Note: Women’s health and hormones are consistently moving targets in current medicine, what we do know changes often and there are many pieces to women’s health that simply have not yet been well researched. The idea and practice of cycle syncing feel innate, makes sense, and promotes good nutrition, hydration, and tuning in to your body, mind, and femininity—so I support it! Every woman can benefit from better understanding her body. Additionally, cycle syncing the way I am teaching it in this article only works for women who do not use hormonal birth control*
Being a woman is inherently and beautifully dynamic. If you wake up feeling differently every single day of your cycle, it is actually totally justified. How does that work you ask? Your hormone levels change and shift, dancing with each other, every single day through your cycle so you’re never in the same hormonal state twice in a month. Think about that for a second… now pat yourself on the back. Women define flexibility, change, and going with the flow.
Cycle syncing is founded on this idea of an ever-changing cascade of hormones. The idea is that by tracking your cycle you can tune in to the hormonal fluctuations that take place over the month and eat, drink, plan, and live your life in order to promote optimum function with these changes in mind. IE: estrogen is low in the first half of your cycle, so eating foods that promote and support estrogen may help you feel more balanced.
Curious? Let’s cruise through how to track your own cycle, and how to nourish and hydrate in each phase in order to promote balance and flow in your life.
How do I track my period/know what phase I’m in?
You’ve probably heard cycle tracking or period tracking apps by now. There are plenty of great free ones out there that allow you to track your cycle so check them out. I recommend one called CLUE, but almost any will do. You just need to know what your cycle looks like over a month. Compare your cycle to the information below and start to figure out where and when you are in which phase. The most accurate results in regards to timing will come once you have three to four months of data.
Menstrual Phase: 3-7 days. Begins with day 1 of your period and ends when your period ends.
What your body is doing: The lining of the uterus is shedding. Hormones are at an all-time low at the beginning of your cycle and then begin to increase to more stable levels at the end of your period. You are losing blood and iron, prostaglandins (which cause cramping) are peaking. You typically feel more inward, slow, and restful here.
How to best support it: Focus on nourishing foods that build iron, assist in iron absorption, and are anti-inflammatory to fight cramps. Drink the most water compared to the rest of your month here as you are losing hydration when you’re bleeding.
Hydration: Two liters plus of water a day, and lots of hydration through non-caffeinated teas, add kombucha to help with your gut which can go haywire during menstruation.
Animal Sources: Beef, fish, and poultry (liver is also a fantastic source of if you’re into it!)
Anti-Inflammatory Spices & Herbs: Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, cardamom, cumin, garlic, parsley, curry.
Plant Sources: Spinach, chard, kale, collard greens, broccoli, mushrooms, beets bell peppers, lentils, pinto beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, citrus fruits, strawberries, cherries, pineapple, mango, papaya.
Follicular phase: ~13 days (this is the most variable phase RE timing)
What your body is doing: When your body prepares an egg to be released. Hormones estrogen and testosterone are peaking. You typically feel the most confident and full of energy as well as think and move quickly here.
How to best support it: Use your increased energy to stay healthy, work out your hardest, stay the most active, and support your body with energy building foods. Foods that pack plenty of vitamins, nutrients, and pop for the punch are the best here. Drink plenty of water to keep up with your lifestyle.
Hydration: At least two liters per day and add frozen fruit as ice cubes to your water, lemon or lime juice to increase energy and give you an extra boost.
Animal Sources: Beef, fish and poultry, lamb, eggs, dairy products (if you can).
Plant Sources: Chia seeds, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, hemp seeds, banana, apple, apricot, kiwi, blueberries, sugar snap peas, kale, green beans, green peas, carrots, sprouts, artichoke, parsley, sweet potato, brown rice.
Ovulatory phase: This phase occurs roughly 14 days after the first day of your period.
What your body is doing: Releasing an egg into your fallopian tubes for fertilization. This phase begins with high levels of estrogen and testosterone giving you lots of flirty, outgoing, and social feelings. Directly after ovulation, progesterone is on the rise which causes you to feel a bit more sluggish, introverted, snuggly, and protective than normal. Water weight is easy to put on here and constipation, crampiness, or nausea is not uncommon with ovulation. Listen to your body, track your cycle, and when you know ovulation is coming, go out, have fun, take advantage of these positive extroverted feelings as well as keep exercising. And after ovulation, if you begin to feel less energetic, stay home, rest, and cozy up.
How to best support it: Take advantage of the dichotomy of this phase by doing things to boost the energy you do have in preparation for lower energy levels as well as to stave off constipation, bloating, and low energy. Avoid salty foods to eliminate bloating, hydrate, eat fiber-rich foods and keep moving and exercising to decrease constipation. Foods that are high in water content help with hydration.
Hydration: At least two liters per day, adding a greens powder to your water to increase fiber can help here too (check your local health food store, they often have ones that taste delicious!)
Animal Sources: Beef, fish, eggs, and shellfish.
Plant Sources: Cauliflower, broccoli, all greens, tomatoes, potato, bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini, squash, lettuce, cucumber, radish, watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, grapefruit, plums, pears, peaches, berries, goji berry, maca, micro-greens, spirulina, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, pistachios.
Luteal phase: 14 days
What your body is doing: When the egg is either fertilized and prepares for attachment to the uterus or without pregnancy, disintegrates and your body prepares to cycle again. For the first four to seven days you typically have normal energy and mood that will slowly decline over the rest of the two weeks. If pregnancy doesn’t occur during this phase your hormones take a big drop and can cause the crummiest feelings of the month. Think PMS symptoms. As estrogen drops, serotonin follows causing you to feel a little bluer, as well as high progesterone, may cause cravings for fatty, high carb foods and an increased appetite in general.
How to best support it: Again, listen to your body here—enjoy the time you have in this phase before the hormonal swing hits. Continue to exercise but as your energy levels decline consider less high-impact movement like yoga and walking. Give your body what it needs by indulging a little more here than you normally would. Your body has these cravings for a reason—you’re preparing for menstruation. High iron, ultra-nourishing, and the most nutrient-dense indulgent foods are okay here. Warm, soft, and comforting foods are key.
Hydration: Two liters of water per day, avoid caffeine and dehydrating yourself as this will make you feel worse.
Animal Sources: Bone broth, beef, tuna, salmon, poultry, shellfish.
Plant Sources: Veggie broth, Kale, chard, arugula, cabbage, avocado, figs, raspberry, sweet potato, carrots, banana, plantain, brown rice, almonds, sunflower seeds, black beans, chickpeas, whole wheat grains, and pasta, and… dark chocolate!
Don’t forget! This is only a guide. Adding in these tips and foods can be awesomely helpful but please do not be too strict with yourself. Give your self grace and kindness and remember, tuning in and emphasizing self-love is the point of cycle syncing!
About the Author
Lauren Zielinski is a certified nurse-midwife, and the founder of a grassroots women’s health movement called New Moon Rising Events. New Moon Rising works in cities across the US to hold free, day-long workshops that foster discussion about reproductive health, political advocacy, natural medicine options, and community connections.
This post was originally published on July 19, 2018, and has since been updated.