For those of us who menstruate, we not only have a day-to-day circadian rhythm but we also have what is called the infradian rhythm. Most people are familiar with the circadian rhythm as our natural sleep and wake cycle. However, the infradian rhythm is not often talked about and is the menstruating body's 28-day cycle. There are four phases in our monthly cycle. Throughout each phase, our hormones fluctuate and these fluctuations affect our energy levels and emotional state. We can use food, herbs & teas, as well as movement throughout to optimize PMS symptoms, hormone balance, and how we feel. The exact term for this is called Cycle Syncing and was coined by Alyssa Vitti. So by the time you are done reading through this, you will understand the best ways to support your body through each phase.
Menstrual Phase - The first phase is the menstrual phase. This encapsulates day 1 of our period to the end (for most 5-7 days). This is a time to include warm and comforting meals and to think about keeping things more restorative. We want to limit processed foods, alcohol, and caffeine during this phase. Iron and magnesium are key nutrients during our period and these should be prioritized.
- Teas: dandelion root tea & raspberry leaf tea
- Foods to Include: grass-fed beef, legumes, lentils, beets, dark leafy greens, blueberries, pumpkin seeds, and quinoa.
- Movement: keep movement during light, think more yoga and walking
Follicular Phase: The second phase is the follicular phase which follows our period and lasts until ovulation. During the first half of the month our Estrogen and FSH are rising and in total lasts 10-20 days. As this phase follows menstruation we want to optimize liver-detox pathways and support metabolizing any excess estrogen so this is a great phase to focus on fermented foods and to support our immune system.
- Tea: dandelion root tea
- Foods to Include: wild-caught fish, eggs, broccoli, kale, grapefruit, pomegranate, sauerkraut, pickles, avocado, flaxseeds, and oats
- Movement: After your period you can start to ramp intensity back up with your favorite movements.
Ovulatory Phase: The Ovulatory phase is a 24-hour period after the egg is released and there is a surge in estrogen and LSH. This is typically about 13-15 days before your period. If you are dealing with hormonal imbalance or trying to conceive this is a key anchor point and one that you will want to track in addition to your menstrual phase. We again want to support the liver during this phase as well as including anti-inflammatory foods.
- Teas: dandelion root tea
- Foods to Include: salmon, lentils, beets, asparagus, brussel sprouts, spinach, raspberries, figs, sunflower seeds, sesame, chocolate, and quinoa.
- Movement: There is a lot of energy during this period so it’s a great time to take advantage of HIIT, spinning, and circuit training.
Luteal Phase: This encapsulates the second half of our cycle and occurs after ovulation. During this time progesterone and estrogen increase and last around 9-16 days. Towards the end of the luteal phase, you may notice an increase in appetite due to the peak in progesterone causing increased metabolism. It’s also a good time to incorporate magnesium and iron-rich foods in preparation for menstruation.
- Teas: Peppermint and Ginger Teas
- Foods to Include: grass-fed beef, eggs, halibut, chickpeas, cauliflower, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, pears, walnuts, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.
- Movement: There continues to be good energy during this phase due to estrogen and progesterone being high. Resistance training and lower impact exercise is perfect during this phase.
Creating more awareness around our bodies and the infradian rhythm allows us to feel more in tune with our bodies and how they fluctuate throughout the month. Understanding these ebbs and flows help us optimize our approach our nutrition and movement to feel our best. As with making any changes to your health start small and implement what makes sense to you as an individual.
Written by Caitlin Cipriano, MS, ATC