If we do not take care, we will not be able to give of ourselves entirely – in our relationships, work, goals and passions. We simply are unable to ‘show up’ in our own lives. We hope that you enjoy this post, part of The Self-Care Series.
Women are lunar by nature, and our menstrual cycles are intimately connected with the moon’s cycles. Similar to the phases of our menstrual cycle, there are four primary phases of the moon cycle, and as with the different energies of the moon cycle, so too does our menses bring on different energies throughout our cycle. They reflect each other and complement one another when in sync.
When we support our cycle throughout all its phases, we are nurturing ourselves while creating hormonal balance. Having balanced hormones can not only help to decrease PMS symptoms but can also increase fertility and overall health as our bodies prepare to “reproduce” when we are functioning at our optimum. Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, describes symptoms a woman may have a few days before her menstrual cycle, including tender breasts, bloating, cramps, mood swings, and headaches.
Supporting each phase of your cycle holistically begins with the foods you eat, the activities you partake in, and the integration of herbal medicine to support, rebalance, and restore the body.
Because the focus of this phase is to clear the blood/uterine lining out of the body, it is essential to support your body through this elimination process. You may feel more tired than usual and have cravings for things like red meat or chocolate. These cravings are usually your body speaking and asking for iron-rich and magnesium-rich foods.
Dark leafy greens, nuts & seeds, sea vegetables, bananas, and raw dark chocolate + plenty of water. EFA rich foods like avocados, wild caught fish, cod liver oil, hemp seeds & Nato. Plenty of water – daily. Eliminate coffee/excess caffeine during this time if cramping tends to be aggressive.
HERBS TO REPLENISH
Drink herbal tea or infusions of Red raspberry leaf and Stinging Nettles to help with cramping & replenish iron into the body. Red Raspberry Leaf works as a uterine tonic, reducing flow and can relieve symptoms of PMS. Ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb that helps to regulate hormone imbalances and nourish the body. Chaste Tree/Vitex can aid in stabilising an irregular menstrual cycle.
Try cramp bark tincture – take every 15 minutes until intense symptoms subside and Magnesium & B vitamins to diminish menstrual symptoms. If you are someone who suffers from Premenstrual Syndrome or painful menses it may be ideal to start Seed Cycling on the first day of your period. Seed cycling is a simple system where you consume different seeds at different times of the month to support the endocrine system to balance hormones.
Seed Cycling during the follicular phase (the first half of the menstrual cycle): flax and pumpkin seeds are used to balance excess estrogen and encourage progesterone production for normal ovulation. Flax seeds are an especially rich source of lignans that bind to excess estrogen to help the body eliminate it. Pumpkin seeds are used for their essential fats and zinc content, important for progesterone production.
Seed Cycling during during the luteal phase (the second half of the menstrual cycle): switch to sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Sesame seed lignans help balance excess estrogen, but are not as potent as the flax seeds used in the first phase. Sunflower seeds offer natural selenium content for liver support and hormone regulation as the menstrual cycle comes to a close.
The body is working hard, which causes fatigue, so make sure that you are getting extra sleep – about 8-9 hours a night – and enjoying restful activities that are not strenuous. Massage just before your cycle is helpful for promoting circulation. Self-massage is a great way to relieve tension or stress in the body. Gentle massage of your abdominal area in a clockwise motion can help reduce cramping, discomfort, and constipation associated with your cycle. Incorporate soothing essential oils such as lavender.
Avoid high impact workouts during this time. Focus on long walks, gentle yoga, or light stretching, making sure to avoid doing inversions in yoga because they reverse blood flow. Walks in nature are the perfect way to calm and soothe your senses at this time. Practices such as Restorative and Yin Yoga are slow moving and can help you move through this time compassionately. Avoid hot yoga classes as they can bring too much heat to the body.
During this time, the moon is virtually invisible from the Earth, as it is aligned with our view of the sun and is in a position where the light of the sun does not reflect off of it. The moon is in the closest proximity to the sun, that it will be at for the whole month. This signifies a new beginning of the month’s moon cycle and a time for renewal or rebirth.
HONORING THIS PHASE
This is a time where we may feel the need to withdraw and look within ourselves. It can be a time of introspection and an opportunity to make plans and set intentions for the coming month. Try: Journaling & free form writing.
This phase starts right after bleeding stops. This is when estrogen and testosterone levels are rising, the building of the uterine lining and the maturation of an egg happens, and natural way that the body prepares for pregnancy. During this time, it is essential to make sure that you are nourishing. yourself, so that there is a proper maturation of the egg and rebuilding of the uterine lining.
Nutrient dense foods, with a heavy dose of protein and healthy fats. Enjoy: root vegetables, oats, quinoa, millet, lentils, salmon, eggs, nuts & seeds, and oysters as they have a variety of minerals and vitamins to offer the body. Plus healthy fats like ghee, avocado & coconut oil. Aim to eat regularly throughout the day and focus on whole foods that can not drastically increase blood sugar. Substituting simple carbohydrates for complex carbohydrates can reduce this spike, and incorporating fats and proteins into every meal aids your body in maintaining a healthy blood sugar level. Regular meals + regular meal times can help balance blood sugar. Plenty of water – daily.
HERBS TO REBUILD & RESTORE
Drink Nettle tea or infusions to rebuild the body.
This is a perfect time for creative projects, and new activities. Deep, therapeutic massage can support you during this time.
Your energy can be at its peak, so if you are planning any vigorous activities or workouts, now is the time. This is also an excellent time to tackle challenging projects as well! Power Yoga or Ashtanga Flow can help to active this energy and increase internal fire. Due to the outward energy we feel, this may be the perfect time to enjoy a sport or new activity with friends in a social setting.
FIRST QUARTER/WAXING MOON
At this time, the moon begins to move a quarter around the Earth, reflecting some of the sun’s light off of it. During this phase we slowly begin to see a crescent of the moon appear, getting larger as the month progresses. This is a time of heightened, active energy where we feel inspired to set to work on our intentions and put our thoughts and words into play/place.
HONORING THIS PHASE
Allow your intentions to be brought to fruition. Embrace the productive energies and allow yourself to be active in your month’s purpose. Try scheduling new activities, starting new creative projects or spending time with new friends.
Ovulation happens on the most fertile day of the cycle, which is the day we are most likely to get pregnant. During this time, higher levels of estrogen are released, triggering gonadotropic-releasing hormones. This results in a surge of luteinising hormones, which brings about the release of one mature egg. The egg is released from the ovary and travels down the fallopian tube where, unless fertilised within 24 hours by a sperm, pregnancy will not occur.
This phase typically occurs around the middle of your cycle, usually day 14 for most women, but for women on a 32-day cycle, it could be on day 16 as well. This phase only lasts for one week while the egg is released from the ovary and travels to the uterus. During ovulation, you may feel warmer than usual as your body temperature increases by .5 degrees. If you are trying to get pregnant – this is a perfect time! If not, be sure to protect yourself during this phase.
Avoid dense foods as they can often make you feel a bit lethargic. Opt for: quinoa, lots of leafy greens, vegetables, rice, and cold water fish. During this phase, it is important not to cool the body too much, so it it may be best not to eat entirely raw meals but instead to consume a mix of cooked and raw foods. Plenty of water – daily
HERBS TO ACTIVATE & REGULATE
Try taking Maca a few days before ovulation and a few days after to balance hormones.
This is an excellent time to socialise, meet up with friends, schedule a date night! Massage and Acupressure can also help relieve any stiffness or soreness. The instinct of the body is to prepare for a pregnancy. Whether pregnancy is in your intentions or not, your libido is likely to increase to promote this natural cycle. Honoring these instincts can be incredibly nurturing. Remember if you are not planning to conceive, ensure your preferred mode of birth control is in effect. Try the Justisse Charting App.
Activating exercise like hot yoga, spinning & interval training are highly beneficial during this phase. Breathwork or Breath-Of-Fire (long deep breathing, diaphragmatic breathing) can be used as a breathing exercise to stimulate energy production. It can also help to boost libido, which can be rising at this time. Sitting in a comfortable position, with your hands resting on your knees, you can inhale in and out through your nose, while your abdomen slings in with each exhale and out with each inhale. Theses breaths should be quick and vigorous, yet still deep and controlled.
When the month’s moon cycle is at its halfway point, it reaches the full moon. At this time the earth is positioned in between the sun and the moon, which are in perfect alignment with one another. The reflection of the sun on the moon’s surface illuminates it and gives the vision of the full round moon.
HONORING THIS PHASE
This phase brings about strong, active energies. This is the perfect day to dedicate your time to your intentions and making things happen. This can also be a time of intense emotions. Pay attention to how you are feeling and what’s triggering these feelings, as there is often a profound truth to them. Try: Communicating your feelings and expressing yourself in various ways.
In the luteal phase, assuming pregnancy has not occurred, the unfertilised egg will be broken down, and estrogen and progesterone levels will drop. During this time the body rebuilds the uterine lining and prepares for the upcoming phase of menstruation in the next cycle. This phase begins about one week after ovulation, and continues until the end of your cycle/the day you start menstruation again.
During this time, it is essential to increase protein, fiber, and healthy fat intake as well as warming foods as your body gets prepared to do a lot of work. Consume: brown rice, root vegetables, nuts & seeds, salmon, beans, avocado, ginger, turmeric, and curries. Plenty of water – daily. Avoid things like alcohol and caffeine during this phase since they can increase PMS symptoms and drain the body of much-needed nutrients for the upcoming bleeding phase.
HERBS TO CLEANSE & PREPARE
Start sipping on herbal teas and infusions daily like Raspberry Leaf & cramp bark, if you experience cramps before or during your period. Burdock Root helps to remove excess hormones that have built up in the body by gently detoxifying the liver. Triphala- works to cleanse and detoxify the digestive tract. Try taking this a few days before menstruation to support elimination, relieve constipation and help support detoxification. For bloating or edema: drink Dandelion root tea daily.
You may naturally notice wanting to slow down, and feel more introverted, it is essential to listen to these cues and give yourself ample space. Indulge in activities like journaling, massage, meditation, and yoga. Castor Oil packs are a great alternative to a massage during this time. They are used for detoxification, anti-inflammation, lymphatic stimulation and drainage and as a digestive aid. In this case, they can help with menstrual irregularities, abdominal cramping, and muscle pain or tenderness.
Light exercise is encouraged during this phase to help balance mood and hormones. Just be sure to stay away from anything too strenuous as it can deplete the body. Slowly decreasing the intensity of our exercises as we move towards the end of the phase can help prepare our body for the change in cycle. Iyengar Yoga, which is based on the foundations of Yoga, or Hatha Yoga, focuses on proper posture and alignment connected to breath work, providing a slower, more grounded practice. Pilates can support this phase as we move more towards grounding ourselves and looking within. Pilates helps to balance our alignment and strengthen our core and pelvic floor.
At this time, the moon begins to move to its last quarter rotation around the Earth. During this phase, the reflection of the sun’s light on the moon becomes smaller, and we once again see the crescent of the moon appear, now getting smaller as the month comes to an end.
HONORING THIS PHASE
This is a time where we begin to recoup from the high energies of the full moon and feel a balance in our lives. Hopefully, the manifestation of our intentions has flourished, and we can bask in the success of our plans. This is a time to look towards the upcoming month with new plans and intentions. Try: Taking quiet time & space for self. Organising your home or work environment. Creating new boundaries.