Updated: Nov 1
Did you know that before the invention of artificial light, women’s cycles were naturally in sync with nature? More specifically, the moon. Today marks the Full Moon in Leo and in ancient times, ovulation!
Females are magical, we know this. But are you aware of just how magical we are? Women not only have a Circadian clock (or 24 hour clock) like our male counterparts, but we also have an Infradian clock which runs for 28 days (aka your Moon Cycle). This feminine clock can be split up into 4 phases: follicular, ovulatory, luteal, and menstrual.
Some consider there to be only 2 phases...
The follicular and luteal, with menstruation at the beginning of the follicular phase and ovulation occuring between the follicular and luteal phases, however, for our purposes we’re going to break the moon cycle into 4 clear phases (as each are biologically unique).
Within each cycle phase, we are equipped for different tasks. In other words, we have multiple skill sets to tap into within each phase (are we seeing the magic yet?). With that in mind, it’s important to know where our energy is best devoted throughout the month so that we can feel our best, set sustainable intentions, and achieve our goals!
As you get to know your cycle and tune into your infradian clock, you’ll be able to decide where your ‘start date’ is. For instance, even though day one of your period is known as the start of your cycle, I like to start with the follicular phase (the phase directly following the last day of your bleed). I choose to start here because the energy that arises right after my moon (period) ends feels like a fresh start - similar to the energy after the New Moon.
So, without further ado... let’s dive into the magic of the menstrual cycle!
Follicular Phase - Days
7-10 (Begins after last day of period)
Body Check In:
Hormones are at their lowest in the first half of this phase, but estrogen begins to climb in the second half. Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) steadily increases and prompts Luteinizing Hormone (LH) to do the same, resulting in several follicles to develop. Your uterine wall begins to thicken to prepare for the follicle’s upcoming release of an egg (ovulation). Metabolism begins to slow down, which might make you feel full faster and diminish cravings.
Where is your energy best devoted: The subtle estrogen climb inspires you to plan new things, and explore new thoughts and ideas. So utilize this time to initiate new projects and tackle challenging, creative tasks!
Intuitive Eating Principles: Likewise in each phase of your cycle, listen to your body. While you might’ve been interested in that filling rice and mushroom risotto a few days ago, your body is asking for something different now. Since your metabolism has slowed down, you require less to be satisfied and you’ll feel more energized with lighter, fresher meals such as lean proteins, sprouted beans, pressed salads like kimchi, and plenty of veggies! The more nutrient dense the better, this is where you set up for healthy / successful ovulation and possibly pregnancy. Side note: a healthy cycle is so much more than supporting the possibility of a healthy pregnancy, your infradian clock also affects your brain, metabolism, stress response, immune function and microbiome — a healthy cycle means a healthy you!
Herbs / Supplements that support the follicular phase (which in turn will support healthy ovulation): Holy Basil, Schisandra (a powerful yin tonic) and CoQ10.
Ovulatory Phase + Full Moon (4 days mid-cycle)
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Estrogen surges and Luteinizing Hormone (LH) is produced to spark ovulation - the release of an egg. Testosterone also surges and then drops.
Where is your energy best devoted: Social interactions! Your communication skills are at their best during this phase and you likely have the energy to engage in conversation and speak your truth. Plan for important conversations, dates, and work meetings this week. Think of the energy of the Full Moon. This energy is big, expansive, and receptive.
Intuitive Eating Principles: Metabolism is still slower during this phase when compared with the second half of your cycle, so listen to what your body needs and doesn’t need. Stick to lighter grains like quinoa. It is quite common for estrogen to build up during this phase, which can lead to some unpleasant PMS symptoms. To prevent the cramps and acne that might try to creep into this phase, support your systems of detoxification and digestion with foods that help clear excess estrogen such as cruciferous veggies (broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage). Fill up on raw fruits and veggies (fiber and glutathione) that will also help to flush excess water and estrogen.
Herbs / supplements that support ovulation: Red Clover, Maca, and DIM (a compound in cruciferous veggies that helps flush estrogen from the body).
Luteal Phase (Approximately day 15 until menstruation occurs)
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Just following ovulation is the Luteal phase. The same cells that were producing estrogen in the follicular phase begin to pump out progesterone in the luteal phase (magic). This phase can go in one of two directions: (1) an egg is fertilized and you become pregnant or (2) an egg is not fertilized and this unfertilized egg begins to break down leading up to the eventual shed of the endometrial lining. If pregnancy does not occur, progesterone production comes to a halt, which prompts your bleed to begin. (It’s important to note that in order to have the best chances at conception, your luteal phase should last at least 11 days, anything shorter can inhibit a successful implantation.) This is where your energy takes a dip and where you can feel a bit irritable, bloated, moody, and may be prone to headaches and/or cramps.
Where is your energy best devoted: You’ll do best if you follow your natural cues to turn inward during this phase, also considered to be the nesting phase. Here, you’ll have a heightened attention to detail and be more in tune with your organizational skills. So plan on staying in rather than taxing yourself with social engagements — that way you can smartly spend the energy you do have and not feel so run down during your menstrual cycle.
Intuitive Eating Principles: In the second half of your cycle, your metabolism ramps up. So, you may experience an increase in hunger. Now, in this phase you may think “what is wrong with me, I’m so hungry,” and *eh-em* nothing is wrong with you sweet thing, your body is asking you for more calories to support potential life (regardless of if that egg is successfully fertilized or not). So listen to your body’s needs and don’t shame yourself for filling that bowl a little bit more than usual or for eating that midmorning snack. Think deeply nourishing and warming foods such as roasted root veggies, brown rice, warm hummus, stew, as well as dark leafy greens to boost magnesium and calcium intake that will combat water retention.
Herbs / Supplements to support the luteal phase: Chaste Tree Berry, Ginger, Ashwagandha, and Cinnamon.
Menstrual Phase + New Moon
Body Check in:
Progesterone levels plummet and estrogen levels drop to its lowest point just before your bleed — triggering the shed of your endometrial lining that has built up during your luteal phase. The corpus luteum is reabsorbed (this is the temporary placenta that pumps out progesterone during your luteal phase, which is necessary for pregnancy to continue) and your metabolism remains elevated.
Where is your energy best devoted: The right and left sides of your brain are highly communicative during this phase, meaning you are better able to assess how you’re feeling and make decisions accordingly. Focus your attention inward. Listen to your body. Journal. Don’t over exert yourself. Nap can be exercise during this phase. You’re set up best to reflect on your performance / habits / rituals in the past month, evaluate what’s working and what’s not, and course correct if needed. While you may feel like you’re not efficient during this phase, you’re actually set up for a certain level of clarity and self-communication during this time. So allow yourself to get still and listen to what is happening in your body. Your energy is similar to that of the New Moon: you’re equipped to evaluate, intuit, and analyze what’s going on inside and then meet yourself right where you’re at.
Intuitive Eating Principles: Similar to that of your luteal phase, you’ll want to focus on foods that will be nourishing but also replenishing. Grounding / warming foods such as beets, kale, button and shiitake mushrooms, wild rice, and buckwheat will help you to feel connected to yourself and the Earth during this phase. Deep-colored berries like blackberries, blueberries, and cranberries will help to replenish antioxidants, while sea vegetables such as kombu and wakame and fermented soy such as miso and tamari will help to remineralize the body, setting your body up for a new beginning. Again, don’t feel guilty if you’re eating more calories (just make sure they’re the right ones).
Herbs / supplements to support menstruation: Nettle, Red Raspberry Leaf, Crampbark, Chaga Mushroom, and Quercetin (for healthy immune and inflammatory response).
I hope this overview has proven helpful and empowering. Being female and experiencing energy shifts throughout the month doesn’t have to limit your potential, if anything, it gives you the unique and magical opportunity to align with your body and tap into the intuitive, creative, feminine magic that’s waiting to be explored!
You are magic!
If you liked what you just read, be on the look out for subsequent articles featuring cycle magic, including a quick guide on getting back into your infradian rhythm with simple lifestyle interventions.
❤️ Glasses Girl (aka Ally)
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