The Four Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
One of the most beautiful parts to being a woman is having a second internal timekeeper: our Infradian Rhythm. Our Infradian Rhythm is a roughly 28-day cycle our bodies sync to that is responsible for the fluctuations we undergo over the course of the month. This cycle takes place due to the hormonal shifts happening on a monthly basis. These shifts can be broken down into 4 main phases: the menstrual phase, the follicular phase, the ovulatory phase, and the luteal phase. Each phase has its own special characteristics and considerations to take into account in order to best live in accordance with our beautiful bodies and their innate natural wisdom. When we live in accordance to our cycles we optimize our health and potential, we experience less painful periods, PMS, and other reproductive concerns many women are plagued by today. Below we will break down each of these four phases and how to live in harmony with each one!
Phase 1: Menstrual Phase (Starts on the first day you bleed and lasts 3-7 days)
Progesterone levels drop as we reabsorb the corpus luteum and this signals our uterus to shed its endometrial lining. This phase is a door we can use to look into our overall hormonal health. The consistency, color, length, and whether or not we have pain during this time gives us a look into what’s going on internally. Before this phase estrogen peaks and then plummets again signaling our body to begin another cycle.
- Foods: Eating foods rich in magnesium such as dark leafy greens, black beans, almonds, and cashews are great during this time to help relax any cramping by smoothing the uterine lining.
- Movement: Rest, yin yoga, stretching, journaling, gentle walking
- Relationships: This is a great time to turn inwards and focus on yourself. It’s a time of reflection and insight.
- Work: Rest is key during this phase. Did you know some countries give paid leave for women every month during their periods? Let’s get the US to catch up! To learn more about how to sync your cycle with your business and professional life, listen to your podcast dedicated to this topic! Ep. 17: Sync Your Cycle With Your Business and Life! by peace. love. hormones. By The Maddie Miles
Phase 2: Follicular Phase (Lasts 7-10 days)
This phase begins directly after your bleed ends. I’m the beginning of this phase, the hypothalamus signals our hormones FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and estrogen begin to rise. FSH gets shuttled into our ovaries in order to mature some of the eggs. The arrival of FSH in the ovaries signals the egg containing follicles to swell in preparation to be released. While all of this is happening estrogen levels are rising and initiating the renewal and thickening of our uterine lining, the endometrium in order to prepare it for the attachment of an egg in the future.
- Foods: Your body will be craving iron post-bleed, so eating foods rich in iron will be important. Focus on foods such as cooked spinach, beans, soybeans, nutritional yeast, eggs, and shellfish.
- Movement: HIIT, resistance training
- Relationships: You’ll feel more social and outgoing during this time! Now is the time to attend social gatherings and grow your bonds with friends and family.
- Work: Your brain is open to new things. Now is the time to try all the plans and ideas you’ve been thinking up! This phase is characterized by new beginnings and creativity.
Phase 3: Ovulatory Phase (Lasts 3-4 days)
During these few days, a dramatic peak in estrogen closely followed by a rise in LH (luteinizing hormone) stimulates the maturation and release of one of the follicles into the Fallopian tubes. This egg then travels down the Fallopian tube to the uterus and attaches itself to the uterine lining. The uterine lining has been thickened due to rising estrogen levels. In addition to LH, there is a quick surge in testosterone followed by its rapid decline.
- Foods: Your metabolism is slower during this phase, meaning you are utilizing energy more efficiently. Eating foods high in protein such as eggs, fish, tofu, and nuts is important as well as eating carbohydrate sources high in fiber and protein is beneficial. Examples include quinoa, amaranth, and red lentils. Focusing on fiber rich vegetables such as asparagus and brussel sprouts will help the guts ability to metabolize the extra estrogen secreted during this phase. To learn more about why protein is important for a women to consume in regard to hormone health, check out our blog post written on this topic here: Protein Intake for Women's Health
- Movement: Your energy is peaking here so continuing with high intensity exercises that build fitness while listening to your body is helpful! Running, kickboxing, and dancing are all great options!
- Relationships: This is a period of feeling social and communicative. The verbal and social centers of your brain are optimized by the hormones during this phase. Your sex drive is at its highest, because you are at your most fertile! Now is the perfect time to schedule dates, interviews, and social events!
- Work: This is the time when you are in your A-game for work. You will feel your most productive. Now is the time to be project oriented!
Phase 4: Luteal Phase (lasts 10-14 days)
During this phase the corpus luteum, which is the follicle the egg was released from, begins to grow inside the ovary. This growth sparks the production of progesterone. During this phase estrogen levels continue to rise and this promotes extra thickening of the uterine lining. The rising levels of progesterone signal the body to stop producing FSH and LH. If at the end of this cycle, the egg is not fertilized, the corpus luteum is reabsorbed into the body. Once all three of our main sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone reach their peak levels they begin to decline to their lowest levels right before the onset of our period. This is the phase where most women will notice symptoms of PMS, which is a sign that you have estrogen dominance in relation to your progesterone levels.
- Foods: The boost in progesterone during this phase can cause constipation, so ensuring you are eating foods that are high in fiber and getting adequate hydration is important. Eating starchy root vegetables during this phase is a great way to nourish your body as it prepares to shed. Examples of these foods include sweet potatoes, kabocha squash, russet potatoes, and parsnip. Also ensure you are eating complex carbohydrates at every meal such as oats, rice, and millet. Taking herbs such as vitex during this phase can help with balancing progesterone levels and preventing estrogen dominance. Our herbal remedy Soothe contains this herb, and 9 other hormone healthy herbs, to help support your body in healthy hormone production and balance!
- Movement: Low-impact cardio, walking, yoga, pilates, swimming, and biking
- Relationships: During this phase we want to cuddle! Rising levels of progesterone spark the desire to bond closely with partners, family, and close friends. During this phase you also start to turn more inwards and focus on your relationship with yourself in the second half! This is a great phase to learn how to set healthy boundaries for yourself.
- Work: A phase of completion. You may lack the desire to start new projects, but you have the drive to complete ones you started during your follicular and Ovulatory phases. You are very task and detail oriented during this phase. This is a phase of tying up all the loose ends and preparing for your period!
To learn more about your Luteal Phase and how to prevent PMS symptoms, check out our blog post dedicated to this topic here: Luteal Phase / Everything you need to know to prevent PMS!
As women, we are cyclical, and that is a beautiful thing to be. In order to live our best lives, we must learn to live in harmony with the natural cycles our bodies take us through. Synching your life with your cycle is one of the best ways to live a happier, healthier, more in tune life.
To dive deeper into cycle syncing and living in harmony with your body, listen to our podcast episodes that further explain this topic here and here.