How to use the hormonal roller coaster of your cycle to your advantage
We all know that your hormones can take you on a wild ride during the 28 days of your cycle. A lot of the time we curse this roller coaster, apologize for it and generally dread it every month. But what if we used it to our advantage? Do you know WHY your mood, energy and emotions fluctuate throughout your cycle? Well, with knowledge comes power. So, sit down, relax, and let me tell you the inner workings of your cycle so that you harness the power of your hormones.
First things first. Do you know how to track your cycle? If not, here is a little run down that will allow the rest of this article to make a little bit more sense. A regular cycle length can be anywhere from 21-35 days in length with flow lasting 2-7 days. You begin counting the days of your cycle on the first day of flow. That cycle ends the first day of your next flow. For the sake of this article, we are going to assume you have a standard 28-day cycle that can be broken down into four 1-week quadrants.
NOTE: if you are currently on any form of hormonal birth control, your natural hormone secretion has been turned off or influenced in some way and the following information may not apply to you. Chat with a member of your health care team about how your hormonal birth control may be impacting you.
Okay, now let’s get to the fun stuff. How are your hormones impacting your mood, energy and body?
WEEK 1: DAY 1-7
Day one begins on the first day of your flow and this is when estrogen is on the rise. You will most likely be slow moving with your main focus being on rest. You may feel like a little bit of a homebody during this phase and will naturally shy away from making any big decisions. As your estrogen continues to rise throughout this week, it will slowly start to boost your mood and energy and you will become more drawn towards socializing again. Your motivation may start to rise, your memory starts to sharpen and its is easier to learn new information and skills towards the end of this week. Libido also slowly starts to climb again after being lower at the beginning of the week. Another fun fact is the rising estrogen allows you to build more muscle faster than the second half of your cycle when you are engaging in resistance exercises, such as weight lifting or resistance band exercises.
WEEK 2: DAY 8-14
Week two includes day eight to day fourteen which is usually the day of ovulation. Ovulation is the main event of your cycle and generally occurs in the mid point of your cycle, give or take a couple days. Estrogen continues to rise along with testosterone until they reach their peak. Your mood, energy and patience continue to increase causing you to crave adventure and new experiences. You may also feel more drawn towards socialization and engaging in new and exciting conversations. The peaking estrogen also causes you to feel braver and more confident and allows you to think more quickly and learn new facts and skills more easily. Your creativity may also start to flow more strongly. In terms of the physical body, you are more coordinated during this time and have faster reaction times. And again, the rise is estrogen allows your body to build more muscle during this time compared to the second half of your cycle. The higher testosterone tends to make you more impulsive, daring, competitive and increase your libido. The one downside of this week is anxiety and stress tend to be higher during this time due to high estrogen triggering excessive arousal in the brain. Meditation, yoga, long walks and calming herbal teas all help reduce this hormone-fueled anxiety.
WEEK 3: DAY 15-22
This is when our calming hormone, progesterone, comes out to play. Progesterone starts to slow you down a little bit, making you a little bit more cautious and even physically fatigued. Progesterone also has you craving your favorite comfort foods that are high in fat and calories. Our bodies are more susceptible to being “hangry” during this phase. In terms of exercise the combination of estrogen and progesterone allow your body to burn more fat when you exercise by making your body more efficient at using fat for fuel.
WEEK 4: FINAL 6 DAYS OF YOUR CYCLE
This is the week right before your flow starts again. Estrogen starts to drop during this phase which can bring your mood down causing you to feel weepy, irritable or anxious. You can even have a more negative mindset during this time. The plunging estrogen also triggers the body to crave carbohydrate-rich foods, such as sweets, pasta and bread. Why, you may ask? As estrogen levels drop, so does the mood balancing hormone serotonin in the brain. Consuming carbohydrates actually helps release serotonin which is why your body craves more of them during this phase. In terms of exercise, the combination of estrogen and progesterone continue to help burn more fat in this second half of your cycle.
Pretty cool eh? Do you think your mood, energy and physical body follow these patterns throughout your cycle? Track it for a couple of months and compare! You will be surprised to start to notice patterns in mood and behaviour. If you are experiencing low mood consistently and do not feel it is the natural ebb and flow of your cycle, reach out to a member of your health care team. You may need further investigation and support.
Note: This blog entry is for general informational purposes only, and does not constitute practice of naturopathic medicine or other professional healthcare services including the giving of medical advice. No doctor patient relationship is formed. Use of this material is at user’s own risk. Readers should not disregard or delay obtaining medical advice for any medical conditions they may have and should seek assistance from a trusted medical care professional for any condition. This blog entry does not speak on behalf of naturopathic medicine and does not represent the profession as a whole.