A Phase by Phase Guide to Supporting Your Cycle
All of nature moves in Cycles. The seasons have a cycle that they follow; winter, spring, summer, and then fall. The moon cycles from its new moon, to the full moon, and then back to the new moon. And, as women, we have many cycles within our being, everything from sleep cycles and cardiac cycles to menstrual cycles. In every monthly cycle, as a menstruating woman, your body will go through 4 different phases; and just as it is important to nurture your body differently for different seasons throughout the year it is equally as important to support your menstrual cycle throughout each phase.
When we support our cycle throughout all its phases we are taking care of our body and giving it love and attention while creating a hormonal balance within our bodies. Having balanced hormones will not only help to increase fertility and decrease PMS symptoms but will also increase overall health as our bodies prepare to “reproduce” when we are functioning at our optimum.
Supporting each phase of your cycle holistically begins with the foods you eat, the activities you partake in, and the integration of herbal medicine to support, rebalance and restore the body.
Phase 1 Menstruation/Bleeding phase
This phase starts on day one of your cycle or the first day that you start to bleed. Typically, this phase will last anywhere between 3-7 days in a healthy individual. Because the focus of this phase is to clear the blood/uterine lining out of the body it is important to support your body through this elimination process.
You may feel more tired than usual and have cravings for things like red meat or chocolate. These cravings are usually your body speaking and asking for iron-rich and magnesium-rich foods.
Nourishment: dark leafy greens, nuts & seeds, sea vegetables, and raw dark chocolate + plenty of water.
For Cramps: Try cramp bark tincture - take every 15 minutes until intense symptoms subside.
*eliminate coffee/excess caffeine during this time if cramping tends to be aggressive.
Replenish + restore: Drink herbal tea or infusions of Red raspberry leaf and/or Stinging Nettles daily to help with cramping & to replenish iron into the body.
Try: Magnesium & b vitamins to diminish menstrual symptoms
Lifestyle: The body is working hard, which causes fatigue, so make sure that you are getting extra sleep - about 8-9 hours a night - and enjoying restful activities that are not strenuous. Massage just before your cycle is helpful for promoting circulation.
Herbs for sleep support: Chamomile or lemon balm & enjoy some quiet time reading a book, doing deep breathing exercises, or guided meditation.
Movement: Avoid high impact workouts during this time. Focus on long walks, gentle yoga, or light stretching, making sure to avoid doing inversions in yoga because they reverse blood flow.
If you are someone who suffers from Premenstrual Syndrome or painful menses it may be ideal to start Seed cycling on the first day of your period. Seed cycling is a simple system whereby you consume different seeds at different times of the month to support the endocrine system to balance hormones.
To seed cycle: start at the follicular phase of your cycle. Simply take 1 tablespoon of either fresh ground flax seed or pumpkin seed daily from day 1 of your cycle to day 14. This will inhibit the production of excess Estrogen and improve Progesterone levels whilst boosting Omega 3 fatty acid intake.
On day 15 (Luteal phase) switch to 1 tablespoon daily of either sunflower seeds or sesame seeds until the end of your cycle. Sesame blocks excess estrogen whilst sunflower seeds support the liver in the detoxification process.
*Be sure to use organic, raw, freshly ground seeds.
Phase 2 Follicular phase.
This phase starts right after bleeding stops. This is when estrogen and testosterone levels are rising, the building of the uterine lining and the maturation of an egg happens. During this time, it is important to make sure that you are nourishing your body so that there is a proper maturation of the egg and rebuilding of the uterine lining.
Nourishment: Nutrient dense foods with a heavy dose of protein and healthy fats. + plenty of water
Enjoy: root vegetables, salmon, eggs, beans, and oysters as they have a variety of minerals and vitamins to offer the body.
Herbs: Drink Stinging Nettles as a daily tea or infusion to rebuild the body.
Movement: Your energy will be at its peak, so if you are planning any vigorous activities or workouts now is the time to do it! This is also a good time to tackle challenging projects as well!
Phase 3 Ovulatory phase.
This phase typically occurs around the middle of your cycle, usually day 14 for most women, but for women on a 32-day cycle, it could be on day 16 as well. This phase only lasts for one week while the egg is released from the ovary and travels to the uterus. During ovulation, you may feel warmer than usual as your body temperature increases by .5 degrees.
*if you’re trying to get pregnant - this is the perfect time! If not, be sure to protect yourself during this phase.
Right after day 14, you may also notice a sudden, temporary drop in your mood as high estrogen drops off and progesterone has not yet kicked in.
Herbs: Try taking Maca a few days before ovulation and a few days after to balance hormones.
Nourishment: Avoid heavy foods as they can often make you feel a bit lethargic. Opt for: quinoa, lots of leafy greens, vegetables, rice, and cold water fish. During this phase, it is important to not cool the body too much, so it’s best not to eat completely raw meals but instead to consume a mix of cooked and raw foods. + plenty of water
Now, the egg is released and travels down the fallopian tube so you may feel slightly stiff or sore around the hips, lower abdomen, and lower back.
Movement: Try hip opening yoga postures such as Bound Angle and Reclining Bound Angle pose, Wide-Angle Seated Forward bend, and Fire Log pose.
Lifestyle: This is a good time to socialize, meet up with friends, schedule a date night!
Massage & Acupressure can also help relieve any stiffness or soreness.
Phase 4 Luteal phase.
This phase begins about one week after ovulation and continues until the end of your cycle/the day you start to bleed again.
The uterine wall will continue to thicken, more blood will flow to the area to create warmth and bring in much-needed nutrients.
Lifestyle: You will naturally notice your body wanting to slow down and you may feel more introverted, it is important to listen to these cues and give yourself ample space. Indulge in activities like journaling, massage, meditation, and yoga.
Movement: Light exercise is encouraged during this phase to help balance mood and hormones. Just be sure to stay away from anything too strenuous as it will deplete the body.
Nourishment: During this time, it is important to increase protein and healthy fat intake as well as warming foods as your body gets prepared to do a lot of work. + plenty of water
Consume: brown rice, root vegetables, salmon, beans, avocado, ginger, turmeric, and curries.
*Avoid things like alcohol and caffeine during this phase since they will increase PMS symptoms and drain the body of much-needed nutrients for the upcoming bleeding phase.
Herbs: start sipping on herbal teas and infusions daily like Raspberry Leaf & try cramp bark if you experience cramps before or during your period.
For bloating or edema: drink Dandelion root tea daily.