Intuitive nutrition coach, hormone guru and incredibly gorgeous human, Renata Trebing of Nourish With Renata, has shared her insights on how to use nutrition as a tool to enhance your menstrual wellbeing in this guest blog post.
When I first started talking to my client, Lisa, about her PMS, she told me her rage was almost uncontrollable. The week before her period started, everything and everyone would make her intensely irate. We affectionately called this phase her “Ragey Phase”.
After two months of aligning her nutrition to each phase of her menstrual cycle, Lisa and I spoke again and found that her rage was completely gone. Zero rage whatsoever. Just pure awareness and self-compassion.
This is the power of knowing the nutrition needed for each phase of your menstrual cycle. Your PMS diminishes or completely goes away, and you start to learn to love your cycle.
That’s why I love teaching women about the foods that can help to naturally balance their hormones during each phase of the menstrual cycle.
HERE'S AN INTRO TO FOODS FOR EACH PHASE OF YOUR CYCLE:
This is when you’re actively bleeding, also sometimes called your bleed phase or period. During this time it is important to have iron rich foods to help increase energy levels and mood even during your period. You can get iron from both animal and plant sources. Animal based iron, also called heme iron, is very absorbable by the body where as plant based iron, called non-heme iron, is not as absorbable. If you primarily eat plant based, you can increase how much iron you absorb by adding a vitamin c rich food to your iron source eg spinach is a great source of iron so you can pair tomatoes, or lemon juice or bell peppers as a vitamin c rich food. You might also choose to take an iron supplement, especially if your iron levels are particularly low.
Seed Cycling: this is a holistic practice of using seeds to help support hormone production and synthesis. The blend of seeds for the Menstruation phase is Pumpkin Seeds and Flax Seeds. I recommend adding 1-2 tbsp per day of each seed, to meals like smoothies, yogurt bowls, oatmeal, on top of salads, stir fries and even in baked goods. Aim for the seeds to be raw, organic and milled to aid absorption.
This phase begins once your Menstruation Phase ends. During this phase the follicles are preparing to mature to produce an egg. During this phase, you may notice that your hunger levels might be more subdued. This will contrast well with the last phase of the cycle called the Luteal Phase. As a result I highly recommend women focus on getting adequate protein at all meals, preferably 20-40g per meal. Protein can come from animal sources, such as chicken, beef, fish etc, as well as plant sources like beans and legumes. Protein is the building block of all of our cells and helps us to feel fuller for longer while also helping with blood sugar regulation. Insulin, another of the body’s hormones, is triggered for production after eating. The amount of insulin produced depends on your blood sugar levels and what you’ve eaten or drank especially if it is a high carbohydrate meal. We want to aim for more balanced blood sugar levels to help with consistent energy levels during the day too.
Seed Cycling: just like the Menstruation phase, the Follicular phase uses the same seeds for seed cycling ie 1-2 tbsp of each seed each day of Pumpkin Seeds and Flaxseeds.
I like to call this phase the Superwoman phase! This is because our hormone levels are high meaning lots of energy as well as feeling highly sociable and adventurous. During this phase, I recommend focusing on lots of fiber rich foods. Fiber helps with gut health and regularity, as well as helping to eliminate any excess estrogen through our bowel movements. Too much estrogen in the body can lead to many PMS, such as bloating, headaches, breast tenderness, weight gain etc. To help prevent these symptoms, aim to have half a plate of fiber rich foods for two meals per day, at a minimum. My fave fiber rich foods are cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussel sprouts, Swiss chard, bok choy etc. They have much more fiber per volume than other veggies. I also recommend aiming for about 30 different kinds of fiber each week. This will be fantastic for improving overall gut health, which has a profound impact on not just digestion, but also brain health, immunity and hormone production and regulation.
Seed Cycling: for the Ovulatory Phase and the upcoming Luteal phase, the seeds for seed cycling change due to the gradual decline of hormones during these phases. The new seed blend is Sunflower Seeds and Sesame Seeds. The recommended volume is still the same as the previous two phases, 1-2 tbsp per day of each seed.
During this phase, your hormones estrogen and progesterone are slowly declining. It is during this phase that many women experience PMS. The changing hormone levels can also affect hydration. I’ve found and many women I’ve spoken to have said they find it hard to stay hydrated during this phase. This is all because of hormones! To help increase hydration levels, I recommend being more mindful of water intake and perhaps increasing it during this phase, as well as adding in an electrolyte packet or drink to help the body stay hydrated. You can also eat more hydrating foods like cucumber, watermelon, oranges, strawberries etc. You may also want to infuse your plain water with sliced fruits, spices or herbs to increase flavor and help you to drink more water. Without adequate hydration, even by as little as a 1% reduction in hydration, can start to affect your mental cognition. Not to mention it can impact your digestive health too by playing a role in constipation, digestive pain and discomfort too. During the Luteal Phase, you may also find your hunger levels are higher. Add more complex carbohydrates to your daily eating, such as brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, amaranth, oats etc, as this will help to support progesterone levels too.
Seed Cycling: just like the Ovulatory phase, the Luteal Phase uses the same seed cycling blend of sesame seeds and sunflower seeds, 1-2 tbsp of each seed per day.
Eating for your menstrual cycle is one of the most powerful ways to help to balance your hormones - simply by eating a particular food during each phase of your cycle.
You don’t have to change everything about how you’re eating either. Simply choose one nutrition tip you want to implement and do this on a daily basis. I’ve seen a lot of success with women who have been dedicated to a daily practice of seed cycling. What daily nutrition practice are you going to pick? Let us know below and tell us how you feel as you continue this over your next few cycles.
Want to tap into hormone harmony? Check out Renata's Love Your Cycle Program: a four-month transformational group program to empower women with their cycle health. Visit Renata's website for a treasure trove of delicious recipes and more excellent advice like above.