So many of us are taught that our periods are a problem. But the truth is, understanding your monthly cycle is empowering and the key to optimizing your entire life. Learning how your hormones shift throughout the month is like obtaining a cheatsheet for all the subtle (yet significant) changes that happen throughout each cyclical phase.
Knowing what to expect is half the battle. Once you uncover and implement the tools necessary for supporting your endocrine system, you can strategically map out you schedule – from nutrition to fitness and even career decisions – all while complimenting your body’s natural rhythms, eliminating symptoms and functioning optimally.
There’s no denying that your menstrual cycle can have a profound impact on your mental state. But if you acknowledge and honor your natural hormonal fluctuations within each phase, you can take full advantage of your body’s ingrained wisdom and capitalize on the shifts to create an overall sense of balance and wellbeing.
If you’re like many women, there’s a good chance that your hormones are out of balance. It’s easy to fall out of touch with your body’s natural fluctuations (three lattes a day, work stress and hitting that crazy bootcamp class too often? That will do the trick). The good news is that in addition to visiting your primary care provider, you can also start restoring your body from any of the negative dietary and environmental influences that have been wreaking havoc on your hormones.
The easiest way to begin is by tracking any aches, pains, mood swings and so on. While some might prefer an old fashioned notebook and pen, I love using the MyFLO app. According to their website, “MyFLO is a period tracking and hormone-balancing tool that teaches you how to take care of and tap into your body’s cyclical, biochemical hormonal patterns.” In other words, this app doesn’t just warn you when your next cycle is arriving, it teaches you how to eat, move and live in tune with your hormones.
Here’s a glimpse of the cognitive changes you can expect throughout each phase so you can start tuning into these powerful shifts right away:
Phase 1: Follicular Phase
(Duration: 7-10 days)
The follicles in your ovaries start to swell and as estrogen and testosterone rise, so do your energy levels and mood! You may find that you’re especially good at making social plans, trying new things, and building and implementing all kinds of projects and ideas.
Lifestyle tips – You’ll likely have energy for more challenging workouts in this phase so schedule in the spin class you love. You’ll also benefit from eating plenty of fresh, light foods.
Phase 2: Ovulatory Phase
(Duration: 3-4 days)
As an egg releases then makes its way through the fallopian tubes and into the uterus, you will have a surge of energy. Whatever your actual desires may be when it comes to conception, during ovulation your body is at peak fertility.
Lifestyle tips – Energy levels are at their max in the ovulatory phase so there’s never been a better time to hit the gym. You’ll have plenty of natural energy and a stable mood from the surge of estrogen so stick to lighter carbohydrates and fill up on fresh produce.
Phase 3: Luteal Phase
(Duration: 10-14 days)
Physical energy declines due to an increase in progesterone. You may start to experience any premenstrual symptoms in the luteal phase – bloating, irritability, headache, mood swings and cravings are all common.
Lifestyle tips – You may enter this phase with high energy, but it will slowly taper off closer to your cycle. This is a great time to take a vinyasa yoga class or go for a brisk walk. To prepare for your period load up on B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and fiber-rich foods.
Phase 4: Menstrual Phase
(Duration: 3-7 days)
When it comes to your period, the day you start bleeding is officially day one of week one. Progesterone levels plummet, telling your body it’s time to release your uterine lining. This is the time of your cycle when your energy will be at its lowest point. You may feel tired, drained, and inclined to withdraw.
Lifestyle tips – Restoration and relaxation are necessary during your cycle. Listen to your body’s cues and move only if you feel inclined. For most, yin yoga, gentle stretching and walking are the best options. Also be sure to enjoy plenty of water-rich fruits and vegetables, sea vegetables and sea food which will help replenish iron and zinc levels.
Apps for tracking your cycle:
Natural Cycles: ($9.99 per month)
Other products I love:
LOLA – a woman-run company providing consumers with tampons and pads made with organic cotton.
Woman Code by Alisa Vitti – a fantastic book and women’s health resource.
The Healthful Model and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Healthful Model is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program.