Updated: Jul 6
Did you know that there are more than two stages of your menstrual cycle? It's not just Bleeding and Not Bleeding.
There are four distinct physiological patterns of a normal period. I say, "normal", and many of you will probably roll your eyes in irritation because you haven't had a "normal" cycle in years. But bear with me. With some effort and determination and diet and supplementation and rest, there is a good chance your periods could return to a quasi-normal state. It's better when I don't over-state.
As one of my period heroes is fond of saying, "Your period is your body's monthly report card". And it's true. And I say this to my clients so often they probably want to roll their eyes at me too.
But ladies, you have more power than you think you do. You don't have to be stuck in the swamp of PMS and terrible periods. There are some things you could do even this month, even this week, to coax your body back to a state of hormonal wellness. Let's look together, shall we?
Phase One: Bleeding
The first day you bleed is the first day of your cycle. Spotting does not count. The first day is the day you put in a tampon, or my preferred insert, the Diva Cup. Today is the day it gets real.
On the days you bleed, you lose a lot of nutrients. Your body is purging and detoxing and it stressful! This is why many women need to lie on the couch or in bed for a day or two when bleeding begins. Blood is rich in iron, B vitamins, and zinc. Your body needs all of those nutrients to rebuild a healthy endometrium next month. As your body undergoes the stress of bleeding, essential stress vitamins like Vitamin C, the B vitamins, and magnesium are used up very quickly. So to replenish your supply of vital nutrients, consider adding the following foods to your diet for the 5-7 days of your bleed:
- red meat
- leafy greens
- sweet potatoes
- bone-in, skin-on poultry
Phase Two: Follicular Phase
During the follicular phase, estrogen levels start to rise. The pituitary gland releases Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) so that the ovarian follicles will swell and get ready to release the egg.
As estrogen levels rise, the uterine lining gets thicker and thicker. Proper amounts of estrogen are helpful. Too much estrogen is bad. Estrogen dominance is real, people! It contributes to PMS symptoms that can last throughout the month instead of only popping up right before your period.
To gently help your body rid itself of the excess estrogen, now is the time to increase your cruciferous veggies. Eat them daily. If they give you GI distress, cook them very, very well. And add lots of butter. Yum. Consider the following:
- brussels sprouts
- broccoli sprouts
Phase Three: Ovulatory Phase
As the egg gets ready to release, your body's HPA Axis is increasingly sensitive to stress. If you are living under an umbrella of stress, the pituitary gland will not release enough FSH to allow ovulation. Your Creator is intelligent- He won't physically allow your body to get pregnant if that body under too much stress to support a healthy pregnancy.
But this time of the month is generally the time of the month where you are the happiest, the most ready for adventure, and sex. Yay for you! You are physically strong and resilient right now. Since this lends itself to more energy, and therefore perhaps working out more, use this time to add healthy carbs to your diet. Healthy carbs tell your body that it is safe, and not starving. The pituitary needs carbs to release enough FSH. Things to add for the 3-4 days of the ovulatory phase:
- butternut squash
- white rice
- rice noodles
Phase Four: Luteal Phase
The luteal phase is the hardest phase for most women. It can last 10-14 days, and this is generally the time of the month where one experiences the glory that is PMS. After the follicle bursts, the egg sac turns into the corpus luteum and begins to produce progesterone. But rarely do I see a case where this happens smoothly. Usually, estrogen is too high and not enough progesterone is produced. This can lead to symptoms like anxiety, irritability, insomnia, depression, anger, mood swings, fatigue, and tender breasts.
You want chocolate! Lots of chocolate. But that is because your body is deficient in magnesium. In all likelihood, it is reacting to a magnesium deficiency that has been building since you bled at the beginning of your cycle. Eat foods high in magnesium during this phase:
- nut butters
- leafy greens
- pumpkin seeds
- high quality chocolate
Give yourself grace during your cycle. You are not a man. You can't do all the things a man can. You have to rest when you are tired. You have to eat more when your basal metabolic rate increases in preparation for a possible pregnancy. You may have to take a few days off of working out. Is "go with the flow" too cliche here? Treat yourself the way you would treat your daughter if she were experiencing fatigue or irritability or insomnia or anxiety. Be gentle. Don't forget to eat meat, and fiber, and fruits, and veggies. If your diet is 80% fabulous, I see no reason to deny yourself some delicious chocolate a few days out of the month. Enjoy the heck out of it.