Women work hard to stay on top of everything they do. And despite the fact that our hormone levels are constantly changing, we expect ourselves to have the same energy levels every single day. This is impossible, because just as the nature of our bodies, our energy levels are cyclical, not linear.
As there are four seasons in a year, four phases constitute a woman’s menstrual cycle. Amazingly, the characteristics of these phases highly resemble that of the seasons, and each phase brings about different physical and emotional symptoms, which when the hormone balance is off, can be pretty difficult.
Fortunately, those changes can be supported through mindful diet and proper activity planning, and this way, the beautiful qualities that they bring out can be enhanced.
To help you navigate through these changes, Wildcrafter put together a four week plan of action: diet guidelines, activity planning and energy tips.
Week 1 starts on the first day of your period. You may need to adjust the number of days per phase, according to your personal cycle.
Additionally, this plan is good for all women, even after menopause, as over the course of four weeks, your diet will evolve so that you will increase your intake of valuable micronutrients, and will be regulating their distribution. That way, the endocrine system gets the variety of the key micronutrients necessary to the production of optimal hormone levels. Following these guidelines will also encourage your body to break down estrogen and eliminate efficiently.
Diet focus: Healthy Fats, Root Vegetables, Hydration
Increase your intake of salmon, avocados, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots and beets. Your hormone levels will shift toward their lower levels and the essential fatty acids help stabilize mood and energy. Root vegetables provide vitamin A, which is required to help the liver process estrogen.
It’s important to stay hydrated so that the blood stays thin and gets properly eliminated. You might find additional electrolytes to be helpful (think natural; coconut water is an excellent source of electrolytes). If you find yourself craving red meat, you likely need the iron. Hibiscus tea is an excellent source, and a great alternative to the steak. Generally, avoid eating heavy and greasy foods.
Activity planning: REST
During this first phase, progesterone plunges, which causes the lining of the uterus to shed and results in bleeding. A typical, healthy period lasts 3-7 days.
Your energy will be at its lowest. You are likely to feel tired and withdrawn. You may want to rest more than you usually do, or even take a day off. If taking an entire day off isn’t possible, try to introduce some deliberate quiet time. Take naps, go for short walks or do some deep breathing.
If possible, stay away from big social events; instead, plan dates with yourself. Try journaling, Epsom salt baths, and mindful reflection on the past month.
This way, you can create a space for awareness and properly set your intentions for the month ahead. Don’t overdo it with exercise; limit yourself to gentle stretching, yoga and walking.
You will likely feel a sense of release and relief when menstruation starts, and feel introverted and introspective during that phase.
In case of pain
If you get headaches and menstrual cramps, here are a few things that might help: a hot water bottle laid on your tummy, a castor oil pack, a restorative yoga class. Some extra magnesium supplement, and anything that triggers the production of oxytocin, which happens to reduce pain; think cuddling and… orgasms. Yep.
Diet Focus: Sprouted and Fermented Food.
Foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, bean sprouts, pickles, broccoli sprouts and sprouted Ezekiel bread contain prebiotics and 3-endole-carbinol : two key micronutrients that help the body metabolize and break down estrogen. During the second week, estrogen begins to rise (if you have a cycle), and this will be really helpful to keep it in check.
Make sure you get enough nourishing foods, such as soups and stews, iron-rich vegetables and, if you are not vegetarian, organic animal protein to give your body the support it needs to rebuild your blood supply and mature an egg for ovulation.
Activity planning: BUILD
This phase starts one week after your period starts and lasts until ovulation. It is called the Follicular Phase because your pituitary gland releases a hormone called Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), which stimulates the follicles in the ovaries to mature. Estrogen and testosterone rise during this second week, which brings a boost of energy, improved mood and better brain function. You are likely to feel more bold, independent and assertive. This is because testosterone stimulates the libido, while estrogen makes you feel more extroverted and reduces the appetite.
Brainstorming and problem solving will be major strengths during this phase. This is a good time to undertake new projects and make important decisions.
Intense exercise will feel increasingly good during this time too, so get out and enjoy your favorite physical activities. Make sure to get good night’s sleep. Your body especially needs it to start replenishing its blood supply and heal the tissues.
Enjoy the energy boost, a brighter mood and acute brain skills. You are likely to feel extroverted and more social.
Diet Focus: Raw Juices and Fresh Vegetables
During week three, you will experience a surge of estrogen, which in too high levels can cause an array of discomforts such as bloating, tenderness in the breasts, decreased sex drive, headaches and weight gain. Raw fruits and vegetables provide the antioxidants and fiber necessary to break down and eliminate it. Furthermore, raw juices and fresh vegetables ensure that the liver gets glutathione, a micronutrient that is required to break down estrogen.
Activity Planning : EXPRESS
Ovulation is the fruit of all the hard work your body has been doing over the last fourteen days. An egg gets released from its follicle in your ovary and will survive for 12-24 hours. In order to boost the effects of the follicular phase, estrogen and testosterone reach peak levels, and your basal temperature will rise as well. You are likely to feel more confident about yourself and the way you look, and it will feel easier to verbalize your thoughts and feelings. In addition, your sex drive will be through the roof. This is the ideal time for public speaking, job interviews, networking events, and romantic dates. Your energy levels peak during week three, so continue to enjoy lots of physical activity.
Delight in the self-confidence week three brings. You will feel most attractive during this time, your libido will be at its highest, and you might even become distracted by thoughts of seduction. You could also experience heightened senses (vision, smell and taste) and you will find ease in expressing yourself.
Diet Focus : Grains and Greens
Quinoa, buckwheat, bok-choy, kale, escarole and swiss chard are great staples for that week. Week four brings a surge of estrogen and progesterone, and then a sharp decline. This affects brain chemistry, and ultimately, our mood. The B vitamins contained in grains are serotonin building blocks for your body and will help to keep your mood stable. The calcium and magnesium found in greens encourage your body to use the hormones you do have efficiently. Additionally, both grains and greens provide plenty of soluble fiber, which helps move estrogen out of the body as quickly as possible.
Activity Planning: PROCESS
The drop in estrogen and testosterone will trigger the production of progesterone. This anti-anxiety hormone might make you feel ready to begin winding down. Now is the ideal time for nesting, chores and taking care of your to-do lists.
This phase is famously difficult for most women. You might be used to many of the PMS symptoms, such as anxiety, mood swings, cravings for carbs-heavy comfort foods, bloating and headaches. Therefore, try to practice good self-care during this week: spend extra time alone, do some restorative yoga, shamelessly allow yourself to sleep in, get a good massage, and drink peppermint tea in case of PMS symptoms. When you honor your body's wise need for rest, you enhance your ability to get more out of the active phases of your cycle.
As progesterone production increases, you find yourself starting to wind down and wanting to stay home. You may feel full and anxious to release this fullness. You will probably feel lonely and isolated. Hang tight, and know that this is normal; there are tremendous hormonal changes occurring within you.
Side note: on days 23 through 28 of your menstrual cycle, painful procedures hurt more, as endorphins are at their lowest level. So consider making your OB/GYN, dental or waxing/laser appointments for when you’re ovulating (days 13 through 17), when estrogen levels are highest.
Women have approximately 450 menstrual cycles in their lifetime. It would be such a shame to not learn how to dance to this cadence. Menstruation is a gift, a reminder of our miraculous capacity to create life, and an opportunity to intimately connect with our wild nature. It is time we stop perceiving it as a burden, and learn to honor ourselves through our inner seasons.