The Seasons of Your CycleApr 30, 2022 08:00PM ● By Chelsea Kazmierczak-Goethel
The great majority of health advice given in modern society, including nutrition and exercise guidance, is based on research completed on male subjects. The resulting ideas of perfect health habits are centered around masculine physiology and biochemistry, but applied to both genders. Biologically, females and males are vastly different, especially from a hormonal perspective. Yet the same principles of ideal health practices are applied equally across the board.
When considering the result of this blanket approach, one needs to look no further than the rates of hormonal issues. Less than 10 percent of men have experienced symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Shockingly, the number is nearly half of all women (47 percent). This includes painful or missing periods, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), uterine fibroids, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), thyroid problems, hot flashes and infertility.
These statistics highlight the difference between the hormonal (endocrine) systems of men and women. Where male biology is regulated by the exact same 24-hour hormonal cycle every day, the female hormonal system has a unique rhythm that changes throughout the month. This demonstrates the need for females to apply nutrition and fitness strategies differently.
Enter the cycle syncing method. This system, developed by nutritionist Alisa Vitti, was created to help women in their reproductive years take control of their health and hormones throughout each phase of the menstrual cycle. It is designed to empower wellness from the onset of puberty until menopause. Whether it’s a woman's first bleed or close to her last, following this pattern can improve mood, energy, productivity and quality of life.
Begin with phase one, the menstruation phase. This can be considered “hormonal winter”. The first four to seven days, while the uterus is shedding or bleeding, are often accompanied by lower energy and the desire for alone time, rest and inward reflection. Nutritionally, emphasize warming foods, like soups and cooked vegetables, and iron-rich foods, such as animal proteins and dark leafy greens. Additionally, anti-inflammatory foods, like oily fish, turmeric and berries, are beneficial. Movement should be restorative and low-intensity, including yoga, walking or stretching.
Next, the female body transitions fully into the follicular phase. Think of this as “hormonal spring”. From the end of bleeding until ovulation, day four to 14 (of a 28-day cycle), hormone levels rise. This leads to increased energy, problem-solving skills and social satisfaction. Lean proteins, ample cooked or raw vegetables, citrus fruits, flax and pumpkin seeds, and some whole grains offer proper nourishment. Emphasis on the brassica family of vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts help the body detoxify the excess estrogen associated with this phase. Higher intensity strength training and cardio fits well into the follicular phase.
Near the middle of the cycle, or day 15, the ovulatory phase occurs. During “hormonal summer”, fluid retention is common. This is generally the highest energy time and the ideal phase for social obligations and date nights. Hydration and fiber are important to supporting detoxification. Nourishment in the form of seafood, vegetables, quinoa, lentils and fresh fruits is ideal. Heavy lifting and high intensity workouts are ideal during this time.
Finally, enter “hormonal fall” or the luteal phase. Hormones, other than progesterone, start to decline from day 16 to 28. This is a good time to complete to-do list tasks and transition into a more introverted state with a focus on self-care. The hormonal changes can increase cravings and hunger. Nutritionally, beef, turkey, fish, chickpeas, brown rice, and a wide variety of vegetables are ideal. Include ample healthy fats to ensure satiation. Sunflower and sesame seeds are also beneficial. During the first week of this phase, mild intensity exercise is still appropriate. Nearing the end, it is a good idea to transition to restorative movement.
During the luteal phase, and for those in perimenopause and menopause, the most important nutritional guidance to follow is the blood sugar regulation. The beautiful intricacy of the female hormonal cycle benefits greatly from dietary regulation of blood glucose. Eating balanced meals throughout the day and ensuring snacks are whole-food based will keep energy and brain function stable.
Chelsea Kazmierczak-Goethel, MSACN, is a holistic practitioner at MetroEast Natural Healing Center, in Oakdale. She is advanced clinically trained in Nutrition Response Testing, holds a bachelor's degree in Human Physiology, and a Master of Science in Applied Clinical Nutrition. The return of joy and optimum health to her patients happily fuels her every day. She is grateful to have been a part of the healing journey of so many patients over the past five years. For more information, visit NutritionChiropractic.com.