How should you be eating when menstruating?

Ah, periods.. It’s such a beautiful demonstration of the power of the woman's body in providing us the ability to conceive life. As amazing as cycles are, we can all admit they can be a bit of a nightmare to deal with when it comes time for menstruation. 

We know during that time of the month we all tend to feel sluggish, flat, and usually crave energy rich food to provide us comfort. The body going through cravings is very normal, as on Day 1 of the menstrual cycle, estrogen and progesterone levels are low so that the right signals are sent to the reproductive system to produce the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) in preparation for fertilisation. 

During this time it is really important to be listening to our bodies but to also be ensuring we are nourishing ourselves with goodness that is going to help restore and replenish our bodies, boost energy and keep us thriving!

So before you pick up that chocolate bar, let us tell you about the foods you should be eating to help you with your hormones when they are at their lowest.

During our cycles our bodies go through four phases; follicular phase, ovulation phase, luteal phase and the menstruation phase, where our bodies shed the built up lining of the uterus. 

Each phase of the cycle comes with different symptoms, as the body goes through different hormonal changes. By eating foods that align with our cycles, we can help to restore and support our bodies during each phase. 

Follicular Phase 

During this phase we want to focus on consuming Phytoestrogens which are found naturally in plants and have a similar compound structure to our own body’s hormone Estrogen. Eating foods full of Phytoestrogens will help restore our estrogen levels when they are at low levels (during your period) and in turn will help us to combat those low energy levels during menstruation.

Foods you can eat to help support this phase are: oats, artichoke, broccoli, zucchini, avocado, grapefruit, lemon, pomegranate, mung beans, split peas, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sauerkraut, pickles and more. 

Ovulation Phase 

During this phase your estrogen levels should be surging, which will have your energy at an optimum level with your mood stabilised.  In this phase it is important to be eating an appropriate diet as producing too much estrogen can lead to symptoms such as acne and bloating. With higher levels of estrogen and ovulation this can make our bodies raise in temperature so we need to consider incorporating foods that cool us down!

Fill yourself with delicious veggies such as red bell peppers, spinach, tomato, leafy greens and plenty of fruit such as strawberries and raspberries. All that berry goodness will help in cooling our temperature and fill our bodies with fibre.

As our metabolisms are slower in this phase we can turn away those heavy carbohydrate meals and opt for something a little lighter like quinoa and corn that will still keep us full! Incorporating this kind of diet during ovulation can help create the healthiest eggs possible through antioxidative well being, providing support for your ovaries! This one is great to keep in mind for women trying to conceive. 

Luteal Phase

In this phase your metabolism is speeding up, so it’s time to increase those calories that the body craves! Also during this time your B Vitamins pump up the production of progesterone which stabilizes your blood sugar levels. 

At this time you need to be eating slow burning carbohydrates such as brown rice and sweet potatoes. Make sure you emphasize foods rich in Vitamin B, Magnesium and Calcium and Fibre, this will help curb sugar cravings. You should be eating things such as leafy greens, such as collards, mustard greens, watercress, kale and soy beans. These foods reduce fluid retention, which is something many women experience in this phase. 

To help your liver and large intestine flush out estrogen more effectively, to prevent the effects of estrogen dominance, eat high fibre foods such as apples, chickpeas, pears and walnuts.

In the second half of your Luteal phase your estrogen levels will start to dip, so you will need to boost your daily intake of healthy natural sugars. This can include roasted or baked root veggies such as beets, parsnips, turnips . Remember to keep filling up on complex carbohydrates as this will stabilize serotonin and dopamine levels which will help prevent mood swings. 

Eating fibre-rich foods will also help with constipation that can happen as a result from the rise of progesterone levels.

Menstruation Phase 

Now Aunty Flo has arrived, your hormone levels are at their lowest! But to level this out you can increase your intake of protein and healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts and olives. Doing this will keep your energy and mood stabilised, while your brain is still adjusting to the downshift in hormones. 

Start to eat foods rich in amino acids such as mushroom, fish and legumes which are involved in the hormone synthesis. Furthermore, these foods can help set you up for a healthier ovulatory phase for your next cycle! 

In the maturation phase, it is extremely important to focus on nutrient dense foods such as  red meat, kidney beans and buckwheat. Chinese medicine suggests that this is the coldest time of your cycle so it is important to consume warming foods. 

Eat protein, fats and fruits with low glycemic index such as blueberries and blackberries to keep your blood sugar steady, while adding fibre and antioxidants. 

An important one to note is keeping your zinc and iron levels up! This can be done by introducing foods such as delicious seafood, kelp and Nori. 

At Serotonin we are true believers that what you put in your body has a big impact on how you will feel day to day. Our menu is full of healthy and delicious dishes that are composed of natural and powerful ingredients that are good for you including Phytoestrogens and other special Elixirs to keep you smiling at each phase of your monthly cycle!

Want to know more? 

To learn more about how you can build a healthy relationship with food, have more consistent energy throughout the day, be physically fit and be more productive than ever, while keeping your cortisol levels regulates, then join us for our 7-part monthly Serotonin Education Series held on the first Thursday of each month in 2021. 

The first workshop will be held ONLINE on Thursday the 3rd of June from 8:00am until 10:00am, where our resident Registered Nutritionist Tais Sardinas will be diving deep into How To Plan Your Life with Your Cycle.

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