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Nutrition and Your Cycle

Navigating the world of nutrition can be overwhelming.


With numerous theories and influential companies pushing different agendas, it's can be hard to determine who to trust and what to believe. I want to provide you with some practical strategies to regain control of your menstrual cycle and support hormone balance throughout the month, tailored to your unique needs, to get Nutrition and your cycle to work for you!


It's important to recognize that hormonal imbalances or fluctuations are a natural part of life for almost everyone. Whether it's during puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause, or the regular monthly cycle, our hormones naturally ebb and flow. Some months may feel better or worse than others, and that's perfectly normal.


Several factors can disrupt your hormones, including toxins, stress, poor diet, lifestyle choices, and weight fluctuations. These disruptions can leave you feeling slightly off balance, or in some cases, they might warrant medical attention. (If you have any concerns about your hormonal health, it's always best to consult with your doctor first.)


As a nutritional therapist, my approach emphasises the importance of food and lifestyle choices. I work in conjunction with other medical professionals you may be seeing, and I've consistently witnessed the transformative impact of dietary and lifestyle changes on my clients' hormone balance.


If you're interested in exploring my hormone-balancing nutrition programs, please feel free to reach out to me at catherine@naturalcyclesnutrition.co.uk.


Now, let's talk about what's considered normal when it comes to your menstrual cycle. You may have already noticed that different phases of your cycle evoke different feelings and experiences beyond just bleeding or not bleeding. While the following outline represents a common pattern, it's essential to remember that everyone is unique, and a "typical" cycle doesn't always adhere to the standard 28 days.


Week 1:

You're on your period. At the start, you might feel a little down due to cramps or headaches. However, as your oestrogen levels rise, you'll likely experience an uplifted mood and increased positivity. In the next few days, expect to feel more patient, energetic, sociable, focused, curious, and creative. If you initially crave comfort foods, that feeling will soon pass, and you'll find satisfaction in lighter, balanced meals. Additionally, if you practice fasting, you might find it easier to extend your fasting window during the first half of your cycle compared to other times.


Week 2:

This is when you're likely to experience a predominantly good mood. As oestrogen levels climb, you may feel more open, tolerant, and hopeful. Your sleep quality may improve, and your libido will reach its peak due to the higher levels of oestrogen and testosterone. The rise in testosterone can also make you feel more assertive, ambitious, and competitive. While this phase is generally positive, some women may be sensitive to the high oestrogen levels, which can lead to feelings of edginess. When it comes to food, your hormone balance makes it easier to maintain a healthy diet.


Week 3:

In the first few days of this week, you may notice a dip in your mood and increased irritability as oestrogen starts to decline, and progesterone takes the spotlight. You might become quieter, more tired, subdued, doubtful, cautious, and emotionally sensitive as progesterone levels rise. Your libido may also decrease due to diminishing oestrogen and testosterone. Some women are more sensitive than others to the change in progesterone levels, and if you fall into that category, you might experience mood dips, sluggishness, sadness, or irritability. Blood sugar imbalances can also occur during this week, making you feel slightly hungrier. Additionally, some women may experience symptoms like constipation, water retention, or breast tenderness as progesterone levels rise.


Week 4:

Your premenstrual week brings a bit more unpredictability in terms of mood swings as both oestrogen and progesterone levels drop. You might feel happy one moment and then become angry or sad the next. The decrease in oestrogen can trigger PMS symptoms, including mood swings and irritability, depending on your sensitivity to hormonal changes. Energy levels may improve compared to the previous week, but sleep may become more challenging due to lower oestrogen levels. If you incorporate fasting into your routine, you may need to scale it back during the days leading up to your period. Your body naturally craves starchy, comforting foods, and restricting your eating window might feel more difficult.


Monitoring your cycle can provide valuable insights into your unique patterns and help you identify any irregularities that require medical attention. I'm a strong advocate for gathering data to better understand your body, and this applies to your menstrual cycle as well. There are several smartphone apps, such as Clue, Cycles, Flo Health, and Period Tracker, that can assist you in effectively monitoring your cycle. Choose the one that suits your preferences best.


While it's interesting to consider the connection between the menstrual cycle and the lunar cycle, the scientific evidence on this topic is limited. Some claim that moonlight might influence hormonal patterns, as our bodies already have a sleep/wake cycle that responds to light levels. However, the similarity between the words "menstruation" and "menses" with "month" and "moon" doesn't necessarily indicate a direct correlation. Clue, for example, analysed data from over 1.5 million women and 7.5 million cycles and found no significant link between lunar phases and the start of periods.


Nevertheless, if you're not currently cycling or looking for a starting point, considering the phases of the moon can be a useful reference. You can use resources like the moon phase tracker at https://www.timeanddate.com/moon/phases/uk/london to determine the moon cycles and establish a counting system. It might have a bit of a mystical touch, but it's as good a place as any to begin your tracking journey.


Can what you eat really impact your menstrual cycle?

Absolutely! Paying attention to a healthy, balanced diet that supports your hormonal and menstrual health can make a significant difference. It's all about finding the right balance and incorporating key nutrients into your meals.


To maintain stable blood sugar levels and support hormone balance, aim for a diet that includes adequate protein with each meal, plenty of fibre to regulate hormone levels, and healthy fats. Additionally, consider adding some phytoestrogens to your diet, which are weak plant sources of oestrogen. Foods like soy products, flaxseeds, lentils, chickpeas, and beans can provide these phytoestrogens.


One interesting approach you might want to explore is seed cycling, especially if you feel your hormones are a little off-balance. While there isn't robust scientific evidence to prove its effectiveness, seed cycling involves eating specific types of seeds at different times during your menstrual cycle. It's a simple and risk-free method that some believe can help rebalance hormones and address various female hormone imbalances, including irregular periods, PCOS, endometriosis, infertility, and perimenopause symptoms.


Here's a typical seed cycling routine:

  • During the first half of your menstrual cycle (the follicular phase, typically days 1-14), include 1 tablespoon each of flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds in your diet. Flaxseeds contain lignans that can support oestrogen production, while pumpkin seeds provide zinc and essential fatty acids that may promote progesterone production for the next phase of your cycle.

  • During the second half of your menstrual cycle (the luteal phase, typically days 15-28), consume 1 tablespoon each of sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Sesame seeds contain lignans that can help prevent oestrogen levels from climbing too high, and sunflower seeds provide vitamin E, which may support progesterone production.


While anecdotal evidence suggests that seed cycling can promote hormone balance, more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness. Nonetheless, incorporating a variety of nutrient-dense seeds into your diet is always a healthy practice.


Seeds are not only potential hormone balancers but also rich sources of fibre, healthy fats, and essential nutrients. They can easily be added to smoothies, salads, yogurt, or oatmeal, offering overall health and well-being benefits.


Remember, if you're not currently menstruating, you can still follow the phases of the moon as a reference point. The first day of the New Moon would be considered day 1.


During days 1-15 or the first half of the cycle, include 1 tablespoon each of freshly ground flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds in your diet. Additionally, taking 2000mg of fish oil (combined EPA/DHA) from day 1 to day 15 can be beneficial.


During days 16-28 or the second half of the cycle, consume 1 tablespoon each of sunflower seeds and sesame seeds. Along with this, consider taking 2000mg of borage, black currant, or evening primrose oil (supplying approximately 400mg of gamma-linolenic acid) from days 16 through 28 or until your next period begins.


The great thing about adding these seeds to your diet is that there are no downsides. They are rich in fibre, healthy fats, minerals like manganese, magnesium, and copper, as well as vitamins B1 and E. Research suggests that they can benefit various health outcomes, such as reducing inflammation and cholesterol, lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, and improving blood sugar control.


So, don't hesitate to incorporate these nutrient-packed seeds into your meals and enjoy the potential benefits they may bring to your hormonal and overall health.


Nutrition and the Menstrual Cycle



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