Food For Thought
The latest research on diet and fertility states a diet consisting of complex-carbohydrates (ones that are slow to break down in the body like beans, whole grains, vegetables), whole foods (avoiding processed foods and foods with added colour and preservatives) and mostly plant based foods has a six-fold increase in fertility. That in itself is pretty impressive. But what if you already eat well?
According to Chinese Medicine, every food is unique and, in addition to the nutritional value, each food has a different temperature, flavour and property associated with it. Some of this might be fairly in intuitive – ginger is warming in property and peppermint cooling. Some foods are known to nourish and strengthen certain systems or conditions – beets and red berries tend to nourish the blood, squash and rice strengthen the digestive system, and some foods tend to make conditions worse working against the body. For example dairy products and bananas tend to be cold and damp in property making come conditions like nasal congestion, pcos, or weak digestion and loose bowels worse.
So how does that affect you? In Chinese Medicine we work with the individual and their particular pattern to help them to focus on foods that will aid in their healing (like medicine on your plate) and eliminate the ones that could hinder it by working against you. We eat food every day so what we eat and even how we eat it is crucial to our strength and balance.
For example someone who has too much cold in their system (i.e. being unusually cold, having looser bowels or bowel movements shortly after raw or cold food, menstrual cramps that feel better with heat etc.), should focus on foods that are warming both in property and in temperature – for example avoiding foods that are raw or straight out of the fridge as they would just add more cold into the system, throwing the body more out of balance. But adding in more slow cooked foods and things cooked with warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, cumin or black pepper. Conversely, people who are overly hot should avoid those same foods, but focus more on cooling foods like peppermint or cucumber and tomatoes.
In addition to customizing food for the individual, we can also look at adding certain foods at different stages of a woman’s cycle to strengthen their system and optimize fertility.
In general, the first part of your cycle is the Yin-phase which focuses on rebuilding and nourishing blood after your period. Including foods such as nuts and seeds, avocados, seaweeds and omega-3 rich fish and oils can be beneficial. And including red meat if you eat it or being sure to eat lots of cooked leafy greens can help to rebuild the blood lost during your period.
During ovulation the liver system comes into play which is a lot about movement and ‘action’ (just think of the energy it takes to release and egg and the hormonal shift from the follicular phase to the luteal phase. Making sure the ‘channels are open’ is of utmost importance during this part of the cycle. Including leafy greens and chlorophyll rich foods are helpful as are all the pungent vegetables such as onions, leeks and garlic. Small amounts of vinegar in dressings or sauces can also be helpful.
After ovulation in the luteal phase, we look at building up yang or the more warming active aspect of your cycle. By including ginger, black beans, small amounts of organic red meats and spices like fennel and cumin during this period you can help keep you warm, stay balanced and strengthen your system.
Remember food is a great medicine but it’s also important to enjoy it! For food eaten with good company and in an enjoyable setting is equally as important as what’s on your plate.