Understanding the 4 Phases of Your Menstrual Cycle

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Do you know the different phases of your menstrual cycle? Women operate on a four(ish) week cycle, which includes four different phases of our menstrual cycles. Even if your period is not on an exact 28-day cycle, you still move through the same phases. The four phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle are menstruation, follicular, ovulation and luteal. We can balance ourselves naturally by nurturing our physical, emotional, spiritual, and energetic bodies during each stage.

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Phase I: Menstruation

Menstruation is our bleeding phase where both estrogen and progesterone drop, and we shed our lining. During this phase of our menstrual cycles, our energy is typically at its lowest point.

Nourishment: This is the time to focus on nutrient-rich foods that are wet and spiced. Good choices for this phase include lentils, almonds, leafy greens, iron-rich foods, dark chocolate, sweet potatoes, turmeric, ginger, lemon, black beans, avocados, grass-fed beef and organ meats.

Movement: Since our energy is very low, exercise like Pilates, yoga, low-intensity cardio, stretching, swimming, walking or bike rides will feel soothing to our body.

Emotions: Menstruation is a time to rest, restore and reflect through breath work, meditation, or journaling.

phases of menstrual cycle

Phase II: Follicular Phase

The follicular Phase is when our period ends, and our estrogen rises. This is when we start to prepare for ovulation. During this phase, our sexual energy begins to build.

Nourishment: Lean toward lighter foods that are nutrient-dense. Consume foods like oysters, chickpeas, and seeds like pumpkin and ground flaxseed. Eat fresh produce like onions, broccoli, and sauerkraut and add liver-cleansing foods like leafy greens, lemon, or quinoa.

Movement: We get an infusion of energy during this phase so you can increase movement and intensity. It’s a fine time to lift weights, box, dance or run.

Emotions: In this phase we like to set goals and intentions and overall “get shit done.” We may also feel more flirty, confident, and sexually energized.

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Phase III: Ovulation Phase

Ovulation Phase is when our progesterone rises, and our energy hits its highest point. The choices we make during this phase in terms of diet, sleep, exercise and managing stress set us up for a low symptom bleed with low to no PMS pains.

Nourishment: We want to increase fiber to release excess estrogen. Estrogen is released when we eliminate, so hydration, gut support and all things that get the colon moving should be on the menu. Increase cruciferous veggies and leafy greens. Consider foods like bone broth, berries, sunflower seeds, lean proteins and quinoa. Drinking mint tea is recommended.

Movement: Increase the intensity with cardio or HITT exercises, rowing, and/or kickboxing.

Emotions: We are engaging and more communicative during this phase. So, plan social events, travel and connect with others. Your libido tends to peak leading up to ovulation. For many women, this is the “green light zone” when we tend to initiate, welcome, and want sexual connection.

tracking menstrual cycle

Phase IV: Luteal Phase

Luteal Phase is when our hormones start to decline, and insulin levels rise. This is prime time to hydrate and flush our systems.

Nourishment: Drink lots of water and peppermint teas. Eat dark berries, sweet potatoes, cinnamon or dates. Increase your grains, eat lots of greens and take in heavier fats. Reduce salt.

Movement: Our core temperature increases during this phase so we get hotter. If the weather feels moderate, outdoor walking, low to moderate weight training and lower-impact exercises like mat work, sculpting, and yoga are supportive.

Emotions: Increase morning sunshine to start the feel-good chemicals in your body. Read and listen to powerful and uplifting books, music, and podcasts. Make lists of what isn’t working in your life and address them. Sexual energy starts to decrease, so for many women, this is the yellow to red zone where the desire to be touched wanes.

As you understand the four phases of your menstrual cycle more, your relationship with your body may start to change. Maybe you’ll start to look forward to (or at least not dread) your flow. Just remember, it’s a time for your body to restore and release what is no longer needed physically and emotionally to prepare you for the full life of the next month.

This article was originally published in Sass Magazine’s Jan/Feb 2023 issue — The SHIFT Issue. Read it here!

Understanding your menstrual cycle better
Heather Michelle Tydings

Heather Michelle Tydings is the owner Own Your Evolution, a psychotherapy and life coaching practice that works with women and teen girls for a greater sense of well-being, wholeness, vibrancy and pleasurable living.

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