One thing that I love about Eastern Medicines, like Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine, are their emphases on eating vibrant, seasonal foods. Foods are believed to have their own vital energy. Think about the difference between eating foods that are fresh, local and in season (like squashes, root vegetables and mushrooms right now in the Pacific Northwest) versus eating foods that are in a can from a different climate and typically eaten in a different season (canned pineapple). Do you feel the difference, even just imagining the two?
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT… AND YOU BLEED WHAT YOU EAT
When we eat, we are not just nourishing our bodies, but also our menstrual cycles. When we are not nourishing ourselves, this can show up in so many ways in our cycles - from scanty or absent menses to super heavy periods, from PCOS to fibroids to “infertility.” Healthy digestion and elimination drives our ability to have balanced cycles as well as balanced hormones.
AN EAST ASIAN MEDICAL PERSPECTIVE
In Chinese medicine, the Spleen is the energetic organ in charge of digestion and plays a huge part in producing the blood of our bodies, including our menstrual blood. This “transformation” process of the Spleen takes in the energy from our foods and drinks and converts it into energy that the rest of our organs can use in order to drive our body’s functions. Not too far off from a western perspective of the gut, right?
The Spleen has a particularly close relationship to our menstrual cycles, in that it is a key process in producing our menstrual blood, and it is super influenced by what we eat, how we spend our energy and even our emotions!
DIGESTION & OUR CYCLES
As I mentioned above, the Spleen is in charge of “transformation and transportation” in Chinese medicine, which is to say that it takes in the energy from what we eat and drinks and converts it into blood and energy that the body can use. Think of it less as an actual physical organ and more of the process of digestion in our bodies.
Digestion is not just what we take in through our mouths, but also our eyes, ears, nose, touch, etc. Digestion is how we assimilate our experiences of our inner and outer environments, including the outer world and the inner world of our emotions and beliefs. For this reason, it’s important to eat when we’re feeling calm and not stressed, and also to notice how our consumption of the world influences us. Do you notice that you get depleted or depressed after too much media consumption? Do you notice that your digestion is smoother when you are eating with friends versus in a car or rushing somewhere? Our environments and emotional states absolutely affect our digestive health and therefore our menstrual health.
Since our digestion contributes the building blocks of our menstrual blood, it’s so important to eat foods that are balancing and harmonizing for our bodies. This looks different for each person. But here are some general guidelines that are helpful for all of us:
↠ Foods that are non-sprayed, in season and grow near you. They will have the most potent energy and be the easiest to digest.
↠ Warming foods in colder months. Avoid cold drinks or raw foods. These are harder to digest, especially when the weather is getting cooler.
↠ A variety of foods. One easy way to do this is to notice if your foods are different colors (like broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes and burdock root). Try to fill at least half of your plate with vegetables, preferably steamed or cooked.
↠ Living foods, such as krauts or kefirs (I love water kefir!). If you don’t have time or access, try a probiotic that has a diversity of strains. Side note: There are many different kinds. Sometimes, while your gut is re-populating you may notice some loose stools or bloating, which usually resolves after a few weeks. Probiotics may not be right for everyone.
COURSE ON BALANCING OUR MENSTRUAL CYCLES
There are so many things to mention about this incredible process in our bodies. I’m developing an online course right now to share all of the details with practical steps and self-care guidelines.
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