Food for an easier menstruation…

Yep, I’m going there. About half the world’s population does it, so why not talk about it?

Having said that, 100% of the world’s population will die, and we seem to be even more uncomfortable talking about that.

I recently started menstruating again, after 18 months living happily without it – being pregnant and then breastfeeding. Once I stopped breastfeeding I waited anxiously and in hormonal limbo for it to return. My baby had been teething for weeks too, so it was a race to see which would arrive first – my period, or his first tooth. I beat him by one day.

I was excited when it finally arrived! For about five minutes. Then I remembered how annoying it is. The cramps, nausea, bloating, headaches and weariness came along. After feeling so well due to a changed diet, it knocked me around, so I started wondering what I could eat to minimise the negative effects of my period. I did a bit of looking around, and thought I’d share what I learned here. Please note that I’m not a medical or health professional – which is why I’ve sought the advice of others!

I was a little disappointed to see a lot of mainstream advice suggesting sugary treats, to help women feel better if they are a bit ‘PMS-y’. I do find that I tend to crave sweet things in the lead-up to getting my period, so I find it useful to have some IQS-friendly, fructose-free treats in the freezer, such as chocolate brownies or orange hazelnut cupcakes, to satisfy the sweet craving while avoiding a sugar overload, and therefore, not feeling worse afterwards.

Not surprisingly, most other advice pointed towards a wholefoods diet, with lots of vegetables. As I’ve already adopted this approach, I wanted something more specific. The advice I found varied enormously, from those who suggested consuming animal products, dairy, cereals and healthy fats; to those who said these things should be avoided altogether. Below are the points that health professionals did seem to agree upon:

  • Increased nutrients and vitamins: iron, folate (vitamin B9), magnesium, cobalamin (vitamin B12) – red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds, legumes and green leafy vegetables
  • Increased essential omega-3 fats: Sardines, tuna and salmon; avocado, nuts, flaxseed/linseeds, chia seeds
  • Increased water intake to help alleviate water retention (bloating) and reduce dehydration and associated headaches
  • Avoiding or reducing caffeine and alcohol – personally, I find that I don’t want coffee as often during my period, as it makes me nauseous
  • Little and often – Dr Marilyn Glenville suggests eating smaller meals regularly during menstruation to keep blood sugar levels steady. Because I have a tendency towards low blood sugar – and I have noticed it gets worse during menstruation – I tend to do this anyway. Dr Glenville also suggests cutting out sugar. Yay!

I have found that I want to do more, but gentle, yoga during my period. Something to do with stretching the body out, especially my lower back, and getting the blood flowing (pardon the pun…!!? :-D).

I’m getting much better at ‘listening’ to my body. This time, I paid close attention to my body and didn’t just resort to eating what I would usually eat. I found that I wanted less coffee and more green smoothies, especially ones with mint and cucumber. I ate a little greener and a little cleaner, bumping up the vegetable rainbow and cutting back on refined carbohydrates, such as pasta and bread, which made me feel bloated. I included more turmeric and ginger, both anti-inflammatory beauties, into my diet, and ate more fermented vegetables. I made a loaf of the IQS Turmeric, Goats Curd and Onion Seeded Loaf and had it for breakfast each morning.

Consequently, it was fine. I had barely any symptoms at all. A little bloating but no cramping, no headaches, no nausea, and no loss of energy. No PMS-y crankiness. Okay, less PMS-y crankiness. For the first time, I didn’t have to take any anti-inflammatory painkillers. Maybe I just got lucky? I guess I’ll find out next month…

Leftover vegetable spelt tart

Leftover vegetable spelt tart

Leftover Vegetable Spelt Tart

I made this the night before going grocery shopping, when I needed to use up all the random vegetables in my fridges that were looking a bit sad. It’s completely adaptable – use herbs and spices to alter the flavour of the tart, to suit the random vegetables in your fridge!

      • 300g wholemeal spelt flour
      • 1/2 tsp salt
      • 150g unsalted butter
      • 3 tbsp water
      • 6 eggs
      • All your leftover vegetables and herbs – I used kale, shallots, asparagus, broccoli and avocado
      • Whatever cheese you have in the fridge! I used fetta
      • Same goes for nuts and seeds – I used a small handful of pine nuts and sunflower seeds. Pepitas would be good too.

1. Grease a loose-bottomed, 23-26cm tart tin with butter.

2. To make the pastry, place the spelt flour, salt and diced butter in a food processor, and blitz until crumbs form. Add the water, and process until a dough forms.

3. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is larger than the tart tin, and then use the rolling pin to gently lift and drape the pastry over the tin. Gently press down into the tin, and remove the excess.

TIP: Roll the excess dough out again and use a cookie cutter to make shapes. Bake at 180 degrees celsius for about 15 minutes. My kids loved these savoury ‘biscuits’ with cheese!

4. Cover loosely with cling-wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

5. Blind-bake the pastry: Cover the pastry base with baking paper and fill with uncooked rice or baking weights. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the weights and the paper.

6. Scatter the chopped vegetables (excluding avocado, which I added fresh at the end), cheese, nuts and seeds across the pastry base. I lightly fried the kale, shallots and broccoli beforehand, but left the asparagus raw. The vegetables will cook more in the oven.

7. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl and carefully pour into the base. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until egg is set. Top with extra herbs, cheese, and the avocado, if using.

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