Before you dive into all this awesome info… keep a few things in mind:
1- I don’t take hormonal birth control, and this menstrual cycle info does not reflect any hormonal interventions.
2- Everyone is different, cycles vary in length and intensity, take this info and apply it to your situation
3- There are links and resources at the bottom, be sure to check them out! Especially THIS ONE.
First, let’s start with the basics!
It’s incredible how we can live our whole lives not fully understanding our own bodies. The period, Aunt Flo, our menstrual cycles are much more than just a nuisance that comes around once a month, it’s a constant hormonal rollercoaster than pretty much runs shit. So let’s break it down.
Day one, your hormones are dropping, telling your body you’re not pregnant. Your body is getting rid of the unfertilized egg and all the lining it created for that egg in your uterus. Around day 5 your hormones begin to climb. Your body is preparing for ovulation, that ol’ egg factory is cranking. Your hormones peak at ovulation then take quite a dive, this can often cause a little tiredness or fatigue (day 17-21). Then progesterone becomes the dominant hormone, getting you ready to make babies and lining your uterus again, this is when you feel bloated and tired (day 21-28). When the egg isn’t fertilized you body reabsorbs the egg, and your hormones drop again telling your body to release all the lining… and we start all over again. Oh! The miracle of freaking life!
So the first half (roughly day 1-15) is called the follicular phase, ovulation, and then a huge hormone drop… then as the progesterone rises… we’re PMSing, that’s the luteal phase.
The first few days… day one to about 3 when our hormones are super low we feel like crap. Low energy, hungry and tired. Be kind to yourself on these days. Your estrogen and testosterone levels are flat lined; a signal to your body to release all that prep it did in case you got knocked up. Eat a lot of nourishing foods. Add a little maca to your smoothies for a mood boost (but not past day 3).
When our hormones are on the rise, day 4-5 to ovulation… this is when we feel like hot stuff. Push yourself this week. This is your time to shine. Your body is less insulin resistant. If you’re going to do a re-feed or carb up* do it now. If you’re going to start the AIP, a cleanse, or a Whole30, you want to time the beginning with this phase… Shoot to start around day 3-5 so you’re at your best when those “kill all things” feelings take over. I know it’s a narrow window… but these 6-10 days are when we feel amazing, so make the best of it.
Drastic Changes= No Bueno:
Then around ovulation, things can go south. For me, the day of, I’m feeling myself, I’m feeling pretty sexy (this is probably some primal instinct to procreate)… but right after, that hormone dive kills me, I feel sluggish and out of it… that’s because we’ve got some drastic changes going on. A BIG spike, then a big drop. It’s okay to feel like poo. Brace yo self, because it’s not over yet.
PMS N’ Other Fun Stuff
Then the luteal phase comes along, and our bodies prepare to make life. Which isn’t as romantic as it sounds. We bloat, we’re tired, and we’re uncoordinated and more insulin resistant. Yes! How what a cruel joke.. when we CRAVE those sugary carbs the most…. Is when we SHOULD avoid them the most.Try and eat nourishing and light foods this week. Bone broth, fish, lots of leafy greens, herbal teas. Sleep more. Take a day off of the gym, its okay to move less. Stay away from the sugar!!!! Do not weigh yourself during this time of the month, you will retain water. Water weight is not fat. Those 3-4lbs that go up and down on the scale are not fat, it’s WATER. Stay calm and push your scale under the bed. You’re welcome.
*re-feeds refers to a day of eating more and/or eating moslty carby foods (what some folks would call a “cheat day” but I hate that term) and carb-ups refer to a carby meal, usually had in the evening which helps in recovering from a hard workout. I don’t usually do refeeds, but I do carb cycle. Since I eat low carb paleo/keto, it works for me to have my carbs on the days I lift heavy, in the evenings, once or twice a week. I don’t have a super specific method for this, I just listen to my body. However, since I usually feel like ass during my luteal phase and already feel bloated, I often skip my heavy workouts and also my carb ups.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas which turns allows your cells to use glucose for energy. When you’re insulin resistant your body doesn’t turn glucose into energy efficiency because your cells are resistant to insulin’s message, and you get too much sugar in your blood, which when not used for energy will be stored as fat. Now, someone who burns glycogen efficiently won’t gain weight from eating carbs. I’m not saying they are bad. My husband who is an endurance athlete loves him some carbs and he is super lean. All his faculties work how they should though. Mine don’t.
Being insulin sensitive is a good thing; you want to be an insulin secretor! Which most folks are, good for you! Good news is, a ketogenic diet helps make you more insulin sensitive YEAY!
Diva Cup … because tampons are gross and bad for you.
Use a cycle tracker, there are lots of easy to use apps for your phone, I use THIS ONE.
Autoimmune Health and Hormones
Fluctuations in our hormones affect every aspect of our health. I often experience inflammatory symptoms with the with ovulation. From swollen gums to painful joints. These symptoms were very harsh, but fortunately, through cleaning up my diet, and using keto to balance my hormones, I have seen a reduction in these symptoms. However, there are many layers to this. For me personally, it is a combination of losing weight, eliminating stored toxin and reversing estrogen dominance. As someone who has been overweight most of my life, my insulin resistance and estrogen dominance go hand in hand.
I did the DUTCH test in January and worked with a holistic health practitioner to remedy my personal situation. A combination of food based supplements, mostly made of offal and diet are what eventually helped me. I do think that working with a health care professional in this area can be very useful. If not it’s like flying blind. You can make changes, take supplements and never really know what you are working to remedy.
I highly recommend a female health practitioner or a very sensitive and intuitive male practitioner in this area. Just sayin’ most men don’t get it.
Hashimoto’s… I’m no expert… but.. I have read that…
For folks with hypothyroidism, there is a lot of talk on how a low carb diet can be bad. From my understanding it’s not a low carb diet that’s bad, it’s a low-CALORIE diet. Yup, my hashi’s you need to keep your nutrient intake high to make sure you’ve got plenty of fuel and you keep your metabolism going. Energy is a precious resource. So if you have Hashimoto’s don’t get crazy cutting calories it will do harm. Whether you go high carb or high fat… or just eat however makes you feel your best, just make sure you’re eating enough. I know it can be frustrating and weight loss can seen daunting, but focus on anti-inflammatory foods. If you haven’t considered the Autoimmune Protocol, I recommend you take a look.