Thursday, February 19, 2009

Restorative Nutrition for Dysmenorrhea

I suffered from dysmenorrhea or menstrual cramps for so many years. I think it started when I entered college. For those of you who are suffering from this every month, you know what I’m talking about. Last year, I’ve experienced my chest tighten where oxygen was shut off from my body, then dizziness and excruciating pain. I also passed out for a few seconds before gaining back consciousness. When I gained consciousness, the pain was still very intense that I wanted to scream but didn’t have the energy to do so. The only thing I could think of was to consume 15 drops of liquid mineral along with five drops each of liquid zinc, boron and selenium with water. Although it didn’t work right away compared with medication, there was a slight improvement. I even called my brother to prepare the water for me. It happened twice last year and it was the most painful menstruation I’ve ever experience. I was also incapacitated for a few days every month. Actually, I could have taken a pain reliever to ease the cramps but I didn’t. I endured the pain every single month because I want to find out the real cause of it. But when I experienced this last year, I gave in to the pill. My mom wanted me to see a doctor. I didn’t want to. Although the doctor could explain to me further what’s happening to my body, I already knew that writing a prescription drug is what she's going to do.



I believe that food plays a huge role in healing our bodies. So I made some changes with regards to food, supplements and lifestyle. The following recommendations are based on my experience.

Two weeks before my monthly period, I avoided the following:

  • Beef, pork and dairy products. Beef and dairy products contains arachidonic acid that convert to the Series II prostaglandins which encourages blood clot formation. In addition, most meats are laden with pesticides, hormones and antibiotics – that includes chicken and eggs. Pork has less of the arachidonic acid but it is better to avoid them. So, where will I get my iron if I don’t eat meat? You need to eat foods (another blogpost) that nourishes the spleen, which is responsible for getting rid of worn-out red blood cells by recycling them and transforming them into iron to build the blood.
  • Avoid white flour and whole wheat flour. White flour is great for cakes, pastries and breads but sometimes it doesn’t do the body good most especially if this is what you eat every single day, three times a day. Wheat even in its whole form can be difficult to digest for some people and it can aggravate whatever allergies or pain you might have at the moment. So, avoid bread, cakes, pastries and even pasta and anything with wheat and gluten.
  • Cold drinks. They worsen contraction of the muscles around the uterus.
  • Bad fats. They are fried foods, hydrogenated, refined and Trans fats.
  • Sugar. Sugar is always the culprit of whatever weird things are happening inside our body. Any type of simple sugar should be avoided.
  • High salted foods. It worsens bloating.
  • Caffeine. It stresses the adrenal glands and the liver; therefore it stresses the whole body. It also flushes mineral out of the body.
  • Refined and processed foods. They are vitamin and mineral deficient.
  • Stress. We cannot avoid it but we can control it. We are not super humans so get help whenever you can.

So, what do I eat?

  • Fruits and vegetables. Although raw food is good for cleansing the organs, I find that I do better when they are cooked. I felt that warming foods are more restorative.
  • Grains. Brown rice, millet, quinoa are good grains to include as well as buckwheat.
  • Legumes. They are a good source of protein. Cook with some spices for better digestion.
  • Tofu. Tofu is another good source of protein. It also inhibits bad estrogen, also known as xenoestrogens. Soy has bad reputation because people replace it with every kind of protein available by eating it everyday. Just like with any other food, consume soy moderately.
  • Nuts and seeds. I eat more seeds than nuts. Nuts are sometimes hard to digest unless they are soaked. Flax seeds are good in regulating hormones. I do a combination of 4 parts flax seeds and 1 part each sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds. Grind about 2 tablespoons of seeds a la minute and sprinkle over whole grain cereal or yogurt.
  • Organic chicken. Serve without the skin.
  • Organic eggs. Boil or poach to protect the fat enzymes in the yolks.
  • Sea vegetables. They have a good balance of sodium and potassium and the minerals are easily assimilated into the body.
  • Salmon. It’s a good source of omega-3 fatty acids along with mackarel and sardines.
  • Ashitaba (Tomorrow) Leaf. It promotes blood circulation and is beneficial for women with menstrual problems. Eat 4-6 leaves a day.
  • Superfoods. Wheat grass, barley grass, chlorella or spirulina alkalizes the body and supplies a wide spectrum of nutrients.

Buy organic as much as possible.

Ashitaba (Tomorrow) Leaf

Supplements

  • 50-100 mg of Vitamin B6 – to control excess estrogen and works as a natural diurectic to relieve bloating. Always taken with 50-100 mg B-complex to maintain biochemical functions in the body.
  • 10 drops Elemental zinc and copper – to convert vitamin B6 into its active form.
  • 10 drops Elemental boron – to balance the hormones and aids in calcium uptake which fluctuates during the menstrual cycle.
  • 10 drops ConcenTrace Mineral Drops (CMD) which I now bring everywhere I go - 3x a day (up to 50 drops) - they contain natural balance of 72 verified minerals and trace minerals with magnesium as its abundant mineral, which has a nerve-tranquilizing and muscle-relaxing effect. Magnesium also optimizes the amount of usable calcium in the system by increasing calcium absorption.
  • 1 tbsp Flax seed oil or 1000–2000 mg fish oil – good source of Omega-3 fatty acids; it balances the hormones; it reduces uterine spasms and relax blood vessels.
  • 400 IU Vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol) - improves blood circulation and regulations hormone levels; it also protects flax and fish oil from going rancid.
  • 1000-4000 mg Vitamin C in divided doses – to reduce fatigue.
  • 500 mg of Milk Thistle 3x a day – to detoxify the liver and help normalize the estrogen levels.
  • Calcium is another important mineral to take but I usually get it through food and my CMD.

I know that’s a lot of supplements to take but nutrients don't work in isolation, they work in synergy. But every person is different and I could create a program suitable for each one.

Herbal remedies to try:

  • Raspberry leaf tea – it tones the female system.
  • Ginger tea – it increases blood circulation and warms the insides and the extremities.
  • Peppermint tea – it supports the digestive system and reduces muscles cramps.
  • Chamomile tea – it relaxes the muscles and supports the digestive system.
  • Turmeric tea – liver tonic.

Sweeten your teas with honey or muscovado sugar if desired.

Peppermint

Some lifestyle changes would definitely help ease the monthly cycle:

  • Exercise such as yoga or Pilates increases blood circulation, regulate hormones, remove toxins, enhances nutrient absorption and strengthen organs.
  • Getting enough sleep is essential in lowering cortisol levels which helps lower stress in our body.
  • Consume 8-10 glasses of water a day for nutrient circulation.
  • Slow deep breathing is an important technique to bring adequate oxygen to all tissues of the body.
  • Eat small frequent meals throughout the day to balance blood glucose levels.
  • Get enough sunshine every morning for about 15 minutes to obtain adequate vitamin D.
  • Have a warm bath of magnesium sulfate and baking soda to detoxify and relax the body.
  • Try alternative medicine such as acupuncture and acupressure.
  • Try hot compress to relieve pain.
  • Massage the area with a mixture of 1 tbsp carrier oil such as jojoba oil with 5 drops of chamomile or ginger essential oil for 3-5 minutes. Cover with thick towel to keep it warm.
  • I believe that being at peace with uncertainty is the most important. Whether you are employed or unemployed, single or married, successful or unsuccessful, having peace of mind surpasses everything.

Orange-Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes and Arugula

To summarize, there are four things that you need to keep in mind in order to have a smooth-sailing menstruation every month:

  • Improve liver function by detoxifying your body and eating clean, pure, whole foods.
  • Have a regular bowel movement once or twice a day by eating whole foods. When you’re not having a good bowel movement, the liver will suffer.
  • Follow your joy. Whatever negative emotions you are feeling every single day – sadness, anger or fear also affects your liver. The most important thing you can have is to be at peace with uncertainty. It's hard to achieve but anything is possible.
  • Increase blood circulation through exercise, deep breathing, therapeutic massage and eating the right kinds of food.

Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Soup

If you’re suffering from menstrual cramps every month, follow the suggestions above. It is also important to listen to your own body for symptoms and reactions from certain foods. I know I am not a doctor but this is what I understand – whole, real, unprocessed foods along with nutritional therapy and natural solutions are the medicine of the future. You can’t go wrong with it.



Saturday, February 7, 2009

Impromptu



I started this 2009 a little bit slow. While everyone is rushing back to work, I, on the other hand was just taking it easy. Trust me, I didn't plan it that way. My activities during the day consist of working out, searching the net, reading books, watching reruns of Prison Break, listening to Jack Canfield, cooking in the kitchen once in a while, expecting a mail from the postman, rewriting my dream/goal list, working on my blog and being tranquil for a moment.



On the last Tuesday of January, I woke up feeling the same way as I did a few weeks ago but then I always have a choice to make it a better day. I acted on faith by telling myself that something good is going to happen to me. As I was preparing breakfast for my mom and my brother, I decided to do something in the kitchen that afternoon. It’s not because I wanted to increase my employability, although that wouldn’t hurt at all. There were days that I feel I don’t want to cook at all. But, something rose from the inside and I have no idea what it’s called. I was determined that no matter how simple the recipe might be, I’m going to do it and I did. I hope I could feel like that every single day. I didn't pay too much attention if I was making a healthy dish or not for as long as my soul is fed and that’s what mattered to me at that time. It's all right if I burned the brown rice the other night, if I looked like a dish rag at the end of the day, if I over-soaked the ladyfingers in the espresso mixture or if I over-creamed the mascarpone cheese. We all deserved a second chance.


I was busy during the first week making chicken stock on Tuesday morning, which is always a weekly routine whether I’m in the mood to cook or not. That afternoon, I made a basic tomato sauce which I used for the Spagettini with Sardines and Dill for dinner and roasted some bell peppers for the cauliflower salad. I made some gingered tomato jam, pesto and even clarified butter. I also made a cluttered yet harmonious plate of roasted eggplant, oyster mushrooms, arugula and tomatoes with poached egg.


I could have made some Gnocchi but cooking and taking photos at the same time takes a lot of effort most especially that I have to bring down whatever it is that I’m making from the kitchen (second floor ) to the living room (ground floor) or even to the third floor. So, you may not see a lot of complicated recipes on this blog. If the clouds are covering the sun and the room is not brightly lit, then I would have to stop and wait or even cancel it for a day or two.

Anyway, while the potatoes were baking in the oven the following day, I cooked some spelt in plenty of water with a little bit of salt. I just realized that that I have this grain sitting inside the fridge for a few months now.


Aside from being a comfort food, making gnocchi is therapeutic. When you are having a bad day, feeling under the weather, worrying about your future or being in a negative situation, make gnocchi. It helps you to live at the present moment, being in the “now” moment. The most healing part of making gnocchi is shaping them by rolling each piece of “pillows” through the back of fork or a gnocchi board to form ridges. This shape will evenly cook the gnocchi and will allow the sauce to be absorbed. I don’t mind making more gnocchi even if I don’t have to eat it.


Then, I used the spelt to make Spelt, White Bean and Chorizo soup, a salad of Arugula, Citrus fruits and Walnuts. I also prepared Spelt with Currants, Yogurt, Apples and Honey which could be a great alternative for breakfast.

I also made pancakes which are probably the best that the family has ever tasted. There would be leftovers for mom’s snack in the afternoon and it’s one of those few things from my adventures in the kitchen that my nephew likes to eat. Thanks Dawn for the recipe.


The second week was a bit of exhausting. I guess exhausted from waiting, expecting and hoping. I just want to keep on going but there were days that I feel apathetic. But I need to keep going even if I don’t feel like doing it. If only I could do what Elizabeth Gilbert did on Eat Pray Love, I would do it. I feel that I need to get away for awhile to find some inspiration, to have a second chance to feel alive again with my life and to create my own serendipity.

But since it was mom’s birthday the other day, I decided to make tiramisu. I used to make this dessert almost everyday at Piccolo Mondo Ristorante (now called Saveur) in Vancouver. But when I made it here about 4 years ago, it didn’t turn out the way I used to make it. So, this is the first time I’m making it again. That morning, I was already thinking whether to keep the yolks raw or to make a sabayon. I ended up making the sabayon with Kahlua which is what I have at home. Then, I made “espresso” through a French press instead of brewing some coffee. As I was cooling the sabayon and the "espresso", I over-creamed the mascarpone cheese and even over-whipped the egg whites and over-soaked some of the ladyfingers. But four hours after assembling it, I had a taste and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Just a little bit grainy but nobody noticed it. I just realized that I forgot to take a photo of it after my last bite. Oh well, there's always a next time. =)



I’m supposed to make a Red Lentil and Grain Chowder today but after checking that the camera is not working, I thought I should just cook the chowder and make another one next week hoping that my sister’s camera is already in good condition. Well, it's about time that I should buy my own camera. I think I should include "raising funds for a new camera" on my goal list. This pending recipe has been postponed for three weeks now. I still have a few on my list that needs to be written and published soon, and then there's more things do be done.. and it's okay.

Expecting an exciting and enthusiastic life,

Divina