5 Ways to Improve Your Cycle
Did you know that our fertility is considered an important part of our vital signs as a woman? Knowing how to improve your cycle will not only improve your fertility but also your vitality and ability to create life! Your menstrual cycle isn’t just your period: it’s the rhythmic changes of your female reproductive system.
Let’s talk about what your cycle should look like, so that way you know ways you can improve your cycle.
We want your period to come every 24 to 38 days. The average is 28 days, which is why so many people use this number as a frame of reference. The time between your periods should be the same each month. For example, if 32 days is your normal, then each month you should expect your monthly visitor at 32 days, give or take 1 day. If one month you have a 28 day cycle and the next month a 38 day cycle, this is considered “irregular.” Don’t worry, these tips will help get you to a more consistent number.
A few other things that you want to observe with a normal cycle is a steady flow without a gradual increase or gradual decrease as you progress. The steady flow should last between 3-6 days with the average being 5 days. There should be little to no clots as well as little pain and cramping.
Whether your period is too short, too heavy, too light, never there, or just right, read on.
How Stress Impacts Your Cycle
Yes, I know stress is unavoidable, but you do have the power to manage the stress you experience on a daily basis.
Stress affects your cycle by disrupting the hormones that regulate your cycle because they are preoccupied doing something else. When you are stressed, your cortisol raises and disrupts your blood sugar, which can prevent ovulation and also disrupt your cycle (1).
A great way to manage stress is meditation and breathing. Since we cannot avoid stress, we can instead support our bodies to adapt to the stress of daily life, motherhood and “adulting” in a fast-paced world. Meditation helps manage your stress by connecting with your breath and your mind each day. Many people are intimidated by the idea of meditation, but there are so many ways to start this as your newest morning ritual. Meditation is not eliminating all thoughts but instead choosing a single focus (breath, a mantra, a visualization, etc.) while other thoughts come up. Have you ever been concentrating on a task and even if your child grabs your arm, your dog is barking at the front door, and something is beeping in the closet, you just keep focusing on what’s in front of you? That is basically meditation!
There are so many great apps that make meditation easy. Depending on the season of your life, you may find that one app works best for you. Ones that I love for moms are Expectful and Circle in Bloom. They both have a variety of meditations that range from PCOS, fertility, IVF transfer, and even couples and walking meditations.
Did you know that girls night out isn’t just an evening to enjoy carefree fun, but it actually helps boost your feel good woman hormones? There have been a few studies documenting how being close to friends and bonding increases progesterone (2). This is a hormone that we need to maintain pregnancy or to trigger your cycle to start (as it decreases). Progesterone also plays a role in sleep, digestion, and healthy skin. These are all great reasons to call up your girlfriend, schedule a girls only brunch or a getaway weekend with friends. Make connection a priority because it is just as important as your workout or your chiropractic adjustment.
Nutrient Dense Food – How to Eat to Support Your Cycle
Our bodies make hormones with raw materials through micronutrients found in our food. When we consume a larger variety of whole foods made of quality ingredients, our bodies are more easily able to extract nutrients and use them to build and fuel our cells. Lower nutrient dense food like fast food or processed foods contain less micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to be used for running processes in our bodies.
Depending on the time of your cycle, your body needs different nutrients to support the hormone fluctuations that are occurring. This is called cycle syncing. During the four phases of your cycle – menstrual or bleeding, follicular, ovulatory, and luteal phase, you can eat different foods to support that part of your cycle.
During the menstrual phase, your body is losing blood so replacing it with iron and B12 vitamin-rich foods like leafy greens, beans, lentils, and animal products are helpful.
The follicular phase is when Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and estrogen are beginning to rise. In order to help your body eliminate this extra estrogen, eating probiotic-rich foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and fermented veggies are helpful for the gut.
During ovulation, women have more energy. In order to support this change, fiber and small quantities of carbohydrates are helpful. Fibrous veggies include brussels sprouts, asparagus, okra, and spinach. Carbohydrates that would be helpful around ovulation are quinoa, lentils and also seeds and nuts.
As progesterone rises in the luteal phase, so does your appetite. During this phase, eating every 3-4 hours will be helpful in mitigating an appetite increase as well as keeping your digestion moving, which can slow down during this time.
Your hormones sometimes need a little extra support through supplementation. A few micronutrients that your body could benefit from are a high quality fish oil, vitamin D, a probiotic, and a methylated B complex. The omega-3 in fish oil supplements helps support mood balance, reduce inflammation, and support ovulation. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to PCOS, irregular cycles, and PMS symptoms including anxiety and irritability. Probiotics help with digestive function, eliminating excess estrogen, and reduce the chance of vaginal infections. Methylated B complex supplements assist with boosting your mood, increasing progesterone production, energy, and sex drive.
Get Some Sleep
Our female hormones are cyclical and our sleep patterns are cyclical – coincidence? We think not. Studies have shown that sleep patterns are affecting our menstrual cycle, mood, and fertility (3). If you’re a new mom, you are probably rolling your eyes at me asking you to get sleep; however, if you can’t sleep for longer stretches because you have a sweet little babe needing your attention, then let’s talk about how to maximize your sleep. All the experts say that a cool, dark room with little noise is the best way to sleep. We also know that heavy meals and caffeine affect our sleep quality. We can make the most of nap time when both mom and baby are maximizing their sleep. Being mindful of caffeine, lights, noise, etc. can be the best way to get some well-deserved momma rest!
Maintaining a healthy cycle sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Nourishing your body is key to creating a healthy rhythm for your hormones with these easy tips.
Dr. Whitley Jagnanan, D.C., B.S.BIRTHFIT Houston Heights @birthfithoustonheights
(2) “Feeling Close To A Friend Increases Progesterone, Boosts Well-being And Reduces Anxiety And Stress.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 June 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090602171941.htm>