Updated: Mar 28, 2022
Article 2 in a series dedicated to the infradian rhtyhm aka menstrual cycle.
The easiest way to start harnessing your sex hormones as a woman is to introduce foods that contain the nutrients needed for each phase of the infradian rhythm (click here for my first article of this series to know more). As sex hormones shift throughout the month, they have a downstream effect on a woman's moods, energy, nervous system, immunity, metabolism, brain function and reproduction.
Every woman’s nutritional needs are different. However the guidance below is a good rule of thumb that will help address and support hormonal and menstrual health across the 4 stages of the menstrual cycle:
Hormones quickly decline to their lowest levels improving communication between brain hemispheres and amplifying our analytical thinking. This is the time to go inwards and dream big. Rest should be a priority. Compensate low levels of hormones through diet by focusing on fat and protein. This will help stabilise your moods and maintain your energy.
The intense physical process of shedding your uterus lining requires you to replenish with nutrient-dense foods. Focus on restorative and warming meals that re-mineralize to offset iron and zinc lost in menstruation.
Consuming vitamin C-rich foods will help iron absorption and foods rich in omega 3s will help with inflammation and pain.
During this phase the body is preparing for ovulation. FSH rises as well as estrogen and energy starts to slowly pick back up. The body needs energy-boosting foods in this phase. Focus on 'muscle building foods' i.e. high fat and protein. Vitamin B12 and E are necessary for follicle nourishment. Meals should be light, fresh and include a wide variety of colours. Boost probiotic-rich foods in this phase to support gut balance.
Estrogen levels reach their peak and testosterone surges. Estrogen has an appetite-suppressing effect causing us to be less hungry and optimally energised. You can opt for lighter carbohydrates.
Focus on healthy fats, proteins, tons of fibre and cruciferous vegetables to detoxify increased hormone levels and antioxidant-rich fruits to further support the liver and get ready for the next phase.
Progesterone rises and and with it a boost in appetite and cravings for comfort foods that are high in fat and calories. Progesterone also makes the body more sensitive to changes in blood sugar and your metabolism also revs up. Women on average need 100-300 more calories in this phase. Focus on eating nutrient-dense, complex carbohydrates which are naturally sweet to satisfy increase in calorie demands and cravings. This is not a great time to diet. If you eat too little you are likely to aggravate the stress load, which is already sensitised in this phase, making you more prone to mood swings and also weight-gain.