Intro to Eating For The Four Phases Of Your Menstrual Cycle
Post by Madeline MacKinnon
Madeline is now offering her popular series, Eating For Your Cycle, as an online course! This is exciting for anyone who has always wanted to take a class in the teaching kitchen, but lives far away or has a busy schedule that prevents them from taking a class in person. Click here to find out more.
Your menstrual cycle has four distinctive phases; follicular, ovulatory, luteal and menstrual. In each phase your hormonal levels change to prepare the body for potential conception and pregnancy. The hormone shifts that happen in each phase of your cycle have a profound impact on your nutritional requirements, food cravings, energy levels, communication skills and neurochemistry.
When your hormones are out of balance everything can feel like an uphill battle; your confidence is down, energy is low, brain in a fog, and you may not feel like yourself. However, when you learn to eat with care, know more about your body, and make your hormones work for you, your cycle may be a totally different experience. Understanding the four phases and how to work with them will allow you to use your cyclical nature for time management, completing creative projects and enhancing your spiritual practice.
A great way to start feeling better is to learn to eat foods that support your hormone levels in each phase of your cycle. Women actually require different amounts of nutrients at each different phase. To get these nutrients, strategically eat foods, herbs and use specific preparation methods at each phase of your cycle.
Examples of how you can eat for the four phases of your cycle
Follicular Phase (lasts 6-10 days)
The beginning of the cycle happens when the pituitary gland secretes follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) which stimulates the ovarian follicle to mature and prepares the follicle for release. Estrogen levels start to increase to thicken your uterine lining.
Tip- Eat foods that are high in antioxidants to support the maturation of the egg. If you want to conceive, try eating an avocado a day to increase your chances of conception.
Ovulatory Phase (lasts 3-4 days)
This is when you will be most fertile and FSH and estrogen peak. Soon after, the luteinizing hormone starts to rise which stimulates the follicle to burst and release an egg into the fallopian tube. Testosterone surges and then drops after you ovulate.
Tip-If you have signs of high estrogen like PMS, eat estrogen detoxing foods like cruciferous vegetables, broccoli sprouts and foods high in fibre. Schizandra berry powder will support your liver to process all the estrogen you’re creating.
Luteal Phase (lasts 10-14 days)
The follicle or ‘shell’ that the egg burst from stays behind in the ovary and corpus luteum. From there, the corpus luteum starts to produce progesterone which signals the body to keep the uterine lining intact. Estrogen and progesterone slowly decrease, telling the body to release the uterine lining; this is the beginning of your period.
It’s important to note that progesterone is the dominant hormone during your cycle. If estrogen levels get too high or if progesterone is too low then the hormone imbalance can cause PMS, breast tenderness, a heavy period or other menstrual issues. PMS may be normal but it’s not natural; it’s a sign of estrogen dominance. If progesterone levels aren’t high enough they can decrease serotonin, causing anxiety, depression and mood swings during your luteal phase.
Tip- Your body craves magnesium rich foods (which would explain the chocolate cravings) and you basal metabolic rate increases, meaning more calories are required. Eat a serving of leafy greens every day to get your magnesium fix.
Menstrual Phase (lasts 3-7 days)
The end of one cycle and beginning another. Progesterone drops which triggers the shedding of the uterine lining. Estrogen peaks and then drops off again. Generally your hormones levels are quite low. You may feel relieved and a have sense that you can think more clearly since your estrogen dropped.
Tip: Traditional Chinese medicine stresses the importance of keeping the body warm to prevent ‘cold’ in the uterus. Building on this knowledge, eating cold food can contribute to cramps. Make yourself up a big pot of warming stew and consume warming spices like ginger, cardamom and nutmeg.
Learn more about how to eat for your cycle so you can make your hormones work for you this April in Madeline’s 4 Part Eating For Your Cycle Series at The Light Cellar. You will learn how to track your cycle, balance your hormones and develop a deeper connection to your body. She will teach you how to eat during each phase of your cycle and demo healthy, delicious recipes you can make at home. Click here to learn more and register.
Madeline MacKinnon is a certified nutrition consultant, women’s health coach and the founder of Natural Hormone Healing. She dedicates her time, energy and education to help women from around the world to balance their hormones naturally. Connect with Madeline on instagram @naturalhormonehealing and visit her website www.naturalhormonehealing.com