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The four seasons of your cycle

3 min read
Cycle Care

Approved by

Noor Paridaans - Gynecologist
As you might have noticed before, the changes in your hormonal balance have a huge influence on your body. But have you tried changing your lifestyle accordingly yet?

The average menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days. The changes in your hormonal balance have a pretty huge influence on your body. Did you know that your cycle can be divided into four phases? Similar to the seasons in a year. The uterus grows (spring), ovulation happens (summer), the uterine lining thickens and thins again when the body realizes fertilization didn’t take place (fall) and then you menstruate (winter) after which the process starts all over again.

In every phase of your cycle different hormones take precedence, making you feel a little different every time. Once you start to understand and track the natural changes in your hormonal balance, it’ll be easier to change your lifestyle accordingly and take full advantage of the pros and cons every phase brings. All phases can be balanced with the right diet, lifestyle and exercise. You’ll find out more about that in this article.

Winter (3-7 days)

Winter starts on the first day of your cycle and, of course, your period. Your estrogen levels are low and the production of progesterone has temporarily stopped, which causes the monthly built up lining of your uterus to break down and bleed. You may feel more emotional or cranky in your menstrual winter, and you will probably struggle more with negative thoughts. You won’t feel as energetic as usual and your body may feel somewhat sensitive and weak. You’ll also notice the common menstrual symptoms such as back pains, bloating and cramps.

Your menstrual winter is the perfect time to take some time to focus on yourself and recuperate. Take it easy and focus on recharging for spring, in which you’ll feel more energized and motivated. The low levels of estrogen and progesterone may cause a drop in blood sugar levels, leading to those sugar cravings we’re all too familiar with. However, sugar doesn’t tend to help. It’s better to focus on eating foods that are rich with iron and drinking plenty of water. Don’t try to satiate the cravings with sugary foods, but rather dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has the highest concentration of cocoa powder and cocoa powder has a high level of magnesium, which helps soothe the cramps and stimulates the production of serotonin in the brain. Exactly: the happy hormone.

Spring (3-7 days)

The dark and gloomy winter is over, spring is here! This phase is also known as the proliferative phase and together with winter this phase makes up the follicular phase as well. The follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) rages through your body, which stimulates the growth of follicles (eggs) in the ovary. Your estrogen levels rise in spring and you’ll feel more energetic and creative. The ideal time to start a new project or for social activities. At the end of the phase your testosterone levels reach a peak. This causes you to feel more frisky than usual, so it’s the perfect moment to dive into bed with your partner. To feel even more energetic, during this phase your diet should consist of fresh and light foods.

Summer (3-4 days)

Summer announces the start of the ovulation. During this phase you’re (extra) fertile. Your FSH and estrogen levels reach their peak, your uterine lining thickens in order to prepare the body for a possible pregnancy. Most people are bursting with energy during this phase. Your charisma reaches an all-time high and you may feel like you want to spend some more time on your appearance. High self-esteem, confidence and libido are typical in a menstrual summer. Even your communication skills will improve, providing the perfect social lubricant for a first date. Because you’re extra fertile in this phase it’s important to make sure you double check you’re using protection, if you don’t want to get pregnant (not that you shouldn’t do this normally as well)! As for diet; it’s beneficial to lay off the carbs and focus on eating enough fibers. Exercise will also feel just that bit more satisfying, because you can take on the whole world!

Fall (10-14 days)

The fall of your cycle (aka the luteal phase) is the time in which your body checks whether to prepare for pregnancy or not. If you’re not pregnant, your previously extremely high level of progesterone falls. The worst of it all is that the fall of your cycle takes the longest of all seasons. This is the season lots of women report to struggle with PMS symptoms. At first the menstrual fall isn’t so bad, because you’ll feel calm, relaxed and you’ll sleep like a log, but the less progesterone, the bluer you’ll feel. Your ability to concentrate will suffer. You may get headaches, sensitive breasts, mood swings, sugar cravings, nausea and blemishes on your skin.

The way people tend to feel in the week right before the period is not really accepted or normalized in our modern society yet, and that may make you feel very lonely and misunderstood. It’s harder to predict your emotional state during your menstrual fall. One moment you want to cuddle up with someone on the couch and the other you want to hide under the blankets and cry. Be nice to your body and mind. You may need extra vitamin B, magnesium and calcium to fully support your body. And maybe take it easy on the more intense workouts. You can opt for a calm yoga class or a nice walk to ground you.

The Cycle Strategy

In the course of her life, a woman spends 6.25 years menstruating. Who says that we have to control or ignore these periods with an IUD or the pill? Recently, more and more people decide to live according to the natural flow (hah, get it?) of their monthly cycle. And this way of thinking is not as woolly as you may think. On the contrary: the British female soccer team Chelsea tailors their training and diet to the cycle of their players. Are you curious to learn more about your cycle? We recommend you to check out the book ‘Period Power’ by Maisie Hill.

 

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