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    How To Eat Around Your Menstrual Cycle

    Liv Surtees

    Everyone knows that nutrition is one of the most important aspects of health. However, what some people are unaware of is that exploring the world of nutrition can be incredibly impactful for women and their quality of life and wellbeing, when it’s properly synced up with your menstrual cycle.


    Throughout the different phases of the menstrual cycle, a woman’s hormones change dramatically which directly affects both the body and the mind. Whilst there are many things that you can do throughout your menstrual cycle to live in a more aligned manner with the different phases your body goes through, syncing up your diet with different menstrual cycles is one of the most powerful.


    Knowing what you should be eating, and what you should be avoiding in each phase of your menstrual cycle can optimise your health and wellbeing throughout different stages of the month and help you live a happier, more productive, and more fulfilled life.


    In this article, we’re going to take a look at how you can eat differently throughout each phase of your menstrual cycle, to achieve the most balanced and optimal level of health, happiness, and wellbeing.



    Who Can Benefit From Eating In Alignment With Their Menstrual Cycle?


    Everyone that has a menstrual cycle will benefit from focusing on their eating habits and changing them in relation to each phase of their cycle. However, more specifically, for those that deal with hormonal imbalances, those with conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis, and those dealing with issues such as low libido, eating in alignment with their menstrual cycle can have a greater impact.


    Although altering eating habits and focusing on nutrition may not completely ‘“fix” conditions or imbalances, it can ease their symptoms and allow people to live less painful, more fulfilling lives.


    Less painkillers and more of a varied diet? I’m here for it!



    What Are The Different Stages of The Menstrual Cycle?


    Before we dive in and take a look at the different types of foods that should be eaten and avoided during different phases of your cycle, it’s important to take a look at how hormones change throughout the menstrual phase to gain an understanding of why the way we fuel ourselves should change too!


    Most menstrual cycles are between 21-35 days for most women. For those that have irregular cycles, their cycle might be harder to track and therefore it may be unclear how long their cycle lasts. If you want to track your cycle, (which has a whole host of benefits associated with it), using apps like Flo and Clue can help.


    So, let’s take a look at the different stages of the menstrual cycle:


    The Menstruation Phase

    The menstruation phase is marked by the first day of bleeding to the last day of bleeding. This phase generally lasts between 3 and 7 days (this differs from person to person). During this time, if an egg has not been fertilised, your uterus is shedding endometrium, resulting in bleeding. ​​Estrogen and progesterone are low during this phase.


    The Follicular Phase

    The follicular phase is the longest phase of the menstrual cycle and it overlaps with the menstruation stage. This phase starts on the first day of bleeding and lasts until the ovulation phase occurs. During this phase, the body produces more estrogen  in order to prepare the body to release an egg. Progesterone levels also increase. However, testosterone levels stay stable throughout the phase but start to increase towards the end of this stage. level until the end of this phase. This phase typically lasts around 16 days (on average).


    The Ovulation Phase

    The ovulation phase happens when the ovary releases an egg which occurs around 14 days before the next menstruation stage begins. This phase normally only lasts 24 hours, making it the shortest phase during the menstrual cycle. For these 24 hours, and up to 3 days after, both estrogen and testosterone levels are high. 


    The Luteal Phase

    The Luteal phase occurs when the egg starts travelling down the fallopian tube. One of two things happens during this phase: either the egg is fertilised and the body begins to prepare for a baby, or the endometrium builds up in preparation to be shed during menstruation. This phase can last from 12-14 days and ends when menstruation occurs. During this phase, estrogen and progesterone levels increase, but if the released egg is not fertilised, these hormone levels drop dramatically (this hormonal drop is associated with PMS symptoms).



    How You Can Effectively Eat Around Your Cycle


    After looking at the different phases of the menstrual cycle, it’s clear to see how much our hormones bounce around throughout the month and therefore why both our bodies and our minds might change so much during each different phase. 


    Therefore, to support your body in an optimal way, you need to fuel it differently throughout the month. So, here’s how you can eat effectively with your cycle!*


    *It’s also important to take a moment to acknowledge that we all have unique bodies and although this advice should provide benefits to most people, you have to fuel yourself in whatever way feels good for you. Listening to your body and what it needs is the most important thing you can do, throughout the month.



    What To Eat During The Menstrual Phase:

    During menstruation estrogen and progesterone are low and therefore this is a time for resting, recuperating, and relaxing. During this time the body (more specifically, the uterus) is inflamed due to the shedding of the endometrium and therefore you want to focus on eating anti-inflammatory foods, as well as those that will help to reduce cramps and are high in iron.

    Eating foods such as leafy greens (in particular, spinach), berries, avocado, dark chocolate, beetroots, beans, miso, and flax seeds is particularly useful. 

    Focus on drinking calming teas such as chamomile or rose petal.

    Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and foods that have high salt content during this time is useful to reduce the likelihood of pain and cramps.



    What To Eat During The Follicular Phase:

    The body produces more estrogen  and progesterone during this phase, with testosterone increasing towards the end of this phase. This is commonly known as the “happiest” or “best” phase of most women’s menstrual cycles and is often when you’ll feel most yourself. 


    Therefore, during this phase, you can eat a normal balanced diet, introducing things that you otherwise may avoid in other phases. 


    However, due to high levels of hormones, some women can find they struggle with dehydration, fatigue, or stress. Therefore, it’s still important to focus on properly nourishing the body with micronutrient-rich foods.


    Eating foods such as leafy greens, fatty fish, lentils, oats, nuts, kimchi, sauerkraut, eggs, and fruit is a good idea, alongside a typical balanced diet, during this phase.



    What To Eat During The Ovulation Phase:

    Although the ovulation phase is the shortest phase in the menstrual cycle, both estrogen and testosterone levels peak during this phase.

    Therefore, it’s useful to try and aid the body by both reducing inflammation and supporting the liver to remove estrogen at a normal rate to ensure an estrogen imbalance doesn’t occur.

    Eating foods such as high-antioxidant berries, fibre-rich vegetables (such as asparagus and sprouts), almonds, fruits, quinoa, salmon, and sunflower seeds, can help support your body during this phase.

    Avoid inflammatory foods such as refined products and processed meats.



    What To Eat During The Luteal Phase:

    Estrogen and progesterone levels increase and then dramatically drop (if an egg isn’t fertilised) during this phase. Therefore, this phase might have you feeling a little all over the place physically and mentally, which is why you need to give your body and mind some extra support. 

    Foods that boost serotonin levels and help with the balancing of hormones can be incredibly useful during this time. Therefore, eating foods such as chickpeas, super greens, cabbage, cucumbers, chickpeas, turkey, cod, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and turmeric can be useful. 

    Avoid consuming foods high in sugar and processed foods, as well as drinking caffeine and alcohol during this phase to reduce symptoms associated with PMS.



    Let’s Get Cyclical With Food!


    Tracking your menstrual cycle and the changes that occur to both your body and your mind during the month can be useful, but knowing how you can support yourself through the different cycle phases can be life-changing. You don’t even have to stick to a specific diet during each phase - by just adding in certain foods whilst you move through each phase, you can give your body that little bit of extra support it needs, through the nutrients you’re consuming!


    Ready to give it a try? Let’s get nourished!

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