Menstrual cycles are a sign of womanhood, but periods can also be a burden. Some women experience painful cramps and migraines during their cycle, along with bloating and other symptoms that can make it difficult to go about your day.
The good news is that there's a whole new way of thinking about menstrual health, as we now understand how different foods affect hormone levels in the body.
There are two ways you might choose to manage your period: taking supplements or making dietary changes. The idea behind cycle syncing is to make small changes to your diet in order to improve overall health while optimizing hormones.
This article will explore more on this approach and how it might change the way you think about menstruation altogether!
What you need to know about your menstrual cycle
Your genetics and your lifestyle play a crucial role in the regularity of your menstrual cycle. And while we can't do much when it comes to genetics, you can definitely regulate your cycle by making some changes in your lifestyle, including your diet, exercise habits, and how you manage your stress levels.
You can improve your lifestyle to help offset any issues you may have inherited from your genetics. Eating the right foods is a big part of this, and will help balance your reproductive cycle naturally.
Most women have a 28-day menstrual cycle. Though this can vary from 26 to 35 days, most cycles last around three days to one week with normal blood loss at 30 to 80 milliliters.
There are four phases of the menstrual cycle:
- The menstrual phase (week 1)
- The follicular phase (week 2)
- The ovulatory phase (week 3)
- The luteal phase (week 4)
We will look at each phase in more detail and discuss how your diet can help regulate your cycle. But first, let's understand what we mean by "Cycle Syncing".
What is cycle syncing?
Cycle syncing is the practice of managing your menstrual cycle through dietary changes. This means that you make small adjustments to your diet in order to improve overall health while also optimizing hormones. The idea behind this approach is that different foods affect hormone levels in the body, so by eating the right foods at the right time, you can help regulate your period.
There are a few different ways to go about cycle syncing, but the most common approach is to align your diet with your natural hormonal rhythm. This means eating more of certain foods during the follicular and ovulatory phases and then eating more supportive foods during the luteal phase.
In addition to following a specific dietary plan, some women also take supplements to help regulate their period.
How Food Impact Your period- The 'Cycle Syncing' Approach
So how can you start cycle syncing?
The first step is to become aware of your own menstrual cycle. You can do this by tracking your period over a few months. This will help you to spot any patterns and identify any irregularities.
Once you have a general idea of your cycle, you can start adjusting your diet accordingly. The next step is to find out which foods are best suited to each phase of your cycle. There are many different ways to do this, but one of the easiest ways is to follow a food-based cycle syncing plan.
Alisa Vitti, founder, and CEO of Flo Living is a functional nutritionist helping women balance their hormones and reclaim their health. Through her work with Flo Living, she has helped thousands of women to improve their periods and overall health.
Alisa is a big believer in the idea that the food we eat impacts our periods. Her books including WomanCode and In the FLO: Unlock Your Hormonal Advantage and Revolutionize Your Life are full of information on how to eat for optimal health. They outline a food-based approach to cycle syncing that is based on her own personal experience and the experiences of her clients.
In each phase of the menstrual cycle, there are certain foods that you should aim to eat more of and other foods that you should avoid.
The following is a general guide to eating for your menstrual cycle. Remember that this is just a starting point, and you may need to adjust it depending on your own unique situation.
Phase 1: Menstrual Phase (days 1-5)
This is the first phase of your menstrual cycle, and it's when your period starts. The bleeding lasts for about 3-7 days, and the lining of your uterus sheds. You may experience cramps, abdominal pain, tiredness, and bloating during this time.
During the menstrual phase, it's important to focus on eating grounding foods that will help to soothe the body, stimulate blood flow, and detoxify the system. Some of the best foods for this phase include:
- Vegetables like beets, eggplants, greens including broccoli, kale, and spinach (Roasted vegetables can stave off sugar cravings)
- Bitter fruits like lemon, green apples, grapefruit, and cranberry (Great for detoxifying and alkalizing the body)
- Soups and stews (Especially those with bone broth)
- Ginger tea (Good for soothing the gut and alleviating cramps)
- Herbal teas like chamomile, lavender, and rose petal (Help to calm the mind and body)
These foods will help to stabilize the body and reduce inflammation. It's also important to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods during this phase. These foods can aggravate symptoms and disrupt the balance of the body.
Phase 2: Follicular Phase (days 6-13)
This is the growth phase of your cycle. During this time, your body is preparing to ovulate. The follicle, which will release the egg, grows and matures. You may find that you have more energy, more social during this phase, and your libido may be higher.
The follicular phase is a great time to focus on energizing and nourishing foods. Some of the best foods for this phase include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens and root vegetables (including beets, carrots, sweet potatoes)
- Nuts and seeds (especially walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds)
- Lean protein sources like chicken, turkey, fish, and legumes
- Quinoa and other whole grains
- Herbal teas
These foods will help to boost energy levels and support healthy hormone production.
Phase 3: Ovulatory Phase (days 14-20)
This is the phase of your cycle when you ovulate. The follicle ruptures and releases the egg, which travels down the fallopian tube.
The ovulatory phase is a great time to focus on foods that nourish the kidneys and reproductive organs. That's why it's important to have warm and spicy food during this phase. Some of the best foods for this phase include:
- Spicy foods like cloves, chili peppers, horseradish, and ginger
- Warm foods like soups, stews, and porridge
- Herbal teas like ginger and dandelion
- Onion Family: Garlic, leeks, onions, and scallions
- Quinoa and other whole grains
During this period, it's recommended to limit your intake of salt and raw fruits and vegetables. These foods can irritate the body.
Phase 4: Luteal Phase (days 21-28)
This is the final phase of your menstrual cycle also known as the premenstrual phase. The luteal phase begins after ovulation and lasts until the start of your period. This is when the uterine lining thickens in preparation for a possible pregnancy.
The luteal phase is a great time to focus on foods that support hormonal balance. Some of the best foods for this phase include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, root vegetables (including beets), cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower)
- Herbal teas like ginger and chamomile
- Spices like cumin, dill, turmeric, and cinnamon
- Omega-3 rich foods like fatty fish, chia seeds, hemp hearts, and flaxseed oil
- Quinoa and other whole grains
This phase is also a good time to reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol, dairy products, sugar, and raw foods.
The best way to approach your period is to focus on eating a balanced and nutrient-rich diet. This will help to keep your body in balance and reduce symptoms. Eating a variety of different foods during each phase of your cycle is the best way to ensure that you're getting the nutrients your body needs.
5 Tips to Keep In Mind
Here are some extra 5 tips for women dealing with complex menstrual cycles and hormonal imbalance:
- To assist your microbiome, eat fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut, recommended by Alissa Vitti.
- Sugar should not be consumed in great quantities.
- Remove dairy from your diet, they are a major cause of PCOS, acne, and endometriosis.
- Consume organic meat and eggs that are pasture-raised or from a local farm to reduce exposure to xenoestrogens.
- Aim to eat two servings of oily fish per week, like salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory effects.
The menstrual cycle is something that all women experience and it's definitely something that should be paid attention to. After all, what goes on in your body each month can have a big impact on your day-to-day life.
This article was contributed by Sarra Turki
PS: "This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.”