As a general disclaimer, the content found within this article was intended for informational & educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, please seek care from your primary physician or medical professional. The content found within this article is intended to motivate readers to make educated decisions about their health after consulting with a qualified health care professional. No information found on this article should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any diseases or conditions.
Did you know that in 2015, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggested that the menstrual cycle should be viewed as a vital sign?
This makes sense, as menstrual health is directly related to systemic health & function.
In fact, if paid close attention to, dare I say the menstrual cycle could even be used as a diagnostic tool. (Please see disclaimer above)
Whether you are a practitioner looking to support your female clients in their hormone-balancing & cycle-healing journeys…
Or if you’re a womxn who’s looking to understand your body on a deeper level so you can decode what your menstrual cycle could be telling you…
This article will teach you the basics of how to achieve an inside look on a womxn’s health through using the menstrual cycle as a vital sign & diagnostic tool.
The Menstrual Cycle as a Whole
Before we dig into how to use the menstrual cycle as a tool, you must first understand that the menstrual cycle & menstruation are two entirely separate things.
The menstrual cycle consists of a month-long process beginning with the first day of the period, to the day before the next period. It can be broken up into 4 distinct phases, each consisting of different metabolic processes such as specific hormonal fluctuations, the buildup of the nutrient-rich endometrial (uterine) lining & of course, the most important event of them all, ovulation. Read more about the menstrual cycle phases & accompanying hormones.
At the end of the month, hormones drop to their lowest points triggering the uterus to contract and shed the blood & nutrient-rich endometrial lining, resulting in menstruation.
As you can now see, the menstrual cycle is way more complex than simply getting a period once every 28-or-so days.
Contrary to popular belief, periods are not meant to be painful or symptomatic. The level of pain & symptoms a womxn experiences with her period is highly associated with her systemic health, inflammation levels, hormone balance, nutrient status and more.
Understanding how the menstrual cycle is translating systemic dysfunction in this way, is key to utilizing the menstrual cycle as a vital sign & diagnostic tool.
Interpreting The 5th Vital Sign
To use the menstrual cycle as a vital sign & diagnostic tool, you must first be able to identify the difference between a normal, healthy menstrual cycle & a dysfunctional, symptomatic cycle.
A healthy period should ideally:
Dysfunctions in menstrual health may appear as:
Although cycle symptoms may be statically “normal” or common amongst menstruators, they are definitely not biologically normal, and are typically a sign of systemic dysfunctions like elevated inflammation, hormone imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, chronic stress & more.
It can be helpful to keep track of symptoms throughout the menstrual cycle to get a big-picture look at what can be considered normal or what may be a sign of dysfunction.
Charting the Menstrual Cycle
By observing cyclical patterns within the menstrual cycle, you can clearly see what the underlying issues and/or dysfunctions may be triggering a womxn’s symptoms.
Utilizing information in this way allows womxn to get an inside look on their health so that they can seek the support they need to balance their hormones & optimize their reproductive health.
I recommend suggesting to your clients that they keep detailed track of their symptoms throughout their entire cycle and during their period.
For an advanced level look into the menstrual cycle, you could also suggest they keep track of their basal body temperatures and cervical mucus patterns throughout their cycle.
They can do this by charting their observations on paper, or through using a detailed charting app like Kindara or Read Your Body.
Observing Cervical Mucus Patterns
It is normal to experience fluctuations in vaginal secretions throughout the menstrual cycle, specifically within the fertile window, which occurs roughly 5-6 days before ovulation.
In response to rising estrogen levels in the follicular phase, the cervix produces fertile-quality cervical mucus. The mucus may appear sticky, or tacky at first and should evolve to become creamier, with more water concentration the closer to ovulation you get, eventually turning into a very slippery, egg-white quality of cervical mucus.
The presence of fertile-quality cervical mucus is a sign of optimal fertility and is very different than vaginal discharge. Occasionally womxn may observe fluid secretion outside of their fertile window, but in this case, it would be considered vaginal discharge and not cervical mucus. This may be an indicator of hormone imbalances and/or infection and should be examined by a qualified medical professional.
Abnormal vaginal discharge that appears grey or greenish in color, has a foul odor, or is accompanied by itching or irritation is a sign of imbalance or infection and should also be examined by a qualified medical professional.
Observing Basal Body Temperatures
Keeping track of basal body temperatures can be an easy way for womxn to observe their menstrual cycle from a birds-eye view.
To track basal body temperatures, you would need a basal thermometer, or a thermometer that records temperatures to at least 1/100th of a degree.
Instruct your clients to take their temperature first thing, at the same time every morning upon rising. They will want to ensure that they take their temperature before moving or getting out of bed, before taking a sip of water and before looking at their phone or engaging in conversation or sexual activity.
Temperatures in the follicular phase should ideally rest somewhere between 97.0 to 97.7 degrees Fahrenheit or 36.11 to 36.5 degrees Celsius.
After ovulation occurs, they should see a sustained rise in temperature at least 2/10s of a degree above the average follicular temps. Postovulatory temperatures may rise to 97.8 degrees Fahrenheit or 56.55 degrees Celsius and stay elevated until the next period arrives.
The thermal shift is a result of progesterone production after ovulation, which has a thermogenic effect, stimulating thyroid hormone, thus, increasing basal body temperatures. A sustained temperature rise is one way to confirm an ovulatory cycle.
If your client cannot determine if they experience a sustained temp rise, they may not be ovulating consistently, which could be an influencing factor in their cycle symptoms. Or, they could be taking their temperatures inaccurately. If you suspect the latter, recommend they visit a certified Fertility Awareness Educator to have their charts thoroughly inspected and to learn more about how to chart their cycles accurately.
Keeping track of basal body temperatures can give you insight on not only if your client is ovulating or not, but also the status of their thyroid health & function, adrenal health & hormonal status.
Interpreting & Monitoring Progress
Through keeping track of menstrual cycle symptoms, cervical mucus patterns & basal body temperature, one can use the menstrual cycle as not only a vital sign measurement, but also (dare I say), a diagnostic tool.
This is because when observed strategically, the menstrual cycle can provide great insight into a womxn’s health on multiple levels.
Not only can her period symptoms provide insight on her hormonal status and levels of inflammation, her menstrual cycle charts can help to confirm whether or not she’s experiencing hormone imbalances, adrenal dysfunction, thyroid dysfunction, and more.
The tangible data that comes from cycle charting is absolutely invaluable information for a womxn to have, as it is a completely free way that she can monitor her own health status & progress.
The good news is that the menstrual cycle is malleable. It can be heavily influenced by the quality of a womxn’s nutrition, environment, sleep patterns, stress levels, & exercise routine. This means that through making simple, strategic nutrition & lifestyle adjustments, the menstrual cycle can change & improve over time.
A womxn’s period gives her the opportunity once per month to pause, check in with herself & reflect on her progress. It is her internal report card, a vital sign, showing her precisely where she needs to make adjustments in order to experience a healthier, symptom-free cycle.
Embracing The 5th Vital Sign
I firmly believe that now, more than ever, womxn need access to quality information about their reproductive health & how they can use their menstrual cycle to their advantage in these ways.
The more practitioners are familiar with this vital information, the more accessibility there is for womxn of this world. Through teaching them how to utilize their menstrual cycle as a vital sign & diagnostic tool, we have the power to take back control of our bodies & reclaim our reproductive health once and for all.
Resources available upon request
Have you ever considered the idea that your menstrual cycle might be more than just your monthly period?
Truth be told, you can learn a fair amount about your body beyond your reproductive health through observing your cycle.
In a sense, your period is your 5th vital sign, and can be considered a direct reflection of your overall health & fertility.
Let me as you this… Do you experience mood swings that make you feel like a completely different person for 2 weeks out of every month? Hormonal acne right before your period worse than puberty? Or cramping alongside heavy periods that makes you feel nauseous & riddled in pain?
If you answered yes, your period is likely trying to tell you something very important about your health & wellbeing.
The truth is, even though menstrual symptoms might be common, they are definitely not normal, and you don’t have to experience them.
Symptomatic cycles are one of the ways that your body tries to notify you that something’s not quite right.
Similarly, the better you are able to understand what your body is telling you through your period symptoms, the more equip you are to get to the root of your issues & overcome them once & for all.
Understanding the language of your period
To understand what your period is trying to say, you must first learn the language of your body.
Your body speaks to you through symptoms because it cannot speak to you with words. This is why symptoms may be subtle at first, but if ignored, they tend to increase in intensity/frequency. After a certain point, your body will begin to scream at you to pay attention, and by that point, you won’t be able to ignore it.
Ask yourself, how long have you been experiencing cycle symptoms? Have they increased over time?
Perhaps you decided to go on the pill to reduce your cycle symptoms… Even though the pill may be helpful in managing symptoms, what it’s really doing is shutting off the communication of your body, your hormones & your cycle so that you no longer hear what your body is trying to tell you.
So even though you might not be experiencing the same amount of pain or PMS while on the pill, the underlying reason is still there, which may factor into why so many women have the experience of their symptoms returning, and often with a vengeance, after discontinuing the pill.
I know it may seem challenging to face your pain or symptoms head on. I also get that it can be confusing & complicated to decipher what your period is actually trying to tell you about your body on your own, and let’s be honest, there definitely isn’t easy access to the kind of support you need for this work.
Likely, if you go to your conventional doc and say “hey, I don’t think my period pain is normal, could something else be going on that we’re missing?” You’ll likely get a response like “You’re fine, period pain is normal, just take some ibuprofen and decrease your stress”
There’s truly nothing that irks me more than the medical system not taking us (females) seriously about our experiences & concerns.
So, what do we wind up doing? We log on to Dr.Google and start digging through the research.
Believe me, it’s easy enough to get lost in the vast amount of research and opinion articles online and come out of it even more confused than when you started.
Honestly, I don’t even have enough fingers/toes to count how many “diets”, “supplements” and “detoxes” there are out there claiming to erase all of your symptoms & restore your health & vitality.
But let’s entertain the idea that IF managing period symptoms were as simple as taking a 1-a-day supplement, or restricting a certain food from your diet, then the problems that many women face with their cycles wouldn’t be such a huge, invasive issue. We’d have all the answers we’d need, right?!
Unfortunately, getting to the root of your symptoms is waaaay more complex, which is why so many women don’t have success with those approaches.
The other complicated side of the coin is that learning to listen to our body & understanding what it’s saying isn’t necessarily an easy task either.
As individuals, we often have “blinders” on ourselves, preventing us from being able to figure out what’s actually going on with us.
This is where the support of an outside opinion comes very much in handy. Although, finding someone to support you in this capacity is few & far between.
Interested in talking about how I can help to support you in this area of your health & wellbeing? Book a free discovery call with me today!
So what can you do on your own to better understand what your period might be trying to tell you about your health & fertility?
Let’s take a closer look.
Determining the Imbalance
Now, I must first disclaim that the information in this article is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or mitigate diseases. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of medical advice or care from your primary physician.
Cycle symptoms, more often than not, arise from an internal hormone imbalance. However, other conditions can factor into the experience of period issues as well.
Hormone imbalances such as excess estrogen, low progesterone, low estrogen or excess androgens (male hormones) can all factor into the onset of cycle symptoms.
Heavy bleeding, painful cramps, cravings and breast tenderness could be a way that your period is notifying you that you have too much estrogen in your system.
Alternatively, if you experience symptoms such as vaginal dryness, painful sex, low libido and hot flashes, your period could be trying to tell you that you don't have enough estrogen.
However, on the other hand, your period symptoms could also be notifying you of certain conditions such as digestive stress, systemic inflammation, blood sugar imbalances, and poor nutrition, which can all factor into cycle imbalances and symptoms.
So how can you tell which is which?
You may very well need to take a step back and take a look at the big picture perspective of your situation.
Do you experience the same symptoms each and every cycle? Or do they fluctuate from month to month depending upon your stress levels and what you eat?
If you are unsure, my best advice is to track a few cycles and see what patterns you come across then go from there.
Although many menstrual symptoms might be very common amongst women, they are definitely not normal, nor optimal. It’s best to work with a qualified practitioner to help you understand the fundamental causes of your menstrual issues and get to the root of those imbalances so you can restore your menstrual health & vitality. Book a free discovery call with me to get to the root of your cycle symptoms for good.
What should a healthy period look like?
Every woman’s period is just about as unique as herself. We each have our own cycle patterns and norms that are unique to us. Therefore, what may be considered “healthy” to one person, could be a sign of dysfunction in another.
Although, there are still some general guidelines to a healthy period such as:
A common response I get from many women after describing what a healthy period should look like is “So, you’re telling me I’ve never had a healthy period??”
Believe me, I get it, I completely understand the frustration, anger & rage that can come from learning what’s considered “normal” and what’s not. Oftentimes we are led to believe that cycle symptoms are normal, or “all in our head” when in reality, they’re a sign of imbalance and a way that our body is calling out for help.
Thankfully, our periods & our hormones are malleable. With that, we have options and opportunity to correct our imbalances and experience symptom-free periods.
YES! It is entirely possible to have a symptom-free period! That means a period without PMS, without terrible cramping, fatigue, nausea, headaches, bloating, etc.
Periods are NOT meant to be painful. Your period does NOT have to lead to you feeling emotional, irrational & out of control of your body & symptoms. Regardless of what’s commonly thought, I am here to say that you do not have to endure through the pain & discomfort each & every month! You CAN have a symptom-free period and it is entirely within your reach.
How to Fix Your Cycle
Unfortunately, there isn’t one “fix all” solution to managing your period. Every woman is unique in her situation, and with that, you may need a specific, individualized approach to help you overcome your period symptoms with complete success.
That’s why, as we said earlier, all those “fad diets” and “fix-it-all supplements” do not work.
However, in general, there are a handful of things that you can do to support hormone balance & a healthy menstrual experience.
Here are my key tips for fixing your cycle:
Eat a Nutrient Dense Diet
Many menstrual problems are associated with nutritional deficiencies. Make sure to eat 3 balanced meals per day and avoid overly processed, denatured foods such as refined sugar, white flour and other gluten-containing grains, conventional dairy, and vegetable oils (such as canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil and sunflower oil)
Lower Your Inflammation
Many of the processed foods listed above will contribute to underlying inflammation in your body which can trigger hormone imbalances and menstrual symptoms. In tandem with a nutrient-dense diet, you may consider supplementing with inflammation-modulating nutrients such as Turmeric, Ginger and Fish Oil (make sure your fish oil is from a reputable brand such as Nordic Naturals)
Support Your Digestion
Your digestion is the first stop in nutrient absorption in your body. An inflamed, disturbed digestive system (if you experience bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, etc.) will impair nutrient absorption and increase systemic inflammation - which is not good for hormone balance! Your body also eliminates excess hormones (like estrogen) through the digestive system. If you experience chronic constipation, or have a case of case of bacterial imbalance, unhealthy gut microbes will produce an enzyme activity called beta-glucuronidase which works to recirculate hormones back into your system causing hormone imbalances like estrogen dominance. So make sure you’re pooping daily, taking a high quality probiotic and eating plenty of fiber-rich vegetables!
To continue reading & to find out my 4 other key tips for fixing your period naturally, check out The Healthy Period Manual in my store resources.
Because you’ve read this far, please use the code: HEALTHYPERIODS for a $3 off coupon!
your menstrual cycle is much more than simply bleeding once per month. Your period can provide you with great insight as to the status of your overall health & wellbeing.
By paying attention, tracking your symptoms & connecting the dots, you’ll begin to recognize patterns in which you can use to help you begin to understand the language of your body.
The more we pause, listen & provide our bodies with the tools & resources it needs to function properly, the easier it becomes to balance hormones & experience a symptom-free menstrual cycle.
Why Hormonal Birth Control is So Popular
The pill (also known as hormonal birth control - HBC) is a commonly used & prescribed medication that introduces synthetic hormones to a womxn’s reproductive system.99.9% of the time HBC successfully prevents unwanted pregnancies. It does so by interfering with the natural hormonal cycles, inhibiting ovulation and creating an inopportune environment for fertilization & pregnancy to occur.
Hormonal Birth Control is favored not only due to it’s effectiveness at preventing pregnancies but also for its ability to relieve hormonal-based symptoms such as period cramps, PMS, cycle irregularities & hormonal acne. Depending upon the HBC of choice, womxn are even able opt out of getting their periods all together.
In the United States, on average, 98% of sexually active womxn have used birth control at some point in their life, and nearly 62% of womxn in their reproductive stages currently use birth control. However, the usage of birth control for managing cycle symptoms averages nearly 58% of overall users, meaning that only about 42% use birth control for preventing pregnancy alone. This means that over half of birth control users are using it for reasons other than contraceptive purposes! Not only is hormonal birth control prescribed for numerous womxn’s health issues, it is also utilized as a treatment plan for more serious conditions like PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, cysts, etc.
These numbers are quite outstanding, however they are not surprising. These numbers have accumulated over time and are continuing to rise due to the nature of the womxn’s reproductive healthcare system in America. HBC usage is widely accepted as normal preventative care and is frequently encouraged by many doctors & OB/GYNs in the industry despite whether or not it is the best option available for womxn’s overall reproductive health.
The History of Birth Control Usage
The history of how the pill came to fruition is based upon a past of feminism & reproductive freedom, but overtime its usage has only led to further oppression of womxn’s reproductive health & rights. As a preface, I acknowledge that this topic is quite controversial in the world of feminism, but I encourage you hear me out first before clicking away!
Contraceptive methods have been known to be used since 3000 BCE and have evolved greatly overtime (thankfully). However, the first oral pill contraceptive, Enovid, wasn’t invented until 1960 when womxn were tired of relying on less effective barrier methods and spermicides as the only contraceptive options available. Enovid was created through a mixture of synthetic hormones similar to natural progesterone and estrogen. It was found that introducing these synthetic hormones suppressed natural hormone production resulting in temporary infertility. Its invention ultimately sparked feminist conversation around womxn’s reproductive rights & body autonomy as it gave womxn the opportunity to be freely in control of their reproductive choices, making a huge step in the evolution of feminism.
Fast forward to our present day and age, many womxn (even feminists) still view the usage of HBC as an act of womxn’s liberation & sexual reproductive freedom. I can definitely understand this thought process, however, with the knowledge we have today about womxn’s reproductive health & the technology that’s available to us, there are plenty of healthier & just as effective alternative options available for womxn. I believe that is a disservice to womxn for health care providers to not offer up other available options outside of HBC, especially when it comes to managing cycle symptoms.
The problem lies not solely within the product itself, but also with the reproductive healthcare system incessantly promoting its usage whilst not disclosing the true function of the pill and the disruptive effects that synthetic hormones have on womxn’s reproductive health, not to mention the added risks & side effects that can accompany it.
What HBC does to your body & potential risks/side effects
The pill may be an effective way to prevent undesired pregnancies, but it only does so at a great cost to your overall hormonal and reproductive health.
The synthetic hormones (typically progestin & estradiol) found within hormonal birth control work to inhibit the body’s natural hormonal fluctuations which prevents pregnancy through a combination of ways. Stopping the cyclical fluctuation of natural hormones can interfere with ovulation, and without ovulation, pregnancy cannot occur. The synthetic hormones also create a thick mucus plug within the cervix making it difficult for sperm to swim up into the uterus & fallopian tubes. Finally, by suppressing natural hormones like estrogen, HBC has the ability to thin the uterine lining to an extent that makes it unfavorable for implantation of any fertilized eggs (this part is also what contributes to a lighter, more ‘manageable’ period when on the pill).
It’s important to note that a period on the pill is not a real period. According to definition, a true period only exists after the occurrence of ovulation. HBC inhibits ovulation, thus, the ‘period’ that comes from using the pill is technically considered a breakthrough bleed and is triggered by the controlled decrease of hormones from using the pill. This is why you must take HBC at the same time each day and why there are often ‘sugar pills’ included in the packaging.
HBC not only interferes with your hormones, but it can also lead to other serious health issues like nutritional deficiencies (commonly in B vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Magnesium, Zinc & Selenium), and an increased risk for blood clotting, heart attack, stroke & cancer.
Many womxn experience complications & adverse reactions from taking hormonal birth control. Symptoms like, mood swings, depression, nausea, headaches, weight gain, decreased libido, etc. However, instead of recognizing these symptoms as serious signs that the body is reacting adversely to synthetic hormones, many physicians opt for offering a different type of hormonal birth control like the IUD, injection or the patch.
Most womxn prescribed HBC are not fully disclosed about the potential risks & side-effects involved. Some doctors even refuse to believe that the pill can do more harm than good! When womxn are ready to come off of the pill (whether that be to achieve pregnancy or for personal reasons) it is quite common for it to take time for their natural cycle to return. In some cases it can take up to 6 - 12 months to regain a healthy period, however, many physicians will advise staying on HBC until you are ready to conceive, assuming that everything goes back to normal immediately after discontinuing the pill. Of course this can be true in some cases, but it is definitely common in a high amounts of post-HBC users for it to take time to regain their hormonal balance. Unrealistic expectations like these can set couples up for unnecessary infertility diagnoses & a lot of frustration.
For those who take HBC to manage cycle symptoms, coming off the pill can trigger the return of symptoms (and often with a vengeance). This is because despite what other people may say, HBC does not ‘manage’ cycle symptoms, it only suppresses them. If your cycle symptoms were caused by a hormone imbalance in the first place, using HBC as a treatment can potentially make matters worse on the inside by not correcting the underlying issue. On top of that, suppressing natural sex hormones through HBC usage can tigger thyroid issues and increase sex hormone binding globulin, which can lead to a host of other complications in various areas of your body resulting in more undesired symptoms. The only way to truly manage & overcome cycle symptoms is to work on supporting hormone balance. There are a variety of provenly effective approaches, however, utilizing a functional nutrition approach to balance hormones is the method I am most familiar with as a functional nutrition professional.
Finally, the last point I’ll touch on is that HBC usage disrupts the cyclical nature of the natural feminine experience. Hormones are designed to fluctuate throughout the course of a womxn’s monthly cycle, which gives rise to ebbs & flows in a womxn's energy, mindset, productivity, creativity & sensuality. HBC usage has led many womxn to being out of touch with the natural order & wisdom of their feminine existence. This aspect is not well considered in scientific literature, but there is a lot to be said about the beauty of a natural female cycle without synthetic hormones. Click here to read more about getting in touch with the wisdom of your menstrual cycle.
Thankfully, there are plenty of less-invasive alternatives to hormonal birth control usage that are very effective at managing symptoms AND preventing undesired pregnancies. Thus, whether you use (or are thinking of using) the pill for preventing unwanted pregnancies or for managing your period symptoms, there are indeed other alternatives for you to consider.
Alternatives to Hormonal Birth Control
Many womxn use HBC as an effective method for preventing undesired pregnancies. As successful as this approach may be, it definitely disconnects us from our natural fertility & reproductive potential.
Did you know that you are only fertile for 5-6 days out of your entire monthly cycle? It’s true! This is a well-known, well-researched & proven fact. So this means that in total, there are roughly 20 or so days within your cycle that it is physically impossible to get pregnant. I bet no one ever told you that, huh?
Of course there are other options for birth control methods such as condoms, cervical caps, diaphragms, withdrawal, spermicide & sterilization but each of those may be risky if you are unaware of when exactly you're in your fertile window.
Introducing the Fertility Awareness Method of Natural Birth Control. By tracking your body’s fertile signs (cervical mucus, cervical position & basal body temperature) it is possible to identify your fertile window (and avoid sex within this time frame or use a barrier method) and confirm ovulation to know when it is safe to have sex without getting pregnant. Many womxn use this method of non-hormonal birth control effectively and it can even have up to a 99% success rate when used perfectly. I have used it myself to successfully avoid pregnancy for 4+ years now.
When it comes to managing cycle symptoms, there are many non-invasive approaches to balancing hormones naturally. Click here to read more about how to balance hormones naturally.
Working with a qualified functional nutrition professional can help you to identify the root of your hormone imbalance and support your reproductive health through nutrition, lifestyle & key supplementation. Click here to learn more about the programs I offer.
Coming Off HBC & What to Expect
If you have decided to come off hormonal birth control (good for you!) there are a few things to consider beforehand.
For one, expect that it may take time for your body to adjust to not having hormones readily available to it. It may take time to regain your period and hormonal stability. Because of this, it is advised to come off of HBC roughly 6-12 months before planning to conceive.
In some cases, womxn experience what’s been termed as post-birth control syndrome which can result in symptoms such as cramping, acne, headaches, hair loss, depression & anxiety for a period of time until hormones level out.
Now, I don’t want to scare you! If it eases your mind at all, not all womxn will experience symptoms of post-birth control syndrome. It really depend upon what type of birth control you were on, if you had any underlying symptoms or issues that were suppressed from HBC usage as well as the status of your overall health and ability to adapt to the hormonal changes from discontinuing the pill.
It’s hard to know what to expect until you make the leap. However, there are ways in which you can support your body to have a healthier transition.
I’d recommend taking a high quality multivitamin and to ensure that any nutrition deficiencies are addressed before coming off of the pill. Eating plenty of nutrient-dense foods as well as finding ways to support your digestive health can all help to ease the process. I also recommend reading Dr. Jolene Brighten’s book ‘Beyond the Pill’ as it has some wonderful information and insight on how to support yourself if you do experience post-birth control syndrome. In general, working with a qualified health practitioner who is well versed in these areas may also help you in your transition off of hormonal birth control.
In conclusion, it is your body, your choice. It is your right to be informed of the benefits vs. risks/side effects of HBC usage. A part of having the reproductive rights that we do today is that we have the ability to decide what’s going to be best for ourselves and our reproductive health. Whether or not your physician agrees with your decision is another story. I advise you to seek out a health care team that supports you in your choice to come off of the pill and find ways in which you can learn more and make an informed decision before doing so. Reading this blog post was definitely a good start in the right direction! If you’d like to learn more about how I might be able to support you in your reproductive health journey, click below to book a free discovery call.
Article sources available upon request
Are your periods so horrible that you find yourself in so much pain & all you can do is curl up in bed with a hot water bottle? Do you also deal with additional uncomfortable symptoms like PMS, bloating, fatigue, nausea & hot flashes? Ugh! I know the feeling!
Are you wondering if your period experience is normal or if there’s anything natural you can do to fix it? You’ve definitely come to the right place!
It’s uncomfortable (to say the least) to have to go through the same gut-wrenching, sweat-inducing pain each & every month. The good news is that there is actually a way out! A natural way at that, which doesn’t require medication or surgery.
Too many womxn are under the impression that period pain is normal, a natural part of female physiology. However, this couldn’t be any farther from the truth. What if I told you that you DON’T actually have to bear through so much pain each & every month? What if I told you that you CAN overcome your period pain naturally? Let’s find out!
Is it normal to experience period pain?
Technically, no. Although period pain may be fairly common, it is definitely not normal. It is actually a sign of imbalance within the body. Depending upon the severity & cause of your menstrual pain, you can likely control it all on your own.
There are 2 main types of period pain, technically known as Dysmenorrhea. There’s Primary Dysmenorrhea and Secondary Dysmenorrhea.
Primary Dysmenorrhea is the most common form of menstrual pain. It usually occurs in girls & womxn during their prime reproductive years (from onset of menses - perimenopause). It occurs due to uncomfortable contractions of the uterus muscle - similar to birthing contractions (some women’s period pain may even be comparable!) - which help to shed the built-up blood of the uterine lining. Accompanying intense period cramps may also be heavy bleeding, the appearance of clots as well as digestive disturbances (i.e diarhhea, gas, nausea, bloating, etc.). Primary Dysmenorrhea can be triggered by various internal imbalances in the body, however, they are primarily brought on from increased levels of inflammation & prostaglandins (more on this below). Primary Dysmenorrhea is hereditary for some, but for many, it can be triggered by an accumulation of systemic imbalances. Thankfully, it is possible for this form of dysmenorrhea to be corrected by establishing balance back to the body through making simple dietary & lifestyle adjustments.
Secondary Dysmenorrhea is a form of extreme menstrual pain triggered by situations other than extraneous contractions of the womb. For example, in cases of pelvic infections, endometriosis, fibroids or cysts. In these situations, there may be an underlying infection or abnormal tissue growth occurring either inside or outside of the uterus (i.e on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, urethra, intestines, etc.). These cases are also quite common in womxn experiencing extreme menstrual pain, but they are usually incredibly painful to the point where the pain is debilitating and it is often accompanied by additional & differentiated symptoms (as indicated below in the ‘When you May Need to See a Doctor’ section)
Statics show that on average, around 80% of womxn experience period pain at some point within in their reproductive lifetime. Many womxn opt to take over-the-counter medications or hormonal birth control to manage their symptoms. Although effective, these forms of treatment are not correcting the underlying issues or imbalances at hand. They only suppress the causation of menstrual pain which may lead to further, more complicated issues into the future if not corrected.
Although menstruation is a normal, inevitable part of being female, period pain doesn’t have to be a part of the deal. There are many natural & effective ways to support menstrual & reproductive health without the use of medications or birth control. Please know that you have the right to be fully informed & to understand your options before deciding which type of management or treatment plan you want to use.
What should a normal period feel like?
A normal, healthy period should not be extremely painful. There may be minimal discomfort at most, but nothing too unbearable. If we were to rate the pain from 1-10, 10 being womb-stabbing, gut-wrenching pain, we would rate the normal level at about a 1 or 2. Uterine contractions are a healthy and vital part of menstruation. These contractions may induce slight discomfort, but it should never make you feel like you can’t function normally. In addition, healthy menstrual discomfort should not be accompanied with other bodily symptoms like extreme fatigue, dizziness, nausea, bloating, etc.
In the book ‘Her Blood is Gold’ by Lara Owen, she writes “Menstrual Pain has several functions; one of the most obvious is that it shifts our attention to our bodies. It deepens our experience of our bodies and awakens the ability to be aware of the different parts of the body and of bodily sensations. ….. Menstrual symptoms pull us back in touch with ourselves.”
I love her writing because she has a beautiful way of painting the pure magic & feminine aspects of menstruation. Periods are meant to be slightly uncomfortable because they are a reminder for us us slow down & tune in with ourselves. When we ignore what our body is needing in the moment, especially during menstruation, it can lead to our symptoms intensifying.
If you are experiencing extreme cramping, it’s very important that you figure out the root cause of your troubles. Listed below are 8 potential reasons (or triggers) why you experience horrible period pain. I encourage you to reflect upon the options and where you can adjust your lifestyle to best support your reproductive health. You may also consider finding a qualified health professional to help you overcome these areas of imbalance. If you’re interested in working with me as your reproductive health coach, guide & mentor, click here to learn more.
8 Potential Reasons Why You Have Horrible Periods:
What you can do to help support a healthy period:
Supplements you may consider:
When you may need to see a doctor:
Disclaimer: Please know that all information and tools presented and written within this site are intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or professional advice from your qualified health care professional.
Article sources available upon request
Are you dealing with what you suspect may be a ‘hormone imbalance’? Things like, PMS, acne, mood swings, irregular periods, intense cramps, and/or fertility struggles? Are you curious how to support balance to your hormones naturally without the use of medication or hormonal birth control? Well do I’ve got some news for you! Not only is it absolutely 100% possible to achieve hormone balance naturally, but when doing so, you’ll likely experience many improvements in other areas of your health & wellbeing as well. I say this because hormones are intimately interconnected between all body systems.
For some perspective, let me ask you this… Do you also experience digestive disturbances like bloating, indigestion, constipation, etc? How about energy lows, fatigue & brain fog? Even though these issues don’t necessarily seem related to hormone imbalances on the surface level… Deep down, they are all very connected. Please allow me to explain.
Hormones are chemical messengers that the body uses to communicate between cells. Responsible for maintaining & facilitating this internal communication is the Endocrine System. This system is made up of 10 or more organs & glands responsible for receiving & secreting hormonal messages. For context, let’s compare the Endocrine System to a great symphony orchestra. It all starts off with the Hypothalamus gland within the brain, which we can think of as the conductor to our orchestra. Its job is to understand the music & convey it through signaling certain cues to each musician. Each endocrine gland in the body is like a musician in the orchestra playing a certain instrument (or a specific hormone for comparison). When each musician is playing in tune with the others, together they create a beautiful, harmonic melody. However, if even one instrument is out of tune, or a musician goes off key from the others, it can degrade the quality of the entire performance.
Similarly, within the endocrine system, each organ/gland has a specific role to play & hormone to communicate. When their function is diminished or the hormones go out of balance, the result can send a ripple effect of dysfunction to the entire system. The major endocrine glands consist of the Hypothalamus, Pineal & Pituitary glands in the brain, as well as the Thyroid, Parathyroid, Thymus, Pancreas, Adrenals, Ovaries & Testes. So as you can imagine, if dysfunction happens to any of these endocrine organs, it can lead to complications further down the line. For a realistic example, blood sugar imbalances (ie. Hypoglycemia - low blood sugar or prediabetes) can impair the function of the pancreas (an endocrine organ that plays a role in both blood sugar balance as well as digestive function), this can send complications further down the line, interfering with communication in other areas of the body, like within the ovaries, which as a result, could potentially interfere with your menstrual health & reproductive function.
Now that we can see how interconnected the endocrine system truly is, it’s easy to accept the idea that in order to balance hormones, we need to take a look at the big picture. If you truly want to balance your hormones, you have to consider approaching it from the foundation up. What I mean by this is, consider areas of your health & wellbeing that fuel & support the entire endocrine system, not just one particular area of it.
For some examples & specific recommendations on how to support hormone balance naturally, here are 6 key tips:
There you have it, 6 tips for supporting hormone balance from a natural, holistic approach! Please keep in mind that these steps are covering just the basics. These are a few, simple ways you can support the entire endocrine system from the foundation up. However, keep in mind that more often than not, healing takes time, especially when it involves the entire hormonal symphony we talked about earlier. Fixing serious hormones imbalances can be complicated & might require you to work with a hormone expert/professional to uncover triggers & support the root of your imbalance. If you are in the market for finding a professional to help you dive deep into your hormonal situation, you can consider scheduling a free discovery call with me to see if we’re a good match to work together on your situation.
Supporting hormone balance naturally IS 100% possible. As long as you have the right information at hand & you’re able to provide your body with the tools it needs to keep the entire hormonal orchestra in harmony, you’re well on your way to naturally balancing your hormones & experiencing a truly symptom-free life.
As I am writing this blog post, the COVID-19 pandemic is peaking amongst us. Establishments like restaurants, shopping centers & even public parks are forced to shut down or face a hefty fine if they don’t comply with the CDC’s social guidelines. It is definitely an uncertain time in our world & thus, there’s a lot of fear, confusion & anxiety around what the future holds. We have never before faced anything like this in our time, and it may not be the last either.
With most of us now having more time on our hands and/or are working from home, social media usage has increased significantly. I’m a fan of it myself as it can truly be a great outlet for connection, creativity & entertainment. However, I’ve recently seen many posts & memes joking about how if ‘everything else in society is ‘cancelled’, our monthly period should be as well’. As funny & relatable as it may seem, it honestly saddens my heart to hear people joke about their menstrual cycles in this way. Don’t get me wrong, if you experience a lot of pain & symptoms associated with your period, I can definitely understand how you might want to ‘cancel’ it until further notice just like everything else... And of course, I get that it’s ‘just a joke’, but I believe that it’s the small actions & word choices like these that continue to distill the negativity associated with the menstrual cycle.
Most of us have grown up being told that our periods are ‘dirty’, or should be kept ‘private’. We’re led to believe that having a period is a ‘curse’ or a ‘burden’ bestowed upon our female-born bodies. On top of it, we’re programmed to believe that period pain & PMS are unavoidable ‘side effects’ of menstruation, or else ‘all in our head’. We are not commonly taught, shown, or even given permission to fully love & embrace all that our cycles can offer us – we live in fear of them, we see them as an inconvenience rather than a gift, when they can actually be a huge blessing & powerful tool to help us achieve our dreams, aspirations & optimal health.
These seemingly harmless thoughts/words/actions surrounding the menstrual cycle are only perpetuating society’s negative associations of them & the female body. Over time, it has led to there being a lot of confusion, misinformation & disassociation with the natural biological process of a womxn’s cycle. When in actuality, the menstrual cycle is an incredibly beautiful & empowering gift of life that only female bodies have access to. Within the menstrual cycle lies a wealth of power, wisdom & innate intelligence. Those who have seen & witnessed it for themselves, understand just how empowering the menstrual cycle experience can be…
Getting into the mindset of fully loving & embracing your cycle first starts with how you think, how you talk, & how you treat your experience. Can you imagine how freeing it would feel to get to a point where you actually look forward to getting your period instead of dreading its imminent arrival? What if you had the opportunity to know exactly when your period would arrive each month, so that there were never any surprises? If you were able to form such a harmonic relationship like this with your cycle, just imagine all of the freedom & opportunities that would naturally present themselves. This, my friend, is entirely possible & absolutely within your reach.
In order to get there, you first have to choose. You have to choose to see your menstrual cycle for all the beauty & wisdom it is, despite how it treats you once per month. You have to make the active choice to listen, respect & surrender to what your cycle is telling you. If your experience consists of a ton of pain, PMS & other cyclic symptoms, your body is literally crying for your attention. You have to choose to be there for it, through thick & through thin. Being present with the positive & the negative aspects of your cycle is the first step to hearing & honoring what it needs. Once you learn to listen & how to provide, your cycle becomes a tool to harness & utilize to obtain your optimal health, creativity & abundance so that you can design the life of your dreams.
The Menstrual Cycle - Your Internal Report Card
The menstrual cycle is way more complex than just the experience of having a period. The entire menstrual cycle consists of a month-long process beginning with the first day of your period, to the day before your next period. It can be broken up into 4 distinct phases, each consisting of different metabolic processes such as specific hormonal fluctuations, the buildup of the nutrient-rich endometrial (uterine) lining & of course, the most important event of them all, ovulation. Click here to read more about the menstrual cycle phases.
The period is often thought of as the ‘highlight event’ of the menstrual cycle… However, the period is actually the least significant part… Did you know that your period would literally not exist if it weren’t for ovulation? Ovulation is the process of releasing a matured egg from the ovary down the fallopian tubes to be fertilized. It is the entire reason the menstrual cycle exists.
At the end of each month, your uterus sheds the blood & nutrient-rich endometrial lining that it built up before ovulation, which results in your monthly period. The quality & outcome of your period, and how painful or painless it is, greatly depends upon the choices you made throughout the month, which all had an influence on your hormones & ovulatory health.
The menstrual cycle is malleable; in a sense, it is a reflection of your previous month, as well as the status of your overall health. The quality of your diet, sleep patterns, stress levels & exercise routine, all have an influence on your hormones, which play a huge role in your ovulatory outcome. Have you ever noticed how after a very stressful month (and a few binge-eating crap food episodes), your period experience was a little worse than normal, or perhaps it arrived earlier or later than you were expecting? We’ve all been there, we’re only human & sometimes life can get to the best of us! However, this just shows us first-hand how impactful our dietary & lifestyle choices can be on our cycles!
Your period gives you the opportunity once per month to pause, check in with yourself & reflect on your progress. It is your internal report card, showing you precisely where you need to make adjustments in order to experience a healthier, symptom-free cycle.
The truth is, Periods are not meant to be painful. PMS symptoms are not normal. A healthy period may be slightly uncomfortable, but never should it ever be unbearable. Your body talks to you in symptoms because it cannot speak to you with words. Your symptoms are your guide; they are your body’s language. The first step to understanding your body’s language is to start paying attention, and then honoring what it is asking from you.
How to Experience a Symptom-Free Cycle
As I mentioned above, the first step to experiencing a healthier cycle is to listen & pay attention to your symptoms & internal cues. The best part about the menstrual cycle is that it is malleable. For many, just making small, specific shifts in diet & lifestyle, can lead to profound results in just a few, quick months.
Here’s how it works:
Do you find yourself struggling with PMS symptoms, a painful period, heavy bleeds or other symptoms like water retention, fatigue, and bloating right before your period? It’s possible what you’re experiencing could be due to a hormone imbalance. Estrogen Dominance is a common hormone imbalance that can contribute to many uncomfortable symptoms like PMS, period pain, irregular or heavy periods, weight gain, acne, fatigue, hair loss and in more serious cases; fibroids, cysts, PCOS, endometriosis and/or infertility.
In general, I think that the word ‘hormone’ puts a bad taste in many people’s mouths. So to begin, I’d like to shed some light on the subject because hormones are more than just components that make us emotional or irrational, they are in fact biologically necessary for a healthy functioning menstrual cycle experience (which I’ll get to here in a bit) as well as for every other organ system in your body to function, regardless of your sex. Hormones are not limited to the female reproductive system alone. They have an influence on all body parts, from the how the digestive system works, to regulating bone density, all the way to influencing a healthy libido in both men & women, as well as a healthy menstrual cycle & optimized fertility.
To put it simply, hormones are chemical messengers that the body uses to facilitate communication between the brain and other parts of the body. The primary hormones that run & facilitate female reproductive & sexual health are Estrogen, Progesterone & Testosterone. In a healthy female, these hormones delicately dance around each other influencing various important actions throughout the course of a monthly cycle. During the first half of the menstrual cycle, estrogen rises along with a few other hormones that work to thicken the uterine lining & trigger ovulation. Around ovulation, estrogen dips and testosterone peaks to increase sexual desire. After ovulation, progesterone rises and estrogen decreases until all hormones are at their lowest point just before menstruation, and then the hormonal cycle begins again. Click here to read more about the menstrual cycle and accompanying hormones.
Most cycle symptoms that women experience are derived from an imbalance in her monthly hormonal fluctuations. For example, these hormone imbalances can manifest in estrogen dominance, low/high testosterone or progesterone deficiency. It’s important to know that all of these hormones have huge influence on each other, so if one hormone happens to misbehave and get itself out of balance, the others are surely close to follow behind.
What is Estrogen?
‘Estrogen’ is actually a group of sex hormones called estrogens that are produced primarily by the ovaries, but also by the adrenals & fat cells. The three main estrogen hormones are Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2) & Estriol (E3). Each of these estrogens play different roles within the body throughout the course of a women’s reproductive life. E2 is the ‘most potent’ estrogen, and is the primary estrogen in charge during a woman’s fertile years. E1 is also quite abundant & a potent estrogen as well. E3 is the weakest of estrogens and is typically is highest only during pregnancy. Although when not pregnant, E3 is still a valuable player contributing anti-inflammatory & anti-oxidative properties that support bone health, heart health & more. When not pregnant, E3 can be made via the liver from conversion of E1 & E2.
Estrogen’s main role within the female reproductive system is to promote growth. One of its jobs is to stimulate the cells of the uterine lining to deposit a thick layer of nutritious blood in preparation for an embryo (it is this uterine lining that sheds resulting in your monthly period). Estrogen also stimulates the growth of follicles in the ovaries, which leads to a mature egg that will eventually ovulate. When it comes to our reproductive health, estrogen plays a critical role in our fertility & the outcome of our monthly period.
So what is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance occurs when there is too much estrogen in the system that the body cannot keep up with AND/OR excess estrogen in relation to the hormone progesterone.
Too much estrogen in the system can be triggered by either endogenous (internal) or exogenous (external) sources, or a mixture of both.
Excess endogenous estrogen - occurs when the body is producing too much estrogen or not eliminating excess estrogens properly. (See next section)
Excess exogenous estrogen - occurs when the body is subjected to various estrogen-mimicking substances such as xenoestrogens which can be found in hormone disrupting chemicals.
Progesterone deficiency can lead to estrogen dominant symptoms as well. This is because estrogen & progesterone are on a teeter totter with each other. When progesterone goes up, estrogen goes down, and vise versa. As I mentioned above, estrogen stimulates growth and so progesterone’s role is to stop that growth process, hold the uterine lining intact, inhibit ovulation & promote a relaxing, chill demeanor after ovulation has occurred. If there is a problem with producing sufficient progesterone, this pushes estrogen up and can lead to estrogen dominant symptoms such as the continual of growth of the uterine lining which can result in very heavy, painful bleeds, or the growth of fibroids, cysts & endometriosis flairs.
Regardless, estrogen dominance is not a condition to take lightly as it can lead to more serious complications if not controlled once diagnosed. Although estrogen dominance may be fairly common, it is not by any means normal. It is often at the heart of many women’s hormonal-based issues and can set a woman up for a lot of frustration & pain throughout her life.
Although estrogen has many important roles within our body, it needs to be the right kinds and in the right amount in order for it to contribute healthful outcomes. It’s kind of like the goldilocks situation… When there is too much estrogen in the system, it can wreak havoc and lead to a host of uncomfortable (and potentially dangerous) situations. If there is too little, it can lead to other issues like weight gain, loss of menses, and a low libido. So in the end, we need our estrogen levels to be juuuust right for things to run smoothly.
In order to keep this state of estrogen balance, the body has to be able to eliminate excess estrogen properly. The estrogen elimination process can be a lengthy one, and is often where many women experience issues leading to their estrogen dominant symptoms.
Estrogen, once shuttled to the liver for elimination, gets broken down into 1 of 3 different estrogen metabolite pathways: 2-hydroxyestrone (C2), 4-hydroxyestrone (C4), or 16-hydroxyestrone (C16). C2 is the pathway you want it to take, as it can lead to many beneficial aspects such as heart protection, bone health, breast health and a healthy functioning reproductive system. Whereas the C4 & C16 pathways tend to be quite mischievous, leading to free radical production, oxidative stress & issues like PMS symptoms, fibroids, cysts, autoimmunity, obesity, and in some cases, endometriosis, PCOS & cancer.
Ultimately, it is when we experience too many of the unhealthy metabolites & too much of the ‘potent’ forms of estrogen (E1 & E2) in our system, that we experience the dreadful symptoms of estrogen dominance.
After the estrogen has been metabolized and gone through one of the 3 pathways listed above, it then gets ‘methylated’ by the liver, which means it gets transformed from a fat-soluble compound to a water-soluble compound. Those with methylation problems or the MTHFR gene may have issues methylating estrogen metabolites properly. After methylated, the metabolites get sent to the kidneys or the intestines to be eliminated via urine/feces.
What you can do to support healthy estrogen metabolism & elimination?
If you suspect that your symptoms are related to estrogen dominance, It's best you work with a qualified practitioner to help you get to the bottom of your hormone imbalance ~ contact me for more info! However, as a starting point, here are a few things you can do to help support the healthy detoxification of excess estrogens:
For even more support & streamlined guidance on how to support your hormone balance naturally, download your free copy of The Hormone Balance Protocol.
Align Your Cycle JournalGetting in Sync with your menstrual cycle is like learning to ride a bike. At first, it may be intimidating, however, once you learn the mechanics & after you’ve committed to practice riding, it becomes something of a second nature - you never forget how it works.
As women, we experience a cycle each month. Now when I say ‘menstrual cycle’, I’m talking about the entire cycle, not just when you’re actively bleeding. The menstrual cycle consists of the time between the first day that your period begins to the day before your next period. On average, a menstrual cycle lasts about 28-29 days, although, many women may experience shorter or longer cycles, depending upon their individual reproductive health. Although the ‘average’ woman’s cycle may last 28 days, a healthy & normal cycle can last anywhere between 25-36 days.
The time in-between your periods is really where all of the magic happens. Your menses (bleeding time aka period) literally would not exist if it weren’t for all of the biochemistry happening within your ovaries & uterus during the time that you are not bleeding. Believe me when I say there is so much happening without you even realizing. Events are occurring such as ovulation, and the thickening of your uterine lining (which eventually results in the shedding of it, leading to your monthly bleed), as well as fluctuating hormones that ultimately drive how you feel physically, emotionally & energetically throughout the entire month.
The best part is that once you have the foundational knowledge of what’s going on within your cycle, you can capitalize on the events occurring, and use them to your advantage. No more unexpected mood swings, no more questioning when you’re going to get your next period, no more hesitations on planning your social life (because we all have experienced making a plan with someone, only to feel completely different about it on the day of, am I right?). You CAN learn to sync in & align with your cycle, and once you do, you never forget.
In order to get in sync with your menstrual cycle, you must first understand how it works. It is truly a complex, yet simplistic system. I’m going to walk you through each phase of the menstrual cycle, as indicated in the graph below.
Cycle day 1 (for accounting purposes), begins on the first day of your period. From there, you experience your bleed for about 5-7 days. After you’ve finished bleeding, you enter into the beginning stages that will result in your next monthly bleed.
The Follicular Phase ~ This phase on average lasts about 7-8 days and during this time your body starts to produce FSH (Follicular Stimulating Hormone) and Estrogen, hormones that work to stimulate follicle growth in the ovaries & prepare an egg for maturity while also thickening the lining of your uterus. This phase is very much like the Spring season. During this time, your energy levels will begin to rise out of the period-slumps and you may feel more adventurous, curious & excited to try new things. To sync in with this phase of your cycle, you need to give your body the tools to do its job. Your ovaries & uterus are working really hard during this time and require specific nutrients to help support their work. Healthy fats & cholesterol found in eggs and grass-fed animal products help to provide the building blocks necessary to produce the hormones working during this phase. Avocados, oysters & pumpkin seeds are rich sources of zinc, which help to support healthy egg development. Probiotic-rich fermented foods like sauerkraut & yogurt help to support the gut, which is very important because any excess hormones get eliminated through a healthy functioning digestive tract. Make sure to consume plenty of fresh, nutrient-packed wholesome foods during this time, and explore the exciting new energy that is produced for you during this phase, and use it to your advantage! This is a great time to try new things like attending a class at the new yoga studio that just opened up, or hanging out with new friends.
The Ovulatory Phase ~ This phase is one of the shortest, lasting only a few days until the event of ovulation actually occurs. During this Summery-time of your cycle, your hormones peak and you experience a rise in Estrogen & Testosterone, which both work to give you a big ol’ boost of confidence and a driving libido. During your follicular phase, your body may have started to produce some cervical fluid (looks like discharge on your undies or when you wipe) - nothing to be afraid of here, your body is just letting you know you’re fertile! So, if you see this discharge, either take extra precaution with sexual relations, or use it to your advantage if you are trying to get pregnant. Just keep in mind that you are the most fertile leading up to ovulation. During this short phase, to support the best ovulatory outcome, you’ll want to consume lots of antioxidant-rich foods like raw fruits & vegetables such as berries, citrus, bell peppers, and tomatoes. You may actually find that you crave lighter, fresher foods during this time, like salads, sushi or fresh squeezed juice. While your hormones are rising, you may feel light & energetic yourself. This is a great time to be social, schedule dates, and give presentations. The world is yours during these precious moments!
The Luteal Phase ~ This is the longest phase of your cycle, which is why it’s sometimes considered the “2nd Half”. This phase may last anywhere between 10-20 days! Just like Autumn, this phase creeps in slowly and prepares you for winter. In the beginning of this phase, your hormones may still be really high, specifically Testosterone, which may give you a lingering feeling of confidence & productivity. This is a great time to schedule meetings or resolve difficult conversations. Your ovaries also begin to bring another hormone into the mix - Progesterone. Progesterone raises your body temperature & stimulates your appetite, so during this time you may feel a bit like hibernating - eating & resting. During the middle-second half of this phase, the rest of your hormones begin to steadily drop while progesterone continues to rise, giving way to feeling more tired, less-productive & content with life. In some cases, Estrogen may still be lingering around, and can even be rising in relation to Progesterone. If this happens (also known as Estrogen-Dominance), you may feel emotional, irritated, anxious or depressed (common PMS symptoms). You may also experience headaches or digestive disturbances like bloating, indigestion and/or nausea. Cruciferous vegetables are really wonderful during this phase because they help to support liver health & digestive function so that your body can work to get rid of the excess estrogen. You may also crave heartier, richer foods during this time like soups/stews, roasts & dark chocolate. Through these cravings your body is asking you for plenty of mineral-rich, nutrient-dense foods like sweet potatoes, winter squash, beans & red meat.
The Menstrual Phase ~ Here we are, back to cycle day 1, the beginning of your next period & the completion of the cycle. During this time of bleeding, your body releases all that it has been growing & storing within your uterus all month. This phase represents itself like winter, with intensity yet stillness. Your hormones are at their absolute lowest, which may make you feel like turning inward and spending more time reflecting & creating instead of socializing. However you feel during this time is perfectly fine. In fact, allowing yourself to rest while you bleed may help take the edge off of any cramps you experience. Allow yourself to relax because your body truly needs the rest & recuperation during this time. While you are bleeding, you may be losing a lot of good nutrients, so bringing those back in is very helpful in supporting your body to get ready for the next cycle. Mineral-rich foods like fish, sea vegetables, red meat (try organ meats if you can tolerate them), mushrooms, beets and other root vegetables will help to replenish that which is lost. If you do happen to experience a lot of intense cramping, heavy bleeding and/or large clots, it may also be a result of excess estrogen in your system. Instead of reaching for the ibuprofen right away, perhaps try some inflammation-modulating things like a warm & cozy mug of golden milk turmeric latte or red raspberry leaf tea. And of course, rest, relaxation & warmth can also help to take the edge off.
With a little patience, observation & practice, just like riding a bike, you can learn the different phases of your cycle for yourself and how they manifest in your life. The examples I have given above are very generalized. Some women may experience things differently, and that’s okay. The important thing to remember is that we are all unique, therefor our bodies may express themselves differently as well. The goal with cycle syncing is to tune into your individual patterns and harmonize with what your body wants. Listening & paying attention to your flow is the very first step in becoming in sync with your menstrual cycle.
To learn more about cycle syncing, grab your copy of the Align Your Cycle Journal, a personal journal for syncing your nutrition, mindset & self-care with your menstrual cycle phases.
*Please note ~ women who are on hormonal birth control or who do not experience a monthly bleed due to being post-menopausal or by having had a hysterectomy or ovariectomy, may experience things very differently. Hormonal birth control works by disrupting the natural hormonal cycle in a woman in order to inhibit ovulation. Therefore, it may be more difficult for women on birth control to find patterns within their cycle because they do not have the hormonal fluctuations available to sync with. A simple way to connect with these phases if you are either not bleeding, or are on birth control, is to adhere to the cycle phase recommendations alongside the lunar cycle. The Follicular Phase - Waxing Moon, the Ovulatory Phase - Full Moon, the Luteal Phase - Waning Moon, and the Menstrual Phase - New Moon. If you are considering going off of hormonal birth control, syncing in with the lunar phases may help to support balance to your natural hormonal rhythms.
Ashe Milkovic, NTP is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Womxn's Health Specialist & Hormone Expert focusing in the field of womxn's reproductive health.