I have two sisters, a wife, a mother, and a team composed mostly of women. What I’ve learned from them over the years can best be said by my friend, Dr. Stephanie Estima, who told me, “Women are not just tiny men.”
Women have their own biological rhythm, called their infradian rhythm, which significantly impacts their sleep, health, menstrual cycle, dietary patterns, and more.
That means that tips around fasting, diet, and training, just to mention a few, can be specifically tailored to take advantage of this biological rhythm.
That’s what today’s newsletter is all about. If you’re a woman in your reproductive years who’s feeling burnt out, low on energy, or just “off,” this one’s for you. And men, this one is also for you. Understanding a woman’s unique rhythms can only improve and enhance your relationships with your wife, daughters, friends, and colleagues.
Today, I’m handing it over to my cowriter Taylor, a Certified Nutrition Specialist, to dive into the world of the infradian rhythm and hormones.
If there’s someone in your life who could benefit from this information, please share it with them—it could change their life.
Here’s to your hormonal health,
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Hello, Try This community!
It’s Taylor. I’m so excited to be here guest-writing this week’s newsletter on a topic that has made such a huge difference in my life as a 28-year-old woman.
Let’s jump right into it.
Our health is strongly tied to how in sync we are with our circadian rhythm.
Women, however, have a second biological rhythm that starts at puberty and ends at menopause. This super-special rhythm unique to women in their reproductive years is known as an infradian rhythm.
You may know it as a monthly menstrual cycle, but today we’re talking about why it is SO MUCH MORE than that.
Unlike men, women’s hormones aren’t static—their levels change significantly throughout the month. This has a profound impact on our physiology that most women (and men) don’t know about.
As our estrogen and progesterone levels rise and fall throughout the month, nearly every single one of our biological systems is impacted.
Our digestion, metabolism, mood, libido, focus, productivity, and creativity change as our hormones change.
The best part? If we know what our hormones are doing and how they influence our physiology, we can start using them to our advantage and sync our diet, exercise, career, and relationships to get the most out of every aspect of our life for much less effort.
Today, I’m walking you through the basics of cycle syncing, which I was first introduced to by Dhru when he had Alisa Vitti on his podcast. Alisa is the mastermind behind the Cycle Syncing Method, which she outlines in detail in her book In the Flo.
Alisa teaches women how to use their hormones to their advantage. And I’m here to tell you…it freaking works! Cycle syncing changed my life and it can change yours too.
This week’s newsletter leans heavily on the information in Alisa’s book, In the Flo. I’m giving you some of the key takeaways from her Cycle Syncing Method so you can start tailoring your diet, exercise, and personal and professional life to allow your hormones to work for you!
But there are some limitations I want to cover first that make it more difficult for some women to apply the Cycle Syncing Method to their lives. Hormonal imbalances, hormonal birth control, and irregular periods inhibit our ability to tap into their hormonal advantage.
Hormonal Imbalances: A Roadblock in the Cycle Syncing Method
There’s one major caveat with following the Cycle Syncing Method: you need to have a cycle (that means no birth control) and regular periods for it to work. In other words, your hormones need to be balanced. Say whaaaa—?! I know. Sadly, this is not the case for millions of women.
In the United States, nearly half of all women have hormonal imbalances. Painful PMS symptoms, endometriosis, fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and infertility take a serious toll on women’s health and quality of life.
Alisa Vitti does an amazing job explaining the root causes driving hormonal imbalances in her book and how diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors play a role in these conditions. Here are a few of the main causes you can start paying attention to right now (note: these apply to men too):
- Endocrine-disrupting chemicals like pesticides (non-organic produce), phthalates (perfumes, fragrance, scented candles), parabens (personal care products), bisphenol-A (BPA) in plastic water bottles, containers, cups, etc.
- Eating a processed-foods diet that’s rich in refined carbs and sugars leads to insulin resistance, which negatively impacts fertility. When we get into the protocol, I’ll walk you through the foods to eat for each phase of your cycle.
- Too much caffeine: Caffeine increases cortisol and wears our adrenal glands out if we drink it all day long, especially on an empty stomach. Some women are more sensitive to caffeine than others and might be slow metabolizers. For those who struggle with hormonal imbalances, too much caffeine can make things worse because it depletes essential B vitamins that are critical for hormone production. When I feel like I need a break, I’ll take a coffee break for a week or two to give my body a chance to reset.
- Chronic stress: When your cortisol levels are chronically elevated and you’re in a state of fight or flight, your body doesn’t prioritize ovulation. That’s because your body is focused on trying to keep you safe from whatever is stressing you out. Your sex drive diminishes, and so does your progesterone.
Reducing, removing, or controlling these factors is an important first step for getting your cycle back on track. There are many other factors that can contribute to hormonal imbalances. Ask your doctor how you can work together to support your body’s natural hormone production.
Can Birth Control Correct Hormonal Imbalances?
If you’ve gone to your OB-GYN for help with painful PMS symptoms or hormonal imbalances and they’ve put you on hormonal birth control, join the club! The conventional treatment for hormonal imbalances is to prescribe hormonal birth control. Sure, it might alleviate your symptoms temporarily, but is it fixing the problem? Sadly, no.
Taking a birth-control pill (or any form of hormonal birth control) prevents the mid-cycle surge in estrogen that triggers ovulation. Many forms of birth control try to mimic our natural monthly cycle. Even if you experience breakthrough bleeding during the placebo week of your pill, this is not your period, so don’t be fooled!
If no ovulation is happening, you can’t have a menstrual cycle, which means you can’t experience the natural rise and fall of estrogen and progesterone. Because you aren’t experiencing the dynamic nature of your hormones, you’re unable to use them to your advantage. That’s why it’s not uncommon for women to feel a little dimmer or less like themselves on hormonal birth control.
The upside? Hormonal birth control can prevent unwanted pregnancies. The downside? It’s no free ride.
Like most medications, birth control has side effects. It depletes the B vitamins we need to make our feel-good neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, and it has been associated with an increased risk of depression. Birth control also depletes magnesium, vitamin C, and zinc (1)—all of which are essential nutrients for alleviating PMS (2)—adversely affects the gut microbiome, and is associated with dysbiosis, bloating, constipation, IBS, and Crohn’s disease.
There’s no doubt that the birth-control pill serves a purpose for preventing unwanted pregnancy, and it has played a major part in the history of women’s rights around the world. In my opinion, however, a prescription needs to be matched with education so women can know the risks of taking birth control long-term and make an informed decision.
In my experience, there’s a complete lack of resources, support, and education when it comes to women understanding their cycle. That’s why I was super excited when I heard that Dhru’s wife, Yamin Nouri, and his sister, Kaya Purohit, created Beeya, a company with the mission to help women understand what’s going on with their bodies by raising awareness around women’s health and offering natural alternatives to hormonal challenges.
So many women who struggle with hormonal imbalances are given birth control, prescribed pain medication, or told they might have difficulty conceiving without looking at all of the lifestyle and nutritional factors that contribute to hormonal havoc.
Beeya is on a mission to help women feel healthy and empowered through education and creating awareness around women’s health. Inspired by the seed cycling method, Beeya helps women use the power of seeds (yes, just seeds!) to support hormone production during the two main phases of their cycle. It’s a natural, whole-foods approach for any woman looking to tackle hormonal imbalances tied to PMS, perimenopause, and menopause.
Beeya uses research-backed, nutrient-dense, organic superfood blends to support, restore, and rebalance your hormones. The Phase 1 seed blend supports estrogen production in the first half of your cycle (follicular phase), and Phase 2 balances estrogen and progesterone in the second half of your cycle (luteal phase). Beeya also has delicious recipes to go with their program that make seed cycling fun and easy.
See why experts like Dr. Mark Hyman and clinicians at Parsley Health (the largest integrative clinic in North America) recommend Beeya as an integral part of a hormone-balancing protocol and try Beeya today!
Now, I’m going to walk you through the basics of the Cycle Syncing Method step by step. In this next section, you’ll learn what’s going on with your hormones for each phase of your cycle and how to support them to let your cycle truly work for you.
Phase 1: Menstruation
When it starts: Your menstrual phase is the beginning of a new cycle (Day 0).
Emotional/behavioral: Reset, reflect, analyze, evaluate
Duration: 3-7 days
What’s going on with your hormones: Your hormones are at their lowest during menstruation. Progesterone drops off, which tells your uterus to shed its lining. This absence of progesterone speeds up your intestinal transit time, which could contribute to loose stool (aka “period poops”).
What to eat to support your hormones: Eat plenty of high-quality protein and healthy fats to keep your blood sugar, energy, and mood stable while your brain adjusts to this downshift in hormones. Protein and fat will also help set you up for a healthy ovulatory phase because your body needs amino acids and cholesterol to make hormones. Red meat in particular can help replenish the iron lost during your bleed. Seafood, seaweed, and nori can remineralize your body with zinc and iron.
How to move: Your hormones are at their lowest during this phase, and so is your energy—that means high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is not your friend. HIIT will put unnecessary stress on your body and can throw you into fat-storage mode. Focus on restorative activities instead, such as walking and yoga, and prioritize sleep and rest.
Let your cycle work for you: The connection between the left and right hemispheres of your brain is strongest during your menstrual phase. Your left, analytical side and your right, emotional side communicate back and forth, which makes it a great time to reflect on how you feel about certain situations going on in your life and assess what you believe is the best course of action.
This is also a great opportunity to evaluate how you feel in your work and personal life and make course corrections if something isn’t working. Menstruation is a time to look inward and trust your gut instinct. It could also shine a light on the areas in your life where you feel dissatisfied, underappreciated, or overwhelmed with what needs to change. Focus on your self-care during this time: rest, relax, and pamper yourself.
Phase 2: Follicular
When it starts: Directly after your bleed ends
Emotional/behavioral: Time of new beginnings, creativity, a fresh start
Duration: 7-10 days; ends at ovulation
What’s going on with your hormones: At the beginning of your follicular phase, your hormones are low, but now they start to rise in concentration. Estrogen levels rise and begin to rebuild your uterine lining. As your estrogen rises, so do your mood and energy.
What to eat to support your hormones: Fresh, vibrant, low-glycemic plant foods will help you embrace your newfound energy during this phase. Your metabolism is slower during the first half of your cycle, so small, light meals are best. If you can tolerate soy, eating organic, non-GMO tofu and tempeh at the beginning of your follicular phase can help support rising estrogen levels. The phytoestrogens in soy can be beneficial for supporting the transition from a low-estrogen state at the beginning of your follicular phase to peak estrogen at ovulation.
How to move: After menstruation as your estrogen (and energy) rises, wake your body up with some fun, light cardio: jogging, biking, dancing, or hiking. As your gear up for ovulation when estrogen hits its peak, incorporate HIIT workouts, power yoga, or jumping rope.
Your follicular phase is the time to shed fat and build lean muscle, but that’s only if your hormones are balanced. If you’re dealing with hormonal imbalances, anxiety, or fatigue and have a hard time losing weight, keep your workouts light and a maximum of 30 minutes in length. Putting additional stress on your body when you’re already super stressed out makes weight loss more difficult.
Let your cycle work for you: Your follicular phase is a transition period from being inward and reflective during menstruation to being more outgoing and social during ovulation. As your energy levels rise you may find yourself feeling more creative and focused. This is because estrogen allows your brain to handle more complex processing tasks. Use this time for brainstorming, strategizing, setting intentions, and planning new projects.
Phase 3: Ovulatory
When it starts: Middle of your cycle (Day 14 ± 2 days); varies from person to person and from month to month
Emotional/behavioral: social, communicative, outgoing, high energy
Duration: 3-4 days
What’s going on with your hormones: As you transition from your follicular to your ovulatory phase, your estrogen levels continue to rise, causing you to feel happier, more upbeat, and more outgoing. As estrogen reaches its peak, testosterone surges (that’s no coincidence, chickas). Pay attention to how you feel. Do you notice an increase in libido? That’s testosterone increasing your sex drive during ovulation (the time when you have the highest chance of getting pregnant).
Your ovulation window (when an egg is released) lasts between 24 and 72 hours, but sperm can survive inside your uterus for up to seven days. That means we can only get pregnant for seven days of the month, so it’s much harder to get pregnant than we’ve been led to believe. Check out this blog article for more on ovulation and your fertile window.
The best way to know if you are fertile is by tracking your cycles using an app like Alisa Viti’s myFLO Period Tracker (that’s what I use and I love it!).
What to eat to support your hormones: Eat antioxidant- and fiber-rich foods to support estrogen metabolism and clearance. Sauerkraut, kimchi, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts), and broccoli sprouts help support estrogen detoxification and reduce symptoms like acne and bloating that are driven by estrogen dominance.
How to move: Your ovulatory phase is the time to kick your butt into high gear with more intense workouts: kickboxing, jump rope, hot yoga, HIIT workouts, kettlebell training—anything that gets your heart pumping and makes you break a sweat!
Let your cycle work for you: As estrogen reaches its peak and testosterone enters the picture, you’re going to feel more outgoing, social, and sensual. Enjoy being magnetic—schedule a date night with your partner, go out dancing with your friends, and plan on having important conversations during this time. Your heightened communication skills will make it easier to get your point across.
Surging estrogen boosts your mental sharpness and creativity, and communication skills are at their best. Use this phase to get what you want! Ask for that promotion or raise at work, network with coworkers, deliver a presentation with confidence and clarity, or bang out a ton of social media posts or blogs with your upbeat, high-energy levels.
Phase 4: Luteal
When it starts: After ovulation up to menstruation.
Emotional/behavioral: Your luteal phase is about two weeks long, and each week looks a little different. In the first half of this phase, your estrogen is still high, and so is your mood and energy. Progesterone reaches its highest point and makes you feel nurturing and calm.
In the second half, estrogen and progesterone start to decline, so you may feel less outgoing and more introverted. This is a time to focus more on taking care of yourself.
Duration: The last 10-14 days of your cycle.
What’s going on with your hormones: When you first enter your luteal phase from ovulation, your estrogen and testosterone are low. Estrogen rises slightly again to thicken the uterine lining, while progesterone steadily increases to maintain its thickness in anticipation of a fertilized egg.
If pregnancy doesn’t occur during your fertile window, your estrogen and progesterone decline and reach their lowest points right before your bleed. Because estrogen boosts serotonin, as your levels drop, you might notice a dip in your mood during this time (3).
The last week of your luteal phase is when PMS symptoms start to appear. If you experience severe PMS symptoms, that’s a sign that there’s an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone happening and could be due to the reasons stated above: too much caffeine, under-eating fat, overeating sugar, chronic stress, and more.
What to eat to support your hormones: Your metabolism is higher during your luteal phase, so you’re going to feel hungrier and will need more calories. Emphasize high-quality protein to stabilize your blood sugar and B vitamins to support progesterone production during the first half of this phase.
Progesterone makes you retain fluid, so you might experience some bloating during the first half of this phase. If that’s the case for you, avoid caffeine, salty foods, and dairy and eat calcium- and magnesium-rich foods (almonds, avocado, pumpkin seeds, spinach) to help regulate fluid balance. If bloating reaches the point of discomfort, you may have to dig a little deeper. A compromised microbiome, nutrient deficiencies, or chronic stress could be to blame.
Progesterone also slows down intestinal transit time and can cause constipation. Focus on eating low-glycemic fruits like berries, green plantains, and fiber-rich vegetables such as collard greens, watercress, arugula, walnuts, apples, and pears for fiber to help support estrogen detoxification, which is critical for preventing estrogen dominance that drives PMS, PCOS, hormonal acne, and infertility.
Low hormone levels in the second half of this phase can cause sugar cravings. Eat foods that boost serotonin and dopamine levels like dark chocolate and slow-burning carbohydrates like squash and sweet potatoes.
How to move: During the first half of your luteal phase, you may still have some energy. Use this time to maximize lean muscle gains and do some strength-training exercises. As you approach your bleed, you’ll want to take it easy and focus on flexibility and mobility movement with yoga or pilates. Try not to overdo it as you close out the last phase of your cycle. Putting excess stress on your body can backfire and put you into fat-storage mode.
Let your cycle work for you: Your ratio of estrogen to progesterone is optimal for detail-oriented tasks. You’re naturally inclined to want to get things done during this time of your cycle, so plan to review or finalize projects and devote time to deep work as you get ready to rest, relax, and reflect over some self-care during menstruation. Lastly, don’t forget to celebrate yourself and all that you do!
When you understand the dynamic nature of your cycle and how your hormones change, everything in your life improves. You have more energy and clarity, your relationships get better, and you’re overall less stressed from going against what your body wants and needs from you.
The Cycle Syncing Method can help take you out of the frantic hustle and bustle of life, allow you to tune into the hormonal shifts happening inside your body, and give it what it needs to thrive. That way, you can feel less like life is happening “to you” and more like life is happening for you or even with you.
And by way, for all the men who made it this far, remember that this information is a game-changer for you too! You’ll be a better father, husband, brother, or boyfriend to the women in your life, and not only will they benefit, but your life will improve too.
Encourage the women in your life to download Alisa Viti’s app because it also loops you in by sending you emails about what’s going on with her hormones so you can get into the flow of your partner’s cycle and understand her better.
I want to give a big thanks to Dhru and this incredible community for allowing me to walk you through such an incredibly important topic.
And if you guys want to keep in touch, come see what I’m up to on social media and follow me @foodhappywithtaylor.
Taylor Groff, MS, CNS