Did you know that we can find more balance and ease in our day-to-day life, alleviate PMS symptoms, and balance our hormones by syncing our nutrition, movement, and lifestyle up with our monthly cycle? The actual term for this practice is called cycle syncing!
This post was written by Sam from Sam Wolk Wellness.
What is cycle syncing?
Cycle syncing is an amazing and effective way to get more in tune with our bodies as well as naturally relieve unwanted symptoms that may accompany our menstrual cycle. The main goal with cycle syncing is to work with our flow, rather than against it, by aligning the way we eat, sleep, move, work, and so on with each phase of our monthly cycle.
Changes throughout our monthly cycle are controlled by different hormones. When the hormones are either too low or too high, it’s common for women to experience imbalance, resulting in different symptoms.
However, when we are in better alignment with our bodies, we can achieve the biological health markers that we want to see in our daily lives: better energy, lower stress, better sleep, improved body composition, reduced period problems, and happier lives!
In today’s post, I am going to walk you through how you can use nutrition to better support your hormones throughout each cycle phase.
My hormone journey:
It wasn’t until I was struggling personally with my hormones, and started searching for answers that I learned anything about cycle syncing. But soon after reading everything I could about it (thank you, Alissa Vitti, author of “Woman Code”) I immediately realized how much sense it made. Our hormones fluctuate throughout the month, based on the phase in which we are in. This means that our energy levels, the way we socialize, the way we express our emotions, and the way we work all change as the month goes on.
When I started to work in rhythm with my hormonal shifts, I realized that I could use every single phase to my advantage. Some days are better for being productive and socializing, whereas other days are better for turning inward or resting. Getting in sync with our bodies doesn’t just make for happier hormones, it also helps us live in the most optimal way possible.
How to track your cycle:
Before we get into each individual phase, let’s first talk about how to track our cycle so we know exactly where we are on any given day of the month. There are many cycle tracking and period apps out there that allow you to track your cycle. The first app I used when I started tracking is the MyFLO app. It’s super user-friendly and offers some important yet straightforward features including the ability to: track your cycle, track your symptoms, be notified when you enter a new phase, sync your calendar, and even notify your partner! It will take three to four months of data on an app to understand where you are in your cycle.
Another app I love and recently started using is the Femometer app. I love this app because the features are a little more comprehensive in terms of overall health. It offers the ability to: track your period, nutrition and supplements, lifestyle, and so on. There are tons of different tracking apps out there, so it’s best to just try a few out and see which one works best for you!
Another option for tracking your cycle naturally is using the Fertility Awareness Method, or FAM, which is a daily practice of tracking fertility biomarkers to determine the fertile and infertile phases within a menstrual cycle. FAM takes a bit more time to get the hang of but will provide more accurate readings than using an app. Once you feel confident about where you are in your cycle, you can start cycle syncing.
Read more about FAM here:
Preparing the body:
To preface, it’s very important that throughout each cycle phase we are mindful of the food we are consuming. We will be going over all of the beneficial nutrition that we should be incorporating into our diet, but there are also some considerations when it comes to the removal of other foods that are causing harm to our hormones.
If you are currently dealing with a hormonal imbalance of any kind including things like: PMS, hormonal acne, breast tenderness, or ovarian cysts, it’s important to support your body with real, whole foods the entire month, and do your best to avoid things like: processed foods, refined flour, alcohol, sugar or artificial sweeteners, industrial seed oils (canola, soy, sunflower, etc.) and highly caffeinated beverages.
(Notice, I always use the word avoid rather than remove, because life is not perfect, and it is also meant to be lived. It’s more important to do our best most of the time, rather than cause additional stress on our bodies when trying to be perfect.)
The importance of lessening the burden on your body:
Additionally, it’s extremely important to minimize your exposure to endocrine disruptors or toxic chemicals that interfere with the body’s natural hormones. These chemicals can be found in common, everyday items such as: cleaning supplies, cosmetics, plastic Tupperware, skincare and haircare, and receipts. Research shows that these chemicals can be linked to many hormonal issues, so it’s best to avoid them at all times.
Removing toxins is a huge step in balancing hormones, and a key way that we do that is through elimination. Incorporating the proper amount of fiber-rich foods will help bind to excess estrogen in the body to be eliminated. Drinking adequate amounts of water, and limiting caffeine and alcohol can also be a huge help!
Phases of your cycle & how to support them with foods:
The following guide will help you get a better understanding of what nutrition to focus on in each phase, but it’s important to remember that nothing needs to be perfect or set in stone. Obviously, all of the following foods can be consumed throughout the entire month, even if they’re not listed in a specific phase below.
The idea is that the recommended foods will support you in the best way possible, offering an easeful transition throughout each stage over the whole month. Feel free to get creative, and have fun with cooking!
Menstrual Phase (3-7 days)
Begins with day 1 of your period and ends when your period ends. During this phase, our bodies are shedding the endometrial lining, and estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest. Since our body is involved in the intense process of menstruation, our diet should be focused on some very important key nutrients for replenishment.
Incorporating foods with iron, zinc, and magnesium is key. It’s super important to focus on keeping our blood sugar regulated, so foods that are high in protein and healthy fats are ideal. This is also the best time to focus on nourishing, grounding foods such as: soups, stews, and roasted root vegetables.
How to support your menstrual phase with nutrition:
🌱 Best herbs, spices, and adaptogens for this phase: Ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, garlic, curry, cayenne, parsley, nettle, ashwagandha, Chaga mushroom
💧 Best hydration for this phase: At least half of your body weight in ounces of water a day, red raspberry leaf tea, roasted dandelion root tea, decaffeinated beverages
🥩 Best animal products for this phase: Grass-fed beef, grass-fed bison, organic poultry, salmon, pasture-raised eggs, organic (ideally raw) dairy products (if you can tolerate it!)
🍏 Best plant-based foods for this phase: Beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, kelp, mushrooms, banana, apple, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, kidney beans, quinoa, buckwheat, wild rice
Follicular Phase (Days 6-13)
During this phase, all of our hormones begin to rise, in preparation for ovulation. Our energy levels start to increase, and our immune system is at its strongest. Incorporate probiotic-rich foods as well as foods that are high in fiber for healthy elimination of excess estrogen.
How to support your follicular phase with nutrition:
🌱 Herbs, spices, and adaptogens: Parsley, nettle, holy basil, Schisandra
💧 Hydration: At least half of your body weight in ounces of water a day, dandelion root tea, red raspberry leaf tea, kombucha, fruit-infused mineral water, one cup of caffeinated coffee
🍳 Animal products: Organic poultry, pasture-raised eggs, wild-caught fish
🥬 Plant-based foods: Broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, lettuce, kale, green beans, parsley, zucchini, artichokes, avocado, grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, pomegranate, green lentils, lima beans, mung beans, split peas, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, nut butter, sauerkraut, pickles, barley, oat, rye
Ovulatory Phase (Days 14-16)
During this phase, estrogen levels surge, and luteinizing hormone arrives to begin the release of an egg. Testosterone surges then quickly goes down. Energy levels are typically at their highest, and moods tend to stabilize. Consume anti-inflammatory, high-fiber foods that are supportive of your liver. Probiotic-rich foods are key as well.
How to support your ovulatory phase with nutrition:
🌱 Herbs, spices, and adaptogens: Red clover, maca
💧 Hydration: At least half of your body weight in ounces of water a day, dandelion root tea, red raspberry leaf tea, one cup of caffeinated coffee
🥩 Animal products: Organic lamb, grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, shrimp, tuna
🍓 Plant-based foods: Parsley, celery, asparagus, bell pepper, Brussels sprouts, chard, spinach, tomato, apricot, cantaloupe, coconut, fig, raspberries, strawberries, red lentils, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, quinoa, chocolate
Luteal Phase (Days 15-28)
During this phase, estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone peak and then begin to drop, hitting their lowest levels just before the menstrual phase. This downward shift is what commonly causes PMS for many menstruators. It’s important to incorporate a lot of magnesium-rich foods, as well as healthy fats and protein. Warm and grounding foods are ideal as we begin to prepare the body for menstruation. At this time, it’s also best to cut back on caffeine and alcohol.
How to support your luteal phase with nutrition:
🌱 Herbs, spices, and adaptogens: Rosemary, peppermint, mint, ginger, burdock root, chaste tree berry, ashwagandha
💧 Hydration: At least half of your body weight in ounces of water a day, dandelion root tea, red raspberry leaf tea, peppermint tea, decaffeinated coffee
🥩 Animal products: Grass-fed beef, organic pasture-raised turkey, pasture-raised eggs, cod, halibut
🧅 Plant-based foods: Cabbage, cauliflower, celery, collard, cucumber, daikon, garlic, ginger, leeks, onion, pumpkin, radish, squash, sweet potatoes, apples, peaches, pears, dates, raisins, chickpeas, great northern beans, navy beans, pine nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds
So there you have it! I hope this guide was helpful for you as you begin this journey in getting “in the flow” and more in sync with your body’s natural rhythm. Cycle syncing our life, specifically through nutrition is an amazing way to support our body’s unique phases and properly nourish it all month long.
*Please note: I am not a doctor. This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. I learned the above from the research I did on my own. Always do your own research and seek the advice of your health provider with any questions you may have regarding your hormonal health.
About the author:
Sam is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and Certified Yoga Teacher based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is passionate about female hormones, gut health, and living a healthy (balanced) lifestyle. Her main goal with her clients is to help them get to the root cause of their issues, through nutrition and lifestyle shifts. You can learn more about her and follow along with her journey on Instagram @samwolkwellness.