Maybe it’s obvious, but listening to your body – or better, your hormones – and adjusting your food pattern, can prevent a lot of menstrual suffering. The balance of your hormones changes during your cycle, so it actually makes sense that you feel different every day of the month.
This is very clear for Margaretha den Dekker, founder of selfhealingsuperfoods.com. She teaches people (mostly women) how to use food and lifestyle to tackle and even prevent health issues in a natural way. She also takes hormones into account. ‘When you know what estrogen and progesterone do to you and accept this, it helps to keep in balance. Physically, emotionally and mentally. It all connects.’
Den Dekker is a trained biological lab researcher and psychologist. She also learned about traditional Chinese and Indian medicine. The mixture of all these insights and her personal experiences resulted in the basis of her philosophy. Her view on menstruation is based on the Ayurveda. ‘The traditional Indian medicine sees menstruation as a monthly clean-up. Not just the excess endometrial lining gets out, also other waste products leave your body. And sometimes hidden emotions and thoughts rise to the surface.’
‘It’s not just about what you eat, it’s also about when you eat it and how you cook it’
Food and lifestyle can support the cleaning process physically, mentally and emotionally. ‘It’s not just about what you eat, it’s also about when you eat it and how you cook it. In every phase of the menstrual cycle you have different needs. On day one and two of the menstruation it’s better to eat light and warm dishes, like soup with a lot of vegetables. That way the body doesn’t have to heat up any cold food and it can spend all the energy on cleaning up your body. From day three there’s a need for powerfood and iron to compensate the blood loss, so fish or meat. From day five herbs and spices help support your digestion and compensate the loss of energy. Herbs like basil and dill reduce menstrual cramps.’
‘In the premenstrual period, when the levels of progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest, you’re hungry for comfort food. Vitamin B6, magnesium and anti-oxidants. Those can be found in cocoa and bananas, so your desire for chocolate has a reason!’ This rhythm isn’t the same for every woman though. ‘It depends on your body type, whether your athletic, thin or voluptuous. But listen to your body and you’ll be able the recognise the patterns and take care of yourself. And taking care of yourself, means taking care of your environment as well.’
Margaretha den Dekker is a coach, trainer and lecturer in Dutch and English. She shares her insights on menstruation in relation to Eastern medicine and health on her website selfhealingsuperfoods.com. She also gives tips and tricks to reduce and prevent menstrual complaints.