Are you at the mercy of your fluctuating hormone levels? Whether you’re still menstruating or approaching the menopause, we’ve all suffered from bloating, irritability and the nagging headaches that coincide with hormone imbalance. If you’re struggling with PMS or symptoms of perimenopause or menopause, chances are you’re out of sync with your cycle.
The good news is that you can harness your hormones and make them work in your favour. Alisa Vitti, author of WomanCode and a holistic health practitioner and former PCOS-sufferer, claims that with a few adjustments to your diet and lifestyle, you can say goodbye to the hormonal issues and live healthily through every stage of your fertility.
The first step is to sync up with your cycles. If you’re unsure what stage your cycle is at and are still menstruating, wait for a bleed and count the first day after the end at the first day of your cycle.
Different stages in your hormonal cycle make you better equipped to tackle certain tasks, such as domestic chores or work commitments. By listening to your hormones, you can tailor your activities and diet accordingly, making you less likely to suffer from PMS symptoms. Here’s how to make your hormones work for you…
Stage one: Get creative
The first stage, known as the Follicular Phase, can last between 7 and 10 days. This is the time when you have the most energy, so get creative and try stimulating projects at work and home. Since you’re feeling upbeat and outgoing, say yes to social invitations.
Eat: fresh and lightly cooked veggies, lean proteins, dense wholegrains.
Exercise: This is your most adventurous time, so switch up your usual routine for a new exercise class. Your brain will make and keep new connections easily during this phase, so you’re more likely to stick to the activity in the future.
Stage two: Time to connect
The Ovulatory Phase, lasting 3 to 4 days, is a time to have important conversations and make social connections. You’re more able to express your thoughts and opinions thanks to your increased communication skills.
Eat: lighter grains (e.g. quinoa), steamed or raw fruits and veggies.
Exercise: You’re at your most energetic, so opt for strenuous or high impact activity. Group sports are particularly beneficial.
Stage three: Tackle household chores
The third stage, known as the Luteal Phase, lasts from 10 to 14 days, and is the one we often dread the most. Depending on your lifestyle, PMS symptoms such as bloating, irritability and headaches will hit you hard. You’ll have an increasing desire to nest, which makes this the optimal time to spruce up your home. Don’t RSVP to as many social engagements, and instead spend time looking after yourself; massages, baths and meditation will ease you into the next phase.
Eat: foods rich in B vitamins (e.g. fish, poultry), calcium, magnesium and fibre, make sure you get enough complex carbohydrates to level out seratonin and dopamine levels to prevent mood swings.
Exercise: in the first half of stage three, you may still have the energy to undertake strenuous activity, but scale it back in the final 5 days in favour of gentle exercise such as walking.
Stage four: Make changes
The Menstrual Phase can last between 3 and 7 days, and is the perfect time for self-reflection. Feeling restless is completely normal, and can even help initiate necessary changes in your life.
Eat: low GI and water-rich fruits and vegetables (e.g. berries), nourish your kidneys with soups and stews.
Exercise: this is a time of rest and reflection, so keep exercise gentle, such as light walking or yoga.
If you’re entering the perimenopause or menopause, you can still harness your hormone fluctuations to work in your favour and make the transition into a new phase as easy as possible.
The perimenopause is like the third phase of the menstrual cycle; your energy levels begin to drop, your nesting instinct kicks in and you’re feeling more irritable. If you’re run down and making poor lifestyle choices at this stage, it’s likely that the menopause will also be difficult and you’ll suffer with hot flushes and mood swings. The most important thing is to make lifestyle tweaks. Include lots of leafy greens and whole grains into your diet, as well as plenty of healthy fats. You may also be low on Vitamin D, which can be boosted with a supplement. Follow the advice in Stage Three to harness your decreasing hormone levels.
The Menopause is similar to the Menstrual Phase, so you should use this time to make changes to your life if you’re dissatisfied. Mood fluctuations and emotional instability are signs to prioritise your health. Follow the advice in Stage Four to reap the most from your cycle.
Your hormone profile most reflects the lower hormone levels of the Follicular Phase, so make this a time of creativity and excitement. Focus on new experiences and enjoying sensations, and work towards restoring libido if this is an issue.