020. It's Time You Know About Your Monthly Cycle
I just finished reading Woman Code by Alisa Vitti, HHC. I want to give every woman this book and look her in the face and say, “Your seventh grade sex-ed class did not cut it. Get to know your body, I promise you it will be a gift that will pay off dividends for the rest of your life!”
While I highly suggest you putting this purple treasure chest in your amazon cart as soon as possible, I selfishly wanted to create a reference for this book that was easy to access, so a blog about the high level information that I gained was what this turned into.
This book reaffirmed in my belief that staying sensitive is the holiest, most honoring thing we can do for ourselves, our relationships, and our work. In learning about the different stages of our cycles and how we can learn to care and work with what’s happening in our bodies, down to how we can design our work flow habits. I saw how beautifully designed our bodies were. It’s been a great investment to learn how to be in my body and know the intricacies so I can care for myself well.
The body is designed in such a way that when something is wrong, ie constipation, acne, heavy bleeding, etc., the body is communicating with us that something is off and it needs us to pay attention, get curious, and take action to get ourselves back to a place of optimal performance.
Knowing what’s happening within the different four stages of a woman’s cycle offered me a much kinder lens to look at what “optimal performance” even is. For example, Vitti writes that it’s best during your Follicular Phase, which is the first 7 to 10 days of your cycle, to plan on tackling new projects, taking risks, and problem solving because we have the most creative energy during this time.
And for all you introverts out there, this is also the best time to plan on being social and attending outings and gatherings because you have the highest amount of energy during this time! This fact helped shed light on some of the reasons behind my flakiness in the past. Due to not being mindful of my varying energy throughout my cycle, I can now see a pattern of me saying yes to engagements during my Follicular Phase when I had a ton of energy, assuming my energy level would be exactly the same when it came time to actually attending those engagements. When the event fell during my Luteal or Menstrual Phase, where my energy was the lowest and my need to introvert was the highest, I inevitably backed out last minute or begrudgingly went to the event where I was not in any way fully present.
I also loved learning that during your Menstrual Phase the communication between your left and right brain hemispheres is more powerful than at any other time. What’s incredible is that your energy is usually much lower during this phase, which means your probably already lying low and feeling more drawn in. Use this time of slowness to look within, be more curious and self-assess. Notice what’s working and what’s not because you are most likely to get those really clear intuitive gut messages during this phase.
So let’s get to know the four stages of the cycles as Vitti has them outlined in The Woman Code.
PHASE ONE | Follicular Phase | First 7-10 days
What’s your body up to during this first phase? “The hypothalamus signals your pituitary gland to send follicle-stimulating hormone to your ovaries, telling them to release another egg. Estrogen increases to thicken your uterine lining so it can host an egg.”
This is when you’ll notice you have a high amount of physical energy. Be creative and make a point to try the new thing you’ve had earmarked for a while! And as I mentioned before, try to say yes to social outings and gatherings this week as you’ll likely be craving community.
As far as the best food for your body during the Follicular Phase, Vitti writes that “your body can tolerate foods with higher phytoestrogen content. Think: pressed salads (kimchi), plenty of veggies, lean proteins, and energy-sustaining grains.” And take it as no surprise that you’ll have the energy to do more intense workouts such as HIIT, hot yoga, or boxing.
PHASE TWO | Ovulatory Phase | Duration: 3-4 Days
What’s your body doing? You guessed it…Ovulating! Your follicle-stimulating hormones are rising fast to stimulate one follicle to swell and then burst, releasing an egg into one of your fallopian tubes; then your egg travels the the uterus. Your uterine lining is really thick here, you’ll have vaginal discharge that is “clear, wet, slippery, or stretch on the day of your peak fertility” and testosterone takes a quick increase and then quick decrease right around this time. Your body is w-o-r-k-i-n-g hard ladies! This is when your body is fertile and you may notice your skin glows the most during this phase. All on purpose even if its unconscious!
Your energy will still be relatively high even if you notice some minor cramping while ovulating. Conversations and communication are best had during this phase. Vitti shares that you have heightened communication skills during this time so use that to your advantage.
For food, you’ll still have lots of energy so Vitti suggests going easy on the carbs and sticking with lighter grains. Eat lots of veggies and fruit. And very fun fact…”Avocados are knows to improve follicular-ovulatory transition as well as promote cervical mucus production.” Yes please! Invite a friend to workout with you at a cycle class and enjoy all that social energy!
PHASE THREE | Luteal Phase | Duration: 10-14 Days
So your body is up to a few things. There is a rise in progesterone. “The rise in progesterone signals pituitary to stop sending out the follicle-stimulating hormone. Estrogen levels continue to rise. Testosterone will increase towards the end of this phase.”
Your energy is declining as you are likely very well aware and you are starting to experience those symptoms we women have likely referred to as “PMSing” The body literate way to communicate this would be to say, “I’m luteal” when you’re feeling more irritable and having more cravings. This is the phase that I feel most uncomfortable in my body.
Because you’re energy is not at its peak, you’re going to want to turn inward and slow down. I think we as women experience this shift and we can shame ourselves for not being able to juggle all of our tasks this week that we could juggle with ease last week! The kindest thing we can do is to listen to our bodies natural desires. It’s so important we know what’s going on in our bodies so we can normalize these experiences and work with our hormones instead of against them. I believe God is in these inner workings and designed our cycle and the rhythms in accordance to how we can best operate. Going at full speed all the time is literally going against how God designed us.
Vitti shares earlier in the book that “chronic low-grade anxiety affects the feedback between your brain’s hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands - a configuration known as the HPA-axis, which regulates digestion, immunity, moods, libido, and energy.” This is why practicing self-care is so dang important. It’s integral to your health and the science backs it up.
This phase is also known as the “nesting phase.” “The particular ratio of estrogen to progesterone in this phase makes you notice things around you that you didn’t see before.” How cool! So administrative tasks and housekeeping items are best done during this time.
You’ll want to eat lots of leafy greens here, make sure to get the fiber intake up, and roast your veggies. Increase your complex carbs here so you can “stabilize your serotonin and dopamine levels and prevent mood swings.” For exercise, start lightening your load as you may feel more sluggish. A slow yoga flow or a nice walk would be so kind to your body during this phase. I hope that as you are reading this, you are astonished and amazed by how connected everything is.
PHASE FOUR | Menstrual Phase | Duration: 3 - 7 Days
Surprise, surprise. It’s that “time of the month.” No need to be afraid or disgusted as things can get messy, let’s just look at the facts. Your body stops producing progesterone which triggers the shedding of your uterine lining which is where all the blood is coming from. At the same time, your body is also experiencing an increase in estrogen to get ready to start the whole cycle all over again!
You know your symptoms well at this point. For me, the second day is always the hardest because bleeding is the heaviest. After I get through the second day, it’s usually just a matter of remembering to change my tampons regularly. TMI? Whoops. I’m considering changing to a diva cup, but I’m a very slow adopter so I’ll be sure to update you whenever I make the change and let you know my thoughts!
As I mentioned above, Vitti shares that communication between right and left hemispheres is most powerful now, so I would suggest getting your journal out and carving out time to reflect, ask yourself good questions, and really try to listen to what your intuition is saying.
Soups and stews are best during this time to keep you cozy and warm and comfortable in your body. Your body is doing some really intense things right now so be sure to care for it well with the food you consume. Seafood is great to help remineralize your body with iron and zinc. Lots of tea and a little extra salt. And stay hydrated. It’s important during all phases of your cycle, but this one is especially important.
Go light on the workouts. Not that you need someone to remind you of this. We usually listen to our fairly well during this phase. Walking and stretching and rest days are key here! You’ll probably notice too your energy starts increasing towards the end of your period because your body is getting ready to ease back into the Follicular Phase and start the whole thing all over again.
Wham-Bam Thank You Ma’m!
That was a lot of information. Our bodies are incredible, aren’t they? Take a deep breathe and make a point to thank them today. And maybe even purchase this book as a gift to yourself too. Getting to know my body has helped me love myself more, appreciate my body, and allowed me to honor how I’ve been created. I am such an advocate for taking responsibility for our health and our bodies. The invitation is always OPEN for you to do the same!
All credit for this post goes to the lovely Alisa Vitti and her decades of experience getting women reconnected to their cycles. She even includes pointers on what color your period blood means for your health. Take notice and maybe schedule a trip to go see your OBGYN. A visit to the doctor never hurt anyone.
Get curious and be kind to this body of yours, you only get one.