Beetroots, lets face it are pretty amazing vegetables.  Anything edible that boldly bleeds crimson colour has the right to claim powerful nutritional benefits.  But this is not a nutritional blog about beetroot.  It may be a long windy one, but worth it, that is my hope.  We are discussing menstruation, conscious cycling and transit times mostly in response to a social media post over a grumpy lunch of beetroot kimchi on International Women’s Day 2021.

I have consciously tracked my menstrual cycle for many years. Not only am I aware but I make sure that it is on the calendar for everyone else in the household to be aware of too. An average month goes in the regular flow from ovulate to luteal phase, bleed to follicular phase on a regular 28 day cycle with relatively few fluctuations, for which I am grateful.

That all sounds rather technical and factual and not at all how I truly read, honour and embrace it.  Our cycle is a source of wisdom and I like to understand it as seasons.  When I consider my cycle this way, I am no longer indifferent, I am aware. In Summer, I ovulate and on into Autumn. Followed by winter, when I bleed and on into Spring, where I find myself now.

This is a powerfully useful reframe, as you start to notice and integrate this, your month reshapes and you may just realise that we are not linear beings who operate at the same speed and productivity all the time.

In the Spring of my cycle I find myself naturally spending a lot of time mapping and scheming how to make things happen in my life. Already you can appreciate how this mimics nature and all the renewed spring vibes but also it is a real embodied feeling that this phase is a very different energy to the previous week of my bleed, my winter.

Winter, when in flow, is a time to rest and recover. Your life may not be in the rhythm yet but I feel no guilt or shame to do the bare minimum.  I embrace the rest and don’t force anything as i know by the time summer comes I will catch up.  I left the writing of this blog until Spring. I knew I could bring some energy to it that was lacking whilst I rested in winter.  

So what has this to do with PMT.

Being cycle conscious immediately highlights a direct relationship to my mood. We change throughout the month. This month in particular it has allowed me to clearly see the whole picture as a series of events that lead to a rather harsh Autumn. Yes cactus head is beyond apt, in thought and word I couldn’t have been more prickly. Very unlike me.

A few weeks earlier, I had concluded a long and considered dental plan which will form a blog another time, but it is suffice to say that I found myself seeking out pain relief for longer than i cared to.  I have birthed two children without pain relief, but there is just something about tooth ache that needs urgent numbing. The resulting issue I want to address is, using pain relief has repercussions on your digestive system. Did you join that dot?

To get to the details, did you know that three daily movements is the golden seal of well being?  Think about it, if you eat three meals a day then emptying of the bowels three times would seem logical.  Less than one elimination a day and we have to pay attention to the backup.  If constipation is something that troubles you then please give it some attention, for many reasons, not only the sheer discomfort of it.

Look at your hydration and fibre intake and make sure they are sufficient and maybe even consider a little gentle colon cleanse with flax seeds.  Many chronic diseases begin in a gut, it is not hard to imagine when unnecessarily carrying around kilos of waste matter that needs eliminated.  With this particular blog focus on our cycle, a backlog of waste matter is bad news for of your hormones.  Instead of moving on and out they just get recycled.

Whilst our hormones can do the merry dance throughout our monthly cycle, from shades of happy to a mysterious sadness, keeping a healthy gut will have enormous benefits on this pendulum. Menstrual cramps, bloated wombs, exhaustion, irritability, mood swings are all indicators that our hormonal messengers are not happy, and either are we. (Just FYI holding dill / carrots tops in front of your privates will have no effect your hormones.)

Hormones imbalances are a complex matter but let’s start with the obvious. Just how regular are you?

And what does this have to do with beetroot again?

Beetroots powerful purple-crimson pigment is a wonderful indicator of our transit time. Beeturia, the excretion of red beetroot pigment (betalaine) in urine and a stool, it’s so fascinating it even has a technical name.

Your transit time is a key factor in a healthy digestive system. There is no normal time per say as it is largely dependant on the food eaten, for example if it is fruit or a complex carb, a protein or a simple sugar all with different digestion times.  We can however suggest average transit time through the colon in someone who is not constipated is 30 to 40 hours.  One thing that is obvious though, eat beetroot and you are going to see how long it takes. Ideally the next day, if you care to look you should see the evidence. Does this help explain my grumpy beetroot kimchi lunch choice on International Women’s Day?

This is something to ponder, something to play with, something to try as you cycle through the month.  Perhaps beginning with whipping up some fermented beetroot kimchi too?

If you would like to know more about this way of being in your flow then start to sync your menstrual calendar to the seasonal rhythms.  It is easiest when you start to menstruate. Just mark it with a big red pen: WINTER

Spring will bring its much welcomed reawakening and much like summer, when I ovulate, everything feels sunny, bright, and playful.  I feel the most confident around this time and a lot more receptive to new ideas and challenges.  It is when I usually schedule social engagements, important conversations, bigger projects and social, fun time with friends.

Sensing how this goes, Autumn follows on and gives way to the whisper of a gentle nesting. I instinctively find myself cleaning up and decluttering, both physical and emotional stuff.  Left unattended you can understand why those tears of overwhelm fall the day before our bleed. When we tune in with this inner knowing, this little tool is an inner guidance system. To think of all those years of not knowing, being thrown around in the surf.  I feel for my younger self. On the odd occasion that I stop paying attention, you know, when life throws some things your way at times, I drift way, way off course.

There are two habits in my ongoing well being if I miss, I notice .  The first, of course, being including fermented probiotic foods into my diet on a regular basis. This keeps my digestive tube diverse, functioning and not back logged.  It is a slick food in and food out, as smooth as possible, operation here and when I slack, which I sometimes do (i am human afterall) I really notice the lag.

Secondly I support any potential hormonal ups and downs with a practice called seed cycling.  It is fairly easily to understand, easy to prepare and moderate to hard to remember to implement.  To admit, sometimes remembering to drink enough water in a day can be hard, I know it is the most basic and simplest of tasks, so there is your gauge. However once it is a habit, you are wining. Small daily habits that become routine are more effective than huge sparse efforts.

Seed cycling involves supporting the phases of your cycle with a mix of seeds namely sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and flax. In my winter/ spring phase I add ground pumpkin and flax to my meals and in my summer / autumn I add sesame and sunflower

This weeks plan goes forth like so.

  • Grind one week’s worth of pumpkin and flax seeds.

  • Store sealed in the fridge to maintain freshness.

  • Consume two tablespoons of seeds each day. I put mine on top of salads, or whatever I am eating. I sometimes even make a pesto with the particular seed combo.

  • Switch seeds to sesame and sunflower the day of ovulation.

  • Repeat for week two of the luteal phase.
  • Switch seeds back to pumpkin and flax the first day of menstruation and on it goes.

Of course you can make this as delicious as you wish. Serve it up as a Rayu OR as seed bread. Make healthy halva or chocolate bark. Don’t make it a bore, variety is the spice.