The menstrual cycle is a significant and sacred marker of health in those who menstruate. And what comes with having a menstrual cycle is an amazing opportunity to tune into our bodies and fuel our bodies accordingly throughout its phases, to live more in flow and in tune with our innate cycles and rhythms.
Here Holly discusses the four phases of the menstrual cycle with golden nutrition tips to take note of throughout your cycle.
The menstrual cycle
Your menstrual cycle is the start of your menstrual phase which marks the first day of your bleed. The length varies for each person, but it can last up to 7 days.
This is a time for nourishment, rest, reflection and meditation. During this time we need to be gentle with our bodies, and replenish any nutrients that are lost to ensure we are fully recharged.
Due to blood loss, iron-containing foods are important in this phase. Foods that are rich in iron include grass-fed organic red meats, dark leafy green vegetables and seafood. Increasing foods that are rich in zinc aswell is important in preparation for the follicular phase. These include oysters and other shellfish, pumpkin seeds, avocados, legumes and eggs.
The follicular phase
Once your bleed has finished, your follicular phase then begins and this lasts for around 7-10 days. During this phase your body will prepare to release an egg from your ovaries and your uterine lining begins to thicken in preparation for potential pregnancy.
During this phase oestrogen rises along with luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone to trigger ovulation. Your energy will pick up in this phase, so this is the time to be creative, set goals, be out in nature, spend time with friends and taking part in higher intensity movement.
Increasing healthy fats in this phase can support follicle stimulating hormone and lutenizing hormone to support ovulation. Sources include fatty fish, such as salmon, nuts and seeds (pumpkin, flax seeds, sunflower, chia seeds, walnuts, brazil nuts and almonds), eggs and avocado.
The ovulatory phase The ovulatory phase lasts around 3-5 days, and the ovaries release and egg ready for fertilisation. This is the time for intimacy, having fun, getting out into nature, practicing gratitude and acceptance, and meeting new people.
Consuming zinc rich foods including organic grass-fed red meat, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, oysters and avocados supports the increase of progesterone which is needed for fertilisation and implantation.
Omega 3 rich foods such as salmon, herring, sardines as well as chia, hemp and flaxseeds, walnuts and cold pressed extra virgin oil are important to consume during ovulation aswell. These increase nitric oxide bioavailability in the body stimulating blood flow to the uterus (1).
The luteal phase
The luteal phase prepares the endometrium for potential fertilisation, thus there is a continual rise in progesterone. If an egg is fertilised and implants into the lining of the uterus, our progesterone increases to maintain the thickening of the uterus for successful implantation. If pregnancy does not occur, then the corpus luteum (follicle that houses a mature egg) starts to break down and the uterus prepares to shed. You might notice yourself slowing down as a result of lowering progesterone levels, and this is where symptoms of PMS can appear. This is the time for organising, manifesting creating time for rest and relaxation, listening to your intuition, conducting self-care and grounding.
In this phase incorporate protein rich foods to support your subsequent menstrual phase through foods such as tofu, legumes, fish (salmon, herring, sardines), eggs, legumes, sunflower and sesame seeds. Increasing fibre rich foods during this phase is also important to support hormone balance and blood sugar regulation.
To book an appointment with Holly to further explore your menstrual cycle click here.
1. Bercea, C. I., Cottrell, G. S., Tamagnini, F., & McNeish, A. J. (2021). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and hypertension: a review of vasodilatory mechanisms of docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. British journal of pharmacology, 178(4), 860–877. https://doi.org/10.1111/bph.15336