Pelvic floor: the key to great orgasms for life.

Last Thursday, I stepped into my presenter boots and discussed the finer points of women’s health to a bright and attentive, female audience at Moody’s, London. Mid way through the presentation I realised I was actually discussing the female orgasm, with full Karen style hand actions, half way up 1 Canada Square! The last time I’d been presenting in a similar environment I’d been discussing user interfaces and SQL programming – oh how life has changed! So it’s time to share some of the more intimate and fun facts about your lady organs.

Orgasms. You’ve probably heard it said somewhere that sporty folk have great sex, or perhaps conversely that older women just can’t be bothered – it’s not worth the effort anymore. Did you know that problems during intercourse could be an indicator of a bigger issue, such as pelvic organ prolapse? Or (and here’s the juicy bit) that you can actually improve the quality and intensity of your orgasms by strengthening your pelvic floor?

Painful sex (dyspareunia)

For some women, penetrative sex is painful. In many cases this can be because of a psychological barrier but there’s a specific pelvic floor condition known as hyper-tonic pelvic floor where the pelvic floor muscles are so tight that any type of penetration is painful. This specific condition needs diagnosis and treatment by a gynaecologist and/or women’s health physiotherapist.

Posture can make a hyper-tonic pelvic floor worse, particularly for those with shortened hamstrings who tend to sit on the sacrum rather than the sitting bones, so a slouchy posture. For women with hyper-tonic pelvic floor, focusing on relaxing the muscles of the pelvic floor is key. This exercise, usually reserved for women in their last months of pregnancy is a good place to start: https://alittlefitter.com/2012/06/12/ready-for-birth-connecting-with-your-rose/

Pelvic organ prolapse

For some women the most obvious signs of a pelvic organ prolapse will be during intercourse. If, for example, the prolapse is coming through the vaginal wall, this will be felt during penetrative sex. Vaginal flatus (fanny farts) during sex are another sign of pelvic floor dysfunction. You need to get these issues checked out. First by your doctor for a referral or you could make a private appointment with a women’s health physiotherapist. Pelvic floor exercises are generally the first course of treatment for any prolapse and classes like Pilates which focus on the pelvic floor and core are a great way of maintaining good pelvic floor health for anyone recovering from prolapse. Here are some great tips on pelvic floor training from women’s health physiotherapist Melissa Millman: https://alittlefitter.com/2012/10/19/how-to-train-your-pelvic-floor-like-an-olympian/G spot and P spot sign

Orgasms

Eve Ensler (of Vagina Monologues fame) reminded the world of the fact that the clitoris has around 8,000 nerve fibres, twice as many as those found on the head of a penis. This little pleasure button is where it all starts. It also happens to be surrounded by the muscles of the pelvic floor AND that the pudendal nerve, the nerve that triggers orgasm, is deeply rooted in the muscles of the pelvic floor. Take your attention further upstairs and it’s the muscle of the pelvic floor and the uterus contracting which gives you (and your partner) that Bingo! moment.

Weakened pelvic floor muscles will generally result in weaker contractions and it’s thought that these primary contractions during the female orgasm, stimulate secondary contractions, as in the big ‘O’. Put simply, the reason sporty girls have great sex isn’t just about their physical stamina, it’s about their great pelvic floor tone.

As women age, have babies or go through the menopause, the muscles of the pelvic floor are prone to becoming weaker and less elastic BUT staying active and keeping up with classes like Pilates can really help improve things in the bedroom department by maintaining or improving pelvic floor strength and tone. I have plenty of anecdotal research (husbands paying for Pilates renewals) to back up this point! It’s not just for older ladies though. If you’ve found sex is leaving you more ‘oh’ than ‘AUUURRGGGHH’ then it’s time to rev up the volume on your core training.

For loads of ideas on training your pelvic floor take a look at the following posts:

https://alittlefitter.com/2012/09/04/ten-ways-to-find-your-pelvic-floor-for-your-friends/

https://alittlefitter.com/2012/08/01/why-women-should-get-intimate-with-themselves/

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Toasted Coconut Shortbread Hearts

It’s never too late for a Valentine themed biscuit and given we had friends over for dinner on Friday, in the middle of my sugar fast, I had to come up with something quick!

I first created these biscuits a few months ago, when I discovered raw coconut sugar. Raw coconut sugar is made from the sap of coconut blossom. It is processed at very low temperatures (hence it’s a raw ingredient) which means it retains all of its nutrients including magnesium, potassium, zinc, B vitamins and amino acids. It also has a low glycaemic index of 35 (similar to skimmed milk), so won’t create the sugar spikes in your body that traditionally processed sugars will. I love it because unlike processed sugar replacements, you can use it in baking and it tastes really sweet so you don’t need so much.

cracked coconut with splash

The obvious (when you come to buy it) downside to coconut sugar is the price tag. But I roughly totted up the cost of my scrummy shortbreads and 24 biscuits, the equivalent of two packets of high street biscuits, cost under £2, similar to a packet of high end supermarket brand, luxury nibbles.

I’ve also packed these biscuits full of almonds to help combat the refined flour that I’ve added. You could try an alternative but for this recipe, the biscuits are so crumbly and short that you need a little gluten to hold them together.

INGREDIENTS (I’ve used cups mainly since I made it up and of course, baked them with Isaac):

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut
  • 1/2 cup raw coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4oz unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (to taste)

Pre-heat oven to 150/GM3

Start by toasting the coconut. Tip the coconut into a flat, baking or roasting dish (metallic) and spread evenly. Toast in the oven for around 5 minutes. You’ll need to keep checking since it will suddenly turn. You’re looking for a light golden colour rather than brow.

In a large bowl mix the remaining dry ingredients together and give them a good stir. Add the toasted and cooled coconut and finally the butter, diced.

Work the butter into the dry ingredients as if you were making scones or pastry. Go lightly, rubbing the fat in until it’s incorporated, then you’ll be able to create soft balls of dough. The dough will seem really soft and unworkable but if you stick with small cutters you’ll be fine!

Watch out at this point if you’re cooking with children. They will want to eat the lot!

Roll out each ball of dough to about half a cm and cut out biscuits. Re-rolling is more a question of squidging the stray bits together!

Bake for 10-15 minutes (depending on thickness) until golden underneath and leave to cool.

Best eaten on the same day but will store in an airtight container (they just go a bit soft).

These would be brilliant served with thick, greek yoghurt and griddled pineapple for a no sugar dessert.

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Carrot and raisin muffins (sugar free)

I’m going sugar free for 40 days of Lent (this is just day two). The trouble is, I love baking and don’t want to miss out on baking with my boy. We love creating sugar free recipes together and I was happy to test out a couple from my all time favourite mum recipe book, The Top 100 Finger Foods for Babies and Toddlers by nutritionist Christine Bailey.

These muffins contain lots of raisins, so they were sure to get the Isaac vote. The recipe also uses pineapple as a sweetener rather than banana, so if you’re not a banana fan then it’s a great alternative. They are also higher in protein than the average muffin and contain no dairy since they’re made with oil, not butter.

Isaac loved mixing the wet ingredients with his floury, carroty mixture. We all got very sticky but had lots of fun in the process.

Verdict? They taste better for a day in a lock tight tub – it brings out the flavours. They work really well for breakfast with a couple of boiled eggs, or with a coffee. They aren’t crumbly like most DIY baby finger foods so make great on the go snacks. We shared them with a few of Isaac’s buddies and they all liked them too!

So here’s the recipe:

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 100ml light olive oil
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 115g wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 115g self-raising flour
  • a pinch of cinnamon (I used more)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 4 tbsp raisins (allow more for little fingers)
  • 2 tbsp dessicated coconut
  • 115g tinned, crushed pineapple, drained

Mix together oil and eggs.

In a separate bowl mix all the dry ingredients.

Combine the wet with dry and then add carrots and pineapple. Mix until just combined (muffins can’t take too much mixing).

Spoon mixture into a muffin tin (or loaf tin for speed) and cook for 20 minutes at 180 or GM4.

I also added vanilla extract and think they’d work quite well with walnuts too.

I’d love to know how you get on, do share your pictures and opinions.

 

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Breast feeding help: early days

If you’ve decided that you want to breast feed your baby but something goes wrong in the early days it can be really frustrating trying to get back on track. Sometimes you can’t get a latch and it doesn’t seem like baby is feeding well.

I’m not a breast feeding expert so I sent out some feelers to my ‘ladies in the know’ and the responses I got back were quick, thorough and brilliant! So if you or someone you know is finding it tough but really wants to breast feed, here are a few bits of advice:

1. Get support in the early days.

From the midwives, health visitors and support staff while you’re still in hospital to friends and mums who have done it before. If you’re not quite getting it when you’re in hospital then it will be even harder when you get home, your breasts are tight with milk and you can’t stop crying (when those hormones rush in). A friend of mine stayed in for two nights after her first baby just to make sure she had it sorted and she’s now fully breast fed two beautiful girls for 13 months each.

2. Skin to skin.

This is back to basics for babies. They are born with an instinct to search out your boobs and to suckle. It’s a two way process. You want to feed them, they want to feed. Getting naked with your baby not only feels good but stimulates their early instincts. So if a C-section or time away from mum with bottles has interfered with their instincts, lots of time skin to skin can help their little systems figure it all out again.

3. Massage

If you are tight with milk (bullet boobs) gentle massage in a warm bath can really help to relieve the pressure. Bathing in salt baths can help soften boobs – it’s also great for gently cleansing your lady parts.

4. Pumping

Like massage, relieving your breasts of milk can help with the engorgement, ease pain, make boobs easier for babies to get their chops around and can also help keep up your milk supply (keep the milk in bags or bottles for future feeds). If you don’t have a pump you can do this manually but you can hire pumps from the hospital or from Bababoom.

5. Sleep and rest

When you sleep, your milk supply will increase. There’s a good reason why in simpler times women wouldn’t leave the house after child birth. Some cultures still have a month of complete rest for mums. When baby sleeps, you need to sleep. Chores can wait (or be outsourced).

6. Food and drink

Eat to recover and to ensure a constant milk supply. Now is not the time to diet. You need plenty of protein, ideally red meat to recover from labour and birth and plenty of good fats in your diet. Send partners or good intentioned relatives out to the shops on your behalf and get them to work in the kitchen.

7. Get specialist help

If you are still struggling it’s time to call in the Cavalry. And do it sooner rather than later. Here are some great local resources to call on.

Breast feeding support phone lines: 03001000212 or 03001000210

Local (West Essex) breast feeding counsellors Jo Eley on 01279 698625 or Philippa Hyams on 0208 522 3217.

Bosom Buddies, a breast feeding support group held in St Margarets every Friday from 11-12.30. Get advice from other mums, health visitors, midwives and specialist breast feeding counsellors.

NCT breastfeeding counsellors. NCT Helpline: 0300 330 0700.

La Leche League

Local independent midwife Becky also offers one to one breastfeeding support. Contact Becky via Bababoom.

With thanks to:

Zara Kaplan, Sandra Clayson and Becky at Bababoom

Why can’t I stop eating sugar?

I know. It’s hard. Without decisive action I can quickly slip into a sweet and sugary space. Going cold turkey seems like the hardest thing to do. We are programmed with a sweet tooth (mother’s milk is slightly sweet) it gives us energy. In fact studies consistently show that sugar is a harder addiction to crack than cocaine. So why is it that we get so obsessed by the white stuff?

1. LOW FAT CULTURE HAS TAKEN OVER YOUR BRAIN.

Years of low fat diets have a lot to answer for. We used to think reducing fat in our food would reduce the fat on our thighs and consequently make us healthy. Research is consistently proving that this is absolutely not the case and far from making us healthy, removing the naturally occurring fats from food has led to a rise in the amount of rubbish taking its place. Including sugar. Take a Starbucks Skinny Stem Ginger Muffin. It has twice as much sugar as a standard Blueberry Muffin. A low fat or skinny label does not mean healthy – it’s a clever marketing tool to make you want to buy it.

2. YEAST OVERGROWTH IS FUELLING YOUR CRAVINGS.

Nice! Candida is a naturally occurring yeast which lives in our guts. Too much is toxic but really hard to diagnose. One of the key signs is the need for sugar. Candida thrives on sugar and needs it to grow. The more it grows, the more sugar it needs. Frequent bouts of thrush, digestive complaints (including lady pumps), headaches and rashes or itching are also common signs.

How to stop it? The best course of action is to go cold turkey. Cut out the hard stuff and see how your energy shifts.

3. SUGAR OVERLOAD HAS SWITCHED OFF YOUR BRAIN’S ‘I’M FULL’ MESSAGES

The past ten years have seen massive developments in the study of hunger hormone, ghrelin and full hormone, leptin. Scientists used to believe that one of the hormonal causes of obesity was a lack of the ‘I’m full’ hormone leptin but new research is suggesting that it could instead be a resistance to leptin. So your body produces it but the brain somehow bypasses the signals and instead sends out ‘I’m starving – feed me’ signals making you crave sugary, high energy food. Professor Robert Lustig (University of California) has recently found it could be sugar which is causing leptin resistance. Professor Lustig and his team have shown repeated sugar spikes cause insulin resistance (the body no longer responds to sugar in the same way) and in turn, leptin resistance, which means your brain simply doesn’t recognise the fact that you are actually full. The findings were published in his book Fat Chance.

4. YOU ARE SLEEP DEPRIVED

While we’re on the subject of ghrelin and leptin, your body resets itself over night. Too little sleep and your hunger hormones get out of whack, meaning you don’t get that full up feeling and just crave sugary, energy dense foods all day. This is one of the reasons why sleep deprived, new mums hit the biscuit barrel!

5. YOU’RE PREGNANT

Pregnant women are necessarily less sensitive to insulin. It’s the body’s clever way of ensuring enough energy gets to little bubba’. Also, pregnant ladies are growing a whole new person, which takes a lot of energy. When you don’t eat enough good stuff to fulfil your pregnant energy requirements, you crave sugar.

https://alittlefitter.com/2012/07/13/why-do-we-get-fat-when-we-get-pregnant/

6. YOU’VE GOT YOUR PERIOD

A bit like pregnancy, when you’ve got your period, you’ll be more sensitive to blood sugar highs and lows so it’s even more important to eat well and eat regularly. Some women swear by raw chocolate when it’s their time of the month to get them through. I love Om Bar coconut chocolate, it’s the least weird tasting raw chocolate I’ve ever eaten and there’s no sugar or dairy in it either.

7. YOU’VE GOT DIABETES

Craving sugar could be an underlying sign of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes happens when cells fail to use insulin properly or become insulin resistant. Some nutritionists, like obesity researcher Zoe Harcombe (author of The Harcombe Diet) believe type 2 diabetes is the result of your body no longer being able to process the levels of sugar you are pumping in. It just, gives up.

8. YOU ARE EATING SECRET SUGARS

So you don’t have sugar in coffee, you rarely eat biscuits but you still seem to want some of the white stuff. It could be those hidden sugars that are fuelling your sweet fire. When did you last check cereal packets? You’ll be hard pressed to find a commercial breakfast cereal which does not contain sugar or invert sugar syrup (don’t start me on that stuff – it screws your body’s system up on a whole new level to sugar) and yes, we like to feed this to our little babies too?!? Processed foods like soup, baked beans, or ready meals (yes the branded diet variety especially) all contain sugar too. And then there’s alcohol – which is sugar, refined to make you drunk. It’s everywhere!

What to do? Great piece of advice I recently heard, don’t eat anything that has a TV advert.

9. YOU ARE CONSUMING ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS

Ooh, now I’m not going to go deep on this one. There’s just too much science involved for a little blog (which is already pretty long). So aside from the whole heap of chemicals doing weird things to your body (like make you store fat) when you consume artificial sweeteners, eating sweet stuff that isn’t sugar confuses your body’s sugar response. It gets so used to expecting sugar when you guzzle diet drinks and then not getting it that it ultimately doesn’t respond as well to sugar when it finally comes. It gives up hope! So then you need more of the sweet stuff to get the hit etc etc… Just don’t do it. Aspartame is one of the worst culprits and oh, most artificial sweeteners will give you bad guts too.

What to do? The best replacement we’ve found is a product called Z-Sweet. If you really need the hit!

10. YOU’RE HUNGRY

I learned this the hard way before I was diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. When you are hungry, you crave sugar. If you eat refined foods when you are hungry, you’ll get a high, shortly followed by a dip, then want more refined foods.

What to do? Eat good food and don’t skip meals (yawn). But if you are stuck and starving, go for a piece of fruit with some sort of protein. Nut butter, cheese (a little piece) or nuts are a good option.

For more information on food to make you feel good take a lot at my other posts:

https://alittlefitter.com/2012/09/24/say-no-to-rainy-day-blues/

https://alittlefitter.com/2012/06/25/mood-food/