Foods to support your cycle
Do you know that the food you eat can have a huge impact on your menstrual cycle?
Eating the right foods at the right time can significantly help maintain hormonal balance which will help to reduce symptoms of PMS and optimise your energy throughout your cycle.
Hormones are everything. As they change week to week, so does our brain chemistry, resulting in a cascading effect throughout the body, good or bad.
Cycle syncing about supporting your menstrual cycle with the right foods, exercise and other behaviours that nurture what is going on for you biochemically and physiologically.
Let's go through the cycle phases and how you can use food to support your hormones. And hopefully you can say goodbye to pesky PMS!
There are four phases in a menstrual cycle, just like there are four seasons in a year. Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer. As we move through each phase our bodies require different things from us in most areas of our life: work, exercise, nutrition, rest, activities and socialising.
The Menstrual Phase - Winter
The first day of a full bleed is known as day 1 of your menstrual cycle.
Hormonally your progesterone production drops and estrogen peaks and then drops as well.
This phase is known as the Winter phase because just like you naturally want to hibernate in the season of Winter, your body is also begging for a rest during this phase of your cycle. So take time to rest, sleep, watch some Gilmore Girls reruns and eat some delicious dark chocolate.
What food do you need to nourish your body in the menstrual phase?
You want to replenish your body by eating blood-building foods that will restore and nourish your blood and kidneys.
So while you might crave some comfort food (like pasta or a juicy burger) try to nourish your body with foods rich in iodine, zinc and iron to remineralise your body.
Think soups or bone broths (full of collagen which helps to rebuild the body), buddha bowls packed with veggies, sushi, and smoothies with antioxidants like berries, kale and flaxseed. (Flaxseed is anti-inflammatory and helps to balance the hormones, so good cycle round).
Water-rich fruits and vegetables with a low glycemic index, like beetroot, kale, mushrooms, blueberries, cranberry and watermelon.
Seafood and sea-based vegetables will help to remineralise your body with zinc and iron (which you lose during menstruation).
Fill out your meals with buckwheat or wild rice.
The Follicular Phase - Spring
Shave those legs, wash that hair and get shake off that doona, because winter is over and spring is here! The follicular phase is the lead-up to ovulation and so you'll start to feel your energy rise and some colour coming back into your cheeks.
Follicular Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is rising, telling the ovaries it's time to prepare an egg. Estrogen begins to rise again from it's lowest level.
Fresh, vibrant and light foods are key in this stage of your cycle. As your energy rises, you want to support it and get your body ready for healthy ovulation (not just good for baby-making but overall health).
Go for pressed salads (with kimchi and sauerkraut) and vegetables like broccoli, carrots, lettuce, zucchini and parsley.
Eat lots of B-12 and iron-rich foods like nuts, seeds, beans, eggs, organic beef or chicken, wild fish, lots of veggies and energy-sustaining grains like buckwheat.
Balancing the gut is also important for healthy hormones, so add in some probiotic-rich foods like fermented and pickled veggies (aka sauerkraut and kimchi).
The Ovulatory Phase - Summer
Summer is here! This is the part of the cycle where you ovulate. So your body is a beautiful cocktail of hormones that are making you feel great!
An egg is released from the ovary and travels down the fallopian tube where it eagerly seeks some sperm to fertilise it. FSH and Luteinising Hormone (LH) both rise while estrogen (which thickens the uterine lining) and testosterone both surge.
This is where your energy and increased libido come from. Your body is literally telling you: HAVE SEX NOW AND MAKE A BABY.
Even if you aren't trying to make a baby, you can enjoy the energy of this time. You'll probably feel more confident, positive and outgoing. A great time to be social.
The food you eat in this phase should support your energy (good fats and proteins) and detoxification of your increased hormones.
Veggies are great for fibre, like spinach, dandelion greens, okra, asparagus and Brussel sprouts. Fruit is important for high levels of glutathione (which helps reduce oxidative stress and detoxification in the liver) so increase your intake of antioxidant-rich fruits like blueberries, strawberries and raspberries.
Choose lighter carbohydrates like quinoa and red lentils, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and almonds. (I love sprinkling these over salads, stir-fries and curries).
The Luteal Phase
This phase can last between 10 to 14 days and is the 'Autumn' of your cycle. Your hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone peak and then decrease, with your lowest levels right before your period begins.
You might experience some PMS in this phase (like irritability, bloating and mood swings) as a result of too much estrogen compared to your progesterone production. (Although PMS is common, by balancing your hormones you can reduce its impact, sometimes all together).
The increase in progesterone in this phase might increase your appetite and cravings for comfort food. Your body is more sensitive to changes in blood sugar level, so it's a good idea to eat more often in this phase to avoid sugar lows which can affect your emotions.
Progesterone can also trigger constipation and slow digestion, which might result in bloating, constipation or water retention.
Foods rich in B-vitamins, calcium and magnesium help reduce sugar cravings, mitigate the effects of fluid retention and help the body detoxify estrogen.
Think roasted starchy vegetables like pumpkin, sweet potatoes or squash. Leafy greens will aid with detoxification while also boosting calcium and magnesium.
Brown rice is a great base and for protein add chickpeas or organic beef.
Peppermint tea and spirulina to smoothies will help promote hormonal balance.
Let your body guide you
When you live in sync with your body and nourish it, it will tell you what it needs. So treat it with respect and listen to what it tells you.
Do you already cycle sync? Share your tips with us!