Have you ever noticed a shift in your energy or mental clarity? Does your motivation to exercise dramatically alter throughout the month? This can be attributed to the hormonal shifts and changes we experience within our menstrual cycle.
Our cycle is divided into four phases: the menstrual phase, the follicular phase, the ovulation phase and the luteal phase. When we are in tune with the natural rhythm of our bodies, we can understand how each phase can affect us physically, mentally and emotionally.
Here’s how to tap into your menstrual cycle as an incredible tool to help you thrive all month long.
The Menstrual Phase:
This is the first phase of the cycle. Beginning when the egg from the previous cycle has not been fertilized. Pregnancy has not happened and therefore a thick uterine lining is no longer needed. So, the shedding of the uterine lining occurs, and a woman will begin to bleed. During this phase hormones are low, creating a low energy state and we are relying on neurotransmitters instead of hormones to boost our mood.
This phase is a time for rest and reflection. This isn’t an ideal time to be pounding the pavement on a 10km run or trying to be creative in your work. Instead, it’s a time to go within and reflect on the previous month and all it has brought you. It’s a time to pamper yourself and to sit down with a good book and a cup of tea, to treat yourself to a massage or to binge watch your favourite Netflix show. This is the time to allow your mind and body the rest it deserves so you can show up for yourself when the next phase arrives.
Foods to support this phase:
To support and replenish iron levels that may be depleted during this phase (on average 1mg of iron is lost daily), include iron-rich foods such as animal products, nuts and seeds, tofu and molasses. Combine these iron-rich foods with foods high in Vitamin C such as berries, citrus fruits and capsicum for better iron absorption. Also, consuming foods high in tryptophan, magnesium, vitamin Bs and essential fatty acids will help to stabilize mood and energy levels.
The Follicular Phase:
Overlapping the menstrual phase, the follicular phase starts on day one of your period and ends when you ovulate. While your hormones are still low, estrogen and testosterone start to increase as your body prepares for ovulation. They then peak at ovulation. As you come out of the menstrual phase you may begin to feel an increase in your energy levels, and become more focused. Your creative juices are flowing, so this is the time to create and cultivate new projects. Dream big, nothing is impossible. You may also like to start incorporating some exercise into your routine. Work up a sweat with a flow-based yoga class or a light run. Lovekins luxuriously soft Ultra-Thin Daily Liners are a great way to keep you fresh, dry and protected. Suited for light discharge, spotting or backup for tampon usage.
Foods to support this phase:
Supporting estrogen metabolism and clearance is important in this phase so focusing on the gut and liver health can be beneficial. Increasing cruciferous and high fiber vegetables such as broccoli, bok choy, cabbage and Brussels sprouts is beneficial as these contain a compound called DIM which supports the liver in estrogen clearance. Also include probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and Greek or coconut yoghurt to support the gut to excrete the excess estrogen out of the body. You may find you have a decreased appetite during this phase because estrogen is a natural appetite suppressant. So tune in to your body and listen to your hunger cues.
The Ovulation Phase
Ovulation usually occurs mid-cycle, this is the only time in the menstrual cycle a woman can fall pregnant. The process of ovulation starts when the rising estrogen levels trigger your pituitary gland to release the luteinizing hormone and more of the follicle-stimulating hormone. Along with peak levels of estrogen prior to ovulation, testosterone also increases. Once ovulation has occurred, estrogen plummets and progesterone starts to increase as the next menstrual phase begins. Due to hormone shifts occurring during this phase of the cycle a boost in overall energy levels, and libido occurs. Communication skills are also at their highest, so this is a great time to have those important meetings and conversations. This is the time for HIIT.
Foods to support this phase: Because this is such a short phase of the cycle, lasting only days it can be a little harder to plan meals around. Continue to focus on estrogen metabolism and clearance through additional liver and gut support. And try to eat intuitively. Some women may experience an increase in appetite or may start to crave more magnesium-rich foods to support the increase in progesterone that is about to occur throughout the luteal phase.
The Luteal Phase:
This phase follows ovulation and lasts until the start of menstruation. Once ovulation has occurred, the follicle that released the egg transforms into a corpus luteum and secretes progesterone and estrogen. Progesterone is the most important hormone through this phase, peaking halfway through.
In this phase you are feeling more focused, so it is a great time to perform your detail-orientated tasks. With the hormone fluctuations occurring in the luteal phase, energy is low and common (but not normal) PMS symptoms can begin to occur. Your body will thrive on strength training, vinyasa or power yoga and Pilates. This phase is time to ramp up those self-love practices to help support your mind and body.
Foods to support this phase:
During this phase appetite increases and blood sugar imbalances may occur if you are not fueling for the increased calorie requirements needed by the body. Foods high in magnesium such as almonds, cashews, eggs, figs, leafy greens and dark chocolate are amazing in supporting increased progesterone levels as well as helping manage PMS symptoms. This phase is also a time to avoid inflammatory foods as these may exacerbate PMS symptoms. So, steering clear of highly processed foods, alcohol and even caffeine may be of benefit to you. Focus on wholefoods,