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How to eat more (as a woman) during the luteal / PMS phase



Recipes for the colder winter months to avoid PMS


Winter is in full swing and not only nature but also the foods we harvest, crave and need have changed. Especially during the luteal phase it is extremely important for us women to feed and fuel our bodies well, meaning - EATING MORE than usual (you will find some wholesome snack ideas below ;-) and avoiding cold salads, smoothies, juices, coffee and too many raw / exotic fruits. This is not only the time to hibernate in a cosy corner in front of the fire place but literally help keep our kidneys in a warm environment (YANG).



I will explain to you in details what is going on during that time of your cycle and why it can be challenging on a physical but also emotional / mental level and hopefully you can learn some fascinating new facts about your body and therefore also respect and take care of its needs more consciously. It keeps blowing my mind what the body is capable to endure especially when you look at the connection between the nervous and endocrine system but like all systems - they only work as long and efficiently (together) as its environment (= us) is supporting it. All it wants for us is to be IN-BALANCE but we also must listen, trust and act accordingly (with the information we already have and the knowledge we must constantly acquire). Andrew Huberman has a few great podcast episodes on women / hormone health:



FEMALE HORMONE OPTIMIZATION


What your body is going through:


The luteal phase, or second half of the menstrual cycle, begins with ovulation and lasts approximately 12 to 15 days. During this period, changes occur that will support the fertilized egg, which is called an embryo, should pregnancy result. The hormone responsible for these changes is progesterone, which is manufactured by the corpus luteum. Under the influence of progesterone, the uterus begins to create a "bed" for a fertilized egg to survive and grow. If a pregnancy occurs, the corpus luteum produces progesterone until about 10 weeks gestation. Otherwise, if no embryo implants, the circulating levels of hormone decline with the degeneration of the corpus luteum and the shedding of the lining of the uterus (endometrium), leading to bleeding.


While the hormone progesterone rises, premenstrual symptoms (PMS) like bloating, irritability, mood swings, sugar cravings and brain fog may develop. It is possible to help manage pre-period moods and discomforts through food choices: if you experience water retention in the form of swollen breasts and bloating, avoid foods high in salt and refined sugar. An additional effect of progesterone is that it can make the body more sensitive to changes in blood sugar. Therefore, if you eat too little during this phase, dramatic shifts in mood may occur which can leave you more emotional and sensitive. That's why I want to encourage you with this post, to really focus on eating more (not just enough) during these last 5 - 7 days of your cycle. Drop your "civilised" and regulated eating times, portion sizes and food rules and truly tune in to what your body needs! A lot of my clients would react to this statement with the fear of "I would just overeat on sweets the whole time" ... and although this might be true at the beginning (and also only for some), your body's true needs don't consist of the foods you prohibit yourself but actually the foods that nourish and support your bodily functions. This is a form of compensation (temporarily) as you finally let go of your food rules and a "system" that normally works during the other less sensible times of the cycle but your body is literally just doing it's job, asking for support and permission to take what it needs aka nutrients to finish the cycle efficiently.


To understand this even better...


Although the endocrine system is not directly linked to the nervous system, the two interact in a number of ways. They're linked by the hypothalamus, a tiny collection of nuclei at the base of the forebrain that controls an astonishing amount of human behavior, including emotional and stress responses. It's also involved in basic drives such as:


  • Sleep

  • Hunger

  • Thirst

  • Libido


And as progesterone rises during the luteal phase, it signals the body to consume more energy. Said differently: progesterone is correlated to an increase in hunger. Many women notice an increase in appetite before their period starts.

As it's always nice and easy to understand these things hypothetically and scientifically, I know for myself but also notice my clients struggling more with "the next meal" aka the daily life questions:


  • coffee first thing in the morning - yes or no?

  • do I eat before work or my yoga class or do I stick to my intermittent fasting regime (although I feel hungry)?

  • do I just get a croissant or sandwich on the way or do I prepare something before I leave the house?

  • Do I get lunch with my colleauges or do I order a soup, sit in a cosy corner and take a little break from socialising?

  • Afternoon low and in need of a boost - another coffee, matcha or a hot chocolate?

  • Hungry before the evening yoga class - do I eat a piece of pumpkin chocolate loaf, a tablespoon of nut butter with dark chocolate or should I skip the snack and push through until dinner?

  • Before bed time: a calming herbal tea or sparkling water with lemon juice?


You get the point ;-)

It's not important to not make any "mistakes" here - this is not about perfection - but more an invitation to be aware about your needs, keep the information of your physical processes in your mind and try to make the best decision possible in that given moment. And if you feel like you didn't manage well this time - prepare better the next day - it's only a couple of days of the month before you can let go again and ease into the post-menstrual / luteal phase that should feel light, free and more flexible. Commit to 5 days of fully taking care of your body and putting in the extra effort and care. You will see a shift and change so quickly!


And to make it easier for you - I have included a few recipes / snack ideas so you dont have to start googling ("what to eat when I have PMS and want to eat everything now") :-)




Your Pumpkin Dal tastes like a warm hug from the inside. Exactly what I need during that time of the month. Caroline K.

This dish gives your digestion a little reset and your immune system an anti-inflammatory boost! Eat it whenever you need something warming and nourishing and feel free to adjust the level of spices if you are sensitive to very warming foods. I omitted the classic addition of tomatoes (only due to my histamine intolerance) but feel free to substitute half of the liquids with tomato sauce to make it more traditional and tangy.


PUMPKIN COCONUT DAL

Preparation time: 60 min / 4 portions

Ingredients


  • 1 yellow or red onion

  • 4 garlic cloves

  • knob of each fresh ginger and turmeric

  • fresh or dried chilli

  • 2 Tbsp dried spice blend*

  • 200 g red or yellow lentils

  • 1 pumpkin (Hokkaido or Kabocha squash are my favourites) - you will need

  • 600 ml hot water or vegetable / chicken broth

  • 1 bouillon cube

  • 200 ml full fat coconut milk

  • 1 lime

  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil

  • 1 - 2 tsp salt

  • fresh coriander


*Dried spices: cumin, coriander seeds, cinnamon, brown mustard seeds, pumpkin spice or garam masala, curry powder or pure turmeric powder, black pepper


Instructions


Wash and rinse the lentils a few times until water is clear (you can also pre-soak the lentils the night before - then drain and rinse well).

Cut the pumpkin in half, deseed it and if necessary also peel (usually the skin is edible except at some varieties) and roast for around 40 - 50 min at 200°C in the oven or until soft.


In a big pot heat up the coconut oil and fry the chopped onion, garlic, salt and all the spices at medium heat for around 10 minutes until fragrant . Add the lentils. In a blender or food processor add the coconut milk, baked pumpkin, hot water and soup cube and blend until creamy. Add to the lentil spice mix and cook for 30 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes and adjust the liquid in case it becomes too thick. Season to taste with more salt, lime juice and finish with fresh coriander. Serve with brown rice, millet or flatbread.




PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE BREAD

* use the left-over roasted pumpkin from the Dal


Ingredients


1 cup pumpkin puree*

½ cup almond or walnut flour (= ground blanched almonds or raw walnuts)

½ cup buckwheat, whole wheat or spelt flour

¼ cup tapioca starch

½ cup coconut or brown sugar

½ cup soy milk

¼ cup melted (vegan) butter or mild oil

2 tsp pumpkin spice (“Lebkuchengewürz”)

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp apple cidre vinegar

2 eggs

pinch of salt

100 g dark chocolate, melted (65 - 70%)


Instructions


Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.


Place all the ingredients - except the melted chocolate in a big bowl (or food processor) and mix until well incorporated.

Reserve around ¼ of the batter and mix with the melted chocolate.

Pour the batter into a bread tin lined with parchment paper.

Add a few spoons of the chocolate mix on top of the batter and swirl it with a knife.

Bake at 180°C for around 35 -45 minutes - until the cake tester or tooth pick come out clean. Let cool completely before eating (good luck with that :-)



PROTEIN RICH HORMONE BALANCING DRINK

Preparation time: 5 min / 1 portion


½ cup plant milk or homemade almond milk

1 Tbsp chia seeds

1 Tbsp shelled hemp seeds

2 tsp raw organic honey OR

2 pitted medjool dates

½ Tbsp coconut or flax seed oil (optional)

2 Tbsp (raw) cacao powder

1 Tbsp cacao nibs

1 tsp red maca powder (optional)

¼ tsp each chaga and reishi (optional)

cinnamon or pumpkin spice to taste

¼ tsp turmeric powder

pinch of sea salt


*you can also add 1-2 Tbsp of my Female Balance Elixir which already includes all the adaptogens and 100% chocolate paste.


Place all the ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth and creamy.


This is a great "snack" to prepare in the morning or even the night before and bring to the office, yoga class or on a trip as its easy to eat and super filling (and doesn't spike your blood sugar thanks to the high protein and fat content)



ADAPTOGENIC CHOCOLATE BARK


Everyone loves chocolate but hardly anyone knows that you can actually make it yourself – from scratch! This recipe needs a bit more accuracy regarding measurements but when it comes to the toppings, you can be creative and try new flavor combinations and nutrient dense ingredients that keep you full and satiated when PMS symptoms hit.

NOTE: You can also just melt 3-4 bars of your favourite dark chocolate (85% or more) and skip the step of making your own chocolate!


200 g cacao paste (grated / chopped)

100 g cacao butter or coconut oil

80 - 100 g (¼ cup) liquid sweetener (maple syrup, coconut nectar, honey, date syrup ...)

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

pinch of salt

2 tsp adaptogen, mushroom and superfood powder

a few drops CBD oil (optional)


Toppings of your choice:

macadamia or brazil nuts, cashews, shelled hemp seeds, goji berries, bee pollen, freeze dried berries, cacao nibs, toasted coconut chips, roasted almonds, pumokin seeds, toasted black and white sesame seeds, flakey sea salt, your favorite granola, puffed quinoa...


In a bowl over a pot of boiling water (not touching the bowl!), melt the cacao paste or dark chocolate with the cacao butter or coconut oil. Add the sweetener, vanilla (if using) and salt and stir until all the liquids are well incorporated. Turn off the heat and add the adaptogens / mushroom powders and CBD oil if using. Stir to combine.

Line a square container with parchment paper with the two ends overlapping the container so you can easily lift out the chocolate. Make sure the chocolate layer is at least 4-5mm thick.

Add any toppings of your choice and place into the freezer for around 20 minutes.


Break into bite-size pieces and store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for up to a month.






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