What’s the secret to balancing your hormones in winter?

At this time of year, there are many winter foods that are naturally abundant that can contribute to healing and harmonising your hormones.  The goal during this cold time of year (according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, TCM) is to eat warming, healthy foods that nourish. Soups and stews are perfect and can be made with naturally abundant produce including root vegetables, winter squashes, winter greens, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, apples, and pears. 

I love to eat sweet potatoes in the winter. They are packed with natural hormone-balancing nutrients including vitamins A and C, potassium, and manganese. I usually roast up a bunch ahead of time and either make a fast, hearty, and rich winter soup, or make one of my favourite recipes, Sweet Potato and Berlotti Bean Stew for extra sustaining power.

What are Hormones?

Your hormones, according to conventional practices, are the chemical messengers secreted in your blood that tell your body what to do and how to feel. The most common course of action with Western medicine is to check values derived from laboratory tests, and then prescribe medication for the imbalances. While many conventional doctors still primarily rely on drugs to treat hormonal imbalances, that’s starting to change. These days, more than 50 percent of doctors answer in the affirmative when asked if they support traditional Chinese medical techniques, according to a survey (1) of more than 3,000 physicians said that they’d start using or increase use of TCM in the upcoming year. That’s good news, but you don’t have to wait any longer to start incorporating the wisdom of Chinese medicine for hormonal balance in your own life.

How does Chinese medicine view the seasons? 

According to TCM, there are five seasons of the year : winter, spring, summer, late summer, and fall. When TCM was being developed thousands of years ago, people lived with the natural rhythms of the seasons: They slept when it got dark, arose with the dawn, dressed in accordance with the temperature and weather, participated in activities demanded and allowed by the natural day, and ate the foods that were naturally available at that time of year. These practices, once done naturally, can now be implemented purposely to balance the health and wellness of your mind, body, and hormones.

What does TCM believe about hormones?

In TCM, the approach to hormones is holistic. Chinese practitioners see your chemical messengers as a manifestation of the orchestra at work in your body—a reflection, in a sense, of your diet, sleep, lifestyle, and passions. All together your hormones are seen as your chi. Your body’s harmonious symphony is in turn affected by seasonal fluctuations.

The key to preserving and nourishing healthy hormones from a Chinese medicine perspective is striving for yin-yang balance by focusing on the right diet, digestive health, and strategies that promote stress management, which includes a good amount of sleep, and self reflection. 

Baked Sweet Potato and Borlotti Bean Stew

Sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidant vitamins betacarotene and vitamin E, both of which are required to keep the immune system functioning and to keep the skin in good condition. When topped with the rich, thick bean stew, all thoughts of cleansing will vanish!

balancing your hormones

2 servings Cooking time:
45 minutes Preparation time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato
olive oil
1 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil 1 garlic clove, crushed
1 large red onion, diced 50g mushrooms, sliced 200g tomatoes
200g borlotti beans

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Pierce the sweet potatoes all over. Rub with oil and place on a bakingtray.
  3. Cook the sweet potatoes until soft all the way through when piercedwith a knife.
  4. Meanwhile prepare the stew. Heat the oil in a pan and sweat thegarlic and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for about 5–10 minutes to allow the vegetables to soften and the sauce to thicken.
  5. Open the baked sweet potato and add the stew.

References

“Population-based survey of complementary and alternative medicine usage, patient satisfaction, and physician involvement.” South Carolina Complementary Medicine Program Baseline Research Team.   Institute of Public Affairs, the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia 29208, USA)

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  1. “Population-based survey of complementary and alternative medicine usage, patient satisfaction, and physician involvement.” South Carolina Complementary Medicine Program Baseline Research Team.   Institute of Public Affairs, the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia 29208, USA)
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