Personal Nutrition Guide

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As women, we’re often just taught to accept our menstrual cycles for what they are, which often leaves us feeling disconnected from our bodies. However, more and more women are finding ways to be more in tune with their cycles and monthly hormonal fluctuations.  

Cycle syncing is a practice that’s becoming more popular to help strengthen this connection. Let’s take a closer look at what cycle syncing is, including why so many women are jumping on board and how you can, too. 

What is Cycle Syncing?

“Cycle syncing involves tailoring your diet, exercise, and lifestyle to the different phases of your menstrual cycle, with a goal of supporting hormonal balance and overall well-being,” says Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD.

Hormone changes that happen throughout the menstrual cycle influence everything from how we think to our appetite and our emotions. It makes sense that we can do things to help balance and align our lifestyle with what’s going on in our bodies. 

Reisdorf says, “Hormone levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, which can impact energy levels, mood, and physical abilities. Therefore, tailoring what you eat, how you exercise, and your lifestyle to these fluctuations can help you feel and perform your best.”

Anyone can potentially benefit from cycle syncing, but especially women who are experiencing fatigue, have a low sex drive, are planning a family, or have hormone-related conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Generally, if you notice that you don’t feel like yourself around your period, cycle syncing might be worth a shot. 

Basics of a Normal Menstrual Cycle

The first step in using cycle syncing to better support your body is to understand the different phases of your cycle.

Reisdorf explains that the menstrual cycle is divided into 4 phases, each of which calls for different lifestyle focuses:

  1. Menstrual Phase: The first day of bleeding marks the start of this phase, where energy might be lower. Gentle activities and nourishing foods that support iron levels and hydration are ideal.
  2. Follicular Phase: After the menstrual phase, this phase is characterized by rising energy levels. It’s a good time for new activities and complex carbs to support energy.
  3. Ovulatory Phase: Testosterone and estrogen peak, potentially boosting energy and communication skills. High-intensity workouts are ideal during this time.
  4. Luteal Phase: This is the PMS phase. During this time, you may want to include more comfort foods and lighter exercises due to lower energy levels.

Let’s review how your hormones change during these phases. In the first 14 days of the follicular phase, eggs in the ovaries ripen and estrogen is produced. Right before ovulation, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) increase. Following ovulation estrogen levels fall. 

Finally, the luteal phase starts once the egg has been released. At this time, estrogen and progesterone levels begin increasing to support conception. If no implantation takes place, these hormones drop again before the next period. 

How Cycle Syncing Fits 

Cycle syncing might involve adjusting exercise intensity, choosing specific foods to support hormonal balance, adapting productivity levels, and prioritizing self-care practices that address the unique needs of each phase. 

Overall, it’s meant to help you optimize your well-being, hormonal health, and productivity by harnessing your body’s natural rhythms and hormonal fluctuations. You have more control over how you feel during your cycle than you may think. 

Types of Cycle Syncing

Depending on what your goals are, there are several ways you can approach cycle syncing. For instance, if your priorities are sleep and exercise, you might be interested in aligning your sleep patterns and exercise routines based on how you feel at different phases in your cycle. Below are some ideas for the types of cycle syncing many women are finding success with. 

Nutrition

This refers to adapting dietary choices to support hormonal fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle. For example, consuming more iron-rich foods during menstruation and incorporating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids during the luteal phase.

Exercise

Your energy levels and physical capabilities can vary drastically during different menstrual phases. As such, consider adjusting your exercise routine accordingly. 

This might mean engaging in more intense workouts during the ovulatory phase and focusing on restorative exercises like yoga during the luteal phase. Research has found that female athletes report worse physical performance during the early follicular and late luteal phases.

Work and Productivity 

It’s probably not surprising to hear that a female’s brain also goes through changes every month. You might be interested in aligning your work tasks and activities with your cognitive abilities and productivity levels, as much as possible. 

If you can do so, consider scheduling the more demanding tasks during the follicular or ovulatory phases when energy and focus are typically higher.

Self-Care

Self-care should be an ongoing practice, but there are certain times each month when it can be even more beneficial to your needs. 

Depending on when you tend to experience noticeable emotional fluctuations, for instance, you could tailor practices like skincare routines, relaxation techniques, and stress management strategies to that time of the month. 

Incorporate HUM’s Hormone Balance into your daily routine to help achieve balance!

Sleep 

You can also adjust sleep patterns to accommodate changes in your sleep quality and duration that may occur during different menstrual phases. 

For instance, prioritizing restorative sleep practices during the luteal phase to support hormonal balance and alleviate premenstrual symptoms.

Socialization

It’s normal to feel more or less social during various times of the month and it’s okay to honor that. Be mindful of how you feel about social engagements and interactions. 

Schedule social activities based on your emotional needs and energy levels that vary throughout your menstrual cycle.

Intimacy and Libido

Many women report having a lower sex drive during certain times of the month. Take note of these and identify whether there’s a predictable pattern. 

As you recognize fluctuations in intimacy desires throughout the menstrual cycle, communicate them with your partner so that, together, you can align expectations and preferences accordingly.

Mental Health 

Implementing strategies to support mental well-being and manage emotional fluctuations that may occur during different menstrual phases is important. 

Practice mindfulness and seek support when you notice certain premenstrual or menstrual-related mood changes. Allow yourself the opportunity to relax, indulge, or do what you need to do to support your mental health needs.  

Fertility Awareness and Planning

If you’re planning to become pregnant, it’s helpful to track menstrual cycles and fertility signs each month. This can help you identify fertile and infertile phases for natural family planning or contraception purposes.

Recipe: Seed Cycling Energy Bites

Seed cycling is one of the most popular ways many women are aligning aspects of their diet with their menstrual cycles. It involves eating specific seeds throughout your menstrual cycle to aid in balancing hormone levels. Why? Seeds are super nutritious, full of vitamins and minerals that support women’s reproductive health, and they’re easy to add to your diet. 

According to Sarah Alsing, MS, RD, “One tablespoon each of pumpkin and flax seeds are eaten during the follicular phase and one tablespoon each of sesame and sunflower seeds are eaten during the luteal phase.”

Alsing explains that this is because, “Flax seeds are high in lignins, which bind to excess estrogen, while pumpkin seeds are high in zinc to support the start of progesterone production to prepare for the luteal phase.” She continues, “Sesame seeds are high in zinc to promote progesterone production. Sunflower seeds are high in selenium, which supports the liver in clearing out excess estrogen.”

That’s why she created the recipe for Seed Cycling Energy Bites, which are a delicious and easy way to eat the recommended amount of seeds every day. 

One bite provides 3 grams of fiber. There are two versions — one for the Follicular Phase and one for the Luteal Phase — plus an option to cover them with chocolate for a sweeter snack.

Find the full recipe for Seed Cycling Energy Bites here

POtential Benefits of Seed Cycling

Despite how many women are adopting seed cycling practices, the scientific research behind doing so is still limited. Proponents suggest that seed cycling offers several benefits.

Hormonal Balance

Seeds contain phytoestrogens, such as lignans, which are plant compounds that mimic estrogen. Consuming seeds during the follicular phase may help adjust estrogen levels as needed. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids and zinc, which may help promote hormonal balance throughout your menstrual cycle. 

One recent study found that 12 weeks of seed cycling using pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, and flax seeds was an effective adjacent therapy in supporting hormonal disturbances experienced by women with PCOS. 

Menstrual Cycle Regulation

By providing essential nutrients that support hormone production and metabolism, seed cycling may help regulate menstrual cycles, leading to more predictable and symptom-free periods.

Reduced PMS Symptoms

Some women report a reduction in PMS symptoms such as bloating, breast tenderness, mood swings, and cramps when incorporating seed cycling, possibly due to its hormonal balancing effects.

Improved Fertility

Balancing hormone levels through seed cycling may support reproductive health and improve fertility by promoting regular ovulation.

Support for Menopausal Symptoms

Seed cycling may also benefit individuals experiencing menopausal symptoms by helping to regulate hormone levels and alleviate symptoms such as hot flashes, mood changes, and vaginal dryness.

In a 2006 randomized controlled trial, researchers found that when 24 postmenopausal women consumed 50 mg a day of sesame powder for 5 weeks, they saw improved hormonal balance. Additionally, they had higher levels of antioxidants and blood fats. 

Healthy Omega-3 to Omega-6 Ratio

Flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds, commonly used in seed cycling, are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for reducing inflammation and supporting overall health. 

By incorporating these seeds into the diet, seed cycling may help maintain a healthy balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Nutritional Support

Seeds are nutrient-dense foods that provide essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, which support overall health and well-being. 

Digestive Health

The fiber content in seeds can promote digestive regularity and support gut health, which is essential for hormone metabolism and overall wellness.

Easy to Incorporate

Seed cycling is relatively simple to incorporate into one’s diet and can be easily customized based on individual preferences and dietary restrictions.

Natural and Holistic Approach

Seed cycling offers a natural and holistic approach to hormonal balance and menstrual health, focusing on dietary interventions rather than relying solely on medications or supplements.

How to Achieve It

Achieving cycle syncing first requires us to talk about women’s periods more openly. The more we normalize changes women experience during the menstrual cycle, the more we can normalize holistic practices like cycle syncing on a wider scale. 

To make cycle syncing work for you, consider the following steps: 

  • Once you have a good understanding of the phases of your menstrual cycle, you can begin tailoring your diet. Incorporate nutrient-rich foods that support hormonal balance during each phase. Consider the simple practice of seed cycling. 
  • Next, think about how you can adjust your exercise routines to match your energy levels and physical capabilities throughout your cycle. This can help you optimize certain fitness goals and prevent burnout in the meantime. 
  • Prioritizing self-care practices like getting enough sleep, practicing stress management, and incorporating regular relaxation techniques can also help alleviate menstrual symptoms.

Reisdorf says, “When trying to take your cycle into account when planning your diet and exercise routine, it’s important to note that the effectiveness of this practice can vary greatly from person to person.” She recommends consulting with a healthcare provider or a specialist, such as a dietitian, to create a personalized plan that helps you achieve your goals.

The Takeaway on Cycle Syncing

Cycle syncing provides a natural opportunity for women to become more aligned with their bodies. By being more in tune with the natural fluctuations in our hormones as part of the menstrual cycle, we can adapt our lifestyle habits to improve things like sleep, fitness, mental health, and productivity. 

Seed cycling is one simple way many women are incorporating the idea of approaching their menstrual cycle holistically. While scientific evidence is limited, there’s no shortage of anecdotal support. If you experience noticeable changes during your cycle that you’d like to have more alignment with, consider some of the ideas above. 

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