From the many women I have met across many cultures and varying habits, we all have a commonality during “that time of the month” where everything goes sideways.
Even when you think you have your emotional stuff sorted you suddenly realize you actually don’t. It can be quite overwhelming to lose your cool, say things you don’t mean, eat foods that your body regrets later and activate old habits that no longer serve you.
The interesting part is that this only happens at a certain time of the cycle. I often hear “it’s that time of the month” where women, myself included, have free license to be at the mercy of what science calls “hormonal imbalance”.
In western cultures and medicine, PMS is seen as a natural part of the menstrual cycle where bleeding and suffering go together during those few days every month.
Holistic health, based on Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and Macrobiotics, actually looks at PMS as an imbalance that occurs both on a hormonal level and within the liver organ.
At the hormonal level the reason is simple: your estrogen levels increase and your progesterone levels decrease. Estrogen is dominant in the follicular phase (from menstruation to ovulation) and progesterone is dominant in the luteal phase (from ovulation to the next menstruation). This balance is dynamic and changes according to your cycle. The imbalance occurs when most of the cycle is dominated by estrogen.
One of the reasons for this excess of estrogen is the food we eat that is full of estrogen, like commercial meat, dairy and any kind of junk food. As a natural consequence, these external hormones will interfere with the balance of our own internal ones.
In Oriental medicine, the liver is responsible for the flow of blood. When this organ is toxic, that flow gets restricted and causes several problems like cramps, mood swings (especially anger, frustration or confusion), fatigue, bloating and constipation.
In order to give our bodies the chance to balance themselves we need to create a healthy internal environment by first clearing the body from “stressors” and then introducing foods that will naturally encourage the body to clear and function at optimum health. Here´s something to consider:
7 Causes of Hormonal Imbalances:
- Excessive consumption of animal protein (for non-vegetarians) and soy (for vegetarians)
- Refined white sugar
- Caffeine and alcohol
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of fiber in the diet
- Irregular intake of meals and lifestyle.
7 best foods for Hormonal Balance:
- Flax Seeds – Healthy fat that helps hormones metabolize well and reduces the effect of excessive hormones.
- Green leafy juices – Rich in chlorophyll these juices act as a clean brush in the liver and facilitate the detoxification process. Also super foods like Spirulina can be added to your green juices. Spirulina is rich in Iodine and helps to regulate thyroid function and metabolism.
- Berries – From strawberries to blueberries you can have it all. Berries are a great source of antioxidants which aid in the production of detoxifying enzymes and these enzymes keep hormones clean and healthy. The result is balanced hormones and a strong immune system.
- Beans – A healthy source of protein that doesn’t take much of your energy to digest. Just like nuts you should soak them overnight for better digestion and absorption.
- Healthy Oils – Coconut, olive, flax, sesame. You can choose any kind of organic and cold pressed oil. These essential fats are very important for hormone production and to improve your metabolism. Many commercial foods are already rich in Omega 6, which contributes to tissue inflammation, so we need to consume oils that are rich in Omega 3.
- Corn, Wheat and Oat Bran – High in fiber, which helps the intestines to clear old estrogen from the body by binding the estrogen to the fiber. The fiber also clears the lining of the intestines allowing toxins to be released more easily.
- Clean Water – Hormones thrive in the body through lipids (fat) and water. 1 Liter per 22kg is the average amount of water we should consume. Clean water, which is rich in minerals, is essential for hormonal balance.
Most of the time our health is more in our hands than we believe. Taking care of our health and ourselves requires discipline, some compromise and curiosity to learn from our own bodies. Make the effort to connect with your cycle. You can even create a diary of how you feel from one menstruation to the next, and especially how you felt in the days leading up to menstruation.
It is important also to record what kind of foods you ate and give yourself the challenge of going through your cycle following the suggestions presented in both of the lists above.
Your whole cycle should be a nourishing experience. Instead of looking at it as a time where you’re not feeling in full power, we can change our perspective by seeing it as a time to be more with ourselves, reflect, meditate, accept and give the body the space and silence to go through this natural process. It is an opportunity to slow down and simplify things, from your activities to your food.
After all, you do not have to be full power all the time, you can just be you as you are!