Did you know 80 percent of women suffer from hormonal imbalance? And an even scarier statistic is that most women will live through these imbalances without ever realising it. These imbalances can cause an array of nasty side effects, such as irregular periods, acne, weight gain and PMS just to name a few.
70 percent of these women are also unaware of conditions such as PCOS, also known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. The sad, and somewhat scariest part about all of this, is that often from an early age we are told that in order to “cure” all these negative side effects and “fix” these hormonal imbalances is through the form of the contraceptive pill. .
Being 22 years of age and being on the pill for almost 7 years, I decided I would stop taking it. What initially started from a place of curiosity and desire to connect and understand my body on a deeper level, soon developed into a need to take my education into my own hands. When I began my journey into immersing myself into as many articles, books, and podcasts as I could dive into, it was alarming how often they all spoke about how diminishing it can be on my fertility, mental health, and all-around energy.
The past month, I’ve been following a 28 cycle plan that allows me to track my period, ovulation and tells me what foods I should put in my diet and what exercise I should be focusing on during each phase of my cycle I know, it sounds so crazy that these small, everyday factors can have such a huge impact on my period! So, you may ask… how could changing up your diet and exercise help balance your hormones, control PMS and give you more energy than ever?
Here is an example of why it is not crazy:
In the late luteal phase, just before your period begins, estrogen levels begin to fall, causing a drop in serotonin levels which can ratchet up your cravings for simple carbs, which can be found in candy/sweets like salted pretzels. But science shows eating these foods are likely to exacerbate your PMS symptoms, and as the body uses carbs to produce serotonin, these quick-fix foods are then followed by a sharp decline in blood sugar levels and energy. So, of course, certain foods are included in specific phases based on their ability to metabolise oestrogen, support progesterone production and stabilise blood sugar levels. So here is a brief outline of how MY weeks look like- I’m not saying you have to do the same. Still, I have found personally eating these certain foods in each and exercising accordingly to help my energy levels. I have taken a lot of stress off myself instead of trying to push myself every week to do high intensity work out!
The first half of your cycle:
Exercise for weeks 1 & 2:
You have a lot of energy to burn in your first cycle so go for it! Choose high impact workouts/high intensity. These are the weeks I do most of my running and cardio-based sessions. I used to run every day but now, following this cycle, I have taken a step back, and I can’t tell you how much it’s helped with my energy levels and not putting so much pressure on myself to get out and push myself.
Week 1- Follicular Phase (phase straight after last day of your menstrual cycle)
- PLENTY of veggies - lighter foods to make you feel more energised as your hormone levels begin to rise.
- Pressed veggies - sauerkraut
- Fruit -oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruit, avocado
- Lean meats - chicken, trout. As I am mainly plant-based, I enjoy eating lentils, peas, beans during this phase.
The foods you eat in this stage set the stage for ovulation. By eating fermented foods packed with beneficial bacteria, you are priming the microbiome and astrobleme to be ready when ovulation occurs.
Week 2- Ovulatory Phase
During this phase, your estrogen levels should be high, which is great. Still, if you aren’t careful of your dietary support during this time, you may experience excess estrogen levels causing symptoms such as acne. When it comes to what foods to eat, it’s best to fill up on raw veggies such as spinach, tomatoes, leafy greens etc.- all the good veggies! In doing this, these foods provide high levels of glutathione + an antioxidant that helps your liver metabolise excess estrogen from your body more efficiently. It is SO important to try and put these foods in our diet during this time because they promote antioxidative well being and provide vascular support for your ovaries so your body can create the healthiest egg possible.
- Raw veggies- Brussel sprouts, leafy greens, peppers, eggplant, tomato.
- Grains- Quinoa, corn
- Fruit- strawberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, fig
- Legumes- red lentils
- Meat/seafood- lamb, salmon, tuna.
“Your body is reliable; if you listen, it will speak.”
The second half of your cycle
Exercise for weeks 3 & 4:
During the second half of our 28 cycles, energy levels are low, so it’s best to focus on exercises that don’t overexert our energy and ourselves, so we don’t burn out by the end of the week. Look to focus on activities such as yoga, Pilates, walking etc. I can’t tell you how much this has helped me mentally, and I am so used to give 100% every week and overdoing my body and myself that I would get to the end of the week and not be able to move from bed. I had 0 energy, and following this 28 cycle has helped me live a more fulfilling life and take the mental stress off myself.
Week 3- Luteal Phase
The phase where we get our sugar cravings and know our period is coming!! why? Because during this phase, our metabolism naturally speeds up, meaning our body needs more calories. As our metabolism speeds up, our body also starts to use B vitamins to pump up the production of progesterone and stabilise blood sugar levels… and this is why we get sugar cravings. To fight off the cravings, rather than indulging in high sugar foods, we should indulge in slow-burning carbs such as brown rice and sweet potato and look to eating foods rich in B vitamins such as leafy & mustard greens. In saying this, life is all about balance! Eat that chocolate block if you feel like it or that tub of ice cream; also, remember to try to include these foods in your diet to help support yourself, your energy and your hormones through your 28-day cycle. To help your liver and large intestines flush out estrogen effectively during this phase, it is also important to consume high fibre foods like chickpeas, pears and apples. As your estrogen levels drop, we need to boost the intake of healthy natural sugars such as roasted root veggies. Notice how we also get a bit moody during this phase too? It’s because our serotonin and dopamine levels drop and prevent this fill up on complex carbs/nutrient-dense foods to help with energy levels that then come hand in hand with our moods.
- veggies- cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens, pumpkin, sweet potato, ginger, garlic
- Fruit- apple, date, peach, pear
- Legumes- chickpeas, beans
- Meat/seafood- beef, turkey, cod
(this is lowkey my favourite phase because these all my favourite foods)
Week 4- Menstrual phase
The phase we dread the most, but we shouldn’t!! This is one of my favourite phrases to go into as it’s so interesting to see how our bodies react when we lack certain nutrients/Vitamins and see our hormones shift. Our hormones are at their lowest during our menstrual phase, so it’s important to focus on our intake of proteins and healthy fats to compensate for this drop in energy. Fun fact; Protein is rich in amino acids involved in hormone synthesis- eating these foods help set our bodies up for a healthier ovulating phase. I think we forget; I know I forget that during this time, our bodies are actually going through an intense process of the shedding of the built-up lining of the uterus, which uses a lot of energy! This is why it’s so important to eat nutrient-dense foods. Our blood sugar levels are also low at this phase. That’s why we crave “unhealthy” foods, which of course, is okay to eat. It just really helps support your body and energy levels if you also look to low glycemic index foods to keep your blood sugar steady- think blueberries, blackberries. Our bodies start to lack iron and zinc from us menstruating during this phase, so foods such as seafood, nori can help remineralize the body.
- dark veggies- beets, mushrooms, kale
- Grains- wild rice
- Fruit- blackberries, blueberries, watermelon
- Legumes- kidney beans, soybeans
- Meat/seafood- pork, mussels, squid, octopus, oysters, fish.
This may seem like a lot of information to take in and a bit overwhelming! So my best advice for you is to take each week as it comes; even if it means adding one vegetable or one legume to your shopping list, you are still making progress and supporting yourself! For some, this may be a weight off your chest, I know it definitely was for me, and since doing this, I’ve felt so energised during each phase, and yes, of course, we still may have some ups and downs in our energy levels, our moods but at the end of the day, we are human!
I would LOVE to hear how you go and your experience with trying it; please feel free to DM me or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your progress or any questions!