Cycle Syncing 101 — How to Alleviate PMS, Promote A Healthy Menstrual Cycle and Get Your Body Back In Sync

Healthy Lifestyle

6 September 2018

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post on how to transition naturally off birth control, minimize post-birth control withdrawal side effects and rebalance your hormones naturally.

Well — it really seemed to resonate with you and I received tons of messages and questions from ladies who decided to transition off hormonal birth control (congrats!) but are now having issues with ovulation, menstruating and getting their cycles back on track.

There were also a few fears around menstruation and PMS post birth control — would periods be heavier? Would migraines return? Would cramps be worse?

So I thought it’d be helpful to address some of these on today’s post, which is dedicated to helping you learn more about your cycle and how to get your body back into sync post-birth control.

 

CYCLE SYNCING 101 — WHAT IS IT & WHY IT MATTERS

When I became accredited in hormone health last year, the topic of our menstrual cycles and cycle-syncing in particular (practicing specific lifestyle habits each week in accordance with your current hormonal state leading up to your period) was probably the one that surprised me the most.

Being a woman, I felt I should already know or have been taught these things about my own body and monthly cycle– but honestly I was quite clueless on several factors!

This was incredibly eye-opening to me, and I realized how many of us ladies (rightly so) view our periods as a pain, an inconvenience and something to dread each month. While this mentality is common (and one I followed myself for most of my life) it tends to put us into victim mode — as something that happens to us that we have almost no control over.

The truth is we do have quite a bit more control then we’re lead to believe, and by understanding more about what’s happening during each phase of our cycle with our hormones, we become empowered to practice habits that alleviate symptoms and even capitalize on them (like knowing when your confidence is highest to plan an important presentation or ask for a raise — yes fo reals).

Not only is this knowledge important for beating PMS, but it’s pretty crucial for boosting fertility and preparing your body for pregnancy.

No matter where you’re at in life, I believe it’s information EVERY single woman should have access to, so that you have the option and a choice to how you want to feel before/during/after your period every month, instead of suffering the symptoms without any solution or sense of hope.

 

 

YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE CHEAT SHEET —

What you need to know to alleviate PMS, get your cycle back on track + feel your best

 

+ Follicular Phase 

When Is It —

The follicular phase starts on the first day of your period and typically lasts 10-12 days. Think of it as the “spring” phase of your cycle.

What’s Happening —

Your ovaries are preparing and ripening an egg. The pituitary gland releases a hormone called follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH. FSH stimulates the follicles – which contain a woman’s eggs – in one of the ovaries to mature. In response, the pituitary gland then starts to release luteinizing hormone, or LH, which is responsible for ovulation. Under normal circumstances, only one of these follicles will “ripen” and become mature.

At the beginning of the follicular phase, estrogen and testosterone levels are typically low. They slowly ramp up during this phase. As this happens, you’ll begin to experience a boost in energy, mood, and brain skills. You’ll start to feel more confident, powerful, and willing to take more risks. Testosterone starts to stimulate your libido, while also making you feel a bit bolder (holla!).

As ovulation approaches, the uterine lining thickens in preparation for pregnancy. The cervix remains low and closed, but gradually opens and starts producing wetter quality cervical fluid.

What It’s A Good Time For — 

+ Initiating new projects at work or at home
+ Making important business and personal decisions
+ Brainstorming and problem solving
+ Strategizing in business or at work
+ Being social and connecting with others
+ Participating in strenuous physical exercise

+ Eating foods that will help support estrogen production as it ramps up. Foods like pumpkin and flax seeds, pomegranates, sprouted beans, healthy fats like avocados, coconut butter, and grass-fed butter all help to produce estrogen

+ Ovulatory Phase 

When Is It —

Ovulation typically occurs day 12-14 of your cycle. It’s referred to as the “summer” phase of your cycle.

What’s Happening —

Your egg is being released from the ovary. This phase is short, usually only lasting about two to three days. Right before ovulation, there’s a surge of luteinizing hormone, LH, which causes the dominant follicle to burst open and release its egg into the fallopian tube. The egg will be viable for roughly 12-24 hours, and if it’s not fertilized, it will disintegrate.

The cervix moves up higher so the egg can get the best sperm, meaning the sperm have to swim farther to get to the egg. Only the fittest sperm will survive this seemingly long journey up to cervix, through the uterus, and up one of the fallopian tubes. Additionally, the cervix will become soft and open. The cervical fluid is considered to be fertile during this phase.

Levels of estrogen and testosterone are at their peak during the ovulatory phase. Women often report looking and feeling more attractive during this time, and their sex drive tends to be highest. After all, the body is programmed to maximize genetic potential, so naturally it will get you in the mood to get it on during your window for fertility.

What It’s A Good Time For — 

+  Job interviews, or anything where you need to be on your A game
+ Asking for a raise or having important conversations
+ Networking or public speaking events
+ Launching a new business or venture
+ Scheduling a date night or asking someone out
+ More intense physical exercise, activities, and sports

+ Because estrogen is at it’s peak, this is an awesome time to eat foods that will support liver detoxification, such as cruciferous veggies like Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, turnips, bok choy and broccoli

+ Luteal Phase 

When Is It —

This phase lasts about 10-12 days (roughly days 14-24 of your cycle) and is referred to as the “fall season” of your cycle.

What’s Happening — 

The luteal phase should fall within this range (day 14-24) for it to be considered an optimal fertile cycle, because a fertilized egg usually takes at least 10 days to travel from the fallopian tube and implant into the uterine lining. After ovulation, FSH and LH levels sharply decline and remain low for the rest of the cycle. Estrogen and testosterone decline as well, but estrogen will make another appearance later on in the luteal phase.

Progesterone also stimulates the growth of the lining of the uterus in preparation for pregnancy. And, it’s responsible for transforming cervical fluid from stretchy and wet, to sticky and dry in this phase (aka it’s much less fertile and not conducive to sperm).

Emotionally, during the first half of the luteal phase, you are often still riding high off of the effects of the ovulatory, or “summer phase.” However, as progesterone production increases, you’ll find yourself starting to wind down and wanting to avoid the social scene of the first half of the cycle.

During the second week of the luteal phase, estrogen will rise again slightly to further prepare the uterine lining for pregnancy. If there’s no pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone will drop and cause the uterine lining to shed during the bleeding phase.

What It’s A Good Time For — 

+ Nesting
+ Organizing your home or office
+ Taking care of your personal to-do lists and chores
+ Eating foods that will support progesterone production, which tends to be low for many women during this time. Foods high in vitamin C, like oranges, peppers and grapefruit, as well as foods high in vitamin B6, like salmon, bananas, and walnuts are all helpful for boosting progesterone levels
+ Adding nutrients like zinc and magnesium can also support progesterone production
+ Keep blood sugar as stable as possible in the luteal phase because progesterone can cause blood sugar to dip lower than what’s normal in the follicular phase. This could partially explain why so many women struggle with emotional PMS symptoms, like moodiness and anxiety
+ Really good self-care practices, like massages and baths
+ Gentle exercise, like yin yoga

+ Getting to bed earlier or sleeping in later

+ Menstrual/Bleeding Phase 

When Is It — 

Typically days 24-28, or the last few days of your cycle, also known as the “winter phase.”

What’s Happening — 

Menstruation or bleeding occurs when the lining of the uterus sheds. Think of this as the winter season of the cycle – when the body is clearing out what’s no longer needed and preparing for new growth. This phase lasts for about 2 to 7 days for most women. The bleeding phase begins when progesterone levels drop, causing the lining of the uterus to break down and shed. During this week, your energy is the lowest it will be during your cycle. You may feel tired, withdrawn, and introspective.

What It’s A Good Time For — 

+ Giving yourself some downtime for restoration
+ Trusting your intuition
+ Self-care
+ Keeping blood sugar stable, so as not to create additional stress on the body while it works to release the uterine lining

+ Eating healthy comfort foods like soups, bone broth, stews and vitamin-rich smoothies to help replenish lost iron and mineral stores. Iron rich foods include liver and other animal protein, beans and leafy green vegetables. These foods are also high in B vitamins, which will support energy levels during this time


+ HOW TO TRACK YOUR SYMPTOMS AND CYCLE 

Now that you know all about the different phases of your cycle, it’s important to keep track of yours so you can use this information to your advantage!

I recommend starting by downloading either the flow or glow apps, which allow you to record your symptoms and keep track of where you’re at in your cycle (especially helpful if you’re trying to avoid getting pregnant or on the flipside trying to get pregnant!)

You can also look for the cues listed during each phase of your cycle, such as checking the position of your cervix or noting your cervical mucus.

Lastly I’ve heard great things about the Daysy Fertility Tracker, although I have not personally tried it myself.


+ OTHER HELPFUL TOOLS + RESOURCES

+ This book will tell you everything you need to know about your cycle + hormones —   Woman Code by Alisa Vitti.
+ One of my favorite podcast episodes on this topic — so much great info!
+ My blog post on rebalancing your hormones (many tips you can use during certain phases of your cycle)
+ CBD PMS Cream — Full disclosure, although I have yet to try this I am loving CBD tinctures and topicals to reduce pain and inflammation, so this could be great to look into!
+ Cora Organic Tampons — REAL TALK, most tampons contain chemicals, fragrances, synthetics and dyes that can further disrupt your menstrual cycle and only make PMS worse. Look for brands that don’t include any of the above mentioned, including Cora or SHE below
+ SHE Organic Tampons — 100% organic tampons — you can even sign up for monthly subscription/delivery

+ Lunette Menstrual Cup — Menstrual cups are also one of the newest innovations in women’s health products. They’re meant to simplify your life and cut down on the environmental impact of all those tampons and pads


+ NEXT STEPS 

Once you start tracking your cycle, use all the information above and begin incorporating tips that work for you (a few foods, supplements or self-care may be a good place to start!)

If you’ve recently transitioned off hormonal birth control and are not menstruating or ovulating, don’t be discouraged! If you can, try to figure out where you would typically be at in your cycle and start there (i.e. if you usually menstruate on day 25 and you’re currently not, act as if you were and continue to incorporate the practices recommended during this phase). Operating as if you were on a regular cycle even if you’re not will help your body naturally get back on track.

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed or like you may need some additional support, you can sign up to get added to the waitlist to work with me. My 1:1 coaching schedule will reopen on a first come, first serve basis in January, 2019.

Any other questions/comments? Please post below and I’ll do everything I can to help. You are awesome and deserve to feel your best, no matter the time of month!

xx //
Lauren