A woman’s body is in a constant state of fluctuation. Until she reaches menopause, a woman experiences regular hormonal ebbs and flows with every menstrual cycle. With an average cycle lasting 25 to 35 days, it’s safe to say that some type of change is almost always occurring in the body as it prepares the egg and uterus for fertilization.
These hormonal shifts don’t affect just the reproductive organs, however. Most women will say that their changing hormone levels affect everything from energy levels to appetite to mood. Premenstrual syndrome is a good example of hormones affecting how you feel, but there are other — often more subtle — changes that happen at the other phases of your cycle.
Knowing how much the monthly cycle affects a woman’s total well-being, it makes sense to modify your diet to match what your hormones are doing at that moment. Food can have a profound impact on how you feel physically, and this is especially important when you’re in a constant state of hormonal change. Changing your eating habits to match your cycle — known as cycle syncing — can help you feel more in control of the hormonal shifts, rather than letting them control you.
In order to eat better according to your menstrual cycle, you must first understand how your cycle works. Each menstrual cycle is a process of preparing an egg for maturity and fertilization followed by a period of preparing for a possible pregnancy. Finally, the cycle comes to an end with the shedding of the uterine lining, or period.
While the period is often considered the first day of a menstrual cycle, it’s actually the end of one. A true period occurs only after a woman has ovulated and experienced the final phase of her cycle. But, for simplicity, the first day of menstruation is typically considered day 1 of a new cycle.
Throughout your cycle, your basal body temperature will fluctuate. This is a good indication of where you are in your current cycle. Finding your BBT is easy: purchase a basal thermometer and take your temperature at the same time every morning before you get out of bed. Mark the temperature on a BBT chart or use an app to record it. Over time, you will see a pattern in your BBT that stays fairly consistent each month.
The day counts listed here are merely averages. If your cycle falls outside of these numbers, don’t be concerned. Women have a lot of variation in their menstrual cycles; this is normal.
Commonly known as your period, this is when the uterine lining sheds and you have bleeding. Your BBT may be at a medium point, where it will remain for the next several days. Estrogen and progesterone levels are at a hormonal low point at this time. This can lead to sluggish energy levels. Cramping, bloating, and endometriosis can cause significant pain. Low estrogen levels may trigger migraines in some women.
If your periods last more than seven days or you have a few days of spotting at the end, it can be hard to determine when your period is actually over. Count the last day of flow (not spotting) as the last day of menstruation when it comes to your diet changes.
During this phase, the hormone estrogen rises rapidly as the body gets an egg ready for fertilization. A hormone known as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) governs this process, stimulating one egg (or sometimes more) to grow and get ready to be released. Progesterone climbs as well, helping to thicken the uterine lining. Your BBT will gradually drop lower as estrogen levels climb. But, don’t be surprised if it jumps around slightly as you approach the next phase. This is normal.
Higher levels of FSH, estrogen, and progesterone can naturally raise a woman’s libido. You may feel your energy levels rise with each day, and your mood may be stable and positive.
This is, in many ways, the peak of a woman’s cycle. Estrogen and progesterone levels have reached their highest point. Your BBT may drop much lower than normal on the day of ovulation. The follicle releases the prepared egg and it awaits fertilization for one to three days. The empty follicle remains and continues to produce estrogen and progesterone to support ovulation. For many women, this is when they feel their most energetic and happy.
After ovulation, the body gears up for a possible pregnancy. It thickens the uterine lining even further with a surge of progesterone. This causes your BBT to rapidly rise to a much higher level, where it will remain for a few days. The egg’s follicle continues to produce estrogen and progesterone. If the egg isn’t fertilized, the body gets the message and the follicle begins to shrink. It gradually stops producing estrogen and progesterone and levels decrease as the period approaches. Your BBT may start to drop.
This is when many women start to experience moodiness, fatigue, depression, bloating, headaches, and other symptoms of PMS. You may also have trouble sleeping. Eating foods to help regulate the hormonal shift may help reduce PMS symptoms and keep you feeling more like yourself.
Of course, to use cycle syncing, you have to get to know your cycle. Many women use a cycle tracking app. You can track not only your bleeding, but your basal body temperature, mood, and overall health. Keeping track of your cycle for even just two or three months can tell you a lot about how it affects your life.
Note: women on hormonal birth control, such as the Pill, do not have hormonal shifts. The Pill suppresses ovulation, giving you a “false” period when you take the sugar pills. So, while these diet changes won’t change your hormonal balance if you’re on the Pill or another hormonal contraceptive, the healthy foods listed here may still help you improve your overall health.
Do you feel like your hormones are running your life? You can get them back in balance with Garcia Weight Loss and Wellness Centers. Contact us today for your no-cost consultation!