• Don’t Be So Hormonal: Cycle Syncing 101

    Do you suffer from the symptoms of excess estrogen: Acne, bloating, irritability, fatigue, insomnia, low libido, infertility, period problems?  Well, you aren’t alone! Upwards of 80% of women report having severe symptoms of PMS each month.

    As women we are often not told much about our cycles from the git-go. If you are like me, my mother handed me a box of tampons and we never spoke about periods again. With so many women in the dark, this matter builds in importance. We live in a patriarchal society, where business, decisions and daily habits are formed based on the male hormonal cycle. Male hormones produce and leave the body on a 24 hour cycle, whereas female hormones take 28-30 days to rise to their peak concentrations and then drop, ultimately leaving the body during menstruation ( I know, this fact blew my mind too).

    In a single month, your body undergoes some pretty serious changes. Your hormones fluctuate which stimulates not only blood loss, but mood shifts, energy changes and the grim reaper of your social life: ACNE! As if that wasn’t enough to have you running to your bed for the entire week…There’s more!

    Your monthly cycle has four unique phases, each phase bringing different physical and emotional strengths [or weaknesses] to the surface. The rise and fall of hormones promotes vastly different dietary needs from week to week, so to think that we can continue to work, eat and live the same, daily, is to say that a computer should function the same everyday regardless of how much rubbish you’ve downloaded over the years. Our bodies are one giant bio-computer, constantly working to regulate our systems and bring us back to homeostasis. If we continue to “download” [re: eat, live & work] the same old rubbish, our systems will start to crash. Thus promoting, those pesky PMS symptoms along with a slew of other health issues. As your cortisol (stress hormone) levels rise while reading this, know that you are in control and this information will only help to revolutionize the way that you live, work and prioritize your daily habits. NOW ONTO TO THE GOOD STUFF! Get out your notepad, you’re about to get learnt!

    The Follicular Phase: 7-10 days

    Hormonal Focus:

    Estrogen and Testosterone are at low levels and slowly begin to increase in concentration. This hormonal shift in the body, tells the brain to be open to new things, to be creative and to set your intentions. Focus on trying something new in the bedroom, in the gym and at work for a healthy head-space.

    Food Focus:

    Fresh, vibrant, light foods will make you feel more energized during this phase. You will have just finished menstruation and will need to recharge the body for the next cycle. Plenty of veggies, lean proteins, sprouted beans and seeds and nutrient dense, energy-sustaining grains like buckwheat.

    Exercise Focus:

    • Workout: Try something new to mix up your routine: dance, cardio, zumba, pilates, or a rigorous yoga practice!

    • When: Mid-day – your estrogen will be low and your cortisol levels will be just right for a challenging cardio burst.

    The Ovulatory Phase: 3-5 days

    Hormone Focus:

    Testosterone begins to surge, which drives desire, and then drops. The verbal and social centers in the brain are stimulated by these shifts, so if you have been holding out on asking for that raise or having an important conversation with your loved one, wait no more, ovulation in here!

    Food Focus:

    In order to make sure that your body is metabolizing and eliminating any excess estrogen, raw veggies (a.k.a fiber) are a must during this phase. Fruit is another key component of the ovulation phase for their high levels of glutathione, which promote vascular and antioxidative well-being for your ovaries. Think lighter grains like quinoa and corn for added sustenance.

    Exercise Focus:

    • Workout: High impact workouts are best during this time… think: interval training, soul cycle, group workouts, etc.

    • When: Early morning – you’ll have tons of energy during this time of the month, so take advantage of that natural high! Your testosterone is higher during this phase, so whatever you do, feel free to go all out!

    The Luetal Phase: 10-14 days

    Hormone Focus:

    In the first portion of this phase you might find yourself needing more comfort. This is because your body begins to produce progesterone, which is your bodies anti-anxiety hormone, think natural valium! You will likely have energy to burn in the first few days of this phase as you shift from ovulation into menstruation. Take time to be light-hearted and meet-up with friends.   In the second half of this phase, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone reach their peak concentrations and begin to fall to their lowest levels just before menstruation begins. This rise and fall often promotes PMS-like symptoms and although these symptoms are common, they are not necessary. Practice self-care + nesting in the back-end of this phase to avoid irritation.

    Food Focus:

    Emphasize foods rich in B-Vitamins to resolve sugar cravings. Eat plenty of leafy greens to boost your calcium and magnesium while reducing fluid retention + aiding in the elimination process to come. Adding roasted or baked root vegetables allows for the liver and large intestine to flush out estrogen more effectively.

    Exercise Focus:

    • Workout: Pilates, yoga

    • When: Keep it early during the first half, and then transition into the early evening. You might still feel full of energy during the first days of your luteal phase, so feel free to keep kicking butt in more intense workouts early in the day. But if you start to experience PMS symptoms in the days before your period, it’s time to tone it down and switch to Pilates or strength training in the early evening. Restorative (yin) yoga before bed can also be hugely helpful in combatting issues like moodiness and bloat.

    Menstrual Phase: 3-7 days

    Hormone Focus:

    Progesterone plunges, which causes the uterine lining to shed ( a.k.a your period).  Hormone levels then quickly decline to their lowest concentrations. This drop creates super-communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Because of this communication you are able to create a better understanding of how you feel about situations and the best course of action moving forward. Schedule time this week for reflection + review and allow yourself to turn inward to think about what you want for the future.

    Food Focus:

    Since your body is working hard in the elimination process, focus your diet on foods that add nutrients. Proteins, fats and low glycemic index veggies and fruits such as leafy greens, nuts + seeds and beans + legumes keep your blood sugar steady while adding in fiber and antioxidants. Seafood, kelp and nori help to remineralize your body with iron and zinc, which you lose during menstruation.

    Exercise Focus:

    • Workout: Walk OR yin/ restorative yoga – keep your workouts mild, even if you’re not feeling major discomfort.

    • When: In the evening when you are winding down from your day

    If you are a woman on the go OR loathe cooking, check out my easy-peasy hormonal smoothie recipes! They will get you everything you need without the hassle!

    Bottom Line:

    While this all may seem overwhelming at first, it is in our nature to ebb and flow with the cyclical pattern of the environment. The more you begin to learn and understand your hormones, the more you will be able to honor your own internal cyclicality. This is the key to maximizing your success, balancing your moods and living a PMS free lifestyle, all while frolicking through the forest harvesting berries (okay, you don’t have to do that last part, but just know that you can, because that’s how good you could feel!) With this newfound knowledge, it is my hope that you feel empowered to educate yourself in order to be and do everything you were already doing, but BETTER! Share this information with the women that you love to help lay the foundation for a rising epidemic of educated and empowered females.

    Key Take-Aways:

    1. You aren’t supposed to have PMS!

    2. You are supposed to feel fabulous every single day ( yes, even if you are on your period)

    3. Be patient, as you move into a deeper state of knowing + internal bliss!

    By Emily Cox

    Emily is a yoga teacher turned holistic healer. She has a passion for getting upside down and being involved in her community. She is a licensed Holistic Nutritionist and Ashtanga Yoga Instructor with more than 10 years of personal practice and 6 years of teaching experience. She started her own wellness business in 2017 where she preaches the power of personalized nutrition to all of her clients! She specializes in gut health and hormone harmony and believes that with the right guidance, tools and motivation we can all take back the reigns of our health through sustainable yet systematic practices!

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