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Women's Health:

Empowering Women Through Self-Care

At FIT NUTRITION, we believe there are specific areas in a woman's life where she needs to develop a solid foundation of habits and awareness to be in the best health, mentally and physically.  We focus on the following areas:

  • Pelvic Floor & Core Awareness

  • Peri-Menopause

  • Menopause

  • Post-Natal Health

Scroll down to find out more:

It's time for women to stop feeling guilty for prioritizing their self-care.

There are many aspects to this but some of the most important are prioritizing:

  • Overall mental and physical health

  • Forging relationships that bring true happiness

  • Good nutrition, focusing on good quality, whole foods

  • Exercise and movement, focusing on building lean muscle mass

  • A good sleep routine

  • Stress Management

  • Scheduling Well-Women appointments

  • Hobbies and leisure time that bring true happiness

Pelvic Floor & Core Awareness

I want to empower women to take control of their pelvic floor health!

This is a topic many women are not discussing and I am determined to change this.

What might first come to mind when you here anything about the pelvic floor is "Just do your Kegels and all will be well!"  Unfortunately, it is not that simple.  Let's have a deeper look at the pelvic floor and core muscles and why they are so important:

 

What and where is my pelvic floor?

Your pelvic floor is found at the base of your pelvis, in both women and men.  In a woman's anatomy, the pelvic musculature is hammock-shaped combination of muscles and tissue that support the bladder, the uterus, and bowels.  The pelvic floor has many responsibilities, most notably, control of the bladder and bowels, and also contributes to sexual function.

 

Pelvic Floor and Core:

The pelvic floor is an integral part of the core.  To get a better understanding of this, think of your core as cylindrical-shaped, canister.  Your core canister has a top, bottom, back, and front.

Diaphragm:  This is the top of your core canister.  It is the body's primary respiratory muscle and aids in deep breathing.  This taps into to the body's parasympathetic nervous system, aiding in reducing stress and improving our focus, as well as many other functions.

Multifidus:  This is the back of our canister.  This network of back muscles act as our spinal stabilizers.  They have an important job of holding our spine straight and stabilizing the hips.

TVA: Transverse Abdominis:  This supportive girdle makes up the front portion of our canister.  The TVA are our deep abdominal stabilizers that help support good posture and keep our internal organs in place.

Pelvic Floor:  The pelvic floor muscles are stacked under the diaphragm and make up the bottom part of our canister.  This network of muscles and connective tissue acts as a sling or basket to support and stabilize the pelvis and it's organs.  It supports a woman's body during pregnancy and delivery, sexual function in both men and women, and works with the other core muscles to stabilize the spine and the pelvis.

The Glutes:  Your buttocks, or your gluteus muscles work to stabilize the pelvis.  They attach to the posterior side of the sacrum and counterbalance the pelvic floor.  Strong glutes help keep the pelvic floor from pulling the sacrum into a tucked position, helping to keep your pelvis in alignment.

 

What happens when our pelvic floor isn't functioning properly?

Certain symptoms may appear, more so in women, but men and children can also have PFD (pelvic floor dysfunction). These symptoms can signal that the pelvic floor may not be functioning properly:

  • Pelvic pain

  • Incontinence: leaking urine, gas, or stools - during exercise, sneezing, lifting heavy weights

  • Frequent need to pee

  • Sudden urge to pee without leaking or making it the bathroom in time

  • Pain during sex and or tampon use

  • Bulging or heavy sensation in vagina or rectum area or diagnosed pelvic organ prolapse (POP)

  • Constipation

PFD is a lot more common than you think.  Women go on suffering because they are embarrassed to talk about the symptoms and they feel they are the only ones experiencing this.  You are not alone! 

Also, many women feel that these are just common sides affects from pregnancy and giving birth or a sign of aging.  This is not so.  Many forms of PFD can be treated, improved, and in some cases, eradicated. Things like pregnancy and child birth (even if you have had a caesarean-section), chronic coughing, obesity, aging, straining on the toilet, and heavy lifting  can put you at a higher risk of PFD.

What do I do if I suffer from any of these symptoms?

Your first step is to visit your doctor for an evaluation and ask to be referred to a women's health or a pelvic floor physiotherapist.  It is especially recommended to visit a women's health physio prior to giving birth and 6-8 weeks after birth.  It is very important to detect and diagnose things like prolapse, diastasis recti (abdominal separation) as soon as possible so that your pelvic floor can start the proper healing process.  Some women experience no symptoms with things like prolapse, but it does not mean that it should be ignored.  It's always best to get checked out to see where you are at.  Undiagnosed PFD often gets worse with age, especially at times like menopause, when there is a big hormonal shift in a woman's body.

 

What is Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy?

Pelvic Floor physiotherapy is the assessment and treatment of various conditions involving the pelvic floor muscles and the surrounding areas. This group of muscles is important for bladder and bowel control, sexual function, healthy pregnancies, spine stability, and more.  Pelvic therapy can help treat the various conditions that cause pain and discomfort in the pelvic area of the body.  Pelvic physiotherapists are specially trained to evaluate the bones and muscles of your lower back, your hips, your sacroiliac joint, as well as your pelvic floor muscles. These rehabilitative health care professionals develop individualized care plans for their clients, to provide treatment and exercise programs that help manage pain and discomfort in the pelvic region.  Once there is assessment and/or diagnosis made, we can establish a clearer path with your physiotherapist as to which exercises/sports are suited for you at your present moment and we progress your program with time.

Peri-Menopause & Menopause

What is exactly is peri-menopause?

Let's start off with the clinical definition of peri-menopause so there is a good understanding of it.  According to CEMORE (the center for menustrual cycle and ovulation research) it is defined as:

"The period of time before and for a year after the final menstrual period during which ovarian hormonal patterns, experiences and sociocultural roles change. The average age at which irregular cycles develop is approximately age 47. Perimenopause probably begins several years before that in women with regular cycles whose ovaries are making higher amounts of estrogen and tending to make lower amounts of progesterone. Like menopause, this is a normal part of a woman’s life cycle."

Peri-menopause can last 10-15 years for some women.  It is in this phase where unusual symptoms may crop up for some women.  Every woman will experience it differently, but some have reported: brain fog, insomnia, weight gain, anxiety, night sweats, headaches, low libido, fatigue, depression, panic attacks, mood swings, unusually heavy bleeding or spotting, irregular periods, hot flushes, and joint and muscles pain.

  What is Menopause?

According to the same website as above, menopause is when a year has passed since the final menstrual period. This marks the beginning of women’s mature life following approximately 30-45 years of reproductive life. The average age of menopause in western countries is approximately 51. The average age of menopause is younger in smokers and those who have never had children (nulliparous). Low levels of both estrogen and progesterone are normal after menopause.

 The website Body Logic MD offers up a whopping list of "34 Symptoms of Menopause."

Read below:

  • Hot flashes (flushes)

  • Irregular Periods

  • Fatigue

  • Memory lapses

  • Night Sweats

  • Loss of Libido

  • Vaginal Dryness

  • Mood Swings

  • Panic Disorders

  • Urinary Tract Infections

  • Bloating

  • Hair Loss/Thinning

  • Sleep Disorders

  • Dizziness

  • Weight Gain

  • Incontinence

  • Headaches

  • Digestive Disorders

  • Burning Tongue

  • Muscle Tension

  • Allergies

  • Brittle Nails

  • Body Odor Changes

  • Itchy Skin

  • Osteoporosis

  • Insomnia

  • Tingling Extremities

  • Difficulty Concentrating

  • Irregular Heartbeat

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Breast Pain

  • Joint Pain

  • Electric Shock Sensation

That is a huge list of changes to adapt to - mentally and physically.  No wonder why women are honestly feeling like they are going crazy.  I am here to tell you that you are not going crazy.  You are going through a vary normal life process.

Over the years, I have done a lot of research on this subject.  Mainly from reading women's first-hand accounts of how they are affected in this stage of life and from several great books that have been published in recent years.  Here's the thing that resonates with me:  We teach our girls about puberty.  We guide them into their reproductive years and help them learn and understand what is happening to their bodies.

My best way that I have heard peri-menopause described that it is puberty in reverse. This is so true.  Peri-menopuase and menopause are natural stages of a woman's life.  As natural as a young girl going through puberty and getting her period. 

So why aren't we treating it as such?  Peri-menopause is NOT a medical condition (nor is menopause).  I think we can do a better job of helping navigate the changes in this stage of life.  It is time to break through taboo, especially at a time when society tell us aging is unflattering and unacceptable for women.  It starts with open discussions and offering woman solutions.

I want all women affected by perimenopause and menopause to remember: 

1. You are not alone

2. There are options to help ease these symptoms and help you get back to feeling like you again

3. This too shall pass

My goal is to help educate and facilitate women through peri-menopause and menopause.  So much can be done to ease the long list of symptoms through changes in diet and exercise. There are specific nutrition habits and fitness programs to get the best results through perimenopause and menopause.

This is also very personal for me.  As I write this now, I am 42 years old.  I am just in the very early stages of peri-menopause.  After listening to and reading the accounts hundreds of other women, I want to prepare for this stage.  I don't want to be blind-sided by these symptoms, in whichever form they manifest themselves for me.  I don't want you to be caught off guard, either.  I want to give you the awareness and courage to be your own best health advocate and make informed health decisions.

Each women's journey will be different.  We will each experience this in our own unique way.  

Help us change the conversation.

Many fitness professionals are unaware of what is happening to a woman's hormones during this stage.  Fitness and nutrition for perimenopause and menopause requires a different, more thoughtful approach.  It is through my health coaching that I want to increase your  awareness and help you find your voice again.  This can be a great time to reinvent yourself.  .  I want you to OWN YOUR AWESOME. Click below if you are ready to build the new you.

The Menopause Talks

I want you to be your own best health advocate: learn to speak up for yourself and find the best solutions your body.  Starting in this month,  I will be offering workshops, candid talks, and open discussions, with other health care practitioners, covering all the burning topics surrounding peri-menopause and menopause.  In the spotlight will be:  the best nutrition and fitnes approach, relationship balance, massage, stress management, body image and self-confidence, and many more.

Click here to join in our next Menopause Talks date.

Post-Natal Health & Fitness

Hello new mamas!

Welcome to the one of the most amazing and one of hardest phase's of a woman's life.

You've seen a lot of changes over the last year or so - to your body, to your life, to your emotions.

Everywhere we look in the media, the message being sent to you is that you MUST get that pre-baby body back and you MUST do it now.  I am here to tell you, don't rush this.  Take. Your. Time.  I am here to help.

Returning to fitness after baby:

It took your body nine months to grow that little one, so in turn, it will take some time to heal and recover from the process.  At FIT NUTRITION, we start from the inside out - focusing on the the core and pelvic floor (as explained above) in the beginning stages.  Be patient and trust the process and you may save yourself issues to overcome in the long run.

Where and how do I get started?

The general rule of thumb is get medical clearance for exercise 6-weeks post-partum by your doctor.  This means a return to light and gentle exercise, regardless of what fitness level you were at before giving birth.  We suggest to keep the focus on where you are at now and not where you used to be.  Post-partum is a different phase that requires a different approach.  There are a lot of different factors to consider: lack of sleep and restorative rest, hormonal factors, especially if you are breastfeeding, and possible pelvic floor dysfunction to be aware of.

Our programs focus on safely rebuilding and rehabilitating the core and pelvic floor through targeting breathing techniques, low-impact activities such as walking,  as well as body weight and resistance band work.  We keep the focus on the exercises that will be the most beneficial to you during this early post-partum period. Activities that can be returned to, but are not initially recommended are running, jumping, heavy weight training, crunches, leg raises, and other more traditional "ab" exercises.  Contact Us here to set up your initial consultation and to get you started.

I had an easy pregnancy and birth - why can't I return to my usual fitness program?

One of my mentors in this area, Jessie Mundell, outlines this topic for us:

She feels that even though a woman may have had an uncomplicated vaginal birth, you still must consider that fact that you did still go through pregnancy and birth.  Here are some of the considerations she suggests taking into account:

  • The downward pressure of your baby on your pelvic floor muscles and connective tissues in pregnancy and birth can stretch, leaving them more lax than normal.

  • Your expanded uterus put pressure on other pelvic organs, including the bladder and rectum, and can disrupt their normal function

  • Scarring in the perineal tissues: tearing during childbirth can impact the PF function leading to such things as urethral burning, feeling like you need to pee more often than usual, leaking urine, and/or pain in the clitoris and labia

  • The alignment of the body changes during pregnancy that can affect the tone of your pelvic floor, possibly creating tension in these muscles, which can lead to a loss of strength

  • Hormonal changes in both pregnancy and post-partum (particularly if breastfeeding) that can affect the function of connective tissues, possibly making them more lax, which can affect the support of the pelvic floor and pelvic organs.

What are the signs of pelvic floor dysfunction and what can I do about it?

All women can suffer from PFD, but post-partum women are at a higher risk, as mentioned above.  Any woman who has give birth, whether it be 2 weeks or 20 years ago is still considered post-partum and are susceptible to symptoms of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PFD) and/or Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP).

Here are some of signs to be aware of PFP and POP according to our resources, Jessie Mundell:

  • Urinary, stool, and/or incontinence: leaking urine, feces, or gas at any time involuntarily (on a trampoline, laughing, sneezing, during heavy lifting, such as squats

  • Urgency: feeling like you have to go the bathroom immediately or you might not make it, the urge to pee all the time, only to find nothing comes out

  • Pain the SI Joints at the back of the pelvis

  • Hemorrhoids: internal or external

  • Aches and pains in the hips, back, knees, neck

  • A feeling of heaviness or bulging of the pelvic organs, feeling like you are going to "fall out the bottom" or that you can't keep a tampon in

  • Pain or discomfort during sex, penetration, bowel movements, urination

 

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, no matter at what age or stage, your first step is to talk to your doctor.  Insist on being referred to a women's health physiotherapist or seek one out directly.  See our directory at the bottom of this page.

The very first step is a diagnosis.  From there, your physiotherapist will give you a treatment plan that can be shared with us.  We can work side-by-side with your PT to ensure that you are working towards healing PFD and/or POP in the most effective way possible.  As that healing process progresses, we can start to incorporate other exercises into your program to help you lose weight and start to feel good in your body.

Find a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist here

If you need further help or have questions, please get in touch.  We are always happy to help.

Leigh

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