A Mindful Approach to Your Menstrual Cycle: The Role of Nutrition
For some women, the dreaded “time of the month” can be the worst few days of her month. From painful cramps to mood swings to just plain exhaustion, it’s no wonder that a woman’s menstrual cycle may not be the most exciting time of the month.
Menstruation simply does not have to be this way! She is our friend, our birthright (literally) and what an incredible power it is that our bodies intuitively repeat - every single month. How humbling it is that our wombs and bodies are wise enough to release and rebuild every 28 days.
We can practice mindfulness during our menstrual cycles through tracking, nutrition, and understanding our cycles intimately. It allows you to not only be more aware of your menstruation, but also to be more in tune with your highest Self and thus reaching your fullest potential.
Track Your Period
One of the easiest and simplest ways to better understand your period (and thus, your Self) is to track your period every month. This enables you to better understand when your period comes, how long it comes, all the symptoms that come with it, and helps “to identify any changes to your menstrual cycle that may be an indicator of potential health issues” (1). It is also extremely useful if you are “avoiding pregnancy or trying to become pregnant,” by showing you “when you are likely to be most fertile” (1).
You can do this the old-fashioned way by keeping a period journal with a list of the symptoms such as: flow, bloating, breast tenderness, mood types, level of exercise, amount of sleep, and any other topics that resonate with you.
Or, if you are like me, you can use a period tracker app on your phone which is “smart” and helps you track any differences from month-to-month - once you get enough data in. You can find a wide variety of period tracker apps, such as Period Calendar (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/period-tracker-period-calendar/id896501514), or my personal favorite, Clue (https://helloclue.com/).
Know Your Symptoms
As women, we are all well-aware of our menstrual symptoms when we are in the thick of it - cramping, mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and possibly irrational and insatiable cravings for dark chocolate (Okay, maybe that’s just me..).
But what we sometimes miss out on are the signs and signals of our menstrual cycles before it even arrives. For some women, she may experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which include common symptoms such as “rapid changes in mood, bloating, social withdrawal, [and] breast tenderness” (2). Whereas others may experience a more severe form of PMS known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and can include a variety of symptoms such as “depression, anger, anxiety, irritability, [and] tension” (2).
Have you ever accidentally emotionally exploded on your colleague or partner, and you had no idea why? Or perhaps you feel less socially inclined and would rather stay home and read a book instead of going out - but you couldn’t understand why.
Through period tracking, we are able to become more mindful of where we are in our menstrual cycle, and therefore can be more conscious of how we feel and why we feel a certain way.
How to nourish your body according to the phases of your cycle
Now that we understand where we are and why we feel a certain way during our menstrual cycle, we can begin to nourish our bodies according to the phases of our cycle.
Our cycles are broken into 2 phases, with Day 1 being the first day of our Cycles.
The Follicular Phase (Days 1-13), also known as the estrogenic phase, is a time when we should seek to incorporate more flax, chia, and hemp seeds into our diets, as they help the body to naturally produce estrogen.
The Luteal Phase (Days 14-28), also known as the progesterogenic phase, is a time when we should seek to incorporate more sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds into our diets, as they “can be used to enhance the levels of progesterone in the body” (3).
By understanding and being mindful of the 2 different phases of our menstrual cycles, we are able to better understand that our “fertile cycles involve a balance of progesterone and estrogen” (3).
Foods to eat on your period
Aside from seed cycling, there are also a whole list of foods that we should eat during our periods, in order to support the natural rhythms and workings of our body’s intuition.
Below are a few of my favorite go-to items when my period comes around:
Broccoli is amazing for those who suffer from fatigue during periods, as it contains “fibers and large amounts of iron” which will “help compensate for some of the iron you will be losing due to period bleeding” (4). Iron can also be found in grass fed meats.
Eggs are one of the most healthiest foods. Egg yolk contains lots of iron, fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), essential fatty acids and proteins which are overall beneficial during your menstrual period (4).
Lemons, and other citruses like limes, are perfect to “help alleviate mood swings and bloating” as they are “rich in fiber and vitamins” and can “absorb into your bloodstream very quickly” because they “contain a lot of water” (4).
Salmon has “omega-3 fatty acids” and these “are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which can help relax the uterus, alleviating the cramping pains” (4).
Honor your body
At the end of the day, you know exactly what your body wants and needs during this beautiful and humbling time as a woman. Follow your intuition and learn to be understanding of what your body needs. Take time to slow down, say no to plans, read a book and journal. It’s okay to cancel plans and make time for Self care and love.
And, if your body is craving it, a small piece of extra dark chocolate won’t hurt anyone ;)
1. Nichols, H. The 10 best period tracking apps. Medical News Today, 2018.
2. Smith, L. All you need to know about period symptoms. Medical News Today, 2018.
3. Dale, K. Progesterone Foods - Increasing your progesterone naturally. Dr. Katherine Dale, 2016.
4. Shkodzik, K. What foods to eat and avoid on your period. Flo Health, 2018.
About the author Josie Ng
Josie Ng is a certified yoga teacher, Reiki practitioner and holistic health coach in training. She helps the modern day human to become the best version of themselves — by bringing the Mind, Body, and Spirit, into happy harmony. Currently residing on the beautiful island of Hong Kong, you will often find her making friends with every stray kitty on the street, stretching at the local yoga studio, or eating her way throughout whichever country she finds herself in.
Josie writes on different health-related topics, always from the heart, with the aim to make your health journey more fun, mindful, ánd simple.