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Extra Healthy-Ish podcast: how crohn’s disease can impact sexuality

Romance writer Jade May has long battled Crohn’s disease and in this ep, she opens up about how her chronic illness constantly up-ends her life and how she finds solace in the pages of spicy fiction. 


For more on Jade’s book Tempted by Eden (Wild Rose Press, $25) see here or catch her @authorjademay


Online: Head to for your daily digital dose of health and wellness.

On social: Via Instagram at @bodyandsoul_au or Facebook. Or, TikTok here. Got an idea for an episode? DM host Felicity Harley on Instagram @felicityharley

In print: Each Sunday, grab Body+Soul inside The Sunday Telegraph (NSW), the Sunday Herald Sun (Victoria), The Sunday Mail (Queensland), Sunday Mail (SA) and Sunday Tasmanian (Tasmania). 

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Healthy-Ish podcast: chronic illness and sexual wellness

Romance writer Jade May has long battled Crohn’s disease, which affected her approach to sex and relationships. She shares more about living with a chronic illness and how she reclaimed her sexuality. 


To hear today’s full interview, where she discusses erotic fiction…search for Extra Healthy-ish wherever you get your pods.

For more on Jade’s book Tempted by Eden (Wild Rose Press, $25) see here or catch her @authorjademay


Online: Head to for your daily digital dose of health and wellness.

On social: Via Instagram at @bodyandsoul_au or Facebook. Or, TikTok here. Got an idea for an episode? DM host Felicity Harley on Instagram @felicityharley

In print: Each Sunday, grab Body+Soul inside The Sunday Telegraph (NSW), the Sunday Herald Sun (Victoria), The Sunday Mail (Queensland), Sunday Mail (SA) and Sunday Tasmanian (Tasmania). 

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Do you have ‘cyberchondria’? Here’s how to safely Google health symptoms

Do you find yourself spiralling when searching symptoms on Google? You might have cyberchondria. Here’s how to use Google to seek a diagnosis, the safe way.  

Have you ever been sitting in your bed at home, with a cup of tea and Gossip Girl reruns playing on your laptop, only to realise you have a bump in your wrist that seems bigger than you last remembered it? 

You touch the bump, push it hard enough to bruise, which then makes it bigger. You keep pressing it and wonder when it got so prominent, and whether it had been a quick change or a slow one. 

It doesn’t hurt to touch, but after you’ve been prodding for half an hour it starts to. And then you start to panic

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You open up a new window on your laptop and search “sore bump wrist” on Google. You know it probably won’t make you feel better, but you’re worried so you want reassurance. 

As expected, the results for ganglion cyst, carpal boss and Rheumatoid arthritis make you feel significantly worse. Then you see one that mentions bone cancer, and you spiral. 

You text your mum for reassurance, send a photo to your friend, call your partner to talk through your reasoning. Your wrist feels sore now – because you’ve bruised the crap out of it – and what started as a totally normal bump has quickly become racking anxiety. 

For those who don’t experience a form of health anxiety, this may seem foreign. But for people with ‚cyberchondria‘, it’s a common experience, and it can be debilitating. 

What is cyberchondria?

Research shows 90 per cent of patients admitted to hospital Google their symptoms before they talk to their doctor. 

And while some people may feel a twinge of nervousness at the results, some people can find it very overwhelming and extremely distressing. 

Cyberchondria refers to “repeated Internet searches regarding medical information result in excessive concerns about physical health”, according to research about the condition published in Psychiatry Research

One of the defining qualities of the illness is its compulsiveness, which means that while you may logically know searching for symptoms won’t help, you can’t stop yourself. 

Cyberchondria is recognised as a very real phenomenon, and is “positively associated with symptoms of health anxiety” – meaning, as health anxiety emerges, so too does the urge to use ‘Google doctor’. 

Even those who don’t have cyberchondria or hypochondria will relate to the worry that can creep in at the thought of being sick, and it’s our human nature to want to rid ourselves of that fear. 

But doctors say this obsessive Googling is not just bad for your mental health, it’s also deeply unhelpful for health professionals. 

“When I hear a patient say, ‘I Googled it,’ I think: OK. How much misinformation am I going to have to dispel?” Dr Beth Oller, tells HuffPost. She also says her patients usually know they’ve done themselves a disservice. 

“None of us can help it!” Oller said. “I don’t blame people for trying to look up their symptoms.”

Using the internet as a health resource isn’t all bad either. For many people, women in particular, the rise of health-skewed content on TikTok has enabled them to advocate for their own diagnoses, particularly with conditions like ADHD which present differently in women as for men. 

So how can you use the internet as a resource to help rather than hinder? Here are our top five tips to keep you safe while searching. 

#1. Use trusted resources 

As your school librarian would have taught you, sites with .org or .gov are generally a lot more trustworthy than your average .com. 

Resources from recognised sources like hospitals, governments, universities and other well-known research centres will have trustworthy, factual and up-to-date information on which you can base any judgements about your health. 

Some of our favourites include: 

#2. Refresh your memory on Research 101 

If you went to uni you’ll be painfully familiar with the requirements for citing research in your work – so do yourself a favour and brush up on those skills. 

Things to keep in mind: 

  • Refer to recent pieces of work 
  • Only trust data that comes from peer-reviewed publications that have been fact-checked 
  • Cross-check your research with other publications or resources 
  • Consider how many people were studied in the report, whether the study was valid and reliable, and whether any other research has built upon their findings 

HuffPost also suggests checking if the study has been picked up by the media – and whether experts have weighed in on the matter. 

“It can be tough for medical providers, absolutely, to look at a study and tell if it’s reliable or not,” Oller told the publication. “I absolutely understand why, for the layperson, it’s even more difficult.”

Knowing this, make sure you do your due diligence and check that the information you’re getting is trustworthy.

#3. Keep an eye on how you’re feeling 

For those with cyberchondria, searching for symptoms can be extremely anxiety-inducing, and can bring on a wave of overwhelm. 

While you’re researching, keep tabs on whether that anxiety is rearing its head. If it is, and you’re feeling significantly worse from your search, then stop. 

Having the awareness to pull yourself out of that spiral is a skill in itself. So practise checking in with yourself, and if you can recognise that it’s making you feel terrible, do yourself a favour and close the tab. 

Having a resource on stand-by to ease the anxiety like Headspace App can be useful, and will help to calm your mind when you’re in fight or flight.

#4. Book in to see a doctor 

If, after a thorough investigation, you think your self-diagnosed illness has some legs to stand on, then book in with a health professional. They’ll be able to properly examine you and make a call about whether your suspicions have any weight. 

At the end of the day, Google doctor does not stack up to a real physician. But there is merit to advocating for yourself too. 

We suggest taking note of any research you’ve found that supports your diagnosis, along with what your theory actually is, so your doctor can get a read of what information you’ve consumed, and whether it’s worth paying attention to. 

And in the case that you’re seeing someone who is dismissive of your concerns, having your thoughts written down in advance can help you to stay on track, and act as a prompt if you get derailed.

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Extra Healthy-Ish podcast: goal setting and marathons

Come on, you can attempt a triathlon, a big race or a five kay fun run…maybe next year? Former athlete and ironwoman Nikala Rizzo discusses how to set a goal, train and actually do it using inspiring examples from her successes.


Want to know more about Fitstop? See here or @fitstopfitness. For Nikala, see @nikala_rizzo


Online: Head to for your daily digital dose of health and wellness.

On social: Via Instagram at @bodyandsoul_au or Facebook. Or, TikTok here. Got an idea for an episode? DM host Felicity Harley on Instagram @felicityharley

In print: Each Sunday, grab Body+Soul inside The Sunday Telegraph (NSW), the Sunday Herald Sun (Victoria), The Sunday Mail (Queensland), Sunday Mail (SA) and Sunday Tasmanian (Tasmania). 

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Healthy-Ish podcast: how to create a weekly workout routine

So, what is the secret to scheduling an effective weekly workout routine and sticking to it? Former athlete and ironwoman Nikala Rizzo shares her ingredients to nail a great week of exercise.


To hear today’s full interview, where she discusses how to train for a triathlon…search for Extra Healthy-ish wherever you get your pods.

Want to know more about Fitstop? See here or @fitstopfitness. For Nikala, see @nikala_rizzo


Online: Head to for your daily digital dose of health and wellness.

On social: Via Instagram at @bodyandsoul_au or Facebook. Or, TikTok here. Got an idea for an episode? DM host Felicity Harley on Instagram @felicityharley

In print: Each Sunday, grab Body+Soul inside The Sunday Telegraph (NSW), the Sunday Herald Sun (Victoria), The Sunday Mail (Queensland), Sunday Mail (SA) and Sunday Tasmanian (Tasmania).

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Why dimple surgery is the wildest new cosmetic trend online

Trend-based cosmetic surgery is at an all-time high, and now people are asking doctors to give them surgically-formed dimples, in ongoing pursuit of perfection. 

In a country in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, there are many things that people are being forced to give up. 

For some, it’s their iced soy latte from their favourite cafe each morning, which has inexplicably risen to $8.50 a pop. Others have been forced to cut back on their gym memberships or wellness therapies, with 

For many, it’s not a specific thing they’ve had to drop from the budget, but a general tightening of purse strings that indicates they need to ease up on the Afterpay. 

One thing people are not cutting back on, however, is cosmetic treatments – with Aussies spending $1 billion a year on nail appointments, facials, waxing and plastic surgery. With more than 500,000 procedures a year, it’s actually more popular per capita than the US. 

But people are getting more adventurous with their cosmetic requests, with Traptox and Fox Eye procedures becoming increasingly popular. Now, there’s a new trend that’s moving rapidly up the list of treatments: dimple surgery. 

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Doing anything for dimples 

There are a few different ways people are going about their pursuit for dimples. 

The first are ‘dimple makers’ – cheap devices you can order online and wear at home to create a dimple in your cheeks. At the time of writing, #dimplemakers has 61.9 million views on TikTok, and growing, with hundreds of videos published demonstrating the progress people have made from wearing theirs. 

The tools themselves are made from hard metal with a ball on each end that is hooked onto the cheek, with the idea that consistent wear will alter the long-term appearance of the face. 

 Australian Maxillofacial Surgeon Dr Paul Coceancig says that while these devices come with bold claims, “they can’t really work permanently or absolutely naturally. Because either you have a risorius muscle (the smile muscle) that makes the dimples or you don’t.” 

With that in mind, the so-called results of dimple makers aren’t enough for many people – or at least aren’t fast enough – for those who want the immediate and enduring appearance of dimpled cheeks. 

The alternative is surgical measures, of which there are semi-permanent and permanent options for those looking to get serious about their pursuit of dimples. 

Semi-permanent dimple surgeries 

For those who aren’t having much luck with dimple makers, but who aren’t ready to commit to permanent ones, there are surgical options to temporarily create the appearance of dimples. It’s a procedure which Dr Coceancig says is “quite simple”. 

“From inside the mouth, a small stitch is made using a resorbable suture and the thread is oriented to sweep just underneath the skin where you want the dimple. And the knot is tightened,” he tells Body+Soul

“Too tight and you have a full-time dimple. Even when you’re asleep. If you gradually release the knot tension (like adjusting your shoe laces), you can see if a dimple forms only when you smile” – just like a natural dimple. 

The key to the semi-permanence of these dimples is the dissolvable stitch. “Tie the knot, and about six weeks later the knot dissolves, and the dimple will too,” says Dr Coceancig. 

The only caveat to that being if the knot is too tight, which can “damage the fat just underneath the skin – causing a deep permanent crease, and even damage to the health of your overlying skin.” 

You need to be awake for this kind of surgery, so the patient can smile on and off, to see when the dimple appears, thus how tight the knot needs to be. When the surgery is complete, if you don’t like how it looks, you can just untie the visible insite kit with a toothbrush, any time before it totally dissolves, and “It’s just gone”. 

“You don’t need anything more than a bit of topical anaesthetic cream (EMLA) to make the needle relatively painless.

Permanent dimple surgeries, aka Dimpleplasty 

Dimpleplasty refers to a surgical procedure that is designed to permanently alter the cheeks to create the appearance of dimples. As per the semi-permanent solutions, it’s typically a purely aesthetic decision, not a surgery done for medical reasons. 

So how exactly does it work? “Imagine the fat in your face as like a complex net of floating beach balls,” says Dr Coceanig. “All interspersed amongst wonderful muscles and nerves and oxygen-rich glowing blood vessels. And surrounded by healthy skin that pulls back to reveal beautiful white teeth, pink gums, and your inner warmth.” 

“If you want to permanently create a dimple then you need to affect the natural 3D bubble-like net of fat that makes your face bouncy and beautiful”. 

One option is buccal fat pad removal surgery (BFPR), which is another trending cosmetic procedure, particularly amongst celebrities, that’s gone viral this past year. 

“BFPR can draw in the cheeks a little, reducing cheek fullness, and make a hint of a cheek crease that maybe you might just see a little more obvious,” says Dr Coceanig. “By making the cheeks less full, BFPR can really help to accentuate the cheekbones…but removing fat cells is a permanent procedure.” 

It is safe, he says, but only in safe hands. And as is the way with most cosmetic procedures, a little goes a long way. 

The other solution is filling the cheeks in a way that creates a dimple. “Having light body filler, in small amounts, can lift the skin surface and vibrancy of your facial skin. It can help give back that youthful bounce to skin,” says Dr Coceanig. 

Alternatively, “An accredited plastic and reconstructive surgeon can also take a tiny amount of fat from around your belly button, or inside-thighs. A special way of preparing it can produce deeper cheek fat to refill those ‘magic nets’. 

“A more superficial special “nano-fat” can also try to create layers of cheek bounce, and to help create that special smiley dimple,” he says. “Layering and carefully applying the fat can try to form that magic dimple, and with a little resorbable stitch too.”

Why the dimple mania? 

With the ultra virality of social media these days, paired with the user-generated content model of the most popular apps, we live in a perfect storm for plastic surgery. 

The culture of comparison is at an all-time high, as is our exposure. As the age old adage states, you cannot be what you cannot see – only in this case, you can be anything you see, as long as you can afford it and are willing to pay the price. 

“Face shaming, the delicateness of normal teenage maturation, online bullying and trolling, digital media and celebrity images driving insecurity amongst the youth, and ultimately the rise and rise of anxiety and depression and body dysmorphia – all of this plays a part,” says Dr Coceanig. 

“People want to look like their favourite celebs (think Miranda Kerr’s dimples) or influencers, without remembering that we are all born with certain physical characteristics that make us uniquely us.” 

Unrealistic standards of beauty are shoved in our face every single day on our phones, and with the rise in filter culture, it’s impossible to escape these computer-engineered versions of perfection, which ultimately, none of us will ever meet. 

So while dimple makers are cheap, and dimpleplasty is possible and relatively accessible, the real question is whether it’s worth it.

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How to support someone through pregnancy loss

While it can be difficult to know what to say or do, there are plenty of simple ways to help a friend or family member cope with pregnancy loss.

You’ve heard the statistic: One in four pregnancies end in a miscarriage. It’s a shocking percentage and one that plays on the minds of many women during pregnancy. However, it’s not until you or someone you love experiences a loss that you truly understand miscarriage beyond the statistics.

With October marking pregnancy and infant loss awareness month, it’s time we spoke about the elephant in the room: miscarriage. 

Going through a miscarriage is an incredibly raw and vulnerable time for any woman, no matter at what ‘stage’ of pregnancy the loss occurs. You are grieving the potential of what could have been.

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Just because you didn’t hold that baby in your arms doesn’t mean you are any less of a mother. There’s often physical pain and symptoms to endure alongside the mental, hormonal and emotional impact. Not to mention the internal questioning of yourself, like, “Did I do something wrong?” “What’s wrong with my body?” “Will I be able to carry a pregnancy?”

These questions can continue for years following a loss. And the external chatter can be just as challenging, with comments like, “At least you know you can get pregnant” coming across as far less comforting as they were perhaps intended. 

The thing is, unless you’ve been through a loss yourself it’s one of those things that people tend to get awkward around. Grief often is. We don’t know how to hold space for it as humans so we try to offer things to distract or numb the discomfort.

Holding space for someone going through a loss is confronting but in doing so, you show that woman that her experience is valid; That her feelings matter and that the grief she is experiencing for the life she could have had is an important thing for her to have the time, space and support to process. No matter how long that takes or what that healing process looks like.

When I experienced a miscarriage it was the women around me who had been there too that helped me to process and make sense of what was happening. It blows my mind how little the process itself is spoken about. You can, of course, go down a Google wormhole but that’s not great for anyone. I was left wondering where the ‘What to expect when you’re having a miscarriage’ handbook was.

Ultimately, it was the women around me who had experienced a loss who supported me by sharing the details of their experience and providing suggestions on how to navigate my own loss in a way that honoured the birth even though the outcome wasn’t a happy one. Through sharing stories I found solace. Through treating the experience as a birth (it is!) I found healing and through rest and reflection, I found peace. 

Once I started speaking up about it and sharing my story online I began to realise… This was a topic that so many women had been impacted by but not many were talking about. 

Every pregnancy is important. No matter the outcome. 

It’s so common and yet so taboo. Often there’s a sense of shame in sharing. I know I hesitated for fear of judgment. But when we share our stories we help others process theirs and we take something that’s been hidden in the dark and bring light to it.

Pregnancy loss can be a major life-altering event that changes a woman forever. We must support women through this in ways that are right for them. For me, and the women around me, we found that the sense of community and shared experience through storytelling to be incredibly healing for anyone impacted by loss.

By honouring the process and allowing time to heal, women can move on with reverence to the experience. Rather than putting on a brave face, shoving their true feelings to one side and  ‘getting on with it’.

According to chiropractor and founder of pregnancy loss support brand Aila and Lior, Dr Megan Osborne, “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs in a large percentage of pregnancy losses. This can be from people making insensitive comments, to near-death experiences – the range is wide. Trauma can occur when the body and mind have endured something unexpected, and pregnancy loss falls into this category. Seeking therapies to process this trauma can be of great benefit.” This is why it’s so important we support the women around us (or ourselves) through a loss. 

So how do you support someone going through it?

Ditch the awkward-silence-filling comments

Swap out “lucky it was only early” or “at least you hadn’t told many people”. For “what do you need right now?” or “I’m here to listen”. The earlier comments might be well-meaning but to a grieving woman, it’s essentially asking her to bypass her feelings and experience.

Instead, hold space and listen to her story. You don’t have to say anything. You may be surprised at how this simple act of asking a question and remaining silent for the woman to fill that space with her words, if and when she chooses to, can be exactly what she needs. 

Food, food, food

Dr Osborne says “The same principles of conventional postpartum recovery can be applied to loss: rest, recovery, nourishment.” As a supportive friend or loved one, this means you can arrange for food to be delivered or stock up the freezer with soul-nourishing foods.

“The physiological process of birthing a pregnancy loss is so similar (whether surgically or natural labour occurs) to a full-term birth. Eating regular, nourishing meals: prioritising protein for muscle and pelvic floor recovery; plenty of healthy fats to aid hormones.”

So think slow-cooked stews and bone broth as something to arrive with. Also, be mindful that the woman may wish to stay in her cocoon, so always be respectful of her boundaries – it may be a drop-at-the-doorstep type of support that is exactly what she needs at that moment.

Encourage rest 

“One of the biggest mistakes I see is women rushing back to ’normal life‘ after pregnancy loss, without acknowledging or healing from the huge changes that have occurred. From a physiological standpoint, the body has gone through birth- this takes a large toll on hormones, the pelvic floor and vital energy,” says Dr Osborne. Which means rest is important. Through rest, the physical body can heal. 

As a support person, this may look like helping around the house or taking care of other children so that the woman can rest without worrying about hanging out the washing or chasing around a toddler. 

Sit down and listen

The mental aspect of miscarriage is huge. One moment you are planning a birth and picking out baby names and the next you are processing a loss. It’s a lot to come to terms with and often women just want to be heard in their unravelling of that process.

There’s literally nothing you can say to make it better or to take the pain away. All you can do is listen. Offer a hug and allow your friend or loved one to feel seen and validated in her experience. As much as you want to be there for her, you can’t process this for her. Processing emotional layers takes time, so be gentle, patient and selfless in your communication. 

Create a care package 

Putting together a little care package is a beautiful way to support. Especially if you can’t be there physically to bring a meal. Nothing says “I see you and I’m here for you” like some chocolates, bath salts and a candle. Consider adding some nervous system supportive tea or personal declaration cards as emotional support.

If you’ve got the budget and want to take it a step further you could purchase a voucher for a womb healing or massage. If gift-giving is your love language think ‘What would support you to rest, heal and receive right now’ when purchasing something. 

Let’s start talking about miscarriages and supporting the women around us who are experiencing them. Every pregnancy is important – no matter the outcome. 

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Deadly reason Aussies shouldn’t leave clothes on the floor in Summer

Our Aussie summer is filled to the brim with things reflecting Mother Nature’s beauty, but alongside the sun, sand, and blooming summer flora comes a far more sinister threat. Here’s how to protect yourself against this small but deadly menace.

For the most part, Australians understand the risks associated with our summer, taking precautionary measures each day to avoid the damaging effects of our powerful sun’s heat and UV rays. But slapping on some sunscreen, while absolutely necessary, won’t protect you from all of summer’s elements. 

Around the world, our country holds a pretty fierce reputation for housing some of Earth’s deadliest creatures. Our oceans, bushland, forests and skies are home to more than a few monsters, with some of the most dangerous difficult to pinpoint

But while many measures exist on land and in the oceans to avoid deadly encounters, not every dangerous creature can be spotted from a helicopter, or kept at bay behind a fence. Furthermore, the hot, damp, and sunny weather conditions fast approaching us are set to significantly influence the behaviour and breeding habits of some terrifying creatures.

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As Billy Collett, Operations Manager of the Australian Reptile Park explains, the upcoming weather change following a prolonged El Nino event will likely cause a sudden boom in one species population. 

“Funnel webs thrive in cool, damp areas and will be seeking shelter from the hot, dry weather that is set to roll in,” he says, especially warning Australians residing in the Greater Sydney region. The funnel web spider is one of Australia’s deadliest native species, responsible for 13 recorded deaths in the country. 

While a lifesaving antivenom was introduced to the scene in 1981, access is not always guaranteed, especially in remote areas. Since the venom of a funnel web can prove fatal within sheer hours, it’s important to act efficiently if ever bitten. 

How to avoid a deadly encounter

When it comes to keeping your home a funnel web-free zone, there are some simple precautions you can take. Clutter is a funnel web’s ideal hiding spot, says Liz Gabriel, Director and Owner of the Australian Reptile Park. 

“It is best to ensure you are not leaving washing and clothing on the floors, if you leave your shoes outside, make sure you check them first before putting your foot in blindly as shoes can be the perfect little burrow for funnel-web spiders,” explains the expert, and yes, that includes your girl pile in the corner of your room. 

But the funnel web prevention efforts shouldn’t stop there. The creepy crawly expert says it’s important to clear out any debris from your garden, such as snack boxes and leaf litter. Indoor debris is also risky, so experts urge you to keep cooler places such as a garage or shed nice and clean. 

Though the summer months can reach record temperatures, the Eastern states are often subject to plenty of rainfall. Experts say it’s important to stay on top of damp areas in your home, as they attract funnel webs looking to lay down some roots. 

What to do if you’ve been bitten

Despite all the precautionary measures above, these sneaky little suckers can often still find their way into your home. If you do come into contact with a funnel web, and believe you may have been exposed to its venom through a bite, Gabriel says it is absolutely imperative you make your way to a hospital as soon as possible. 

“Use a pressure immobilisation bandage to go around the bite site a few times. Go down the limb, and head back up the limb as far as the bandage will take you,” advises the expert on what to do in the interim. “Immobilise the limb in either a shirt or using a splint or a sling and try and keep nice and still.”

While any encounter with a deadly spider, (or even a friendly, non-venomous one) can be a terrifying ordeal, it’s important to remain calm, prioritise your safety, and seek the advice or assistance of a professional in removing or disposing of the spider. 

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PMS symptoms and what they mean

If you dread getting your period each month thanks to the host of uncomfortable symptoms it brings, it could be a sign of a larger issue.

If you suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), you’ve probably been told more times than you care to remember that it’s all just part of being a person who menstruates. But research has been mounting for a long time that PMS isn’t just something some of us have to tolerate. And, in fact, suffering from severe PMS could be an indicator of other treatable health issues, such as endometriosis or fibroids.

A new study has found that a significantly higher number of people with severe PMS symptoms reach menopause at a slightly younger age (averaging at 40.7 years).

As if they haven’t suffered enough, those people were also more likely to have worse menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats, than those who didn’t suffer from severe PMS.

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Researchers don’t have a full understanding of the link between PMS and menopause just yet, but they think it might have something to do with pre-existing hormone levels, with PMS believed to be caused by a drop in estrogen and progesterone, and menopause symptoms being linked with a drop in estrogen. They’re hoping further research will look into the root cause of both conditions to investigate the link.

Women’s health expert Dr Amy Carmichael says, “Given the prevalence of PMS, [if you’re concerned] it’s worthwhile checking your symptoms with your health professional and possibly having some testing.”

Before you have to think about menopause, you might want to consider relieving those PMS symptoms. Dr Carmichael says treatment approaches should be tailored for each person. 

“Treatment can be complex due to the need to pinpoint the precise hormone imbalance as well as various other factors influencing the situation, including nutrients,” she says. 

“There are four distinct clinical profiles, often interconnected with the hormonal patterns we observe. Inadequate progesterone function is linked to mood swings, pain, fluid retention, and breast tenderness. Excessive estrogen leads to inflammation and pelvic congestion. Excessive testosterone is associated with amenorrhea (missed cycles) and acne. Reduced estrogen activity often relates to symptoms experienced during mid-life menopause.”

Dr Carmichael says the treatment approaches will vary as well, but common approaches include lifestyle modifications (including regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management), over-the-counter pain relief, and hormonal birth control pills.

“I personally use a holistic lifestyle approach,” she says, “so as well as a low-fat, high-fibre diet, which has been shown to reduce estrogen levels, I also consider nutrients like B6, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. 

“Fatty acids deserve a mention too, because a deficiency has been hypothesised to alter prolactin and other hormonal messengers promoting PMS. Evening primrose oil has been well studied as a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid which is needed for prostaglandin synthesis and balanced hormones. Chasteberry (vitex) has also been used since Egyptian times and in the past 50 years often in Western cultures for PMS.”

Dr Carmichael adds that it’s important to consider other health issues in relation to any treatment for PMS, including adrenal health (stress), thyroid issues, iron deficiency, and poor sleep. Be sure to mention them to your doctor.

Having a healthcare provider you feel comfortable with can also help you to take a longer-term approach to your reproductive healthcare. It’s also important to not be taken by surprise by menopause if you’re still considering trying to get pregnant. Dr Carmichael says having that knowledge early means you can consider your options. 

“If women are aware of the possibility of early menopause, they can make informed decisions about their reproductive health and consider fertility preservation like freezing eggs or embryos,” she says.

Dr Carmichael adds that a range of treatment approaches are available that can help ease the symptoms when menopause does hit, including lifestyle factors, diet, nutrition, herbs, and hormone replacement therapy.

And if menopause does come knocking earlier than you expert, it’s not the end of the world – it’s just a transition to a different phase of life. 

“Early menopause doesn’t mean an end to your vitality,” says Dr Carmichael. “Effective treatments and support are available. Having open conversations with healthcare professionals and seeking emotional support from friends, family, or support groups can make the transition smoother.”

If you’re experiencing pain and discomfort as a result of PMS or menopause – or you haven’t had those conditions confirmed by a healthcare practitioner, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Pain that disrupts your life, or gets in the way of your work, daily activities, or relationships isn’t normal, and you don’t have to tolerate it. If you’re not satisfied with one healthcare provider, try another one, and don’t give up until you get the help you deserve. 

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