Cycle Syncing

illustration by yours truly

illustration by yours truly

Alright for those of you who are constantly plagued by the discomfort, annoyance and “pms-y vibes” throughout the month, here is a wonderful, natural and not to mention, nutritious way to kick those symptoms in the A! Adapting this method of eating has been a HUGE help to maintaining my hormonal levels after going off birth control.

Throughout different phases of our monthly cycles (and yes there are 4), our bodies are in need of various nutrients to keep those pesky hormonal annoyances at bay.

For example, protein provides amino acids – the raw materials needed for making hormones – while foods such as kale and broccoli (sulforaphane-rich foods, if we’re being nutrition geeks) can help support detoxification processes including removal of excess estrogen. Vitamin C, found in foods such as dark leafy greens, citrus and parsley, is a key to help the production of cortisol, which influences our stress response, while magnesium-rich foods such as tofu, dark greens and nuts may help to support PMS-associated water retention and menstrual pain. So there ya have it. We really are what we eat.

Below you will find a list of foods to introduce into your diet for each phase. Since this is just a beginners guide, I’ve added the top foods with the most nutrient dense capabilities.

(I’ve linked a few of my go-to’s throughout)

Menstrual:

FOOD FOCUS: Add nutrients!

Day one of our cycle is the first day of menstruation. At the start of the cycle, our hormones are at their lowest as they work to shed the uterine lining. Because of this hormonal dip, energy levels are likely to be low, so support the body with plenty of filtered water and unprocessed, nutrient rich foods that keep energy and blood sugar levels steady. A good mix of lean proteins, healthy fats and low GI complex carbs such as root vegetables, wholegrain and legume-packed dishes, can support the energy-intensive process of menstruation. If possible, include cooked, fermented, sprouted or activated foods as they are easier to digest at this time of the month. Include plenty of iron-rich foods such as lentils, kelp, pumpkin seeds, dried prunes and spinach and, if you eat animal products, grass-fed beef, eggs and fish are also a good source of heme iron, which that help to replenish iron levels that can be lost during our bleed. This is also a timely moment to make healthier food choices as lower levels of hormones may make it a time of the month when women often report feeling less hungry.

  • Buckwheat (cold noodles are my fav to have on hand during this phase)

  • Beets / Mushrooms

  • Blackberry / Blueberry

  • Watermelon (a delicious and refreshing dessert that acts as a diuretic during those bloated moments)

  • Pork (if you’re a meat eater)

  • Catfish / Crab / Scallop

  • Tea / Decaf Coffee (Make a pitcher to sip on throughout the week. Click the links for my favs)

  • Miso (I add miso paste to a lot of my salad dressings or marinades)

Follicular:

FOOD FOCUS: Fresh and light

Hormone levels, while still low, are beginning to rise as your egg follicles mature, in preparation for ovulation. We may be starting to feel more energized, and potentially including more exercise, so this is a good time to incorporate light, fresh and vibrant foods, such as salads and fermented foods like kefir, probiotic yoghurt or sauerkraut, which support gut health and detoxification. With rising estrogen, some women find that they have more energy, focus and willpower at this time. This is usually when I opt in for something new in my life (workout, meet up, etc.)

  • Barley / Oats / Rye

  • Artichoke / Zucchini

  • Broccoli / Carrot / Lettuce

  • Avocado (Avo toast time!)

  • Lemon / Lime / Orange

  • Green Lentils (A great protein substitute to have on hand. Add to cold salads or wraps)

  • Cashews (The perfect time of the month to try out those vegan “cheeze” recipes. *Coming soon)

  • Chicken / Eggs / Crab

  • Nut Butter / Olives / Fermented Veg

Ovulatory:

FOOD FOCUS: Fibrous and light

Once the egg has matured, we move into the ovulatory phase. Hormone levels are rising, particularly estrogen as it aids in the ovulation process. Our basal body temperature also increases, which can impact increased energy levels. Excess estrogen can have negative impact on our cycle including breast tenderness and increased spotting, and all the fun that leads up to the glorious pms. So, nutrients that support the liver to remove unnecessary estrogen are good to include and are found in foods such as kale, broccoli, onions, garlic and radishes.

  • Quinoa

  • Asparagus / Peppers / Brussels Sprouts / Eggplant / Spinach / Tomato / Corn

  • Coconut (Add a splash of organic coconut water to your water bottle while on the go)

  • Raspberry / Strawberry

  • Almonds / Pistachios

  • Lamb / Salmon / Shrimp / Tuna

  • Alcohol / Chocolate / Coffee / Turmeric (This is the best time of the month to add a few treats to your routine. Aka a glass or red wine or dark chocolate)

Luteal:

FOOD FOCUS: Curb those cravings 

Hormone levels reach their peak and here comes the dreaded PMS. If you tend to often experience water retention, aka swollen boobs and annoying bloat, avoid foods high in salt as they can exacerbate the problem, due to salt’s anti-diuretic effects on the body. The same applies to sugar; if you are prone to cravings, they may be at their highest during this week and carbohydrates may be what you are craving, however just ensure they are complex ones such as like brown rice, pasta or bread (the husks are filled with energy with and stress- supporting B vitamins and fibre to help curb cravings and balance those moods.). This is also a good time of the month to cut down on caffeine and alcohol, as these stimulants can aggravate PMS- triggered anxiety and mood shifts. Coffee and alcohol can also interfere with the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals required for optimal menstrual health, so try some alternatives like sparkling water, herbal teas, chicory root or swap your morning latte for a matcha (*Recipes coming soon).

  • Brown Rice / Millet

  • Cauliflower / Garlic / Sweet Potato / Squash (My absolute fav combo to roast in the oven with spices for the week)

  • Cucumber / Ginger

  • Apple / Peach / Pear

  • Dates (Throw a couple in your protein shake!)

  • Chickpea / Pine Nuts (Make some easy peasy homemade hummus. *Recipe coming soon)

  • Beef / Turkey / Cod / Halibut

  • Mint / Peppermint (Make a batch of iced mint tea for the week to aid in digestion and bloat)

Ellyse Bollinger