8 Natural Tips for a Balanced Menstrual Cycle
Sneaking to the bathroom as we hide our tampons when we have our menstrual cycle is the perfect depiction of how women avoid talking about their periods. Not to mention how we refuse to seek help to balance our menstrual cycle when our life- in every sense of the word- depends on it! Today we're throwing all of our reservations out the window and talking eight natural tips for balancing your menstrual cycle.
In the spirit of transparency, here's my period story. I was 12-years old, and FULL DISCLOSURE, I thought I pooped my pants! What else could that brown stuff be on my underwear? Pretty embarrassing, I know. I decided it was time to bring in the big guns for her expert opinion on all things womanly- my mom. She joyfully ran around the house, my underwear in hand, and proceeded to call my entire family to tell them. I'm talking grandmother, great-grandmothers in Puerto Rico, aunts and even my dad. I was mortified!
Little did I know that my mother's willingness to talk about all things menstruation was truly a blessing in disguise. No matter how shameful I thought my question would be, my momma was ready and willing to help me out! Now that you know my period story let's dive into the four phases of your menstrual cycle.
- Menstruation is the secretion of the lining of the uterus through the vagina. Your menstrual fluid contains blood, cells from the uterus and mucus. For most women, periods can last anywhere from 3-7 days.
- Follicular phase begins on the first day of menstruation ending when we ovulate. The pituitary gland releases follicle stimulating hormones that prompt the ovary to produce around 5-20 follicles. In each of these follicles, there is a tiny egg waiting to mature. Around day 10 of a 28-day cycle, only one follicle matures into an egg while the others die.
- Ovulation occurs when the mature egg is released from the ovary which usually occurs two weeks before you menstruate. The egg is sent into the fallopian tube and towards the uterus. Mature eggs last about 24 hours and unless they are fertilized by sperm, they die.
- The luteal phase is when the egg separates from the follicle, and the follicle that housed the egg stays on the surface of the ovary. For about two weeks, the follicle becomes a corpus luteum which releases progesterone and small amounts of estrogen keeping the uterus lining thick while waiting for a fertilized egg to implant. If the egg implants in the lining of the uterus, the corpus luteum continues to produce raised levels of progesterone to maintain the thickened lining. Around day 22 of a 28-day cycle, if pregnancy does not occur, the corpus luteum dies. Progesterone levels drop causing the lining of the uterus to fall resulting in menstruation.
Now that you're well versed in the four distinct phases of your cycle, let's talk about what we can do to balance our menstrual cycle!
8 Natural Tips for Balanced Menstrual Cycles
- Get in touch with your cycle. Would you be able to tell your OB-GYN the length and the start date of your last period? Was your flow heavy or was it lighter than usual? Staying in touch with your period can be as simple as being able to answer these questions! Tracking your monthly period is a labor of love that is extremely indicative of your general health. Thankfully there are apps you can download right on your phone that simplify the process even further. My go-to period app is the MyFlo app by Alisa Vitti. It not only tracks the start/end date of your period but you can track all of your symptoms and whether you've been sexually active. Best of all, it gives you advice on what exercises, foods, and what type of work is best to focus on during each phase of your cycle.
- Avoid processed food. Sorry ladies! Eating all the junk food in the world might seen comforting but is not going to help balance your menstrual cycle. Foods that are highly processed or that contain high amounts of sugar, caffeine and other chemicals exacerbate your PMS symptoms. These foods also impact whether your flow is super heavy or practically non-existent. Cut out the junk food one month before your next period and you will be surprised how much easier it is to balance your your menstrual cycle.
- Remove dairy products. Studies have shown that the consumption of dairy products increases bloating and cramping. Some of our favorite dairy foods contain arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, which is known to increase inflammation and lead to extreme cramping.
- Pick your proteins wisely. Eating the right kind proteins like cold-water fish, lean meat, tofu or beans can make a world of difference when you're menstruating. Why? These foods are high in Vitamins D, B, C, calcium, and magnesium all of which have been found to alleviate menstrual cramps and discomfort.
- Enjoy high-quality fat. Consuming foods high in high-quality fats and omega-3 fatty acids enhances blood circulation in your body and increases dopamine which also improves your mood. My favorite foods that are loaded with healthy fats are salmon, avocados, chia seeds, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil. Think of them as your balancing menstrual cycle army!
- Ditch stress and anxiety! As Bobby Clennell, author of The Woman’s Yoga Book states a “Healthy menstruation is an indication of a healthy state of mind and a healthy body." If you're noticing that your cycle is completely out of wack and straying from what's normal to you for more than one month, it's time to reevaluate your lifestyle. Are you under a lot of stress at work or in your relationship? Have you been putting a ton of pressure on yourself for some reason? If so, it's time to consider whether doing so is worth it. HINT: Nothing is worth making yourself ill! I suggest you begin a practice that helps you distress as soon as possible. Practice meditation or yoga and buy an adult coloring book or a journal to kick your worries to the curb from the inside out.
- Embrace your feminine energy. This might sound silly but let me explain, to me, embracing your feminine side is the perfect remedy to balance your menstrual cycle. Why? It allows you to tap into your compassionate, gentler, nurturing, and naturally loving side, and redirect it inward! Treat yourself the way you would a friend that's going through a tough break-up. Have a girls night, lay in the comfort of your bed surrounded by a plush comforter, sip hot herbal teas, and enjoy all it means to be feminine. You will never regret giving yourself a little T.L.C. while you balance your menstrual cycle!
- Try acupuncture or abdominal massages. On that note- TREAT YO'SELF! Menstruating can be extremely painful, exhausting and jolting but it doesn't have to be. There are natural alternatives to balance your menstrual cycles such as acupuncture and abdominal massages that can be as, if not more effective, than medication. Acupuncture and massage can balance your menstrual cycle by increasing blood flow and promoting ovulation.
Experiencing an imbalance in your menstrual cycle, along with Premenstrual Syndrome (P.M.S.), is common but it is not normal. Much of the discomfort and confusion surrounding our menstrual cycle would dissipate, if we communicated with one another and sought help. Remember, you don't have to do it all and you don't have to go at it alone. I'm currently offering FREE wellness consultations to help you get into alignment with your feminine health and a loving self-care practice. Send me an email, and let's begin your joyous healing.
If you found any of these tips helpful, share this post with a girlfriend in need. I'd also love to start a dialogue below all about balancing our menstrual cycle. Don't be shy sis, your story might help someone else!