Cycle Phases - What are they?

Monthly Cycles - SIMPLIFIED

If you have been following me, you know I love hormones and balancing them.

You have also probably heard me talking about doing certain things for each stage of my cycle. It seems as if women only pay attention to their stages and hormones when it comes time to think about fertility and pregnancy. Of course, this is a wonderful reason to do so, but thinking long term, hormones should be cared for all throughout a woman's life stages. Do you wonder what it would be like without relying on birth control for a period? Or just even knowing when your next period will be? Do you worry about PMS and hormonal imbalances? There are just so many of us that don't know what happens in our own bodies and I hope to bring a little picture of how amazing they are. God created us so intricately - even more so when it comes to the female cycle - and it is important for us to recognize the importance and meaning behind it all.

It is an act of glorifying God when we care for our bodies. This is not just in how we eat but knowing our bodies as the Lord's holy temple. The way we care for our own bodies is a reflection of how we identify ourselves - are we in Christ or are we in ourselves. Our identity is in the Lord and all we do should glorify Him!

"Whether, then, you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31 - By knowing and caring for our bodies we are best able to carry out His will for us! So now that we know the importance, lets get the "how to" down pat! 

As weird as it is, I have a period planner. Not that I am wanting to become  pregnant anytime in the near future, but I track all of this in order to have more knowledge about my body and how to care for it. With or without PCOS, I think it is very important to be tracking our periods. Of course, there are plenty of apps and fertility bands that can assist in this, but I am a pen & paper kind of girl and I like knowing for myself when I am ovulating by listening to my body. Also.. I cannot remember what I ate the day before sometimes so I need assistance in tracking a period all of the lovely symptoms that come along with it. So, I have been purchasing whopping $5 planners from Target and have been using them for the past couple years to track my period. I track everything about my hormones in here! I like to add notes on symptoms and what I was eating differently so I can trace back what might have caused a later period or more breakouts than normal. I now know that I do ovulate every month (big victory in my book!!) and can see what changes in my lifestyle contribute to PCOS symptoms like weight gain, hair loss, anxiety, etc. I love my period planner.

Just as a side note, Target does not have "Period Planners".. this is just what I call mine! It is a regular planner that I write it all in - I would keep it in my main daily planner but that's a bit awkward to pull out to schedule with. I also use this planner to track the moon phases throughout the month as well as fertility..  but we will talk much more on that soon! 

If you would like to start tracking your cycles : 

Start with your period! It is the most obvious (obviously) and easiest phase to recognize. This is the menstrual phase.

 

MENSTRUAL PHASE

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Foods to add in :

wild rice, beets, dulse seaweed, kale, mushrooms of all kinds, water chestnuts, dark berries, grapes, watermelon, kidney and adzuki beans, seafood like tilapia and salmon, miso soup, pink salt, hot tea

(Refer to Woman Code for more!)

We all know what this is. Your period is a time where your body is working overtime to shed your uterine lining to prepare for a whole new cycle. Since we are losing so much, it is important to support our bodies with the most nourishing foods we can find. Typically lasts about 3-7 days depending on the person! 

Take this time to let your body rest! We all know how miserable it is when we force ourselves to push through intense workouts or anything that causes a lot of stress. If you need movement, take a walk or take some time to do some active stretching. As your energy levels build back up, then you can add in more movements! 

 

Follicular phase

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Foods to add in :

Oats, barley, peas, broccoli, carrots, zuchinni, romaine, citrus fruits, avocado, lentils, cashew butter or cashews, Brazil nuts, chicken, eggs, olives, fermented foods.

(Refer to Woman Code for more)

Right after your period, you enter into your follicular phase. Your hormones are at their lowest point right at the beginning. Some people can experience the blues here and low energy due to this, but as your follicular phase goes on, your hormones build right back up! For about 7-10 days, your body is gearing up for ovulation and potential pregnancy. You are not likely fertile in this time. With the slow increase in levels of hormones being produced in this time, we need to support our body with light and raw foods! This phase is incredibly important for setting up the whole next month! Increase in healthy fiber to produce estrogen and flush out what is not needed. Still can't be sure if I actually was the first to say it but I will quote myself : "A carrot a day keeps the hormones as bay" - as cheesy as it is, it is true! Raw carrots have a special fiber that is amazing with estrogen! 

You want estrogen! Just not too much - you want just enough. Excess estrogen can lead to migraines and headaches before your period, painful cramps, mood swings, and what we call: PMS. Yes - PMS is preventable and totally not normal. If anything, PMS symptoms are just signs that something is off. Our body was not properly cared for in the earlier phases so the hormones were simply imbalanced! Another way to ensure the right amount of hormones are produced or flushed is to sweat! Your energy levels are rising in this phase so take advantage!! Also.. if you have mood swings later in your cycle before your period (PMS in the luteal phase), just remember what our favorite little blonde says : "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy." Your follicular phase is the time to do just that! 

 

OVULATORY PHASE

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Foods to add in :

Quinoa, corn, asparagus, red bell peppers, brussels sprouts, endive, okra, spinach, coconut, raspberries, strawberries, lentils, almonds and pistachios, lamb, salmon, tuna, dark chocolate (yes), coffee, turmeric

(Refer to Woman Code for more!)

And now, after the building back up of your hormones, you reach their peak (ovulation). This is when your hormones have reached their highest point (mainly estrogen). When estrogen is peaked, your mood is lifted, you are most outgoing, have higher energy levels and the best mood you'll be in all month! This stage usually only lasts about 3-4 days so be sure to take advantage!

Keep things light and fresh to equal your energy levels! Ovulations is not hard to track, it just may take a few months to get it down! Keep your workouts fun and break out a healthy sweat! Find something you truly enjoy and do it with friends! 

 

Luteal phase

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Foods to add in :

Brown rice, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, garlic and ginger, pumpkin, radishes, squash, onions, apples, pears, peaches, chickpeas, walnuts, beef, turkey, mint, spirulina.

(Refer to Woman Code fore more)

I am sure you have all experienced this at some point.. where in the morning you are feeling great and excited!!! then all of a sudden, your energy levels drop immediately and you just don't feel like doing much of anything. 

Well, this is just the same for your hormones. Your estrogen levels peaked in ovulation but have now dramatically dropped welcoming in a rise of progesterone. Your energy levels do drop and your body (considering an egg wasn't fertilized & you are not pregnant) is preparing to shed the lining of your uterus. Oh, what fun! And it's the longest phase - typically lasting about 10-14 days.

Since your energy levels have dropped, it is totally OKAY to slow things down in this phase. Nourishing your body with root veggies will help with cravings. I love roasting sweet potatoes during this phase. By roasting them, you bring out the sweetness and satisfy that need for carbs! Carbs are good for you - we just need to eat the right sources! 

As for exercise, slowing things down doesn't mean just stopping.. just means to change things up! Maybe focus less on HIIT or cardio and work on strength training! I like to take classes from True40 downtown Birmingham. Their classes combine, a bit of it all from cardio + TRX + barre + yoga + pilates you name it. I really like this structure because I chose what I focus on that day! For example, in my luteal phase, I may take it easier during the cardio parts and grab a sip of water then go heavier in the weights and lower in the squats! Figure out what feels best for you and always listen to your body!

 

The suggested foods are NOT a strict protocol to follow! These are simply foods to add to your diet as you enter each stage. For ideas on all of these phases, just flip through my instagram feed! I post meals that support all of these stages in hopes to help you track and regulate your own cycle! If you have any questions, just reach out!! Hope this helps you :)