Previously we’ve discussed weight training and exercise during our menstrual cycle, today I’d like to talk about how food can help keep our hormones in balance.
The follicular phase of our cycle, is day 1 of bleeding until ovulation. When we are bleeding, keep in mind that our body is losing blood and nutrients, so it is a good time to replenish with blood nourishing foods. The idea is that “like cures like”, or you need to replace what is lost.
This is a great time to drink bone broth and/or add some Chinese herbal medicines to our soups, an example is the herb Dang Gui (Chinese Angelica Root) or angelica (Huang Qi). These are available at most Asian grocers. Eating foods high in protein and iron will help with replenishing our bodies.
When our period finishes we should focus on building our yin, to support our endometrial lining and egg quality. During the follicular phase we will have higher amounts of oestrogen, which is yin in substance, (which moistens and nourishes our body) so plenty of fluids should be included in our diet. Soups are sensational, especially if we avoid the overly hot, spicy varieties. As spicy foods consume Yin rather than build. Depending on our constitution we can add different herbs to our soups. I add the herb (Mai Meng Dong (Ophiopogon Tuber) this is a Yin based herb which is very nourishing.
Towards the end of the follicular phase an egg is released, so we should eat foods that encourage good egg quality. Remember how like treats like?! So a nice frittata with free range eggs is a good choice.
Based on a 28 day cycle (a normal cycle can range from 21-35 days), ovulation occurs on day 14. The luteal phase is the second half of our cycle, from ovulation until our next period. This is generally always 2 weeks, so if our cycle is shorter or longer, the difference will be in the follicular phase.
During this phase, our body releases an egg so is preoccupied with the potential possibility that there may be a life growing inside us. This, along with rising progesterone is a more yang time in our cycle.
As progesterone rises, so does our body temperature. This heat in Chinese medicine theory can also cause us to be slightly more irritated or emotional. Some of us get night sweats. We don’t want to add fuel to the fire, so again avoid the hot, spicy food.
Premenstrual symptoms (PMS) may start to kick in. It is important to remember that PMS is common, but not normal. Please mention any symptoms you notice in your next consultation at with your Chinese medicine practitioner . In Chinese Medicine the liver helps us to manage stress. Overloading it can lead to heat, so during this phase I keep the liver energy moving by eating speedy stir fries, with lots of green vegetables.
Throughout the whole month, It’s best to avoid eating while we are distracted, stressed or emotional. Avoid raw and cold foods like ice-cream as they can constrict our circulation.
Overall, we want to eat foods that are lightly cooked to ensure that nutrients are preserved, easier to digest and be absorbed. Apart from what foods to eat, eating at regular times, eating moderate amounts and chewing our food are always encouraged.
Written by Jane Ferguson
Practitioner of Chinese Medicine