Do you sometimes crave certain foods? Sweet, salty, fatty or refreshing? That's not so strange. In fact, these preferences always correspond to your body's needs. And if you listen to this, you often feel better in your own skin!
In this blog post, we will tell you more about listening to your body, and the specific nutritional needs that go with the different phases of your cycle.
Your menstrual cycle consists of four different phases.
These phases are also very reminiscent of the four seasons. In each phase of your menstrual cycle, different hormones are secreted, making you feel differently in each phase. And in each phase your body has different needs in terms of nutrition and exercise.
You can see the different phases as the seasons, and the different needs that go with them.
It is important to follow a balanced and varied diet in each phase of your menstrual cycle. As a metaphor, the seasons can help you make better choices when it comes to nutrition and exercise.
What does your body need in each phase?
✨The follicular phase or spring
Duration: 7-10 days
The days after your period is the follicular phase. In this phase, the egg matures. Like spring, the follicular phase is a symbol of a new beginning. You are open to new experiences and feel good about yourself.
During this phase, your metabolism slows down so you eat more lightly, while your body needs more calories again the week before your period.
✔️ It's an ideal week for meals with lots of different fresh vegetables, white proteins and fermented foods to keep your gut flora working properly.
✔️ Proteins are very important during the first and second phase. So make sure you get enough. On average, you need about 70 grams a day.
Meat is a good source of protein, but it is best to get most of your protein from plant sources. This is a little trickier: most plant sources are not full-fledged because they do not contain all the essential amino acids. Exceptions are soya, buckwheat, quinoa and hempseed.
You can also choose oats, broccoli, carrots, avocado, courgette, salad, green lentils, pumpkin seeds, cashews and flaxseed.
Your physical energy increases allowing more room for exercise. Challenge yourself physically, you have enough energy for it. Choose active sports activities such as vinyasa yoga, running, cycling, tennis and swimming.
🌞 The ovulation phase or summer
Duration: 3-4 days
This phase is the most fertile phase of your cycle when your body is ready to be fertilised. During this period you have the most energy, you feel attractive, happy and very confident.
Your body temperature rises during the ovulation phase. Choose fruits and vegetables that have a cooling effect.
✔️ During the days of ovulation, the different B vitamins are very important. Vitamin B can be found in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, eggs and meat.
✔️ Zinc is important for cell division and it helps with the production of progesterone. Progesterone is an important hormone after ovulation. You can find zinc in pumpkin seeds, fish, meat and poultry, eggs, mushrooms, wheat germ, whole grains and dietary supplements.
During the ovulation phase you also have a lot of energy (and you are most fertile). An ideal period to work out! Opt for an intensive work-out, boot camp or power yoga.
🍂The luteal phase or autumn
Duration: 10 - 14 days
During this phase the hormone progesterone is in charge of preparing the body for a possible implantation.
Is there no fertilisation of the egg cell? Then progesterone decreases again so that at the end of this phase menstruation begins.
During the luteal phase, women often suffer from PMS. This premenstrual syndrome causes all kinds of complaints. These include bloating, headaches, mood swings, depressed feelings, skin problems and painful or tight breasts. These complaints are caused by hormonal fluctuations between oestrogens and progesterone.
Although they are often seen as part of the body's routine, they can be reduced by eating right for your body's needs at this particular time.
Although you may like to snack during these days, it is important to keep eating healthy to reduce your symptoms as much as possible.
During autumn, your body needs more calories. Add complex carbohydrates and enough protein to feel satisfied after each meal.
❌ Avoid alcohol, coffee, black tea, processed foods, white carbohydrates, refined sugar, gluten and dairy.
✔️ In this phase it is important that your body can break down oestrogen. Estrogen is broken down in your liver, and then enters your gut and leaves the body through the bowel movement. Support your body with foods that make your liver happy: healthy proteins, asparagus, artichokes, and cruciferous vegetables (all cabbages, broccoli, watercress, and pak choi).
✔️ Give your gut a helping hand by adding plenty of fibre from vegetables. Parsnips, sweet potatoes and kohlrabi are high-fibre vegetables that satiate well and reduce your sugar cravings, and you may want to add probiotics to improve your gut health. Poor intestinal function due to an abundance of harmful intestinal bacteria means that the broken-down estrogens are not eliminated in time. As a result, estrogens are reabsorbed into your body and this can cause estrogen dominance.
At the end of the luteal phase, your energy level drops and your body is more susceptible to emotional and physical complaints. Be aware of your body's needs and don't push yourself too hard. Choose pilates, a quiet form of yoga or go for a walk.
🥀The menstrual phase or winter
Duration: 3 - 7 days
Many women suffer from cramps during their period. Other complaints include vomiting, diarrhoea and headaches. This is due to a chemical sequence that causes the uterine muscles to contract. This sequence is triggered by prostaglandins.
The same chemical sequence can be antispasmodic at the same time - but only if you get the right nutrients!
During the winter, you tend to seek out the warmth. So choose warm meals such as soups and stews.
✔️Make sure you get enough omega 3 throughout your cycle. Increase your omega intake with wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
✔️Make sure you get extra magnesium. Magnesium is a good preventive against cramps and headaches. You can get this mineral from dark leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, bananas, raw cacao, fish and shellfish, avocados and supplements.
✔️You can also use extra food containing iron during your period. Think of a long-drawn broth of bones and meat.
Other iron-rich sources are beetroot, watercress, sesame seeds, goji berries, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, dark green leafy vegetables, dates, (dried) apricots, almonds, nettle tea and black molasses.
By the way, iron is better absorbed by the body when combined with vitamin C. So make sure you have enough citrus fruits, kiwis, strawberries, berries, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes!
The menstrual phase is a period of rest and recovery. Do not force yourself too much during the first days of your period. Take rest days if you feel your body needs it and make sure you get enough sleep. If you do want to exercise, choose yoga, go for a walk or do some light stretching exercises.
Food supplements to support your cycle.
Nutrition comes first and foremost to getting the right vitamins and minerals to balance your hormones.
But even when you eat healthy, it is difficult to get enough, and the right dose, of the micronutrients you need to feel good. Supplements can therefore provide added value to support your health.
Do you have any questions? Feel free to ask them via the live chat.