Adapt your eating for all phases of your menstrual cycle to help your body be as healthy as possible. Cycling women can use nutrition to help support hormone balance, optimise fertility and ease menstrual symptoms throughout the month.
“Cycle syncing” is a term coined and trademarked by Alisa Vitti, Functional Nutritionist, HHC, AADP. It includes varying exercise, nutrition, and intimacy around your four cycle phases. In this article, we focus on nutrition.
For cycling women of all ages, it’s important to be aware of the ways that nutrition and food choices can support our hormones.
This article touches on the following:
a) The Hormonal Profile of the menstrual cycles
b) How fertility can be aided through nutrient dense eating patterns
c) How to eat for each phase
Our menstrual cycles can be used to measure our overall health. How regular and how pain-free your cycle is can give you insight into your overall health. Some health professionals consider it to be the 5th vital sign.
The menstrual cycle is very important because it indicates whether or not a woman is healthy and safe enough to reproduce. Reproduction is not essential to survival, so it is often the first system to “shut off” in times of illness or stress. (called Amenorrhea)
This ability to stop menstruating is the body’s protection mechanism to not get pregnant during a less-than-optimal environment.
Oestrogen dominance and high testosterone (common for PCOS) can rob you of libido. Cortisol, the main stress hormone (known as the “fight-or-flight” hormone) can rob you of sex hormones.
It is normal to have some variations in our cycles. Even the season can cause changes. In fact, one’s age, stage of life, and stress level can also cause changes.
But, it is not normal to have delayed fertility and infertility.
And this is where what you eat can be a contributing factor.
Understanding the hormonal profile
When it comes to cycle syncing, your actual period is considered the fourth phase. And I speak of the main sex hormones at play below.
How fertility can be aided through nutrient dense eating patterns
A study conducted at Harvard University(1) followed 17,544 married nurses with no history of infertility for 8 years.
When the researchers changed five or more aspects of the women’s diet and exercise habits, the women with absent or irregular menstrual cycles boosted their fertility rate by 80 percent.
The women participating in the study were asked to eat:
- complex carbohydrates, like fibre-filled fruits
- whole grains
- full-fat dairy products (instead of low-fat or nonfat)
- plant proteins, like beans and nuts
In my practice, clients fill out a food diary and a comprehensive intake form to reveal lifestyle patterns and behavioural patterns. Nutrition is one of the six areas we touch on. They are guided into eating certain food groups within the four phases to optimise fertility health and function.
How to Eat for Each Phase
How you nourish your body contributes to ingesting key nutrients that enable the building blocks of life to function well.
Oftentimes, women tend to eat the same foods on a regular basis without realising that the different ratios of oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone throughout the month require different nutritional and detoxification needs and help manage any unpleasant symptoms that you experience.
Foods for Menstrual Phase
Your menstrual phase is a time to rest and replenish. Your body is undergoing a controlled inflammatory response to shed your uterine lining, so nourishing yourself with nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods will help support you at this time.
Due to blood loss, iron-containing foods are the most important. Include animal and non-animal sources of iron. If you are cramping, avoid animal protein until the cramping subsides.
See the list above for some suggestions
Avoid: Processed and sugary foods, alcohol and caffeine
Foods for the Follicular Phase
A lot of women feel best during their follicular phase when the body’s energy levels are starting to rise again. Incorporate plenty of nutrient-dense foods to provide nutrients to a maturing follicle.
Include: Hydrating fruits and vegetables, foods high in Vitamin E, Liver supportive foods, and foods that build energy
See the list above for some examples.
Foods for the Ovulatory Phase
During your ovulatory and luteal phases, you want to start supporting your detoxification pathways to make it easy to metabolise and eliminate the used sex hormones from your follicular phase.
Include: Liver-loving foods like cruciferous vegetables, antioxidants like berries, and foods with natural probiotics such as sauerkraut and kimchi to help with any digestive issues during the luteal phase.
Omega 3’s to help with cervical fluid production
Hydrating fruits and veggies
Foods high in Vitamin E
Foods high in antioxidants
Foods for the Luteal Phase
This is the phase where you may or may not be pregnant. I always suggest to my clients that they eat and act like they are pregnant. Keep nourishing your body with wholesome food in preparation for a successful pregnancy.
If you suffer from cramps, headaches, and sleeping difficulties during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle, eat magnesium-rich foods while continuing to support your detox pathways.
Include: Liver-loving foods like cruciferous vegetables, antioxidants like berries, and foods with natural probiotics such as sauerkraut and kimchi to help with any digestive issues during this phase.
Omega 3’s for anti-inflammation plus to help synthesise hormones.
Complex carbohydrates and fibre to help the detoxification of the liver and oestrogen.
See the list above for examples.
Take Away Message
Eating for your cycle can be a nourishing way to support your hormonal health at every phase of your menstrual cycle. It is well known to boost your fertile health and help with the nourishment of your baby’s first 9 weeks in-utero before the placenta is fully formed.
Focus on nutrient-dense foods that can help you move through each phase with ease.
Want more personalised help or my free comprehensive food group guide?