leanr the phases of your monthly cycle health tips

Most of us just ride the wave of our monthly cycle, rolling with the punches, waiting for it to pass. But with wellness at the forefront of cultural conversation everywhere these days, we say it’s high time that more women gain a better understanding of the four phases of your monthly cycle. 

Read this essential guide to the phases of your monthly cycle from holistic nutritionist, Kristin Dahl. More of Kristin’s practical advice can now be found at the beautiful, community-based site, The Women’s Wellness Collective

All of nature moves in cycles. The seasons have a cycle that they follow: winter, spring, summer and then fall. The moon cycles from its new moon, to the full moon, and then back to the new moon. As women, we have many cycles within our being – everything from sleep cycles and cardiac cycles to menstrual cycles. In every monthly cycle, as a menstruating woman, your body will go through four different phases. And, just as it is important to nurture your body differently for different seasons throughout year, it is equally important to support your menstrual cycle throughout each phase.

When we support our cycle throughout all its phases, we are taking care of our body and giving it love and attention while creating a hormonal balance within our bodies. Having balanced hormones will not only help to increase fertility and decrease PMS symptoms, but will also increase overall health as our bodies prepare to “reproduce” when we are functioning at our optimum.

Supporting each phase of your cycle holistically begins with the foods you eat, the activities you partake in and the integration of herbal medicine to support, rebalance and restore the body.

Phase 1: Menstruation 
This phase starts on day one of your cycle or the first day you start to bleed. Typically, this phase will last anywhere between 3-4 days in a healthy individual. Because the focus of this phase is to clear the blood/uterine lining out of the body, it is important to support your body through this elimination process. You may feel more tired than usual and have cravings for things like red meat or chocolate. These cravings are usually your body speaking and asking for iron-rich and magnesium-rich foods. If you are someone who suffers from premenstrual syndrome or painful menses, it may be ideal to start seed cycling on the first day of your period. Seed cycling is a simple system whereby you consume different seeds at different times of the month to support the endocrine system to balance hormones.

To seed cycle: Start at the follicular phase of your cycle. Simply take 1 tablespoon of either fresh ground flax seed or pumpkin seed daily from day 1 of your cycle to day 14. This will inhibit the production of excess estrogen and improve progesterone levels, whilst boosting omega-3 fatty-acid intake. On day 15 (luteal phase) switch to 1 tablespoon daily of either sunflower seeds or sesame seeds until the end of your cycle. Sesame blocks excess estrogen whilst sunflower seeds support the liver in the detoxification process.(Be sure to use organic, raw, freshly ground seeds.)

+ Dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, sea vegetables, bananas and raw dark chocolate.
+ EFA rich foods like avocados, wild-caught fish, cod liver oil, hemp seeds and natto.
+ Plenty of water – half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces daily.

For Cramps:
+ Try a cramp bark tincture – take every 15 minutes until intense symptoms subside.
+ Eliminate coffee/excess caffeine during this time, and a few days prior, if cramping tends to be aggressive.

Herbs: Replenish and restore! Drink herbal tea or infusions of red raspberry leaf and stinging nettles to help with cramping and replenish iron into the body. Magnesium and B vitamins to diminish menstrual symptoms. For sleep support, chamomile or lemon balm. Enjoy some quiet time reading a book, doing deep breathing exercises or guided meditation.

Movement: Avoid high-impact workouts during this time. Focus on walks, gentle yoga or light stretching, making sure to avoid doing inversions in yoga because they reverse blood flow.

Lifestyle: The body is working hard, which causes fatigue, so make sure that you are getting extra sleep – about 8-9 hours a night – and enjoying restful activities that are not strenuous. Massage just before your cycle begins is helpful for promoting circulation. It’s also important to eat warming foods and stay warm during menstruation.


Phase 2: Follicular 
This phase starts right after bleeding stops. This is when estrogen and testosterone levels are rising and when the building of the uterine lining and the maturation of an egg happen. During this time it is important to make sure that you are nourishing your body so there is proper maturation of the egg and rebuilding of the uterine lining.

+ Nutrient-dense foods with a heavy dose of protein and healthy fats.
+ Root vegetables, oats, quinoa, millet, lentils, salmon, eggs, nuts and seeds, and oysters as they have a variety of minerals and vitamins to offer the body.
+ Healthy fats like ghee, avocado an coconut oil.
+ Focus on whole foods that won’t drastically increase blood sugar.
+ Substitute simple carbohydrates for complex carbohydrates to reduce blood-sugar spike.
+ Incorporate fats and proteins into every meal to aid your body in maintaining a healthy blood-sugar level.
+ Regular meals and regular meal times will help balance blood sugar.
+ Plenty of water – half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces daily.

Herbs: Drink nettles to rebuild the body.

Movement: Your energy will be at its peak, so if you are planning any vigorous activities or workouts now is the time to do it!

Lifestyle: This is a perfect time for creative projects and new activities. Deep, therapeutic massage will support you during this time.

Phase 3: Ovulatory
This phase typically occurs around the middle of your cycle, usually day 14 for most women, but for women on a 32-day cycle, it could be on day 16 as well. This phase only lasts for one week while the egg is released from the ovary and travels to the uterus. During ovulation, you may feel warmer than usual as your body temperature increases by .5 degrees. If you’re trying to get pregnant – this is the perfect time! If not, be sure to protect yourself during this phase. Right after day 14, you may also notice a sudden, temporary drop in your mood as high estrogen drops off and progesterone has not yet kicked in.

+ Quinoa, lots of leafy greens, vegetables, rice and cold-water fish.
+ It is important to not cool the body too much, so avoid completely raw meals.
+ Consume a mix of cooked and raw foods.
+ Avoid heavy foods as they can often make you feel a bit lethargic.

Herbs: Try taking maca a few days before ovulation and a few days after to balance hormones. Shatavari will help to boost and support libido during this most active phase.

Movement: The egg is released and travels down the fallopian tube so you may feel slightly stiff or sore around the hips, lower abdomen, and lower back. Try hip-opening yoga postures such as bound angle and reclining bound angle pose, wide-angle seated forward bend, and fire log pose.

Lifestyle: This is a good time to socialize, meet up with friends, schedule a date night! Massage and acupressure can also help relieve any stiffness or soreness.

Phase 4: Luteal 
This phase begins about one week after ovulation and continues until the end of your cycle/the day you start to bleed again. The uterine wall will continue to thicken, more blood will flow to the area to create warmth and bring in much-needed nutrients.

+ It is important to increase protein and healthy fat intake as well as warming foods as your body gets prepared to do a lot of work.
+ Brown rice, root vegetables, salmon, beans, avocado, ginger, turmeric, and curries.
+ Plenty of water – half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces daily.
+ Avoid things like alcohol and caffeine during this phase, since they will increase PMS symptoms and drain the body of much-needed nutrients for the upcoming bleeding phase.

Herbs: Start sipping on herbal teas and infusions daily like raspberry leaf and cramp bark if you experience cramps before or during your period. Burdock root helps to remove excess hormones that have built up in the body by gently detoxifying the liver. Triphala works to cleanse and detoxify the digestive tract. Take this a few days before menstruation to support elimination, relieve constipation and help support your body’s detoxification abilities.

For bloating or edema: Drink dandelion root tea daily.

Movement: Light exercise is encouraged during this phase to help balance mood and hormones. Just be sure to stay away from anything too strenuous as it will deplete the body.

Lifestyle: You will naturally notice your body wanting to slow down and you may feel more introverted. It is important to listen to these cues and give yourself ample space. Indulge in activities like journaling, massage, meditation and yoga.

Explore Kristin’s 24-hour mind-body reboot guide here, and discover
tons of other tips and recipes from this savvy wellness pro here!

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