Ladies! Your menstrual cycle is your superpower! It is often referred to as our monthly report card or a woman’s 5th vital sign. Although, many women loath that time of the month due to all the hormonal symptoms that come with it; we’re looking at you cramps and low mood.
Honouring the hormonal variations that occur in all four phases of your cycle is a game changer for benefitting PMS symptoms and living in sync with your cycle. Now more than ever it is becoming more evident that suffering before and during our period is not normal, which is why cycle awareness is so crucial for happy hormones.
Here is a quick lowdown for getting proactive about your period because everyone deserves to know that PMS isn’t inevitable!
Phase 1: Menstrual
Day one of your bleed also marks day one of your cycle. The menstrual phase lasts anywhere from 3-7 days within a common 28-day cycle, although what is normal varies from woman to woman. So don’t stress if your cycle is a little longer or shorter.
It’s probably nothing new to know that you will feel more fatigued during the first 1-3 days of your bleed. This is due to oestrogen and progesterone hormones reaching their lowest concentrations and causes the shedding of the endometrium, the lining of the uterus. Move your focus away from exhausting workouts and opt for restorative, slow movements like yin yoga, walking or just a nap.
30-80ml of blood can be lost during this time, and with loss of blood comes loss of nutrients like iron and B-vitamins. This is your time to turn inward and lean on warming foods like bone broth, curries and hot chocolate. Make sure to incorporate blood-building foods that are rich in iron and B-vitamins such as oats, grass-fed meat, leafy greens and brown rice. Pair these with a vitamin-C rich food such as tomatoes, broccoli and citrus to help the bodies absorption of iron.
Phase 2: Follicular
Day 7-12 of your cycle. The follicular phase is named after the rise in follicular-stimulating hormone (FSH) that is occurring during this time. FSH supports egg-containing follicles in the ovaries to fully mature which in turn causes oestrogen levels to rise. At the same time the endometrium increases in thickness and energy levels ramp up.
Oestrogen is what drives this increase in energy so it’s a fabulous time to add in cardio based exercise; hiking, biking, running, weight training, boot camp. You may even begin to feel your libido come out of hibernation too!
As your body is preparing to release an egg its important your nutrition doesn’t take the back seat. Aim to incorporate lighter foods like salads paired with plenty of protein. As well as foods that support oestrogen metabolism through the liver like cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, kale, cabbage) to bring oestrogen levels into balance.
Phase 3: Ovulation
Day 13-18 of your cycle. Oestrogen reaches its peak concentration in the middle of your cycle and so does your energy levels! Although unfortunately this is the shortest phase of our cycle. Ovulation is the release of the dominant follicle from the ovary into the fallopian tube to be fertilized, so you have the highest chance of falling pregnant. Luteinising hormone (LH) is what is responsible for inducing ovulation after oestrogen reaches its peak.
You may feel like ramping up the intensity of your exercise with HIIT, power yoga, running and strong Pilates sessions. Along with the high energy comes more motivation to be social and feel outgoing, say yes to time with friends.
Zinc, B-vitamins and essential fatty acids (EFAs) are super important nutrients for all that is happening during this stage. Fish, legumes, eggs, leafy greens and wholegrains are full of these. Adequate hydration is also critical for ovulation as cervical mucus at this time is made up of almost 99% water.
Some biomarkers to look out for when you are ovulating are cervical mucus – the kind that resembles raw egg whites – and slightly increased basal body temperature. Ovulation is an essential link to the reproductive health of a woman as it indicates healthy gonadal and endocrine function preventing anovulatory cycles, infertility.
Phase 4: Luteal
Day 19-28 of our cycle- around 2 weeks. Our longest phase of the cycle that can be broken up into two parts: early and late.
During our early luteal phase energy is still predominantly high due to the release of progesterone from the ovaries and the steady levels of oestrogen. Once progesterone reaches its peak, around day 21, energy levels begin to drop as progesterone and oestrogen decrease bringing you into the late luteal phase. Feelings of sluggishness, anxiousness and irritable mood appear as PMS sets in.
Listening to your body and slowing down once you enter the later stage will benefit PMS. Consider gentle Pilates, light weight training and walking as your movement of choice. Breathwork and meditation are also helpful when feeling anxious or irritable.
Focus on grounding foods similar to your menstrual phase and add in anti-inflammatory ingredients such as turmeric and ginger for beating bloat or sore breasts. If you suffer from menstrual cramps, PMS or menstrual migraines, bioavailable magnesium supplementation has been confirmed as a potent reliever of these and may just become your best friend.
Tip! If you find coffee is impacting how anxious you feel in the follow up to your bleed or may even be contributing to heavier periods try swapping to decaf or hot chocolates a week before. Caffeine also inhibits the absorption of iron when taken together so avoid this mix for optimising iron stores.
Being able to support and educate others around the menstrual cycle is something we are passionate about preaching at Active Collagen. Which is why we’ve created Active Cycle! An all in one specially formulated hot chocolate created to support the intake of all the vital nutrients women need for a healthy menstrual cycle.
Active Cycle incorporates the powerful adaptogen Ashwagandha, for anti-inflammatory and relaxation actions. Ashwagandha has been used in traditional Indian medicine – Ayurveda – for improving female infertility conditions such as endometriosis and improving LH and FSH levels. Ingredients rich in magnesium such as organic Peruvian cacao have been added for relief and prevention of PMS alongside Curry leaf extract for restoring iron. Added organic guava leaf and Panmol Natural B Complex supports ovulation by giving a boost of zinc and B-vitamins.
Keep your eyes peeled for the launch of Active Cycle soon. In the meantime, get proactive about your period and give her what she needs!
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