Syncing your diet with your cycle - Does the way we eat actually affect our cycle?
So many women end up curled up on the couch with a hot water bottle each and every month and have to numb the cramps with painkillers. When they start to learn more about their bodies and their cycle they are usually shocked to find out how little they actually knew about the female cycle and their hormones. For years they simply accepted that they suffer from menstrual cramps and severe PMS symptoms every month. However, once you learn more about nutrition, it’s obvious that what we feed our bodies also has an effect on our health and, therefore, on our hormonal health. In addition, what our body needs is greatly influenced by our cycle. In order to understand what your body needs, you first need to know what’s going on in your body.
What happens in the female body during the cycle?
Well, let’s briefly summarise what happens in our bodies in the course of the female cycle. The female cycle is divided into four phases – the menstrual, follicular, ovulation, and luteal phase. In the follicular phase, the follicle-stimulating hormone FSH is sent to the ovaries so that an egg can be released later in the ovulation phase. During this time, estrogen levels also rise so that the uterine lining can build up for implantation of the egg. After the egg is released, our body produces progesterone – a hormone that signals that the uterine lining should be maintained. If the egg is not fertilized, progesterone production stops. This triggers the shedding of the uterine lining and thus the onset of menstruation. With the help of the breathe ilo fertility tracker, it’s super easy to find out which of the four phases you’re currently in. You just need to breathe into the device for one minute a day and it transmits the data to your smartphone via bluetooth. In addition, you can enter and keep track of various symptoms that are connected to your cycle.
How does syncing your diet with your cycle work?
Is it really possible to influence the female cycle positively or negatively just by eating certain foods? To put it briefly: Yes, you can!
After all, given the changes that take place in a woman’s body during the cycle, it only makes sense that the body has different needs in each phase of the cycle. Let’s summarise the foods you need to sync your diet with the different cycle phases, and we’ll also go into a little more detail about each phase.
Can you regulate your cycle with the help of different foods?
Our diet has a significant influence on our well-being and health and should always form the foundation. Of course, underlying factors such as gut health and stress management also play a big role.
The menstrual phase: What should you eat during your period to relieve or even avoid period pain?
Like so many other women we asked ourselves what we should eat during menstruation and what is particularly good and nourishing for our bodies during this time. More and more women start to realize that eating certain foods can significantly alleviate – and sometimes even avoid – period pain and uncomfortable PMS symptoms.
What should you eat during your period and if you suffer from period pain?
You should definitely include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Plant sources can be walnuts, chia, or hemp seeds. Peanuts and hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, spinach, and broccoli should also be part of your diet. All these foods can naturally lower prostaglandin levels in your body. Prostaglandins are the body’s own pain messengers that can cause muscle contractions, among other things. The body produces more of these messenger substances at the end of the menstrual cycle in order to be able to shed a layer of the uterine lining. If prostaglandin levels are too high, you will experience more pain. You should also include legumes such as kidney beans, chickpeas, or lentils because not only do they contain magnesium, which can alleviate cramps, they’re also rich in iron.
Should you avoid certain foods during your period?
Of course, there are also foods you should avoid during your period, as they can be bad for you and make symptoms much worse: These include coffee (especially on an empty stomach), alcohol, sugary or fatty foods (no, we’re not talking about nuts, avocados, but highly processed foods) and dairy products.
Cravings before/during your period?
We all have experienced it: before and/or during our period, cravings for burgers, pizza & ice cream are often particularly strong. Please note that these cravings are often a clear signal from your body. Depending on whether you are craving salty or sweet foods, it can mean that your body needs certain nutrients or simply: more energy. After all, menstruation is a demanding physical process that requires a lot of energy. When you start to pay attention to how you’re fuelling your body and record your experiences and symptoms in the breathe ilo app, you might notice that you have fewer cravings before or during your period. At first, you might think that it’s really complicated to integrate all the foods according to the different cycle phases. With time though, you might find that you often unconsciously really crave those very foods.
What should you eat in the follicular phase?
Are there foods that have a positive effect on ovulation or can even promote it? In addition to sprouted and fermented foods that help the body process and eliminate excess hormones better, it’s also important to focus on protein-rich foods. This is because these are necessary to be able to build tissue – in this case: the uterine lining. Protein-rich plant-based foods are beans, lentils, and chickpeas – but also tofu or tempeh. They also contain lots of folic acid. Another natural talent for the follicular phase is broccoli. Not only does it contain folic acid, but also a lot of fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C. Fiber and antioxidants are also very important when transitioning into the ovulation phase. Legumes, green (leafy) vegetables, various (organic) berries, but also spices such as turmeric are suitable for this.
Can certain foods really promote ovulation?
Yes, you can actually support ovulation by syncing your diet with your cycle. It is advisable to include more of the following foods in your diet: green, leafy vegetables and salads, cabbage, leek, protein in the form of legumes (lentils, chickpeas, and beans), quinoa, amaranth, oatmeal, and also lots of fruit such as berries and avocado.
What should you eat in the luteal phase?
Many women experience discomfort and severe PMS symptoms during the luteal phase. We often experience a rollercoaster ride of emotions, we feel weak, our energy levels plummet, we experience problems with digestion, or struggle with breakouts. The reason for this is that estrogen levels rise at the beginning of the cycle. At the end of the cycle, our body is busy breaking down and eliminating excess estrogen. Vitamin A or beta carotene – the precursor of vitamin A – plays a major role in this process. Carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin are rich in beta carotene. B vitamins are also suitable for the luteal phase, as they can have a mood-lifting effect. They are found in legumes such as chickpeas, but also in rice and wholemeal products. Another must-have for the luteal phase is ginger, as it can have a positive effect on digestive disorders.
Getting to know your body is a very exciting journey. Every woman should strive to learn more about herself and her body to be able to optimally support it and feel her best all month long. Fertility isn’t just important when you’re ready to try for a baby. A woman’s fertility is telling a lot about her overall state of health which is why every woman should pay attention to and be in touch with her body.
Photos: © Melanie Lindner