Note: Women’s health and hormones are always moving targets in contemporary medicine. What we know changes frequently, and there are many aspects of women’s health that just haven’t been well researched. The idea and practice of cycle synchronization feels innate, makes sense, and promotes good nutrition, hydration, and adaptation to body, mind, and femininity – so I support it! Every woman can benefit from a better understanding of her body. In addition, the cycle synchronization I teach in this article only works for women who are not using hormonal contraception *
Being a woman is natural and beautifully dynamic. If you wake up differently each day of your cycle then it is perfectly justified. How does it work you ask? Your hormone levels are changing and shifting, dancing with each other every day during your cycle, so you are never in the same hormonal state twice a month. Think about it for a second … pat yourself on the back now. Women define flexibility, change and go with the flow.
The cycle synchronization is based on the idea of a constantly changing hormone cascade. The idea is that by tracking your cycle you can adjust the hormonal fluctuations that occur throughout the month and eat, drink, plan and live your life to promote optimal function while keeping those changes in mind. IE: Estrogen is low for the first half of your cycle. So, when you eat foods that promote and support estrogen, you can feel more balanced.
Curious? Let’s go over how to track your own cycle, and how to nourish and hydrate at each stage to promote balance and flow in your life.
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How do I track my period / know what phase I am in?
You have probably heard of cycle tracking or period tracking apps. There are many great free ones to keep track of your cycle. Take a look at this. I recommend one called CLUE, but almost anyone will. You just need to know what your cycle is like over a month. Compare your cycle with the information below and start figuring out where and when you are in which phase. The most accurate results in terms of timing are achieved once you have three to four months of data.
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Menstrual phase: 3-7 days. Starts on day 1 of your period and ends when your period ends.
What your body does: The lining of the uterus loosens. Hormones are at an all-time low at the beginning of your cycle and then begin to rise to more stable levels by the end of your period. You lose blood and iron, prostaglandins (which cause cramps) peak. Usually you feel more internal, slower and calmer here.
How best to support it: Focus on nutritious foods that build iron, aid iron absorption, and are anti-inflammatory for cramps. This is where you should drink the most water compared to the rest of your month as you will lose fluid if you bleed.
Hydration: Two liters more water per day and plenty of moisture from non-caffeinated teas add kombucha to help your bowels, which can become cluttered during menstruation.
Animal sources: Beef, fish, and poultry (liver is also a fantastic source if you are interested!)
Anti-inflammatory spices and herbs: Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cardamom, cumin, garlic, parsley, curry.
Plant sources: Spinach, Swiss chard, kale, cabbage, broccoli, mushrooms, beets, paprika, lentils, pinto beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, citrus fruits, strawberries, cherries, pineapple, mango, papaya.
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Follicular phase: ~ 13 days (this is the most variable phase RE timing)
What your body does: When your body prepares an egg to be released. The hormones estrogen and testosterone peak. They tend to feel most secure and energetic and think and move quickly here.
How best to support it: Use your increased energy to help you stay healthy, do your best, stay the most active, and support your body with energy building foods. Foods that are high in vitamins, nutrients, and pop for the punch are the best here. Drink plenty of water to keep up with your lifestyle.
Hydration: At least two liters per day and add frozen fruit as ice cubes to your water, lemon or lime juice to increase energy and give you an extra boost.
Animal sources: Beef, fish and poultry, lamb, eggs, dairy products (if you can).
Plant sources: Chia seeds, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, hemp seeds, banana, apple, apricot, kiwi, blueberries, snow peas, kale, green beans, green peas, carrots, sprouts, artichoke, parsley, sweet potato, brown rice.
4 of 5Ovulation phase: This phase occurs approximately 14 days after the first day of your period.
What your body does: Place an egg in your fallopian tubes for fertilization. This phase begins with high levels of estrogen and testosterone, which gives you a lot of flirtatious, sociable, and social feelings. Immediately after ovulation, progesterone increases, making you feel a little more sluggish, introverted, cuddly, and protective than normal. Water weight is easy to apply here and constipation, cramps or nausea are not uncommon during ovulation. Listen to your body, keep track of your cycle, and when you know ovulation is coming, go out, have fun, capitalize on those positive extroverted feelings, and keep exercising. And if you feel less energetic after ovulation, stay home, rest, and get comfortable.
How best to support it: Take advantage of the dichotomy of this phase by taking steps to increase the energy you have in preparation for lower energy levels, as well as to avoid constipation, gas, and low energy. Avoid salty foods to prevent gas, moisturize, eat high fiber foods, and keep moving and exercising to reduce constipation. Foods with a high water content will help with hydration.
Hydration: At least two quarts a day, adding a green powder to your water to increase fiber can help here too (check your local health food store, they often have ones that are delicious!)
Animal sources: Beef, fish, eggs and shellfish.
Plant sources: Cauliflower, broccoli, all greens, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, pumpkin, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, watermelons, melons, grapes, grapefruits, plums, pears, peaches, berries, goji berries, maca, micro-greens , Spirulina, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, pistachios.
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Luteal phase: 14 days
What your body does: When the egg is either fertilized and prepares to attach to the uterus or without pregnancy, it dissolves and your body prepares to ride a bike again. You will usually have normal energy and mood for the first four to seven days, which will gradually decline over the remaining two weeks. If pregnancy doesn’t occur at this stage, your hormones will drop sharply and could cause the worst feelings of the month. Think about PMS symptoms. When estrogen drops, serotonin follows, making you feel a little bluer, and high levels of progesterone can cause cravings for fatty, high-carbohydrate foods and increased appetite in general.
How best to support it: Listen to your body again here – enjoy the time you have in this phase before the hormonal surge kicks in. Keep exercising, but as your energy levels drop, consider less impactful movements like yoga and walking. Give your body what it needs by indulging in a little more here than you normally would. Your body has this craving for a reason – you are preparing for menstruation. Iron-rich, ultra-nutritious and nutrient-rich luxury foods are fine here. Warm, soft, and calming foods are key.
Hydration: Avoid two liters of water a day, avoid caffeine, and become dehydrated as it will make you feel worse.
Animal sources: Bone broth, beef, tuna, salmon, poultry, shellfish.
Plant sources: Vegetable broth, kale, Swiss chard, rocket, cabbage, avocado, figs, raspberry, sweet potato, carrots, banana, plantain, brown rice, almonds, sunflower seeds, black beans, chickpeas, whole grain products and pasta and … dark chocolate!
Do not forget! This is just a guide. Adding these tips and groceries can be very helpful, but please don’t be too strict with yourself. Give yourself grace and kindness and remember that setting and highlighting self-love is the point of cycle synchronization!
About the author
Lauren Zielinski is a certified midwifery nurse and founder of the women’s health movement New Moon Rising Events. New Moon Rising runs free, one-day workshops in cities across the United States that feature discussions about reproductive health, political advocacy, natural medicine options, and community connections.
This post was originally published on July 19, 2018 and has been updated since then.