Hormonal fluctuations throughout the month can leave you full of energy one minute, and weepy and emotional the next. Feeling completely at the mercy of your hormones can impact your quality of life, from mood and energy levels, to how you function in your relationships.
This is where cycle syncing, a term coined and trademarked by Alisa Vitti, Functional Nutritionist, HHC, AADP, can be highly beneficial. The first step is to simply understand how your cycle works, and what’s happening in your body during each phase. By doing this, you can better support your needs and take control of your hormonal health.
Phases of the menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle consists of three distinct phases – follicular, ovulatory, and luteal – with menstrual bleeding occurring within the first phase. The average cycle is 21-35 days long, with day one being the first day of bleeding.
Menstrual bleeding (Day 1-5)
Menstrual bleeding occurs when the uterine lining is shed, and lasts anywhere from 4-8 days. This is the time when your estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest.
Focus on increasing healthy fats, like avocado, to give you an energy boost. Add in lentils and leafy greens to increase iron levels, which can decrease during bleeding.
Rest is key during this phase. For exercise, we recommend sticking to gentle stretching, kundalini yoga and slow walks in nature.
Follicular (Day 1-14)
The follicular phase starts the first day of your menstrual cycle, ending at the beginning of ovulation. During this time, the follicles in your uterus ripen, and an egg matures.
This is a great time to start including more fermented foods into your diet, such as kimchi and sauerkraut, which help to metabolize estrogen.
Your testosterone levels are low during this phase, resulting in less stamina. A gentle yoga flow is a great movement option during this phase.
Ovulatory (Day 15-17)
During the ovulatory phase, you may experience mood swings or cramps as estrogen peaks and your body gears up to release an egg.
You’ll want to load up on foods that support liver health, as estrogen is at its highest. A rainbow of fruits and veggies, raw nuts and seeds, and fatty fish like salmon and sardines are all great, supportive options. If you suffer from PMS, try adding in an herbal supplement to help manage symptoms like cramping, irritability, and anxiety.
Testosterone is also on the rise, meaning you have more energy and stamina. This is a great time to take part in more high-intensity exercises. You may feel more sociable and confident too, so consider filling up your social calendar!
Luteal (Day 18-28)
During this final phase, your body prepares to bleed once more. Testosterone and estrogen start to deplete as progesterone, known as the “relaxing hormone”, rises.
To boost serotonin, add in foods like quinoa, leafy greens, and buckwheat. Increasing magnesium intake will also help with your mood, low libido, and fatigue. Dark chocolate is a great way to increase magnesium levels, along with pumpkin seeds and spinach.
Pilates and slightly more intense yoga flows are great options right now, as well as strength workouts.
How to start tracking your cycle
Tracking your period is a great way to better understand your cycle so you know what phase you are in, and how to support yourself at that time. It also allows you to understand the length of your unique cycle, so you know how long each phase lasts. Some popular and simple to use apps for this are MyFlo or Clue.
Taking the time to understand your cycle is the first step to taking control of your hormones. Supporting yourself through each phase is an empowering process, and one that will leave you feeling more in tune with your body.