Here at SHEbd, we know that hormones can wreak havoc on women’s lives and affect everything from our metabolism to our well-being, sleep quality and more. Like many women, you may have tried different remedies, diets or exercises that are supposed to help you find hormonal wellness and alleviate problems with your period, but you’ve probably found out that not many of them work. In fact, some of them could have made matters worse.
Enter cycle syncing: a way of making lifestyle choices that are synced with your female hormone cycle. Alisa Vitti, an integrative nutritionist who founded FloLiving, developed and trademarked this concept based on her personal experience with hormonal imbalance and problems caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome. Since SHEbd is committed to helping you achieve a healthy lifestyle, we want to help you understand the potential benefits of cycle syncing, how to know if it’s right for you, and how to get started with making it part of your life.
What Is Cycle Syncing?
The way you feel during different phases of your female hormone cycle isn’t just in your head — your hormones fluctuate dramatically, depending on the phase of your menstrual cycle. In fact, a study in the Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics confirms the biological ways that a woman’s hormones, especially progesterone and estrogen, impact a wide range of areas, including cognitive functioning, emotions and appetite.
Cycle syncing is all about paying attention to and making lifestyle choices based on the different phases of your female hormone cycle. The idea is that your food, exercise and hormonal needs change based on the phase of your 28-day cycle, so you make adaptations in different areas of your life to benefit your overall well-being.
What Are the Benefits of Cycle Syncing?
Proponents of this method claim that it can be a helpful way of supporting hormonal wellness, making your periods less painful, alleviating PMS, clearing your skin, reducing bloating and even helping you maintain a healthy weight. Admittedly, there’s not much scientific research to confirm or deny these benefits, but advocates of the approach say that it may be useful for women who suffer from hormonal problems like low libido, fatigue and weight issues. However, they also say that it might not work for women who use hormonal medications or supplements, such as birth control pills, because these interfere with your body’s natural hormone regulation.
How Do You Get Started?
The first step is to figure out where you are in your monthly cycle. The easiest way to do this is to use a period tracking app — there are many different ones that all work the same way. Your menstrual cycle is broken down into four different phases (though some people say there are three and include the menstrual phase as part of the follicular phase):
- The menstrual phase. As the name implies, this is the phase where you are shedding the uterine lining (a.k.a. bleeding), due to low levels of estrogen and progesterone. This phase occurs during days 1–5 of your cycle (day 1 being the first day of your period).
- The follicular phase. This occurs during the week after your period, or days 6–14, when levels of estrogen and progesterone start to build up to help your body prepare for ovulation.
- The ovulatory phase. This is when estrogen reaches its highest levels and progesterone and testosterone continue to rise. As the name indicates, this is the phase where you (should) ovulate. For most women, this occurs between days 15–17.
- The luteal phase. This phase occurs on days 18–28. Your levels of estrogen and progesterone remain high, but start to drop in the absence of conception.
Here are some helpful ways to support hormonal wellness during each phase of your female hormone cycle:
Since this is the active bleeding phase, you lose iron, and lipid compounds known as prostaglandins can cause menstrual cramps. You can best support your body with nutritious, iron-rich foods during this phase — if you’re a carnivore, this is a good time to indulge in meats (especially liver, if you can stomach it), or for those who are on plant-based diets, include foods like spinach, beans, mushrooms and chickpeas. Focus on including lots of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables; and happily, it’s OK to indulge in some high-quality dark chocolate, which is also high in iron and magnesium. You also might consider anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, like turmeric, ginger or garlic, which are said to fight cramps.
Exercise should be kept light — walking is best — but you can do other low-impact, stress-relieving and non-strenuous activities like yin yoga, if you prefer. Pamper yourself and pay attention to your emotional needs during this phase — treat yourself (and your skin) to a soothing all-natural THC-free broad-spectrum hemp Sheet Mask from SHEbd.
During this phase, you might notice that you have less of an appetite. You’ll want to focus on eating a lot of vegetables and fruits, as well as phytoestrogens such as flaxseeds, soy and pumpkin seeds, along with fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut, which are thought to help keep estrogen levels balanced.
You can bump up your exercise routine during this phase to running or cardio; if you can, try to exercise during the middle of the day, when estrogen levels are low, and cortisol (which can give you an energy boost) is high. For post-cardio aches and pains, we recommend trying SHEbd’s THC-free broad-spectrum hemp Comfort Cream, which can provide quick relief for aching muscles and joints (and for helping skin irritation, too).
Since estrogen peaks during this phase, it’s very important to include foods that are believed to support your liver and avoid or limit liver-stressing ingredients like caffeine, sugar and alcohol. Include foods that may help to promote a healthy inflammatory response, such as nuts like almonds, fruits like berries, leafy green vegetables and whole grains, as well as foods with high levels of magnesium, such as spinach, quinoa, a bit of dark chocolate, hemp seed and flaxseed.
Exercise should be at its most intense level now, so feel free to incorporate HIIT (high-intensity interval training) sessions, especially if you can handle them early in the morning, when your energy levels will be naturally higher. For some women, anxiety and stress can be higher during this phase, so you could try SHEbd’s THC-FREE Broad Spectrum Hemp Oil Softgels to help balance your body and mind.
Staying hydrated by drinking at least two liters of water a day and avoiding caffeine may help prevent bloating and weight gain caused by water retention during this phase. Because of hormonal fluctuations, you might be craving high-carb, high-fat foods, and while you should not restrict yourself too heavily, try to focus on low-glycemic, high-fiber foods such as nuts, whole grains and sweet potatoes. Since estrogen is falling, you might feel moodier or fatigued, so include magnesium and nutrient-rich foods to help stabilize your mood and keep your energy levels high.
Exercise during the beginning of this phase can be higher-intensity if you like, but you might want to gear it down a bit as your period approaches — stick with yoga and Pilates or strength-training exercises. We suggest SHEbd’s THC-free broad spectrum hemp oil to help promote calm and focus, fight stress and relax the mind so you can get a good night’s sleep.
We’re not saying that cycle syncing is a panacea for all that ails you during your menstrual cycle, but you might experience benefits if you suffer from hormonal troubles. While it’s not scientifically proven, there’s no harm in giving cycle syncing a shot if your period problems interfere with your well-being. We don’t always pay attention to what our body tells us, so it’s definitely a good idea to become more tuned in and mindful of your emotional and physical needs.
Stacy Mosel, LMSW, is a health and wellness writer, as well as a licensed social worker, yoga enthusiast, certified Reiki practitioner and musician. She received a bachelor’s degree in music from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1999 and a master of social work degree from New York University in 2002.