MENSTRUAL PHASE (first day of bleed until the end of bleed)
Average duration: 3-7 days
Day 1 of the cycle begins on the first day of your bleed. If you experience any light spotting on the days before your bleed starts, these would be counted in the previous month’s cycle. This is a time of inner-reflection and many women find that their intuition is strongest during this phase. As you bleed, it’s an invitation to really nourish your body and take things slower than normal. Prioritising time for self-care can be beautiful during these days - whether it’s a warm bath, time in nature, gentle stretching or journalling. In many ancient traditions the women would gather together during this phase and be exempt from their responsibilities..
Foods/Herbs for the Menstrual Phase:
Your body goes through an intense process as it sheds the lining of the uterus, so it’s important to eat nutrient-rich and grounding foods during this phase. As your body loses blood, focus on foods that are high in iron and zinc. Warming foods and teas are also really beneficial - I love eating soups and stews during this time.
Foods: Root Vegetables, Beetroot, Dark Greens, Kale, Mushroom, Seaweeds, Black Beans, Kidney Beans, Blueberrys, Blackberries, Cacao, Miso, Tamari.
Herbs: Nettles (really high in minerals), Red Raspberry Leaf, Chamomile, Turmeric (anti-inflammatory), ginger (can help with any cramping)
average duration: 7-10 days
As your bleed ends you enter into the follicular phase of the cycle, where the hormone estrogen gradually rises. Many women feel a rise in energy during these days and it’s known as a time of creativity and new beginnings. Instinctually, it’s the time of the cycle where we would normally attract a partner to mate with, which is why we might feel more confident and outgoing during this phase. It’s the time when you will most likely want to be more social, active and try new things.
Foods/Herbs for the Follicular Phase:
Fresh, lighter foods are ideal for this phase and will keep you energised. All your hormone levels are at their lowest, so your body can easily tolerate different types of food.
Foods: lots of vegetables - broccoli, carrot, courgette, parsley, lettuce, avocado, citrus fruits, mungbeans, split peas, fermented foods, olives, brazil nuts, cashews.
Herbs: schisandra (supports kidneys/liver), tulsi, licorice
Average duration: 3-4 days
This is the time when many hormones reach their peak level (FSH, LH, and estrogen). As an egg is released, we are at our most fertile time and often women find they are at their peak in terms of energy, confidence and libido. You may feel pelvic pain as the egg is released and on your most fertile days, you should have clear, wet vaginal discharge. This is called cervical fluid and is a really essential sign of healthy fertility. The Ovulatory phase is a good time for communication and expressing yourself clearly - so it’s a great time for meaningful conversations or interviews.
Foods/Herbs for the Ovulatory Phase:
As estrogen levels are high, most women have more energy during these days. Sticking to lighter foods will help support this. You want to help your body eliminate any excess estrogen (e.g. from toxins, plastics…) so eating a lot of fiber will help with this elimination process.
Foods: quinoa, corn, flaxseeds, spinach, tomato, pepper, aubergine, fig, strawberry, raspberry, red lentils, almonds, pecan, pistachio
Herbs: Red Clover (promotes lubrication), dandelion (supports detoxification), shatavari (supports healthy ovulation), maca (balances excess estrogens)
average duration: 10-14 days
The luteal phase begins after ovulation has occurred and it’s when progesterone levels rise. Energy gradually declines during this phase and towards the end you may feel yourself begin to turn inwards and soften once again. Some women have unpleasant symptoms during this time due to the abrupt change in hormone levels, so it can be helpful to recognise the big shifts your hormones are going through and see these symptoms as ways your body is communicating with you. For many, this is a ‘nesting’ time where we feel more called to organise things at home, do some necessary life-admin or take more time for yourself to rest.
Foods/Herbs for the Luteal Phase:
Many women experience sugar cravings during this phase. You can navigate this is in a nourishing way by eating foods that are rich in B vitamins and also eating more complex carbohydrates. These natural sugars will help balance dopamine levels and prevent any mood swings. I love eating roasted sweet potato during this phase. Continue eating high-fiber foods to help eliminate any excess estrogens (which can cause PMS symptoms).
Foods: Brown rice, millet, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, ginger, leek, onion, parsnip, pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, apples, dates, peaches, pears, chickpeas, walnuts.
Herbs: ashwaganda (helps balance hormones and stress), ginger (can help with bloating), tulsi (helps lift mood), Vitex (boosts progesterone levels - helpful if your luteal phase is too short, but do your research before taking!)