In the first part of this series on cycle syncing I covered why and how cycle eating works. Now let’s take a more detailed look at the four different hormonal phases the female body goes through every month, and how each hormonal pattern determines what types of food are most supportive of our body and health.
After writing the first post on cycle eating I got a few questions - how long did it take me to commit to it? What exactly does it involve? Did I cut out any foods completely?
Before I get into the details of each phase, I want to mention a few things in relation to those questions.
I had the exact same questions, doubts, fears and worries when I first heard of this concept. My initial hesitation was mainly based on not knowing what exactly was involved, and just having some vague idea of what it would look like, all formed in my head without actually looking into the specifics or understanding the deeper reasons and motivations behind it. My goal with these posts is to give you a good understanding of why your hormonal health matters, so you can come from a place of internal motivation rather than feeling you “should” be doing something specific. When you actually see the benefits and results of cycle syncing on your own body it all becomes powerful and you actively WANT to give your body what’s best for it. You’re doing it for yourself.
You don’t HAVE to cut out anything. You will find your own ideal way of cycle syncing. I always mention that it’s about balance, and if something is too extreme it becomes unsustainable. Cycle syncing is a type of lifestyle, not some quick fix or limited activity you do. It’s about loving your body, caring for it, and finding a way of living that becomes natural. It’s about making this way of living something that you don’t even think about - it’s just the way you live and care for your body.
Also, it’s not something you change completely from one day to the next - it’s a flexible concept, and an idea that you will take on and adapt to slowly. There will be different stepping stones as you become more familiar with the concept (see further down below).
When I first started cycle eating (with the limited knowledge I had then), I saw results after just one month. As I mentioned in this post I had menstrual health issues, which disappeared within a few weeks. I already believed there were benefits to living in line with my hormonal pattern, but literally experiencing the effects and seeing the results on my own body was amazing and exciting.
Once I realised that I really am in control of my body, I felt empowered and realised that I can decide to do whatever I want. Sure, I could go back to ignoring my hormones and the messages they sent me, or I could just take it easy and gradually learn to understand what nurturing my body really means, and make some lifestyle and eating changes.
For cycle syncing to matter to you personally, you really want to understand WHY you’re learning about it. And that starts with seeing what issues you’re having and what signs your body is giving you. I wrote a list of possible health issues related to hormones, even if they seem like “normal” things to you. There are so so so many issues all of us are dealing with, a lot of the time without realising that they aren’t just “normal” and all stem from a place of hormonal imbalance.
Learn to listen to your body, what it tells you after meals, what signs it gives you. Observe and become aware. Then realise how much positive energy it might be costing you. My goal isn’t to convince you of something you “should” do, it is to simply show you and help you become more aware so that you can make your own decision.
Alright, let’s get into it, and I’ll answer any questions you’ve got at the end or in a possible follow-up post.
The four different phases of the menstrual cycle
Follicular (7-10 days)
The “first” phase your body (note: when I say “body” in this post/series, I obviously refer to the female body) goes through is the follicular phase, which starts just after menstruating (note: it’s just easier to understand by breaking it up this way, even though people generally refer to the first day of the menstrual cycle as the day you first get your period).
At the start of your cycle hormone levels are still low, especially estrogen and progesterone. Your body is ready to prepare for another cycle, releasing follicle stimulating hormone to tell the ovaries to get ready to release another egg.
Ovulatory (3-4 days)
One follicle releases an egg which travels to the uterus. Estrogen levels still increase, in preparation and support of the uterus for a possible pregnancy. Testosterone also surges around ovulation.
Luteal (10-14 days)
This is the beginning of the second half of the cycle. Progesterone rises, which is important to keep the uterine lining intact (note: important for a successful pregnancy). Estrogen keeps going up as well. If towards the end of the luteal phase the released egg hasn’t been fertilised, your body stops producing progesterone, and so sets the right hormonal balance for your period to kick in.
Menstrual (3-7 days)
Your period starts as a result of your body dropping progesterone production. The uterine sheds its lining, and estrogen production stops.
Foods for each phase
The paragraphs above are very brief explanations of what happens in the body during each phase of the menstrual cycle. It’s just to give you a basic understanding of what’s going on in the body. I’ll come back to the main focus now - how you nurture and nourish your body during each phase in order to keep your hormones supporting a healthy cycle.
A couple of common hormonal imbalances you might be experiencing are estrogen dominance (which can show through lots of different symptoms) or low levels of progesterone in the second half of your cycle. Estrogen dominance and low progesterone levels can show in similar ways, which makes sense - if progesterone is low, estrogen becomes the dominant present hormone. Symptoms including irregular or missing periods, PCOS, PMS, low libido, headaches, skin issues, weight gain, insomnia, mood swings, fatigue, and more.
In order for our body to produce the right amount of estrogen and progesterone at the right time, it needs the nutrients to do so. During the first half of the menstrual cycle both estrogen and progesterone levels are still low, so now is the best time to eat foods that promote estrogen production without adding too much estrogen on top of already high levels. During the second half of your cycle you want to make sure to efficiently detox and eliminate estrogen while supporting progesterone production (and keeping PMS symptoms to a minimum).
Below are some foods that are perfect for each phase to do just that:
Oranges, Grapefruit, Pomegranate, Lemon, Lime, Avocado
Broccoli, String beans, Peas, Carrots, Zucchini, Pickles, Sauerkraut
Oat, Barley, Rye, Wheat
Green lentils, Butter bean
Brazil and Cashew nuts
Apricot, Coconut, Raspberry, Strawberry
Aubergine, Red Capsicum, Spring Onion, Tomato, Spinach, Asparagus
Quinoa, Corn, Amaranth
Apple, Pear, Date, Peach
Cauliflower, Onion, Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, Butternut Squash, Radish, Cucumber
Brown rice, Millet
Blackberries, Blueberries, Watermelon
Mushrooms, Kale, Beetroot, Seaweed and other sea vegetables
Black beans, Kidney beans
Buckwheat (Kasha), Wild rice
Miso, Salt, Tamari
You might have noticed that I didn’t include any dairy or soy products - dairy and soy both increase estrogen and can lead to a whole lot of other health issues. Just give it a go and test it - have lots of dairy for a while, observe your body and see how you feel, then cut it out completely and pay attention to your body again.
The same is true for wheat - it’s likely to inflame our bodies, cause gut leakage, increase estrogen, and trigger autoimmune diseases. You could have some wheat during the first half of your cycle, but keep in mind some of the negative health impacts. Perhaps try the same experiment as with dairy. Just observe how your body feels after meals and really pay attention.
I also left out any refined carbohydrates, white sugar, and processed foods. Apart from promoting other health problems, they make you insulin insensitive, raise your blood sugar levels quickly, then drop again abruptly. Not great for your hormones at all - it kickstarts a whole cycle of issues (see the part on blood sugar here).
Stepping stones of becoming familiar with cycle syncing
This might seem like a lot to take in and process all at once, I get it. When I first started learning about this I got really excited, couldn’t wait to learn more and try it out, but I know it’s not like that for everyone. So it’s totally cool if you’re just slowly getting your head around a possibly new way of living and eating, all based around your cycle. It’s a process that takes time. You can simply start by implementing a few suggestions, pick just a few foods from the list above during each phase, or not even worry about when you eat some of the foods, but eat more of them than usually - they’re all good for your body and support your hormones.
I’ve been creating my own recipes using the above ingredients for a while trying to perfect them and make it easy to prepare food so I don’t have to cook every single day. I started photographing and writing down those recipes, so I’ll share them with you over the next few weeks. I posted this picture on Instagram a while ago, healthy pancakes are one of my favourite recipes. They’re so easy, quick, and simple to make, I’m sure you’ll love them too. Just a little teaser to get you excited.
I’ll leave you with this information for now - you’ve probably got a few questions from here, so please go ahead an ask. Send me an email, leave a comment below, or get in touch on Instagram. I’d love to hear how you go!