When it comes to our menstrual cycle there are numerous ways to support it. Due to all of the hormone-disruptors in our environment, our hormones can easily become imbalanced. One way to support our bodies is to eat for your menstrual cycle.
By exercising and eating for our menstrual cycle, we can provide our bodies with the support it needs. The recommendations below are based on a normal hormonal cycle. It is very important to track your cycle to see what phase you’re in! I personally use a Daysy and the Clue App. The book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, is a very helpful book to have!
The Menstrual Cycle Phases
As women, we go through four phases: menstruation, follicular, ovulatory, and luteal. Typically our cycle lasts for 28-days, but it ranges between 23-36 days. This is why it is important to track your cycle. Ideally, you track while you’re not on birth control as birth control disrupts the communication between our brain and ovaries.
Here is a brief overview of our hormonal phases:
This is when our period starts. On average, your period can last anywhere from 3 to 7 days. Hormonal this is when Estrogen and Progesterone are very low.
The follicular begins the day you start your period and continues until you ovulate. The follicular phase is when Estrogen is increasing to grow a follicle to then become an egg. Progesterone also begins to slowly increase as well. This phase usually lasts 7-10 days.
This is when your ovaries release an egg. It is a very short phase in which you can get pregnant. This phase only lasts 3-4 days. However, sperm can stay in our bodies for 5-days! Hormonally at this point, Estrogen has peaked and begins to decline. Whereas Progesterone starts to increase rapidly.
The final phase begins right after ovulation and lasts for 10-14 days. Hormonally we see a little rise in Estrogen to only drop off again. However, Progesterone will peak at the midway point (5th or 7th day) of this phase. Then it will drop off like Estrogen if the egg was not fertilized. Then we start all over again with our period.
How to eat for your menstrual cycle
Each phase has specific foods and supplements you can incorporate to help your hormones. However, having a whole foods-based diet is the foundation you want. Aim for high-quality animal meats, free-range eggs, organic vegetables and fruits, healthy fats, and nuts/seeds.
Aim to reduce processed foods, gluten/wheat, grains (if you can’t tolerate them), conventional dairy, and refined sugar. This will prime your body to work efficiently!
The major concern during our periods is the dip in energy. This is due to both Estrogen and Progesterone being so low. We also have the concern of the loss of Iron from bleeding. This is when we want to provide our bodies with as many nutrients as possible.
- Increase your protein intake for the iron and Vitamin B12 (i.e. salmon, red meat, almonds, liver, etc)
- Limit the processed foods and high-sugar foods as it can make your PMS worse especially the bloating
- Snack on raw nuts/seeds and their butters, 75-100% dark chocolate, and fruit for those sugar cravings
- Increase Vitamin C to help with iron absorption (i.e. bell peppers, tomatoes, and leafy greens)
- Aim for warm foods to warm the body and ease the digestive process
This phase begins on the first day of your period. So for the first week of this phase, you’ll follow the menstruation recommendations. However, as your period ends the more energy you’ll have. This is when Estrogen is starting to rise and we become insulin sensitivity (bring on the carbs!) We want to do during this phase is support the rise in Estrogen.
- Incorporate a tbsp of flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds per day
- Eat enough calories in the form of animal proteins, vegetables (starchy and non-starchy) and healthy fats to support hormone changes
- Focus on the protein as this is when we can workout harder
- Eat carbohydrates around your workouts for energy and recovery
- Boost your calcium to help reduce PMS in the luteal phase (i.e. organic/raw dairy, leafy greens)
This is a very short period in which an egg has been released from our ovaries. During this period, we are very fertile. This is when Estrogen peaks and begins to decline. The goal here is to support the change in hormones and energy.
- Focus on digestion (this should be a focus for all phases, but especially here) as we need to detox the extra Estrogen
- Manipulate your fiber (do a combination of soluble and insoluble sources)
- Eat all the healthy fats for proper hormone changes
The final phases start the day after ovulation ends. You will still follow the recommendations for the ovulatory phase. However, the primary goal here is to prepare for our period and detox the excess Estrogen.
- Aim for good sources of Zinc (i.e.shellfish, red meat, cashews, almonds, chickpeas)
- Aim for good sources of Vitamin E (i.e. almonds, peanuts, leafy greens)
- Support the liver for detoxing (i.e. cruciferous vegetables, drinking plenty of water, beet kvass, etc)
- Increase the carbohydrates (i.e. sweet potatoes, yams, apples, berries, honey)
- Add a tbsp of sesame seeds and sunflower seeds per day
- Be aware of cravings as it can point to nutrients your body needs (check out this post here)
How to add these nutrients into each phase
With all of the recommendations above, you can pick and choose works best for you. If you have any form of gut dysbiosis, you can manipulate it to the protocol you’re on. Especially if you suffer from bloating, constipation, gas, and so on I recommend a stool test (maybe a breath test too).
By getting to the root cause will help balance your hormones and ensure your body is working efficiently! Here are some simple ways to incorporate foods to support your hormones!
- Add a 4-6 oz serving of meat/seafood to every meal for Iron and B12
- Create little trail mixes of almonds, cashews, coconut, dark chocolate, and whatever else you like for a snack
- Make salads, burrito bowls, stir-fries, and etc with bell peppers and tomatoes.
- Have bone broth soups in the freezer for easy warm meals and provide collagen to the gut
- Add flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds to salads, yogurt bowls, smoothie bowls, or energy balls
- Have sweet potatoes and nut butter as an easy post-workout meal
- Have a plate of a 4-6 oz serving of animal protein, fist-sized amount of starchy-vegetables (about 1 cup), and then fill the rest of your plate with non-starchy vegetables and healthy fats
- Include yogurt, organ meats, dairy-alternatives, leafy greens, and so on for a Calcium boost
- Include a minimum of 1-2 tbsps of fat per meal (i.e. EVOO for salads, avocados in smoothies/bowls, nut butters, etc)
- Include a variety of vegetables for both soluble and insoluble fibers
- Spore-based probiotics for a healthy gut (I love the Just Thrive brand)
- Cruciferous vegetables, beet kvass, bitter greens, turmeric, healthy fats to support the Liver
- Add a tbsp sesame seeds (or tahini) and sunflower seeds to smoothies, toasts, salads, and more
- Include seafood at least 3x a week (especially shellfish for Zinc)
- Other Zinc boosters are ground beef with vegetables, 75%-100% dark chocolate, a spoonful of cashew butter on a sweet potato with cinnamon
- Make delicious salads or scrambles with leafy greens for Vitamin E support
- Include starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, yams, plantains, or other carb sources at dinner/night time snack
I truly hope this helps you find foods that can help with your menstrual cycle! Pick and choose a couple of things that make you feel good and have a happy period. I also recommend a paleo lifestyle but modified to your needs.
I would truly love it if you’d share this with the women in your life! Thank youu so much for reading!
**This information is not meant as medical or nutritional advice. Always check with your qualified healthcare professional before incorporating new supplements or nutritional changes into your routine. A Primal Health Coach (PHC) is trained to evaluate nutritional needs and make recommendations for dietary changes and nutritional supplements. A PHC is unable to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease or medical condition. I cannot guarantee any specific result from recommendations as we are all bio-individually different. If you are under the care of a healthcare provider, it is important that you contact them and alert them to any changes in your lifestyle in regards to nutrition and supplements. A health coach may be a beneficial addition to more traditional care, and it may also alter your need for medication, so it is important you always keep your physician informed of changes in your nutritional program.