Did you know men have a 24-hour hormonal cycle? Women have a 28-day cycle.
If only men could understand this concept… !
From day one, we’re taught that female hormones are complicated and mysterious, often with a mind of their own.
In 7th grade, I learned this to be true. From painful cramps leading up to my period to nasty mood swings to severe hormonal breakouts that seemed to get worse and worse… it felt like my body was going against me in every way.
There was one solution my doctor had recommended. Most of the girls at school were either on it already or talking about going on it. I’m sure you can guess it… the birth control pill. At 15 years old, I went on the pill to regulate my cycle, balance my hormones and help with my acne-prone skin. I would have given ANYTHING for clear skin. Seems normal enough, right? So why is this a problem? The symptoms I experienced were happening for a reason. My body was trying to tell me something but instead of balancing my hormones naturally, I used the pill as a band-aid. I didn’t know of any other way; these things weren’t talked about.
So many of us stay on the pill for years and years to prevent pregnancy and put a temporary fix on our hormonal imbalances until we need to go off the pill for various reasons, and the symptoms return tenfold. They don’t just disappear!
I was on the pill for 10 years. When I went vegan 3 years ago, I felt out of touch with my body and went off the pill. I wanted a real period, not a “fake” period. A period on birth control is not a real period. The pill stops ovulation and replaces your own natural hormone production with a consistent stream of synthetic hormones. I prefer the holistic route so going off the pill was a no brainer for me but I was scared of the aftermath. Deep down, I knew my symptoms would return… and oh my, did they! My skin went absolutely CRAZY which stressed me out more which made everything worse. My period didn’t return for 7 months… and for two years after it still didn’t fit in the “normal” or “regular” period window.
Most of my friends are still on some form of birth control. I can only imagine how many women are still on it and have been since high school.
It’s so “normal” to be on the pill that my gynecologist constantly encourages me to go back on the pill if I want my period to be regular. I’m not a doctor and I’m not here to suggest what you should do… but doesn’t that seem crazy and backwards?
I’m writing this post to share how I’ve chosen to handle my cycle because I used to think nothing of it. I figured I should be happy I even have a natural period at all and if it’s irregular then meh… there’s not much I can do about it. Deal with it later, right?
To start, let me ask you a few questions:
- Do you know the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle?
- Can you name the best foods for optimizing each cycle phase?
- In what phase do women have the most energy for intense cardio and HIIT training? What about strength training?
- Do you know what endocrine disruptors are and how they negatively affect your cycle?
While I’m familiar with endocrine disruptors, I could only name two of the four phases before learning about my cycle as a whole. I also had no idea certain foods for each phase of our cycle was even a thing!
All four cycle phases are equally important and fascinating in their own way. They are the Follicular, Ovulatory, Luteal and Menstrual phases, in case you were wondering. Nurturing my endocrine system to with me and work for me sounded amazing.
With a fairly easy food protocol that focuses on specific micronutrients crucial for each phase, we can feed and nourish our bodies back to balance, with the right kind of exercise and lifestyle shifts to support the process.
So, how did I stumble upon this?
Back in March of 2017, I came across a book called Woman Code, written by Alisa Vitti, a functional nutritionist and hormonal expert. She’s a wealth of knowledge and changed my perspective on everything; I’ll never be the same! Alisa is the founder of Flo Living and the My Flo tracker app, her story is incredibly inspiring. Immediately intrigued, I ordered her book on Amazon and dove into it while on spring break in Florida (this is not sponsored at all, by the way).
My mind was blown. How come no one was talking about this? Where had it been all my life? How had I not heard of cycle syncing before?
A few pages in and so many questions (all of which have been answered, so don’t worry if you have a zillion thoughts/questions running through your mind). So I started following her protocol while changing certain aspects to make it plant-based . It was the missing puzzle piece. It’s EXACTLY what has been missing from women’s lives. There are so many apps for tracking your period, but none of them help to heal your hormonal issues like the My Flo app. After the book, I immersed myself in more of Alisa’s content by listening to her videos and podcasts, reading her articles, referring back to the book and re-learning/picking up on new things along the way. She also does a Facebook Live every Thursday, chatting lots of juicy topics!!
While learning how to eat and exercise in sync with my cycle, I’ve been tracking everything in the My Flo tracker app. Without this, I never would have found out why my cycle is a little wacky and what I can do about it. As it turns out, my luteal phase is too long which means my progesterone levels are low. When this happens, it’s hard to know when you’re ovulating, if you even are at all. At first, I was upset and disappointed. I was mad that my cycle was off. I was mad at my body but at the same time, I felt relief because there were answers for the awful PMS symptoms I’ve been experiencing, symptoms that I thought were normal and to be expected each month because I’m a woman with fluctuating hormones.
Apparently, PMS is NOT NORMAL. In fact, it’s a sign that your hormones are not in balance.
Um, I’m sorry… say whaaa?? We don’t have to experience PMS every month?? Can you imagine a world without hormonal acne and cramps and bloating?!!
Ever wonder why some weeks you can power through a workout like a boss whereas other weeks, any kind of workout is a major struggle?? That’s the lovely cycle of hormones, not your lack of willpower, so stop being so hard on yourself! How about those weeks when you feel really good and your clothes are fitting great, then other weeks you feel bloated, you live in leggings 24/7 and ALL the chocolate in the world is absolutely necessary? Yep, you guessed it, hormones… (the chocolate craving is actually a magnesium deficiency).
I didn’t know raw fruits and veggies are best during the ovulatory phase or that roasted root vegetables are essential during the luteal phase to flush out excess estrogen in order to decrease PMS symptoms. I love learning about my cycle and how to optimize it. I’m not bothered by the squeamish details of looking at the color of menstrual blood to decipher how hormonally balanced I am. These are important clues and apart of being a woman; it’s all very fascinating!
There is a way to bring your hormones back in balance and it starts with nutrition. I’ve adapted the protocol to be vegan for me. I’ve added in extra B-complex vitamins and extra omega’s from ground flax and hemp seeds. I drink magnesium tea every night. I cut out caffeine and added in more fats (like my newest obsession – coconut butter!).
So that’s what I’ve been working on. Healing and nurturing my cycle by eating certain foods and exercising for each phase. Being on the pill really screwed up my body and I’m still doing the work and making up for what I lost while the pill was leeching all the micronutrients from my body. The sooner the better, in my opinion. I’m only a month or so into cycle syncing and so far, it’s been nice to have something to follow. Planning out meals seem easier because I’m doing it for the good of my body AND my hormones.
You may be wondering, what do you eat thats so different? I’ve written a separate post on ‘Eating For Your Cycle‘, but it’s different for each phase. I also put together a vegan meal & lifestyle plan for your hormones! Check out this video to learn more. I will say that my food is more balanced with carbs, fats, protein and fiber at each meal.
Here’s a few samples of foods for each phase:
- Follicular phase (before you ovulate, after your period): Artichoke, broccoli, carrot, parsley, green peas, string beans and zucchini
- Ovulatory phase (when you?re ovulating): Asparagus, brussels sprouts, chard, escarole, scallion, spinach
- Luteal phase (before you have your period): Cauliflower, collard greens, daikon, onion, parsnip, radish, squash, sweet potato
- Menstrual phase (your period): Beet, kale, kelp, mushrooms
Where should you start?
- I highly recommend getting my book, The Happy Hormone Guide!
- Start by tracking your cycle from your last period, using the app
- Begin cycle syncing by implementing the suggestions for food, exercise and lifestyle from my plan. Even if your cycle is irregular, start in whatever phase the app says you’re in and follow it. Doing this will help balance your hormones, even if your body isn’t matching up yet, just stick with the recommendations. There won’t be major changes overnight but in 2-3 months, you should start to notice differences. There are specific programs you can purchase from Alisa, but I haven’t purchased these; I’m just using the book and app and her other resources and learning on my own.
- Listen to this podcast?for an overall view of the protocol (it’s so interesting and the first one I listened to!).
- Watch her video about the birth control pill, micronutrient deficiencies?and other birth control options and this video for Natural PMS Remedies (amongst so many other videos too!)
Why Should You Start?
This is about taking back your feminine power and working with your hormones to be more productive in all areas of life rather than working against them and constantly dreading the days leading up to your period. It’s about feeling in control of your body and knowing when things are off. It’s about sweating during the ovulatory phase and doing restorative yoga during the menstrual phase. It’s about knowing the best times to give a presentation or ask for a raise. It’s about optimizing fertility when you try to get pregnant naturally.
This is a lifestyle and not a one-time, one-month fix. It’s a whole body system, food-based approach for life.
It gives us women something to go off of, a guide for our optimizing our body.
I love it so much!
>>>> read on to Part Two: Foods for Each Cycle Phase
>>>> read on to Part Three: Supplements & Herbs
>>>> read on to Part Four: Cycle Syncing Our Workouts
Let me know, have you heard of Flo Living? How are you optimizing your cycle?!
Phenomenal and real advice here, fantastic article! Do you recommend any functional tests to check hormone levels?
I do recommend testing through EverlyWell!
First of all – wow! I was looking for someone who will explain all why’s and how’s about living in tune with my cycle and how to balance my hormones! Thank you so much!
I have a question – what are your thoughts on an IUD (intrauterine device)? I recently got copper one (still have my period, unlike the hormonal one that stops your period completely, which sounds like a dream but freaks me out at the same time). Or do you know where I can find any info on this? Is it safe? Will it affect my cycle? My hormones?
Looking forward to your reply!
Hi Nataliya! The copper IUD is a great hormone-free option and I definitely support it! I actually wrote a post about natural birth control alternatives and included the copper IUD. Read it here: https://www.theglowingfridge.com/alternatives-to-birth-control-and-the-benefits-of-regular-periods/ hope this helps!
This is why I love the internet. I have been off the pill for 3 years after taking it for almost 25 years and have STRUGGLED with binge eating, food cravings and depression. I would do really well and then crash and burn during (what I now know is) my luteal phase. After many years of blaming my will power, I finally decided to really dive down the rabbit hole and do some research. That is how I found this site and this article. Thank you! Thank you! Your words helped me to realize I’m not crazy and I can take back control of my body and hormones. I hope and wish you all the best. If you are ever having a bad day know that you have helped at least one person in this world – much love streaming from me to you.
I have very irregular periods and i started doing this thing called seed cycling and found it to very helpful in regulating my periods!
Ladies, learn things about the intelligent design of your cycle that your doctor probably doesn’t know. Fertilitycare.org Look on the website for a practitioner near you.
Love this and I’m super interested in reading this book, however, I am curious- most women go on or stay on the pill for means of birth control. Are there any other methods of birth control discussed in the book besides good old fashioned condoms?
Hi Alex! Yep, check out this article for natural alernatives: https://www.floliving.com/natural-contraceptives/
I am currently on the pill but I would love to get off of it. Would starting to track my periods and eating the right foods for my phases be something I should do on the pill or is the first step getting off the pill? Thanks. I love your blog btw!
Hi Tori! I would say you should start eating the right foods first and really flood your body with nutrients and then slowly transition off the pill. Alisa has articles on her blog (floliving.com) for how to do this. Hope that helps!
My daughter just shared this with me & I find it fascinating & wishing I had know more about this earlier in life. My question is….can you point me in the direction of a good read for the menopause years?
I think this is very interesting… if a bit overwhelming! I wonder how this is supposed to jive with eating “in season.”
Anyhoo… thought I would briefly share my story. When I was in junior high, I had a month (may have even been two months, it’s all a blur) long period that got heavier and heavier, wouldn’t stop. I would sit on the toilet and stay there; my purse was crammed with period supplied. I would go through the largest tampon in maybe 15 minutes and have two huge pads in my underwear. I don’t know how I managed to go to school and deal but I did! I told my mom something was wrong but she didn’t believe me. Only when I started getting weak, dizzy, and fainting did they do something about it.
And in comes in… BIRTH CONTROL! The pill helped regulate my hormones, and I suppose this was a necessary evil at the time… but I stayed on it, first to make sure the episode didn’t happen again, and later down the road when I got engaged/married.
Man, being on the pill itself was no picnic. I went through maybe three different kinds and they all had one side effect or another. When I stopped taking the pill, I couldn’t get pregnant and my periods remained irregular and wonky (I was so scared I would have another episode like before; even now I’ll get a bit panicky thinking about it).
I found out I wasn’t ovulating and my gynecologist at the time suggested fertility treatments. I didn’t want to go that route, and somewhere down the line I ended up getting pregnant (random ovulation in there somewhere!).
I now have four kids and my periods have regulated themselves a bit; I think pregnancy itself may have done this, who knows. In fact, in some ways I feel more balanced WHEN I’m pregnant, perhaps because I don’t get periods!
I’ve always felt like my hormones were out-of-whack, due to skin issues and mood swings and so forth, but I will never go on the pill again. I’ve found it increasingly difficult to lose the baby weight and am finally trying to do something about it, eating healthier and eliminating certain things. Don’t know if I could wrap my brain around certain foods at certain times, though! At least, not right now – seems like too much work!
But thank you for all the info and resources – I’m going to check them out.
It’s possible you are prone to low progesterone. I bled for 3 years in my mid-20s and was also told I needed the pill. But no Doctor knew why I was bleeding so much. I’ve learned a lot since then from Napro Technology. Every woman should know this stuff about their body. It’s so frustrating that mainstream medical doctors aren’t trained in this. Fertilitycare.org Look on the website for a practitioner near you.
Love this post! I just ordered the book, I can’t wait to start it! I just came across your blog the other day, and I so LOVE your content. I just launched my own health and wellness blog at the end of April! Keep up the amazing work! I would love to do a collab one day! Have a great week 🙂
Hi Shannon! I just wanted to say thank you- as I have seen so many other ladies have been doing too – for this post, and your transparency through it all. I am right there with you in the same boat and was really able to relate with what you are saying. I have not ever really been overweight, but I struggled with anorexia when I was a teenager. Thankfully, it didn’t beat be and I truly believe God allowed me to find my freedom through the plant based lifestyle, along with His love and grace. In that journey though, we go through highs and lows, and just recently I had been doing a lifestyle of like “no fat” bc I had been able to drop weight real quickly with a high carb-low/no fat diet after having my 3rd baby at 29 years old. I was able to get to a really low weight that I didn’t know I could get to with eating all I wanted at that time, but then for some reason I started gaining it back and I didn’t understand why. So I started becoming so strict with myself – saying that I would not have ANY whole fats at all, but when I would cave and “splurge” I would beat myself up so bad and feel worthless. All the while not able to get anywhere with my weight, but getting more distraught and more fearful of the “chains” I was putting on myself. Then I came across your blog here, and man it just hit home. I had also been hearing several other vegan ladies online talking about how we need a little good whole fats to help us ladies with our hormones, skin, and hair. Your article here just kind of pushed me over the edge and I decided to take the risk to add the good fats back in – not in overabundance like I once was in the habit of – but a little with each meal. Let me tell you, I feel like I’m not consumed with the thought of food anymore, that I’m actually able to be satiated with my meals. I feel like my skin has actually gotten back that “glow” again, whereas it had gotten kind of dull and dried out before. And I can’t believe it b/c I actually thought I would gain weight back when I added the fats back in, but I’v actually lost weight and my muscle tone has gotten even better! Like I said before, your story really resonated with me; now I feel more free and not so confined to those “chains” of what I couldn’t eat, and that feeling is so amazing and liberating! These foods were placed on this earth for our benefit – not to overindulge- but to simply enjoy and reap their goodness from, and not to be shunned as something that’s “off limits”. So thank you again for being real, and helping me to get my “glow” back again! May the Lord bless you as you continue to impact others in their journey of health! 🙂
Thank you so much from this post! This could not have come at better timing for me. After going off the pill in November, simply because I felt it was causing more health problems than helping them, I have to say I’ve actually felt worse than better unfortunately (oher than my thyroid levels have improved and I get less headaches). However, going back on the pill doesn’t seem to be the answer either (although as you mention, the doctors LOVE to keep pushing it on you). Definitely will be looking into this book and the app and looking forward to what you post as well!
Perfect timing!! I just went off the pill in November after being on it for 15 years when my poor eating habits caused me to lose my period. Yessss my body is definitely scrambling trying to figure out what the heck is going on! How did I never think about the long term effect of these synthetic hormones on my body?! Another reason to put in the time and energy to educate ourselves on everything regarding our health…not just listen to others, including doctors. Great job on this post…you have touched on so many points that my naturopath is teaching me about. I look forward to reading more.
Amazing? Thank you for providing all of this info 🙂
This is really interesting; I didn’t know 90% of it. I’m not sure I’m ready to be as committed as you and go off the pill and everything, but I’m going to slowly start learning more and maybe someday I’ll be there. I never liked the idea of the pill anyway. I would love more detailed posts about this whole topic if you’re willing to share!
Something is better than nothing! Awareness is key and slow changes make a difference. I can’t wait to share more hormone posts that are food, workout and lifestyle related. So glad you found it interesting! We all need to be talking about this more 🙂
This is something I have recently started to learn more about as well! definitely may check out that book too. My big motivation is to heal my acne and finally have clear skin naturally. But now I realize that balancing my hormones is really where I have to start…I always thought my bad cramps and mood swings were normal but now I realize that’s not true and see them as signs something’s off. I recently learned/heard about the four phases and it’s all like a whole new world for me! Excited to track along with you with this!!
Hey Jenny, I know how you feel. It all starts with hormones and makes so much sense when you think about it. So excited you are going to track along with me and we can figure it out together as we go! It definitely is like a whole new world and new learning experience 🙂 so interesting though, right?! I’m amazed that we aren’t taught this in school but at the same time, not surprised at all because #pharmaceuticals… anyways, makes me so happy that more women and bloggers are talking about this!
Love this!!!! I have been interested in more natural ways to balance my hormones and acne! i am so sick of everyone tell me i should go on the pill 🙁 definitely going to give this a try! so excited to learn more!!
Hey Megan! I know right?! The pill is pushed on us constantly, especially young girls which makes me sad but it’s so important we talk about it more, so I’m super excited you want to give it a try! It’s a lot to learn but it’s so worth it and as women, its our responsibility. Can’t wait to hear more about your journey, keep in touch!