Ladies, our bodies are wonderful and complicated. I really feel we don’t know enough about our monthly cycle and how we should treat our body while going through the month. The women I treat (and those with young girls) often ask me about how to nourish their bodies during different times of the month. I love that they are thinking about this!
Here is an overview of an average monthly cycle*:
- Menstruation (day 1–6)
- Follicular phase (day 6–13)
- Ovulation (days 14–18)
- Luteal phase (days 14–28)
*If your cycle drastically deviates from this, there are things you can do to support your hormones.
What to Eat Throughout Your Cycle
One of the ways to support your cycle, emotions, moods, and cravings is to anticipate the hormonal shifts that are natural to even a healthy cycle. You can support your body by choosing the right foods depending on whether you’re expecting your period, just had your period, or are ovulating. Keep these recommendations in mind as you plan your meals each week, modifying them for where you are in your cycle and how you might best support your body.
Follicular phase (following your flow)
Make up for your menstrual blood loss with red meat, dark meat poultry, or iron-rich vegetarian options like dried apricots, leafy greens, lentils, and raisins. Nourish healthy estrogen levels with plenty of leafy vegetables, flaxseed, and fiber rich foods.
Ovulation (days 14–18)
Just before, during and in the days immediately after ovulation, your lighter appetite might be satisfied with simpler, lighter meals and plentiful salads, make sure to include seeds, berries, fish, and eggs to send you into the next phase of your cycle with low inflammation.
Luteal phase/premenstrually (days 14–28)
Increase your healthy carbs, especially whole grains and keep cravings at bay and support mood.
Warm up your diet with soups, steamed veggies, and nourishing foods that are easy on the digestive system, especially if you experience bloating or loose stools. Emphasize fiber if you get constipated.
As you get closer to your period, if you don’t feel like cooking much, prepare simple, one-pot meals like stir-frys and whole food bowls with healthy whole grains and lots of steamed veggies, and enjoy some fish.
Take fish oil, calcium, magnesium, and ginger for the five days before your period is due to keep your mood steadier and also prevent cramps. Enjoy potassium rich veggies and fruits. Indulge in some dark chocolate to boost mood.
On your flow (day 1–6)
Keep up premenstrual foods. A small amount of red meat is appropriate if you tend to lose a lot of blood with your period. Quinoa and lentils are a great choice and offer iron, protein, and magnesium.
Allow yourself some healthy indulgences. I suggest dark chocolate or make no-bake protein balls with dark chocolate, nut butter, honey, and coconut if you’re feeling like you need a little something sweet!
Include ginger in your cooking, enjoy turmeric, make a chai latte, or sip ginger or mint tea to help cramps or digestive symptoms. No icy cold drinks and little-to-no cold foods during your period, as this will only heighten cramping. Warm socks, warm packs around your neck and belly really help with flow and decrease cramping. This is a time for rest and more subtle exercise. We should avoid high intensity workouts as this can disrupt your hormones.
Magnesium Is Crucial for Hormone Health
Another way to nourish your body and support hormones is to ensure you have adequate magnesium intake. This vital mineral is responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions and is found in your tissues, bones, muscles and brain. Anything that is tight, irritable, crampy, and stiff, whether it is a body part or even your mood, is a sign of magnesium deficiency. Anxiety, sleep problems, fatigue, and headaches can all share the same starting point: magnesium deficiency. Think about it: do any of these symptoms come alongside changes in your cycle?
Magnesium is critically necessary to treat all hormonal imbalance issues — including PMS, PCOS, thyroid conditions, perimenopause, anxiety, and adrenal fatigue. Magnesium is a foundational support to all hormone functions in the body, and without it you will not produce hormones at the levels you need.
Most of us don’t get enough in our diet and can benefit from magnesium supplementation. Ask your practitioner which magnesium and how much would be right for you.
Need Additional Hormone Support?
If your cycle is inconsistent, painful, emotionally troublesome, or otherwise impacting your quality of life, you might have a hormone imbalance. In our practice we leverage the DUTCH test and functional medicine to help women balance their hormones and feel so much better physically and mentally. Learn more about the DUTCH test and how it could help you or ask us about it at your next appointment.