For centuries now, long before Western medicine and scientific journals existed, menstrual cycles were used as a reliable way to indicate the overall health status of folks who experience menstruation. Therefore, menstrual health is for more than those who are concerned about reproductive well-being and fertility. The symptoms, hormonal changes, and behaviors associated with the various phases of a menstrual cycle are closely related to the nutritional demands and cravings that the body experiences at that particular phase.
The medically standard cycle lasts for 28 days, but the actual experience of menstruating folks varies. For the purposes of this blog, we will use 28 days as the example, but consult with your physician and OB/GYN on what normal really looks like for you.
Every cycle is split into 3 phases and each has its own distinct nutritional requirements for optimal function:
1. Follicular phase (Day 1-12)
2. Ovulation (Day 13-16)
3. Luteal phase (17-28)
The beginning of this phase is marked by the arrival of the period. This is where the body is shedding its uterine lining and it can cause feelings of fatigue, grumpiness, and even abdominal cramps Estrogen and progesterone hormone levels have both plummeted in the body, causing a drop in mood and energy levels. (1)
During this time, here are 3 foods to nourish your body:
1. Red meats or iron-rich whole foods
Since red blood cells rely on iron as one of its key constituents to help carry oxygen around the body, when there is a loss of blood and tissues through your period, you can help to regenerate blood and red blood cells with the intake of foods rich in iron, such as beef, bison, sprouted legumes, and tofu.
2. Vitamin C-rich foods
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and can help reduce overall inflammation that has resulted from your period. Furthermore, it promotes the absorption of iron, so pairing foods like, citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, colorful berries, and tomatoes with iron-rich foods can increase the bioavailability of dietary iron. (2)
This seed contains phytoestrogens that mimic estrogen hormones and help to temper the effects of low estrogen levels during this phase.
After your period passes, this is where the mature egg is released and ready to be fertilized. There is an increase in energy and it is generally accompanied with a desire to be active.
This is a time to be active and focus on eating a diet high in protein and fibre to help support activity levels and offer the body plenty of whole food nutrients to set up for the next phase. (2)
Focusing on whole foods, such as vegetables, whole grains, meats, and unprocessed proteins, and wholesome fats, such as nuts, nut butter, and coconut oils, helps to keep baseline inflammatory levels low as the body enters the next phase of the menstrual cycle.
During this phase, if the mature egg that was released has not been fertilized, hormone levels will decline again in preparation for another period, so this marks the onset of PMS or premenstrual symptoms. Experiences vary greatly, but it’s typical to have cramps, headaches, digestive changes, and big mood swings at this time.
You may even notice a strong craving for sugars and carbohydrates during this time. It’s important to know that you can enjoy the foods that you want, and balance indulgences with nutritious proteins, fibrous veggies, and anti-inflammatory fats, too.
Some foods that you can help ease PMS during this time:
1. Pumpkin seeds
These seeds are high in zinc, and that makes them excellent for promoting progesterone production, as well as thyroid health. Not to mention, these are good sources of anti-inflammatory fats. (3)
2. Sunflower seeds
Aside from also offering healthy fats, these are high in vitamin E to also boost progesterone levels. (3)
The foundations of a diet that benefits menstrual cycle come from focusing on a diet made up of minimally processed ingredients with a balance of proteins, fats, carbs, and vegetables, as well as good hydration. Additionally, if your gut health isn’t optimized, then you can’t make use of the healthy food choices you are making.
R’s KOSO is a fantastic daily nutritional supplement because it is made with over 100 whole food ingredients that include many plant foods that contain vitamins E and C, as well as minerals like zinc and iron to regulate menstrual cycles all while providing probiotics and prebiotics for better gut health. You can also use R’s KOSO blog database to help you build a healthy lifestyle piece by piece.