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Cycle Syncing: Improving Gut Health and Your Menstrual Cycle

Let’s talk about something all of us women experience every month. That is…our period. Some of us love it and feel a divine feminine cleansing. Some experience bloating, cramping, mood swings, depression, and want to crawl under their beds and disappear. Either way, it’s an inevitable part of being female.


The exclusion of women in the workplace throughout history has been seen in nearly every industry, especially in medicine. This has created a closed view of menstruation and reproductive health. The role of women in medicine and as healers has a long history. Midwives were the prime choice for helping women through their pregnancies. They would provide support from the early stages of pregnancy, through delivery and after. As science and medicine progressed, so did restrictions in education which limited women from getting the technical skills needed to continue their positions as midwives. Because of this, men began taking on the role. Naturally, in a male-dominated society, discussing details of menstruation was taboo.


There’s still a long way to go when it comes to normalizing the conversation around menstruation, but progress has been made and is continuing to move forward. Resources for women have expanded, and more research has helped us better understand vaginal health.


Your lifestyle and menstrual cycle go hand in hand. Yet most of us don’t understand what happens to the body and mind through this process. A more recent discovery known as cycle syncing has proved that women can work with their menstrual cycle and not against it. Thankfully, this method has been inching its way toward the front of women's health. Prioritizing a healthy gut is a great place to start when considering cycle syncing. 

 

 

What is cycle syncing?

Women’s hormone expert and functional nutritionist Alissa Vitti created cycle syncing. It’s defined as adjusting your diet, workout routine, and lifestyle to match the phases of your menstrual cycle. Integrative medicine addresses the whole body when it comes to health concerns. This is the baseline of the cycle syncing method. When we aren’t aligned in one area of health, it can create a domino effect and destabilize the other areas.


Cycle syncing uses food, supplements, and lifestyle to help women experiencing issues with their period and hormonal imbalances.


Your Body’s Natural Time Clock

The female body has two time clocks. You’ve probably heard of circadian rhythm or the 24-hour daily cycle we all go through. The lesser known infradian rhythm, are biological cycles that happen naturally in our lives. Examples would be hair growth, pregnancy, hibernation (for animals!), and a woman’s menstrual cycle


Only those with female physiology have infradian rhythm. It plays a vital role in the function of your brain, microbiome, and metabolism, as well as the reproductive, stress response, and immune systems. We’ll focus on the microbiome and metabolism since they’re the starting points for gut health. But first, we need to understand the phases of cycle syncing.

Cycle Syncing Phases

There are 4 phases of your menstrual cycle which are also referred to as cycle synching phases. Balancing your hormones naturally, happens when you shape your life around the phases of your menstrual cycle. Being aware of how each phase affects you will help you choose the best direction to go in. There are 4 phases of cycle syncing…


The Follicular Phase (7-10 days): This is phase one of your menstrual cycle. It starts the day after your period ends, until ovulation. Estrogen begins rising from its lowest point.


How you’ll feel…

Inspired, curious, and optimistic


The Ovulatory Phase (3-4 days): This happens in the middle of your cycle when estrogen levels are at their peak.


How You’ll Feel…

Confident with higher sex drive. You may feel more social with more energy.


The Luteal Phase (10-14 days): This starts when ovulation ends, and lasts until the first day of your period. Progesterone starts to rise and estrogen levels continue to rise to their highest point. They then dip to their lowest levels in the menstrual phase.


How you’ll feel…

As you get further into this phase, you may go from feeling focused and motivated to a little stressed, anti-social, and sluggish.


The Menstrual Phase (3-6 days): This is we get our “period.” Estrogen levels are at their lowest, so it’s important to take notice of how you feel and give your body the food, rest, and movement it needs.


How you’ll feel…

More sensitive than usual emotionally and physically. Lower energy levels, cramping, and a decrease in appetite.


The order of this cycle is based on Alissa Vitti’s method. But some suggest that phase one is actually the menstrual phase because the first day you bleed counts as day one. From there follicular, ovulatory, and luteal phases would follow.

 

 

Benefits of Cycle Syncing

It's encouraged that women align the phases of their menstrual cycle with movement, food, and healthy habits during reproductive years. The less desirable parts that come with getting your period (PMS, acne, breast tenderness, cramps, inconsistent bleeding, etc.), may decrease when implementing cycle syncing. Those who take part in this practice have reported a vast improvement in all areas of health.


Emotional: more consistent moods and fewer mood swings, greater connection to your feelings


Mental: sharper focus, higher productivity, more effective communication


Physical: clearer skin, less bloating, more energy, feeling more attractive, increased performance when exercising


*Cycle syncing on birth control may not be very effective, as you need to be able to track your cycle. For best results, make sure you’re off it before starting.

Cycle Syncing and Gut Health

The hot topic of gut health keeps finding its way into other areas of health and wellness. This is no surprise considering everything starts from the gut. We know how much food can affect us emotionally, physically, and mentally. Caffeine crashes, sugar highs, bloating, and brain fog are common when we aren’t eating clean. When your gut is healthy, the microbiome can do its job with less stress.


Estrobolome is part of the microbiome that regulates estrogen. Estrogen is a sex hormone that’s necessary for maintaining your sexual and reproductive health. Estrogen levels naturally fluctuate during your menstrual cycle and decline during menopause.


When the microbiome is imbalanced, there will also be hormonal imbalance. High levels of estrogen can cause weight gain, changes in your sleeping pattern, migraines, heavy periods, and low sex drive. More serious illnesses like ovarian and breast cancer can occur if levels stay high for a prolonged period. Low levels can make you irritable, cause breast tenderness, vaginal dryness, loss of bone density, and more. It’s important to note that low levels of estrogen are normal during menopause.

 

Gut Healthy Foods

 

Healing Hormonal Imbalance by Healing Your Gut

“Food was the missing link that solved my hormone issues,” says Vitti. We couldn’t agree more.

Don’t know where to begin? Use this chart to cycle sync your diet, with foods that support a healthy gut!



What To Eat

Follicular Phase

Ovulatory Phase 

Luteral Phase 

Menstural Phase

Protein 

Red meat, lean meat, nuts, mung beans, bivalves, tempeh, split peads, trout

Eggs, salmon, lamb, lentils, tuna, shrimp

Turkey, halibut, chickpeas, navy beans, beef

Shellfish, black and kidney beans, tofu, duck, pork

Produce 

citrus, avocado, spinach, artichokes, zucchini, string beans, stone fruit

Eggplant, swiss chard, tomato, asparagus, apricot, guava, coconut, strawberries, raspberries, cantaloupe

Bananas, parsnips, cauliflower, sweet potato, celery, pears, peach, dark leafy greens

Mushrooms, kale, blackberries, blueberries, water chestnuts, grapes 

Grains 

Brown rice, sweet potatoes, oats

Quinoa, amaranth 

Brown rice, millet

Buckwheat, black and brown rice 

Other 

Yogurt, pumpkin seeds, fermented foods

Almonds, pistachios, dandelion root,dark chocolate 

Sunflower seeds, peppermint and dandelion tea

Coconut water, miso, turmeric, tamari


Knowing what to avoid can help your cycle syncing diet just as much as knowing what you should eat. Inflammatory foods like sugar, gluten, and dairy should be avoided. 

Metabolism

You'll notice that the foods in the chart above are high in protein, have healthy fats, and are easily metabolized in the body. “Women with PMS and PMDD have an increased appetite, food cravings, and excess calorie intake which are associated with cyclical changes in serotonin during this period. These biochemical changes suggest nutrient utilization is affected by changing sex hormones between phases.


Final Thoughts

Though we primarily focussed on cycle syncing's relationship to gut health, it's important to remember that changes in lifestyle patterns and exercise are essential for the best results. The body is happiest and healthiest when it's synchronized. Cycle syncing is a great way to make sure your body as a whole, is on the same page. The lack of research and education in women's health has made it difficult to treat period problems in the past. Lucky for us, we’re now able to find solutions that don’t need over-the-counter medication or birth control to regulate your hormones. Your period can be much more satisfying when you know how to nourish your body through each stage of your menstrual cycle. This wonderful thing that makes us so feminine, and powerful should be cared for with compassion and love, so you can go with the flow!


“Lilith

Lilith Mesidor

Lilith is originally from The Hudson Valley in New York. Growing up in this area made it easy to access the outdoors, and having a healthy, active lifestyle has always been natural to her.  Her sense of adventure and curiosity has taken her around the globe, shaping her perspective on life and human connection.

After graduating from SUNY Purchase College in Westchester, NY, she moved to Brooklyn. From there, she got bit by the travel bug and spent three years traveling on and off all over the world, using NYC as her base. She backpacked solo through South America, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and parts of the Middle East. After returning from a year-long stint overseas, she moved to Aspen where she spent a winter season on the slopes.

Lilith sees the value of art and incorporates it into her life by doing or seeing at least one artistic thing a week. When she's not geeking out over health and wellness, she can be found checking out a new restaurant, seeing live music, and petting every dog she sees walk by.

She currently resides in beautiful, sunny Los Angeles. 

Tags: diet, gut health