Our Blog

Happy Graduation! Now Go Get Tested.


Happy Graduation! Now Go Get Tested.
By Kristen Dunleavy

Graduating college was completely unreal to me. In fact, I wasn’t entirely convinced I was actually graduating until the day of commencement. And even then, I felt that at any point my advisor would run up to the stage and announce that there was glitch in the system and I didn’t have enough credits to graduate after all. I’m not paranoid or anything.

Post-graduation, I was fortunate enough to get hired from an internship that I loved. This also meant a somewhat hellish daily commute into Manhattan – but for me, it was worth it. Many of my friends were doing the same and that meant I had plenty of people to commiserate with over drinks at happy hour. I was in a relationship at the time, but for my single friends, working in New York was akin to being a kid in a candy store. In this case, the candy was hot dudes with an excuse to wear a tie every day.

Chances are, plenty of young people are in the exact same boat right now, or will be very soon. If you thought hooking up in college was awesome, wait until you’re in the FOR REAL world. It’s a totally different ball game. And that’s why staying on top of your sexual health is a billion times more important than it ever has been in your entire life.

For one, half of all new STDs occur between ages 15-24 and one in two sexually active people will contract an STD by age 25. Think about that. I don’t mean to instill fear in your heart or anything, but there’s an excellent chance that you or someone you know has had an STD.

What’s even scarier is that most STDs don’t have any obvious symptoms right away, or the symptoms are so minor that many women ignore them. But women are far more likely to have more frequent and more serious health problems as the result of untreated STDs, including fertility, birth complications and the high probability of passing the disease onto your child.

You might be thinking, “Ok, but I visit the gyno regularly, so I’ve been tested.”Well, no, not necessarily. About two-thirds of young women believe their doctors routinely test for chlamydia, but that isn’t the case. Getting screened for STDs requires a conversation with your doctor about what specific tests you need. Don’t assume that any past blood or urine test will reveal an STD, because that isn’t how screening works. You have to be proactive about getting tested.

The good news is that many of the most common STDs are 100% treatable. Don’t think that you’ll be marked for life if you discover you have an STD. It’s way better to know for sure if you have something so you can deal with it and move on with your life.

You already know the whole spiel about condoms, but it bears repeating – especially when you find yourself in new surroundings. Always carry a condom (or two!) and use them every single time. You never know where life will take you in a new job or a new city, so prepare yourself now.

Are starting a new job or moving to a new city? Have you been tested recently? Tell us in the comments section!

The Top Four Excuses Men Use to Avoid the Doctor (And How to Make Them Go!)

Sick man wrapped in blanket

The Top Four Excuses Men Use to Avoid the Doctor (And How to Make Them Go!)
By Kristen Dunleavy

I am reasonably certain that my dad hasn’t seen a doctor in the past, oh, 20 years. Yep, no check-ups, no dentist, nothing. Yet the man eats pizza like we’re on the brink of a mozzarella famine, and somehow appears to be in perfect health. I have to say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – good genes, bad decisions. I too love pizza and happen to be excellent at the art of avoidance.

In honor of dads everywhere this Father’s Day, here are the top excuses that most men use to dodge scheduling a doctor’s appointment…and some tips to make the men in your life finally go!

The excuse: “I’m not sick.”

There’s this little thing called preventative care. Have you heard of it? That’s the entire point of check-ups – to detect and treat an issue well before it blows up in your face. It’s super important to get screened for blood pressure, cholesterol, and especially for men between 40 and 75, prostate cancer.

How to make them go: Remind them of the many risks of NOT seeing a doctor, like the fact that nearly 30 percent of men in a recent survey who had avoided the doctor ended up with a diagnosis of hypertension. And that’s just ONE of the potential risks.

The excuse: “I’ll deal with it on my own.”

Last summer, my friend’s husband cut his hand on a fishing trip. Assuming it was no big deal, he wrapped it up and continued swilling beer. By the next day, the cut was rife with infection and required a costly visit to the ER and weeks of antibiotics. The moral of this story? You probably can’t deal with it on your own!

How to make them go: Remind them that the consequences of putting off seeing a doctor could seriously impact their well-being (and wallet). Also? Be sure to remind them that they are not a doctor (unless, of course, they are).

The excuse: “I’m too busy.”

You’re too busy, or you’re too lazy? Because, come on, who doesn’t have a zillion things going on these days? Plenty of doctors have extended office hours, so the lack of time excuse isn’t a valid one.

How to make them go: An appointment to get screened could literally take just 15 minutes. If that fails, I’d remind them that a doctor’s appointment could potentially get them out of work early.

The excuse: “I’m afraid.”

You know what else is scary? Cancer! Diabetes! STIs! Bacterial Infections! You get the picture. Honestly though, going to the doctor can be totally scary – but the consequences of NOT going are much more frightening.

How to make them go: Remind them of the above and set the example yourself. The men in your life will be far more encouraged if you practice what you preach!

How do YOU help encourage the men in your life make healthy decisions? Tell us in the comments section!

Everything You Need to Know About Gestational Diabetes


Everything You Need to Know About Gestational Diabetes
By Kristen Dunleavy

A few weeks ago it was my friend’s birthday, and I wanted to do him a solid by providing him with the most baller cake I could find. Easy enough, right? Hit up a local bakery, have them squeeze some Red No. 1-laced frosting on top of a buttercream cake proclaiming ‘Happy Birthday!’and call it a day. Well, not so much. This particular friend has diabetes, and finding a sugar-free cake was a billion times harder than it should’ve been. I finally had to accept defeat and settle for a sad-looking angel food cake. But it’s the thought that counts, right?

My cake challenge was nothing in comparison to what millions of people with diabetes encounter every day. You’re probably already familiar with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes – with the latter becoming an epidemic in recent years, especially among African-American women. But there’s another type of diabetes that many women know very little about: gestational diabetes.

If you’re planning on getting pregnant any time soon, listen up! Nearly 20 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. are impacted by the disease, and that number is growing. Gestational diabetes causes complications for both mother and child during and after childbirth, with almost half of those women developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. Women with gestational diabetes develop it during pregnancy, so that doesn’t mean they had diabetes prior to conception.

Despite the heavy impact of this disease, we still know very little about what causes it or how to treat it. So what can you do? Get screened – only 68 percent of pregnant women do, and that number should be far higher. But don’t stop there. If you’re diagnosed, it’s critical to get the post-partum test to determine if you’ll be affected later in life.

Recently, Senator Susan Collins and Senator Jeanne Shaheen introduced the Gestational Diabetes Act, which is aimed to expand and enhance the monitoring of the disease, as well bolster research efforts so we can learn more about it. The legislation requires the CDC to work with health care providers to ensure that women who have been diagnosed receive the proper follow-up care.

For me, simply scheduling that initial doctor’s appointment is a victory in and of itself. When it comes to following up, let’s just say it’s not my forte. But if you’re pregnant, it’s imperative to get screened for gestational diabetes, and not just for your peace of mind – your child’s future hangs in the balance as well.

For more information on gestational diabetes, visit diabetes.org.

Five Natural Remedies for Your Most Annoying Ailments


Five Natural Remedies for Your Most Annoying Ailments
By Kristen Dunleavy

One of the best things about being an adult is getting to buy whatever you want at the grocery store. Basically, my shopping list consists of every compulsive purchase that my mom would’ve denied me as a kid. So while my pantry is typically stocked with Fruity Pebbles and chocolate chai tea lattes, I often don’t have regular stuff like bread or ibuprofen. It’s an issue sometimes.

Fortunately, there are ways around this – particularly when it comes to remedies for daily ailments. Here’s how you can fix five common problems with natural remedies that you might already have in your kitchen.

Headaches: Tension headaches are super common, and peppermint oil is a great solution. Applying the oil to your hairline creates a cooling sensation that relaxes your head and neck – and you get to smell minty-fresh! If you’re one of those unlucky enough to suffer from migraines, feverfew capsules have been known to take pressure off nerves and help prevent migraines, too.

Bruises: I’m constantly finding mystery bruises all over my body, so I need to try this natural remedy STAT: cut a lemon in half and rub the pulpy side over the bruise once an hour for several hours, making sure not to rub over broken skin (ouch!). It’s an old folk remedy that supposedly heals bruises faster.

Digestive issues: Recently, after going to town on a bucket of mussels doused in butter and garlic, I was feeling very beluga-like. To relieve this ungodly bloating, I could have chewed on 1/2 teaspoon of fennel, caraway or dill seeds. Ginger is also amazing in these situations; candied ginger seems to always help my upset stomach.

Hiccups: How much do you just want to burrow into a hole like a prairie dog and just stay there when you have the hiccups? Well, you don’t have to! Instead, eat peanut butter. Yup, take a big spoonful of peanut butter and hold it in your mouth for 5-10 seconds. Then swallow the peanut butter slowly without chewing. You can also try the same thing with sugar.

UTIs: I have had some killer UTIs in my day, so I’m a huge proponent of cranberry juice and cranberry extract. While there is no direct evidence of this, many women swear that cranberry can help lessen the pain and duration of a UTI. However, cranberry most definitely works to prevent UTIs. Three cups of unsweetened juice will do the trick, but you can also buy cranberry extract in capsule form.

What are some of your favorite natural remedies? Let’s hear them in the comments!

What’s the Deal with Prenatal Vitamins?

Vitamin for future mothers

What’s the Deal with Prenatal Vitamins?
By Kristen Dunleavy

Last weekend was my 31st birthday, and I celebrated like any other 30-something would. And by that I mean pretending it was, in fact, my 21st birthday all over again and eating and imbibing way too much on very little sleep. After my debauched weekend filled with one too many shots of Fireball and birthday cake, I was delighted to realize that my liver was still functional. I wanted to keep it that way, so I headed to the grocery, stocked up on a zillion juice-able veggies and basically any product that contained the word “detox.”

I also decided to re-up my vitamin intake, as I’ve been slacking pretty hard as of late. I grabbed a multivitamin formulated especially for women, along with some milk thistle to help promote my liver’s continued functionality. NOW I was back in business!

Part of the reason I suck at remembering to take vitamins is because I just don’t know WHAT to take to begin with. I know a lot of women who take prenatal vitamins who have no intention of getting pregnant, just because they’re jam-packed with so many nutrients most women need anyway.

But what is the actual difference between prenatal vitamins and, say, a regular women’s multivitamin? I did some research to find out.

Calcium: Prenatal vitamins are a great calcium supplement, containing about 200-300mg. However, women should be getting a total of about 1,000 mg of calcium daily – so prenatal vitamins will give you an extra boost, but a balanced diet should provide the rest.

Iron: Women between ages 19 and 50 need about 18 mg of iron daily, and pregnant women need 27 mg. Now, getting TOO much iron in your diet isn’t good, because it can eventually build up in your body and become toxic. However, if you’re a vegetarian or have other dietary restrictions that prevent you from getting enough iron, prenatal vitamins could be a great solution.

Folic acid: Many women’s vitamins contain folic acid, as there is evidence that it prevents certain birth defects. A recent study also found that women who take folic acid significantly reduce their risk of developing high blood pressure. Prenatal vitamins contain an extra boost of folic acid that proves helpful if you’re not eating enough green leafy vegetables, fruits and dried beans – but those things are delicious so I have no idea why you wouldn’t be!

Remember, prenatal vitamins, like any other vitamins, are dietary SUPPLEMENTS – they are meant to supplement an already healthy diet. You can’t just binge on pizza, pop a vitamin and expect to feel awesome. It doesn’t work that way!

FemmePharma currently has prenatal vitamins for just $4.99! Click here to order yours today.

Do you take prenatal vitamins even though you’re not pregnant? Tell us in the comments!

Why the F**k is Skin Cancer Still on the Rise?

Baking in the Sun


Why the F**k is Skin Cancer Still on the Rise?
By Kristen Dunleavy

When I was 14, I did what was probably one of the dumbest things ever. I had chronic acne and was taking a veritable smorgasbord of medications (topical and otherwise), including Accutane. None of it was working, and I was too young and naive to realize that this was likely because human skin doesn’t enjoy being attacked with half a dozen chemicals every day. My pale, Irish complexion was certainly having none of it.

So on a family trip to the shore (I’m from New Jersey and we go to the shore, not the beach), I donned my blue wraparound sunglasses (very chic in ’97) and laid out on my Hello Kitty towel… without sunscreen.

Yep, I purposely didn’t apply sunscreen on a swelteringly hot July day. I figured that I would get a wicked burn that would rid me of my acne once and for all. Like I said, dumbest idea ever. What I got was an extreme case of sun poisoning and a week indoors watching re-runs of Real World: Miami. I’d never been more miserable.

Today, nearly every personal care product I use includes SPF. My own experience plus the countless melanoma horror stories that surface every year around this time have been more than enough to keep me hitting the sunscreen hard. And yet, skin cancer is still on the rise.

In fact, basil and squamous cell carcinoma have been increasing in women for some time. Now melanoma, the deadliest of skin cancers, is suddenly skyrocketing among young Caucasian women as well. Between 1973 and 2004, melanoma in men between ages 15 to 39 increased from 4.7 cases to 7.7 cases for every 100,000. In women, that number doubled from 5.5 cases per 100,000 to 13.9 in 2004.

A big part of this is actually good news – we’re getting better at detecting melanoma. But on the other hand, tanning beds are prevalent as ever, despite many state-wide laws banning them for minors and new FDA regulations requiring tanning machine manufacturers to warn consumers about the risks of indoor tanning. Oh, and then there’s the fact that getting a tan is still as cool as my wraparound shades were back in the ‘90s.

I won’t lie, I do love laying out in the sun. It feels amazing, especially after the long and ridiculous winter we’ve had. But so help me god if I’m not covered head-to-toe in SPF 50. I recently got a wicked burn from a 30 minute car ride after forgetting to apply. Those UV rays DO NOT mess around.

Obviously, not everyone has the complexion of a Russian nesting doll. But that by no means indicates that your skin is immune to any kind of skin cancer. In reality, everyone should be wearing sunscreen at all times, forever and always – but especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is strongest. Also, wear a hat! Hats are awesome.

Remember to check your skin about once a month for any irregularities using this handy chart from SkinCancer.org. And get yourself a dermatologist if you don’t already have one. A skin check is one of the easiest exams ever and usually takes less than 10 minutes.

Don’t let skin cancer win – or end up like my angsty, sun-poisoned 14 year-old self.

Do you use sun protection daily? Do you love to bake in the sun like an adequately roasted turkey? Let’s hear it in the comments!

The Freshman 15: Fact or Fiction?


The Freshman 15: Fact or Fiction?
By Kristen Dunleavy

Prior to my first semester away at college, I was looking forward to exactly one thing. It wasn’t the parties or the freedom or even choosing my elective classes (though my haiku class was every bit as awesome as it sounds). Nope; I was excited about the food.

See, I went to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. This campus in particular has something called the Grease Trucks, where you can order an array of ungodly, gluttonous sandwich combinations. Want an abundance of mozzarella sticks and fries shoved haphazardly into a kaiser roll? You got it. Need roughly a pound of falafel at 2 a.m.? It’s all yours. Want a fast, healthy alternative to any of these things? Ha! You’re on your own with that one.

My friends and I took our gluttony to the next level at the dining hall. We’d have breakfast and hang out until they switched over to lunch to avoid extra swipes on our meal cards. Our table often resembled the feast of a Roman war hero. And don’t even get me started on Taco Tuesday.

Weight gain is a totally valid concern for many incoming freshman – especially those who eat like I did back in the day. But it’s not like you’re going to start popping buttons the second you’re handed your first syllabus. In fact, the term “Freshman 15” isn’t even a real, scientific thing. It was coined in a 1989 edition of Seventeen Magazine and has been used ever since.

Plenty of students do gain some weight in their first year at college, but it’s usually in the neighborhood of five pounds. That extra weight isn’t necessarily from the dining hall food, though. It’s likely stressed-related – or even more likely, drinking related. Students who drink heavily in college are on average about a pound heavier than those who don’t drink. Yes, even those cheap, alleged “light” beers still pack in a hefty amount of calories

While the myth of the Freshman 15 was originally created to help sell magazines, it did instill a certain amount of fear into lots of young people – particularly women. But it’s not impossible to lead a healthy lifestyle while you’re away at school, even if the Grease Trucks are literally right in your backyard.

These days, most schools have a bigger selection of healthy, nutritious options and will cater to various dietary needs. Look ahead at what the dining hall is serving each day, and try to plan your meals to some extent if you can. If your dining hall offers takeout, it can be tempting to take enough food back to your dorm room to feed a family of four. That’s where Taco Tuesday was my downfall. As a result of being poor and always hungry, I turned into a complete food hoarder. Because, you know, should the zombie apocalypse go down, I could hole up in my dorm room with enough nachos to last me for years.

There are a plethora of ways to stay healthy while away at school. Take your vitamins! Check out local, cheap fitness classes! Heck, join a frisbee golf league. Your health should always be a top priority, no matter where you are. Even if it’s Taco Tuesday.

Why Whey?

FemmePharma Chocolate & Vanilla Whey Shakes

When I think about protein, the first thing that comes to mind is a chalky-tasting shake with some alleged vanilla artificial flavoring that one is supposed to chug shortly after pumping iron while grunting loudly in front of the mirror in a local gym. Perhaps a sweaty selfie is thrown in for good measure, just to make sure the universe is aware of your fitness humblebrag.

I honestly don’t think about how much protein I need on a daily basis, and apparently I’m not alone. In a recent survey by Luna, 50 percent of women ages 18-50 didn’t know if they were getting enough protein in their diet. The amount of protein you need depends completely on your weight and lifestyle. Unfortunately (for people like me anyway), it depends on a bit of math, too. Here’s how to figure out how much protein you really need:

  1. Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = weight in kg
  2.  Weight in kg x 0.8-1.8 gm/kg = protein gm.

If you’re in good health and mostly sedentary, use a lower number on the scale between 1 and 1.8. If you’re under stress, pregnant or involved in consistent, high-impact weight training, you’ll want to choose a higher number on that scale.

Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues. Your protein synthesis, or production of protein, must be greater than the destruction of those tissues that occurs when those tissues are breaking down – or when you exercise, for example.

Many women THINK they’re getting enough protein, but really most women need between 50 and 60 grams a day, or about 30 grams per meal. In addition to being pretty clueless about this, I also wrongly assumed that protein in these quantities would turn me into the bulked-up, shake-chugging meathead I mentioned earlier. Not so! But if you’re still paranoid, there IS an easy, low-calorie alternative way… Whey!

While protein is in a lot of delicious things, such as peanut butter, there is often a lot of fat that comes along with it (in this case, a whopping 18 grams). But whey protein is a whole different ballgame. It’s fat-free, filling and is absorbed by your body more quickly and easily than traditional protein sources.

Whey itself is a derivative of cow milk and is a great daily alternative for those in need of a leaner source of protein. You can scoop some into your oatmeal, throw it into a smoothie or yogurt, or even add it to a soup or pasta sauce. There are also whey protein bars out there that provide a fast meal on-the-go – or for those of us who are culinarily challenged.

So there you have it. Where this is a will, there is a whey!

FemmePharma’s whey protein dietary supplements are on sale now! Get yours today.

Diagnosed at 25: A Young Survivor’s Story.


FemmePharma is excited to partnering with Living Beyond Breast Cancer for their upcoming Yoga On The Steps Event May 18th and in future endeavors.

Check out our guest blog “Diagnosed at 25: A Young Survivor’s Story”.

Diagnosed at 25: A Young Survivor’s Story.
By Kristen Dunleavy

“Think about life in your 20s for a minute. It’s a decade of learning, growing, falling down and getting back up – often more than once. It’s a hopeful, exciting time when you’re just getting the hang of this crazy thing we call adulthood.

Katy Wagnon was a typical 25-year-old. At the time, she was living in Arizona with her boyfriend of four years. She had a steady job and was perfectly content with the life she’d created for herself.

When Katy discovered a lump on her breast in the shower, she initially brushed it off. Like any good procrastinator, she decided to wait it out to see if it went away on its own. Katy had a co-worker around her age who had been diagnosed with breast cancer six months earlier – but there was no way that’s what this was!

Still, Katy kept this thought in the back of her head. When the lump didn’t go away, she made a doctor’s appointment to have it checked out. A mammogram and a few biopsies later, Katy was diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer.

The diagnosis on its own was a punch in the gut – adapting to life with cancer was another story altogether.

“All of my friends were in their 20s and couldn’t understand what I was going through,”Katy said. “They were going out to bars, and I was at home with my boyfriend, always in-between chemo and surgery.”

The first surgery Katy endured was supposed to clear everything out – but it didn’t. It turned out that the cancer was further along than her doctors initially suspected, and she would require chemotherapy.

So Katy got a second opinion. Then a third. She eventually landed on a doctor in Tucson that made her feel at ease. At the age of 25, Katy went through a double mastectomy, with her reconstruction beginning that same day.

Katy now thinks of her experience as a blessing in disguise. While it was difficult to relate to other 20-somethings, Katy found plenty of support in her parents, grandmother and her boyfriend who is now her husband.

“In the end, it turned out to be an awesome experience,”Katy said. “Nothing is too big of a challenge for me now because I’ve been to hell and back. For anyone who is going through it now, know that it will get better.”

As young women like Katy know all too well, finding support in the wake of such a diagnosis isn’t easy, and sometimes it can feel like you’re totally alone. But that simply isn’t true.

In fact, that’s why Femme Pharma exists. With the mission of improving the health and quality of life for women through superior therapeutics, Femme Pharma has your back – and the backs of millions of women like Katy nationwide.

Gerianne Tringali DiPiano founded the company in 1996 to better address women’s healthcare needs, specifically in the areas of diseases and disorders. Ever since then, the company has been an advocate for all women, working to develop new treatment methods that promote healing across a broad range of therapeutic categories. Today, Femme Pharma is the go-to women’s health resource and community.

FemmePharma is enthusiastic about working with the women of LBBC; since both organizations’ missions and visions are very much aligned. We share the passionate mission of improving the quality of life and understanding how to accomplish that goal for women survivors of breast cancer.

And Katy knows this better than anyone – she’s FemmePharma’s graphic designer!

For more information about FemmePharma, visit FemmePharma.com.”

You can also read the article posted on Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s blog at: www.livingbeyondbc.wordpress.com

Understanding Food Labels

Over the last few days, I had the pleasure of traveling to Washington D.C. to participate in nutrition policy work. Nutrition policy can be quite daunting. It is hard enough for us to know how to figure out the food rules that dictate our daily lives (“Eat this, don’t eat that”). One item governed by nutrition policy that may be present in your life, many times a day, is the food label. The label can be helpful in meeting your goals, whether you are aiming to increase, decrease, or just be aware of your intake of a number of nutrients.

Share with us!
Do you use the food label to help you decide what to eat?
a. Yes, I don’t eat anything until I have analyzed it!
b. Sometimes, it depends how I am feeling that day.
c. No, I don’t want to know!
d. No, there’s a label on foods?

Tell us, what is the first thing you look for on the label?

Is there anything you find confusing about the label and if so, what is it?

For those of you who answered EVERYTHING, here’s a few tips on reading the Nutrition Facts Label:

  • Notice how many calories are in the product you are choosing. Use a food tracker, such as the SuperTracker (https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/foodtracker.aspx) to compare what you are eating to recommendations personalized for you.
  •  Compare labels to choose foods lower in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and higher in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.
  •  Take a look at the ingredients, which have to be listed in descending order. If you see sugar (or syrup) listed first, you know that the product has more sugar than any other ingredient.
  •  When buying cereals, crackers, pastas, and other carbohydrate rich foods, look for items that have whole grains (whole grain wheat flour, whole grain oats, etc.) as the first ingredient and more grams of fiber.
  •  Choose items lower in trans fats. Even if the label says 0 g of trans fat, look for partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list to see if there are hidden trans fats.

Enjoy your day!