Updated: Aug 31, 2021
As women, we experience 4 different phases throughout the month due to our menstrual cycles. Our hormones fluctuate so much in just one month! We have all felt these changes and it is important to be mindful of this experience; from feelings of motivation and elation to feeling a bit down and easily irritated.
However, did you know that how we nourish ourselves throughout the cycle plays a huge role in how we feel and what symptoms we may experience? Cramping, cravings, acne, bloat … these are all common, but are they ‘normal’? The more symptoms you experience, the more your body is asking for support (usually a need for detox or a sign of nutrient deficiencies). What if balancing out hormones with nourishing foods could ease these symptoms? It can!
Let’s Take a Look at the Cycle and These Hormonal Shifts:
1) Day one of our cycle is the first day of a bleed. This is your menstrual phase or phase 1. Progesterone and estrogen are both low at this time. This is the time of rest. Your body is working hard while shedding its uterine lining. Rest and slow down. Because of this hormonal dip, energy levels may not be at their highest. Support the body with plenty of filtered water and focus on nourishing and replenishing nutrients that keep energy up and blood sugar levels steady.
· Lean Proteins (poultry, seafood, pork, grass-fed beef, eggs)
· Healthy Fats (avocado, fish, grass-fed butter or ghee, coconut oil, EVOO, nuts/seeds and nut butters, olives, whole fat yogurt)
· Low GI Complex Carbs (root veggies, legumes and hummus, fruits – grapefruit, berries, apples, oranges, pears, whole grains – quinoa, oat bran)
· Iron-rich foods with Vitamin C (lentils, kelp, pumpkin seeds, dried prunes, spinach, grass-fed beef, eggs and fish / berries, bell peppers, kale, kiwi, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, oranges, grapefruit)
2) The second phase is the follicular phase. This is when your body is getting ready to release an egg. A spike in estrogen happens in this phase. Again, nourishment is key. Hormones are shifting and you may start to feel more energized and motivated as you approach ovulation. Incorporate light, fresh and vibrant foods:
· Salads (use mixed greens, baby spinach or kale, arugula over iceberg for more nutrition)
· Fermented foods (kefir, full fat probiotic yogurt, sauerkraut)
· Healthy fats (avocado, ground flaxseed, nuts/seeds, nut butters, fish)
· Veggies like broccoli, zucchini
***Tip – this is a great time to start new ventures or goals!
3) The third phase is ovulation. There’s a fall in estrogen and spike in progesterone here. Your body is working hard to release an egg and to potentially become fertilized. This is the only time throughout the month that you are fertile. If you’re on a regular 28-day cycle, then ovulation should be on day 14, leaving your most fertile window within this week.
Keep in mind that sperm can survive within the body for up to 5 days – therefore you have about a 7 DAY window (days 10-17 of your cycle) to become pregnant. On the other hand, if you are not trying to become pregnant, this is the time to use precaution during sex. This is also an important time for nourishment.
· Detoxifying foods (kale, broccoli, onions, garlic and radishes, asparagus, grapefruit, avocado, artichokes, collard greens, beets, spinach)
· Fruits (berries, citrus)
· Protein (quinoa, eggs, fish, poultry, grass-fed beef, etc.)
4) Finally, the luteal phase, phase 4. This happens if fertilization doesn’t occur. Progesterone and estrogen begin to drop from their highest point, stimulating the first phase again, menstruation. This phase will depend on how nourished you were throughout the month and how well you ovulated. With menstruation in the near future this is a time to rest and slow down as your body prepares for the start of a new cycle.
· B Vitamin rich foods (fish, leafy greens, liver and organ meats, eggs, shellfish, legumes, grass-fed beef, poultry, pork, nut/seeds and nut butters)
· Magnesium rich foods (dark chocolate – 70% or higher, avocado, nuts/seeds – pumpkin, legumes, quinoa, leafy greens, seafood)
· Decrease/avoid caffeine and alcohol
· Low GI Complex Carbs to suppress sugar cravings (fruits, legumes and hummus, root veggies)
- When focusing on nourishment think of consuming breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Balancing your blood sugar throughout the day is optimal. Make sure you’re having protein and carbs together to lower blood sugar spikes and that you’re always supporting your hormones with healthy fats.
- Avoid Polyunsaturated fatty acids such as nut and seed oils (stick to grass-fed butter or ghee, coconut oil, and EVOO). Ditch processed and packaged foods.
- Sugar is okay in Whole Foods forms (fruits and local honey).
- Red raspberry leaf tea can be used through the whole cycle. It is loaded with nutrients to help keep you nourished and hydrated while replenishing what you may lose during phase 1. It also helps tone and strengthen the uterine walls decreasing symptoms like cramping.
- Healthy fats are building blocks for your hormones. Cholesterol is the back bone. Grass-fed butter, tallow, eggs (including the yolks), and coconut oil are all great fats to incorporate.
- Vitamin E as a supplement (preferably tocotrienol form) helps boost progesterone and in return keeps estrogen in check. Many people have estrogen dominance with a progesterone deficiency (or lower progesterone to estrogen levels).
- Beef liver (desiccated, raw, cooked) is nature’s multivitamin. This organ is packed with so many bioavailable vitamins and minerals keeping you nourished.
- Make sure to listen to your body and what it’s asking for with cravings. Do not allow yourself to get too hungry at any given time as cravings become confused with quick, unhealthy energy sources like processed carbs and sugar. For more support with understanding cravings, check out the blog post What Your Cravings Really Mean.
- Magnesium and Vitamin B6 are especially important during the 4th Phase to support mood as well as reduce other symptoms like constipation, insomnia and cramping.
- Supporting detoxification is always important - include detox herbal teas (Traditional Medicinals Everyday Detox, Gaia Cleanse and Detox, Milk Thistle), consume healthy sources or protein (amino acids from protein foods support detox - glycine, methionine, glutamine, cysteine) and B Vitamins (salmon, leafy greens, liver and other organ meats, eggs, beef, shellfish, legumes, poultry). Check out: Do-It-Yourself Detox with Therapeutic Foods.
In conclusion, the menstrual cycle is a rollercoaster of hormones, but it doesn’t need to be a rollercoaster of emotions and negative symptoms. Everyone is different and cycles vary from woman to woman. If you want to learn more about your cycle, support a healthy balance and learn what will specifically work for you, consider working with our team!
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