In the last year, I’ve been tremendously interested in understanding the connection between what we eat and our menstrual cycles (obviously- this is coming from a woman’s perspective). You may have already read my blog post about PCOS. Well, today we are talking about PMS!
Many women, including myself, have a love-hate relationship with our menstrual cycle. While I acknowledge that it’s natural, I also won’t deny that I absolutely HATE dealing with PMS- and I know I’m not the only one 🙂 And even though doctors have tried to get me to take pills from a young age (no thanks!) I was terrified at the idea of ingesting hormones and then having the discipline to remember to take a pill everyday at the same time. I was young and it sounded complicated. Even more scary (for me- personally) was the idea of having a copper “thing” inside of me. Regardless of the different options available (all that funny enough, required a prescription), there was always a LONG LIST of side effects that came with these options. Then there were the horror stories I’d hear from my girlfriends about how pills gave them severe acne, or doubled their breast size or made them add weight (when they didn’t want the weight gain) or affected their libido and their appetite. THIS WAS SO MUCH DRAMA AND I WAS STILL SO YOUNG! There was NO WAY I was getting myself into any of this!
I was confused and terrified by all these options- not one that seemed appealing or natural.
So- I figured I’d just have to “deal with it”. I even did the math- every month, there were a good 10 days of unpleasant experiences I had to go through to put up with this “natural cycle”. So 10 x 12 = 120 days. That’s almost FOUR MONTHS of pain and crazy symptoms I’d have to “deal with”… EVERY YEAR UNTIL I’D HIT 50!
But then I was fed up! You need to understand that I am someone who loves to do a million things and I love to stay active- so I really don’t want to waste 4 months of my life every year. On top of that, I’m nowhere near wanting to have children. So those 4 months are very important for me.
So I was fed up and my first challenge was to defeat the old tale of “don’t exercise when you have your periods”- especially if it was swimming, something that I loved! So I defied that belief and started to swim, periods or no periods, I was going in that pool and swimming my laps! And I also started to run, ESPECIALLY during my periods! And guess what? It was a RELIEF! The exercise was actually HELPING me beat PMS- my symptoms were way less severe and my periods actually became shorter by a day or two. Until now, I exercise ESPECIALLY just before my periods.
Ladies- exercise can be incredibly helpful in managing PMS. For starters, it gives you a jolt of energy and puts you in a good mood- meaning, fewer mood swings. Secondly, the sweating helps release toxins and beat the infamous PMS bloat! Physical activity also helps relieve cramps and breast tenderness- the two things I personally noticed most improvement in! If I was working out regularly, both symptoms almost disappeared. There’s a lot of research around the benefits of exercise and PMS- Google it!
So while I was seeing improvements with regular exercise, I also wanted to understand how my food was affecting my hormones.
You see- years ago, I used to be a sugar addict. I also consumed a LOT of dairy. When I started to transition to vegan, I cut down on both- although it took years for me to beat sugar addiction. But cutting down on dairy (along with exercise) helped a LOT! If there were months where I ate too many refined carbs, my PMS got worse. If I had a little too much wine, my PMS got worse. Too much salt- yup, you guessed right… PMS got worse. Over the years, it became evident that my PMS symptoms were directly impacted by what I ate. I believe us women are very in-tune with our bodies: so pay attention and see what it’s trying to tell you.
I upped my greens, drastically cut down on my sugar (finally beat the stupid addiction!), also cut down on refined carbs AND kept exercising regularly. With this formula, my periods became so much more bearable- it was unbelievable! The minute I slip however, my periods are a nightmare all over again. The relationship between food/exercise/PMS was so evident to me, it would make no sense to ignore it. There’s also the stress component- but that’s another story (stress affects hormones BIG TIME).
As I continued to read about PMS, I learned something no one had ever taught me! No doctor had EVER told me about this, I couldn’t believe it! No one had EVER told me about the relationship between our hormones and our liver! All I ever knew was that too much alcohol could wreck your liver… but hormones? Who knew.
Well guys, guess what! Your liver plays an INTEGRAL ROLE in HORMONES and consequently PMS!
The red thingi in the image above is your liver.
What does the liver do? The liver does a bunch of SUPER IMPORTANT STUFF! Such important responsibilities include:
- Regulating blood clotting
- Bile production & excretion (good for digestion)
- Metabolizing fats, proteins & carbs
- Storing glycogen (i.e: energy), vitamins & minerals
- Blood detoxification and purification
- Balancing hormones by breaking them down and metabolizing them
- 500 different chemical processes
- AND OTHER SUPER IMPORTANT THINGS TOO!
But what we’re interested in today is what’s highlighted in purple: hormones!
If there are too many hormones in our body, a healthy liver should be able to balance them and detoxify the body of excess hormones. So with all the hormonal spikes we get during a menstrual cycle- there is a form of a hormonal “imbalance”- which translates to PMS. Albeit the hormonal fluctuations are “natural”- it still causes PMS, and sometimes we make our PMS worse because we’re not taking care of our liver!
A healthy liver means good processing of hormones- and kicking the excess ones OUT! However we don’t take good care of our liver because we drink all this alcohol and eat all these saturated fats (i.e: animal fats), high-fat dairy foods, SUGAR, and food with LOTS OF SALT!
Are you guys following me here?
If you are eating too many of these foods –> your liver can’t function properly –> meaning it can’t balance your hormones out properly –> meaning your PMS get out of control.
If we move away from conventional Western medicinal treatments, this concept of liver x hormones has been studied for THOUSANDS of years in Traditional Chinese Medication (aka “TCM”). TCM relies on more natural based therapies and understanding the root cause of any pain/imbalances in our body. Western medication works like a bandaid (i.e: “here, take this pill”) but it doesn’t work on fixing the ROOT cause. So taking a pill for your periods is just a band aid- the minute you’re off the pill, all the drama comes back into your life.
When your liver stagnates (because you’re eating the wrong foods!), your hormones will be off, you may experience PMS (and all the emotions that come with it), and you may also have cramps. This is because the body doesn’t have enough Qi (energy) and has to literally work harder (the contractions that create cramping) to produce a smooth flow of blood.
The good news in all of this however is that
1- you CAN control your diet
2- the liver is the ONLY visceral organ that can regenerate itself
And what helps strengthen & cleanse our liver are GREENS, GARLIC, & GINGER! (amongst other things too). What we eat is critical in keeping our liver healthy, and consequently, our hormone levels (since the liver plays a key role in regulating hormones).
So this soup, when consumed REGULARLY and within a HEALTHY LIFESTYLE can help reduce PMS! It will help strengthen your liver AND will help beat bloat (most fresh herbs, namely cilantro, help combat water retention). This soup however WON’T WORK if you’re eating junk food all day and then eating this. It has to be part of a balanced lifestyle 🙂 Also- all the above is applicable for an average, healthy woman. I don’t want to exclude anyone, but I also don’t want things to get lost into translation.
SO EAT THIS SOUP, STRENGTHEN YOUR LIVER and KICK YOUR PMS IN ITS BUTT! Greens are your friends- now and forever!
- 1 cup of coconut milk
- 1/2 bag of chopped callaloo (about 250gr/9oz)
- A handful of fresh cilantro- washed
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- Ginger (to your desire)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- Coconut oil
- Sea salt
- Fry your onions, garlic and ginger until they turn golden
Then add the callaloo & cilantro- do not chop the cilantro. Just put the whole thing in there- every piece of it is good for you 🙂
Cook them all together for about 2 minutes so they pick up on each others flavours. The greens will shrink, so if you want, you can add even MORE callaloo at this point 😀
Then you simply transfer all this goodness to a blender with coconut milk and blend 🙂
And you transfer that mixture back to the pot and cook it up for a few minutes. Add some sea salt. Add some water to thin it out (unless you like really chunky soups).
And that’s pretty much it guys! I love this soup so much and if I consume this in the evenings, I definitely feel the difference in the mornings.
By now, we all know how good leafy greens are for overall health and the slightly bitter kinds are even better for your liver (i.e: callaloo, mustard greens, watercress, etc) ! Cilantro, as with most fresh herbs, act like little brooms that come and clean up your body. Be generous with the cilantro- it’s not a garnish, it’s actually food for you to eat 😀
The more coconut milk you add, the smoother it will be. If you’re brave enough, you can make this without coconut milk (sub with water)- but I recommend the coconut milk. A bit of fat is essential to absorb veggie nutrients efficiently. And it will make this soup taste yummy 🙂
I hope this helps! A lot of what we eat affects our hormones and in turn, the severity of our PMS symptoms! I’ve become a firm believer in this 🙂 I just wish my gynecologist told me this years ago… sigh.