Are you bleeding with the new moon? Do you know how important nutrition is for assuring a healthy and pleasant moon time? The female moon cycle is a complex process involving many different hormones, local cell signaling, muscle contraction and blood loss- all of which require certain macro and micronutrients we obtain through the diet! For many women, the moon time can seem inconvenient, as it comes along with severe and painful cramps, low back pain, mood swings and more! As addressed in my last post, it is important to rebuild our connection with this cycle to awaken the Divine Feminine and reach maximum health and vitality. Nutrition is a great place to start to minimize those physical discomforts that come along with menstruating. I also find it extremely symbolic to connect with food more during our moon because it is a grounding time, and a beautiful opportunity to connect to Mother Earth and reap the benefits of her abundance and fruitfulness. So honor yourself and your cycle and pay closer attention to the ways in which you nourish yourself during these sensitive times, you will be surprised with all that you discover!
There are some BIG things we need to keep in mind when we think about using Food as Medicine throughout the moon cycle. First of all, it is important to have a basic understanding of the hormone cycle that regulates this whole process. Below you will see a drawing I made of the hormone levels and the corresponding day of your cycle. Day 1 is the first day of your period, typically day 14 is the day of your ovulation and day 28 is the last day before your new period! Keep in mind this is an average and can vary!
Looking at this picture, we can tell that hormone levels are pretty high just before day 14 and up until day 28. Intuitively we can assume we are using more energy to make these high levels of hormones and thus we will need more energy dense foods. You already know this. Your body already knows this. I know I am not the only woman in the world who has some undeniable cravings the week or two leading up to her moon time….agreeable, right? So if you are like me, you are craving CARBS. Sugary, sweet and delicious carbs. Carbs are quick and easy sources of energy, your brain loves them, and your uterus definitely loves them. However, our brain tricks us into thinking we want high sugar donuts or raspberry muffins when what we really need are complex, unrefined grains and starches. Unrefined grains and starchy vegetables are going to fuel us and our hormone production, while also promoting a more steady blood glucose level so that we are not peaking and crashing in ways characteristic of PMS. Counter to what your palate is craving, it is important to try to decrease refined sugar intake and fuel up on complex carbs like whole wheat, quinoa, millet, brown rice, squashes and sweet potatoes. When the craving for sweets must be quenched, reach for something like honey or dark chocolate, which contain important minerals and also satisfy a sweet tooth, as well as being age old PMS remedies (whether this is nutritionally relevant or just emotionally satisfying is up for debate J )
As we being to lose blood on day 1 of the cycle, our Sacred Moon Time, it is important to consider what we are losing and thus what we need to replenish. For me personally, during the two heaviest days of flow, I lose at least 2 ounces of blood each day and a bit less than that on the remaining days of my Moon, which is significant! Learn to see this as a blessing rather than something your body is screwing you over with. Rather than making you weak, is making you stronger. It is cleansing you, purifying you while also serving as a great reminder to take extra care of yourself.
A major component of our red blood cells is the mineral Iron. Iron is important for energy levels and keeping all of our cells quenched with the precious oxygen we breathe! Iron deficiency is the leading cause of anemia which typically leads to chronic fatigue-something we all want to avoid! Foods that are rich in Iron include dark leafy greens like kale and collards, legumes like green lentils, and whole grains. Seaweeds like dulce and spirulina are also rich in Iron as well as Iodine which is another important nutrient to take in for a healthy moon time. Vitamin C, a natural (and famous) antioxidant, is a precious vitamin that also increases absorption and utilization of Iron in the body so it is important to take these together. For me, that means adding a squeeze of lemon juice to my sautéed swisschard, or some lime or fresh orange juice to my green kale smoothies.
Some more micronutrients that we tend to need a little more of during these sensitive times include Calcium, Zinc, Vitamins A, B, D and E. Calcium and zinc are important in our hormone production pathways so they naturally start to decline about 10 days before our moon, which would be day 18 if we are referencing my chart above. It is best to increase intake of Calcium and Zinc rich foods during this time, which include broccoli, whole grains, legumes, seeds and seaweeds. Most of these foods are also rich in Magnesium which is absolutely essential for muscle function, and after all, the uterus is one big muscle (the coolest muscle, I think!) Magnesium is such an important mineral for muscles, it is often used as a supplement to prevent severe menstrual cramps. Magnesium citrate supplementation starting 1 week before the anticipated moon time can be an effective way to ward off those pesky cramps.
Vitamin A is made enzymatically in the body from carotenoids like Beta carotene. These compounds are found in most yellow and orange fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, yellow bell peppers, squashes, mangos and oranges.
Vitamin D is very important for many biochemical processes and absolutely necessary for adequate Calcium absorption and utilization. Vitamin D is synthesized using UV rays from the sun, which we all probably don’t get enough of (especially in Seattle)! Some foods like mushrooms contain trace amounts of concentrated Vitamin D, but it is best to supplement to assure adequate levels.
B vitamins, especially B12 and B6 are vital for keeping hormones balanced and are necessary to obtain and maintain a rhythmic moon cycle. B vitamins are most often found in animal based products like dairy, fish and eggs, but are also present in foods like spinach, spirulina and bee pollen as well as Vitamin B enriched foods like cereals, tofu and nutritional yeast. Although Vegans usually eat plenty of these B containing plant products, it is best to also take a Vitamin B12 supplement to assure the body has an adequate amount, especially if you are having issues with your moon cycle.
Vitamin E is one of the most important antioxidants to protect the body from oxidative stress and sadly a huge percentage of the population does not get enough of it! Vitamin E rich foods include avocados, sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach and sweet potatoes!
In addition to losing blood and nutrients, our body is making other “mini-hormones” or signally molecules that help play conductor along with the bigger, more commonly known hormones like Estrogen and Progesterone. Locally, in our uterus, we are making a lot of signaling molecules, called Prostaglandins which help stimulate muscle contraction of our uterus to actually expel the blood that is being sloughed off. These prostaglandins are primarily what is causing our cramps and referred back pain and are synthesized from essential fats that make up our cell membranes and are derived from the fats obtained through diet. Interestingly, the source of these essential fats has direct impact on the quality and intensity of these prostaglandins. So while we need to replace these lost fats, we also need to assure we are getting them from healthy sources that will promote beneficial prostaglandins rather than inflammation triggering ones.
Overall, a group of essential fatty acids we like to call Omega 3’s are the most beneficial in general and especially for women during the moon time. Essential Fatty Acids that are classified as Omega 3’s (n-3) usually go by names like ALA, GLA, EPA, DHA- which stand for long biochemical names that aren’t exactly important or relevant right now- but you may see them on supplements or food packaging labels. What matters is where we can find these delicious and nourishing Omega 3 essential fats. There are many sources and you definitely want to increase your intake of these foods during your moon time. ALA is found in flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts. GLA is found in algae’s like spirulina or in evening primrose oil and even in Honey, which has been used for centuries as a folk remedy for menstrual cramps. EPA and DHA are the ever-so-hyped fatty acids found in fish like Cod and Salmon, but lucky for vegans can also be sourced from algal products. There are several good companies out there supplying algal DHA supplements. These are all really good things to get more of during your moon and even during the whole cycle especially if you know you usually experience challenging moon times. I love eating cacao chia pudding with toasted walnuts or green smoothies with spirulina, avocado and lots of Vitamin C rich berries and GLA containing honey during my moon time in addition to the already fat and nutrient rich diet I eat as a plant based vegan. (There is no such thing as too many avocados ;0 )
So what about the fats that might make lower quality, more reactive prostaglandins? It has actually been shown that high amounts of low quality animal fats contribute to more reactive prostaglandin production, leading to more inflammation, cramping and back pain. This overconsumption can also lead to symptoms of excess during moon time like extremely heavy flows that last several days. Low quality animal fats refer to factory farmed animal products, which is almost 99% of animal products on the market. Whether you have signs of excess during your moon or not, I would strongly suggest decreasing animal fat intake and being sure that the animal fats you are consuming are coming from a sustainable and ethical farm where hormones and antibiotics are not used. Trans fats are also extremely damaging to all cells in our body and will automatically complicate physiology of the moon cycle. Trans fats are hiding in partially hydrogenated oils of many big name branded peanut butters and other packaged foods as well as in fried food and the average donut (sheds a tear). Avoiding these as often as possible is going to benefit your overall health as well as your moon time.
Now, even after your moon time is over for the month, eating these foods is still super important for supporting and tonifying the whole system. Once you stop bleeding, and your uterus starts preparing for the next round, you may want to increase your intake of blood building foods. In Naturopathy, we have a principle called the Doctrine of Signatures, which basically means that when food or plants looks like a certain body part or even pathology, it is usually good for tonifying that body part or treating that pathology- just another crazy way Mother Nature works wonders. So intuitively, we can assume that really dark red, juicy things are blood building, which in fact they are. After my moon, I love to nourish my blood with juicy beets, black berries and raspberries, pomegranates and prunes.
Although the Moon cycle is more complicated than the science of nutrition itself, I think we covered some really important bases for now. Food is the medicine from Mother Earth herself and it is important to ground and connect to this abundance during our moon times to keep us rooted, nourished and feeling pain free, vital and constantly growing!
If you have questions, comments or concerns, comment below or shoot me an email. Also, stay in tune for another Nutrition post all about a healthy vegan pregnancy, which is absolutely possible!
Stay radiant my Goddess sisters!