what’s embarrassing about a period? Half the world has a menstrual cycle and bleeds on a regular basis. 
    Next time you notice any of these behaviors, take a moment and ask why you’re doing it. Do you feel uncomfortable talking about your period with a certain group of friends? Give them the chance to be completely there for you if you feel like you’ve been holding back. But if they make you feel wrong or gross, move on. If your partner gaslights your bodily pain, move on. There are millions of people, whether they bleed or not, who are mature enough to not only talk freely about periods but are willing to support you too.

    5. Celebrate every single period
    My mentor once told me that periods are good luck. I laughed, thinking she was insane, but it made me slowly start to look at my period differently. I noticed my period would show up right before job interviews, anxiety-filled social gatherings, and even before my college graduation. I began to recognize that maybe it really was good luck. The tradition of looking at your period as a good omen rather than a major inconvenience is a great way to remember how perfectly curated your body is to you.
    Just like how your body grows hair or needs exercise, your period is an essential part of who you are, so why not celebrate that? Some go-tos that I’ve done are taking myself on a solo date for whatever food I’m craving, buying myself a new candle (for a relaxing bath time), and simply allowing myself to rest. Just because the world expects you to be productive throughout even the most gruesome days of your cycle (toxic productivity culture!) doesn’t mean you have to. Let yourself feel sexy, happy, and free, and welcome in all the possibilities of a great week because of your period, not from the lack of it. 

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