Menstrual Cycle Phases

Republished with permission from Silk + Palm an Evio Community Partner

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MENSTRUAL CYCLE PHASES

That time of the month. Period. Aunt Flow. The thing we all have in common as women.

A woman’s menstrual cycle has 4 phases that it goes through monthly: Follicular Phase. Ovulation. Luteal Phase. Menstruation. 

There is a constant ebb and flow of hormones that keep everything in balance and running throughout the month as its suppose to.  In this blog post, I’m going to go through each phase of the cycle and explain what’s happening in the body, as well as from a Chinese Medicine perspective.

 

Menstruation

Day 1 of your menstrual cycle! The day you start to bleed. Lasting between 3-7 days.

Before your period, there is a build-up of estrogen and progesterone that suddenly drops, causing the lining of your uterus to shed, which is the start of your cycle.

Many women’s cycles are connected to the moon phases, and menstruation will happen during the new moon. A lot of women become less social and want to be alone during the first couple days of their cycle. The sudden drop in hormones causes a drop in energy and mood. It’s an important time to honour how you’re feeling and say no to things if you don’t feel like doing them. 

In Chinese medicine, to have a pain free period, with low PMS symptoms, its important to make sure Blood + Qi are flowing freely before and during menstruation. This is also the time that blood and yin is being lost.

 

Some ways to connect to your period are:

  • Spend time alone, relaxing
  • Avoid emotional stress as much as you can before and during your cycle, as it makes qi stagnate and can worsen PMS symptoms + cramps
  • Avoid exercise for the first couple days or practice gentle yoga
  • Journal how you’re feeling and your new moon goals/ intentions for the rest of the month
  • Get as much rest as you can with your lower energy levels
  • Eat blood-boosting foods like beets + dark leafy greens
  • Magnesium-rich foods like whole grains, spinach and dark chocolate can help with cramping
  • Epson salt baths can relax the muscles + reduce cramping
  • Apply a heating pad to the lower abdomen if needed
  • Stay warm by covering up and wearing socks

 

Follicular Phase

This phase of the cycle is from menstruation until ovulation. Lasting between 7 + 10 days.

Your body starts producing Follicular Stimulating Hormone (FSH) which helps to build the follicles in the ovaries, which will eventually release an egg during ovulation. Estrogen levels also start to rise, building up the uterine lining which was shed during menstruation. This uterine lining is also where the egg would implant if it gets fertilized during ovulation. 

With the rise in Estrogen levels, your energy also starts to increase and its a good time to start exercising again, taking it easy in the beginning and gradually doing more intense workouts. You will also notice your mood get better, more motivation to do things and be social. 

In Chinese Medicine, this is the time to build back the blood and yin that was lost during menstruation and prepare for ovulation. The first half of the cycle until ovulation is considered Yin.

 

Some ways to connect to this phase are:

  • Start exercising again with your increased energy levels
  • Become more social and do more outgoing things
  • Creativity and concentration are high so its a good time to start doing the things you planned during menstruation and the new moon
  • Eat protein, fats and blood building foods like chicken, eggs, avocado, oats, carrots, broccoli, beets, citrus fruit and nuts

 

Ovulation

This phase of the cycle happens between days 12-18 and can last for 2-4 days.

High estrogen levels trigger the body to release the hormone Luteinizing Hormone (LH) causing the ovary to release one mature egg into the Fallopian tube. Estrogen also continues to build the uterine lining for implantation if it’s to occur. This it the only time during your menstrual cycle that you can get pregnant, if fertilization doesn’t happen within 24 hours, the egg will get absorbed by the body, and your body will start to prepare for another period. If your cycle is connected to the moon phases, ovulation will happen during the Full moon.

 

Signs of ovulation are:

  • Increased cervical mucus
  • Mild cramping
  • Breast sensitivity 
  • Increased libido
  • Bloating
  • Increased energy

In Chinese Medicine, yin energy is at its highest from the first half of the cycle and turns into yang energy for the second half.

 

Some ways to connect to ovulation are:

  • Energy and sexuality are at their peak, so take advantage of it
  • If trying to become pregnant, have sex a few days before ovulation to make sure sperm are present during that time
  • If not trying to become pregnant, take extra precautions with your form of birth control
  • Energy is at its highest so its a good time for creativity and getting stuff done
  • Many people find it difficult to sleep during the full moon because of the increase of energy
  • Do your most intense workouts during this time with all the energy you have
  • With the high levels of estrogen you want to make sure your body is eliminating it properly so lots of veggies are good during this time to ensuring proper bowel movements

 

Luteal Phase

Lasting 10-14 days. Final phase before our period starts.

The egg that was released during ovulation has a follicle left behind called a Corpus Luteum. This follicle makes your body secrete progesterone which further thickens the uterine lining for possible pregnancy, if this doesn’t occur, the body stops producing progesterone and another cycle will start shortly, shedding the uterine lining. Estrogen levels are also high during this time which can account for PMS symptoms and testosterone increases which can cause breakouts and oily skin.

 

During this time will you start to notice your energy declining and PMS symptoms like:

  • Bloating
  • Mood swing/ emotional
  • Cravings
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Digestive issues
  • Breakouts

In Chinese medicine, this is the yang part of the cycle and the time to move liver qi and blood to ensure minimal PMS symptoms and cramps.

 

Some ways to connect to the luteal phase are:

  • You’ll start becoming more internal and less social
  • Energy will still be high right after ovulation so intense exercise is still okay until the later part when you’ll have less energy
  • Get rest with the lower energy levels as your period gets closer
  • Eat lots of fibre to ensure bowel movements are getting rid of hormones
  • Magnesium-rich foods help to combat cramps during the cycle and with bloating
  • Be easy on yourself

 

As you can see, the menstrual cycle is very delicate and always changing. Once you understand how you’re body changes throughout the month, it’s easier to become in tune with the flow of things. One of my favourite books on the menstrual cycle is WomanCode by Alisa Vitti, I highly recommend for anybody interested in further learning about their cycle and changing their lifestyle to better connect with their body, allowing yourself to... ✨GLOW WITH THE FLOW✨