This is a transcribed excerpt from the Womensync Podcast , episode #4 Food as a powerful tool for a menstrual cycle and balanced health with Maria Särén . Some adaptations of the text have been made. To listen to the podcast episode with Maria click here .
You talked earlier in the episode about traveling a lot and mentioned that fasting affected you in terms of a stress on the body that affected your menstrual cycle. Today there is a lot of talk about intermittent fasting and that they are healthy with many benefits. What are your thoughts on intermittent fasting and the menstrual cycle?
Many women have a lot of balls in the air and then it might not be optimal with a periodic fast either. If, on the other hand, you live a quiet life where you eat well, sleep enough and are reasonably free from major negative stress in the form of work, well-being and relationships, then perhaps fasting works well. Today, many of us do not live that way, instead fasting becomes an additional stress for the body.
Fasting can have several benefits, however much of the research is based on men. What I have seen in women who fast is that they often skip breakfast. On top of that, they might drink several cups of coffee to have enough energy and stamina while they might exercise in the morning. What kind of signals does this give to the body? Well, that we first have to go out and run and hunt before we get it, which in turn signals that it might not be an optimal time to produce a baby. In order to ovulate and be able to have children, there needs to be enough resources. Then it is more reasonable to go out and collect your food in peace and quiet.
Intermittent fasting, for example, may work better for women after menopause. However, it may be beneficial to get a longer rest or a form of fasting at night of, for example, 12 hours instead of 16 hours which is considered "standard" for intermittent fasting. This means that you eat your three meals during the day but with a shorter time interval. I have also seen a better effect of bringing dinner earlier than skipping breakfast.
You mentioned earlier that many people use caffeine to avoid hunger. What happens in the body when we drink caffeine and what is the connection to the menstrual cycle?
Caffeine is a stimulant to the body that affects feelings of alertness or how stressed we may feel. Caffeine can have both positive and negative effects depending on how well we tolerate it and can break it down. Much also depends on how we drink our caffeine and the number of cups. Do you sit down and enjoy a cup or do you throw it in while doing something else. If we have a lot of balls in the air, maybe the caffeine is not needed too?
Is there a connection between IBS and coffee?
Coffee can irritate the intestinal mucosa, which can cause many people to get diarrhea from coffee in particular. If you experience such symptoms, the body reacts to it as a threat, and it doesn't have to be coffee, but for someone else it could be, for example, gluten or other things that you experience sensitivity to.
How do you know if you are affected by caffeine or not?
Try to be without it. The more we want something, the less of it we actually need - even though the desire may be great. If you get symptoms such as fatigue, headache and so on, you should definitely be without it for a while .
––––Maria Särén works based on a functional medicine approach and is educated at the Kresser Institute, is a certified ICF coach and runs the women's clinic Liva in parallel with her own practice Emanera . Maria's mission is to help as many women as possible feel good and live in sync with their biology. Read more about Maria here and follow her on Instagram for more inspiration and knowledge.