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Cycle syncing: Live in Alignment with your Hormones

Updated: 3 days ago

Did you know your menstrual cycle has four distinct phases?

If not you may not be living in alignment with your hormones!

Changing hormones contributes to our mood, energy, ability to concentrate, what we decide to eat and how we move so it makes sense to understand on a deeper level the four phases and what they mean and how to cycle sync.

The four phases of the menstrual cycle are:

  • Menstrual phase

  • Follicular phase

  • Ovulation

  • Luteal phase

Each phase can affect your energy levels, appetite, ability to lose weight and your mood.


Working with your cycle can help you plan around fluctuations in your mood and energy, and make everything seem just that little bit easier, this is known as cycle syncing. There are also some red flags to look out for that might give you a clue about what is happening with your hormones.


In this blog I am going to explain the four distinct phases, what to expect in each and how to live in alignment with your hormones to get the most out of your days.

The four phases of the Menstrual Cycle and how to get the most out of each



Menstrual phase: Days 1 – 7

In this phase you will likely have low energy as your period begins. For some people, this phase can be a time when all they want to do is hide under the covers – and if you are experiencing symptoms such as heavy or painful periods, clotting or severe mood disturbances then you should definitely investigate further.

What should I eat?

In this phase the best foods to eat are warming foods, like ginger and cinnamon, to help with circulation and blood flow, iron-rich foods like red meat or spinach to replete iron stores, and magnesium-rich foods like sesame seeds or dark chocolate to help with cramping.

How should I exercise?

Listen to your body: now’s a good time for gentle walks, rests or ocean swims. During the late luteal (see below) and menstrual phase, body temperature can increase by 0.4 degrees which can affect sleep quality and cause daytime sleepiness (1).

How can I support my nervous system?

Say no to things that don’t serve you. It’s OK to rest and recuperate at this time.

Red flags in this phase

Note heavy, painful periods that mean you can’t do your usual tasks. Flooding or leaking during your bleed, and nausea or vomiting due to pain deserve investigation.



Fig 1. Menstrual cycle phases – https://helloclue.com/articles/cycle-a-z/the-menstrual-cycle-more-than-just-the-period


Follicular phase: Days 7-14

What’s the vibe?

In this phase you’re firing on all cylinders. So it’s a great time for problem solving, or for scheduling in that chat with your boss about a promotion! Physically, this is when follicles are developing on your ovaries, one of which will become dominant and release an egg for fertilisation in the ovulatory phase (coming right up).

What should I eat?

In this phase it’s best to focus on protein-rich foods such as lean meat, nuts, seeds and tofu, high omega 3 foods like oily fish or chia seeds, and plenty of leafy greens, as these all support follicle development and ovulation.

How should I exercise?

Try something fun and high energy! Been wanting to try a hip hop dance class or barre class? Now is the time!

How can I support my nervous system?

Take note of all the positives in your life during this phase – it’s a great thing to have on hand for your next couple of phases. Pick up gratitude journalling, either first thing in the morning or last thing at night as a way to wind down.

Red flags in this phase

Spotting in the lead up to ovulation or migraines can be a sign that something isn’t quite right with your hormones.

Ovulation phase: Mid cycle

What’s the vibe?

During this phase you will feel confident and desirable. Energy is likely to be at an all time high because your body is ready for all the complex processes involved in conception.

The appearance of some fertile mucus – a change to the consistency of your discharge, similar to egg white – is generally a sign that you have ovulated.

What should I eat?

In this phase cruciferous veggies (broccoli, kale, cabbage) can help your body detoxify the larger amounts of estrogen you have been producing. They are also a great source of fibre and antioxidants to help you pass a stool everyday (something you will know I am a huge advocate of if you have ever had a consult with me!).

It’s also a great idea to include things that are comforting and grounding like soups, roasted root veggies, slow cooked meats and warm deserts.

How should I exercise?

This is where HIIT and high energy classes can be really great! If you aren’t a fan of this style of exercise, try hiking, walking, running, flow yoga, or some other cardio-style exercise for this time of the month.

How can I support my nervous system?

You will likely feel super sociable and energetic in this phase, so try to keep that in mind when any invites come your way and consider booking them in for a month’s time, rather than next week (when you might be feeling lower energy).

Red flags in this phase

Pain in your pelvic region around ovulation or spotting should raise some flags. Some underlying conditions such as endometriosis can cause pain throughout the cycle, and spotting can sometimes mean that hormonal balance is off.

Luteal phase: Days 14-28

What’s the vibe?

It’s normal to feel slightly introverted and antisocial in the lead up to your period, so this is a perfect time to rest and plan.

What should I eat?

During this phase progesterone should be at its highest, which stimulates your appetite and makes it easier to metabolise carbohydrates. I often recommend that people increase their carbohydrate intake in this phase, making sure to include at least ¼ to ½ a cup of low glycemic index (low-GI) starchy carbs with each meal to keep your energy stable through the day.

Some research has shown that leptin levels (a hormone that helps to regulate appetite and metabolism) is highest during the luteal phase which means your body is best placed to recognise when it needs food and even metabolise it more efficiently (2).

How should I exercise?

Try yin yoga, gentle stretching, low impact weight circuit classes or gentle walks to match your lower energy levels. Studies have shown that during this phase cardio exercise is more difficult, which may be to do with raised core temperature and decreased oxygen flow (3).

How can I support my nervous system?

Planning is a lovely way to utilise your introverted energy. Write lists, set your budget and make some plans for your future. Fantasise about that trip to Paris you’ve been dreaming of, or work out how much money you could save if you skip your chai latte.

Red flags in this phase

If you’re feeling particularly sad, depressed or anxious in this phase it can be a sign that something’s out of whack. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder can manifest as severe depression and anxiety during this time, and should be investigated.

It can take some getting used to, but if you can sync your exercise, meal planning and social calender with your cycle everything will feel just that little bit easier as you make the most of your energy levels, moods and metabolism.

If you are experiencing any symptoms through your cycle such as heavy or painful periods, low libido, PMS or sugar cravings reach out to schedule a base chat so we can get to the bottom of it!

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30098748/

  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29268651/

  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32037785/

Author

Margaret Scott

Naturopath BhSc

Margaret is a degree-qualified naturopath with a focus on women’s hormonal health throughout the lifespan.

Book a session with Margaret here


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