A thorough guide to fasting and eating a balanced diet during your menstrual cycle for life-changing health benefits
Do you constantly feel anxious, lazy and downright tired? According to experts, irregular moods and behaviors are a result of a full-on hormonal imbalance—but this is only partially true. See what I think of the phrase "hormonal imbalances" below.
Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers that play an intrinsic role in nourishing and strengthening the body as a whole. Research published in the National Library of Medicine shows how hormones are inextricably linked to our overall mental, emotional and sensory health.
Now, you may have heard that you have a "hormonal imbalance", but I'm here to tell you that there is no such thing as hormonal imbalances. This term is commonly used in the industry and anyone who says they are going to "fix" your hormone imbalance with supplements isn't aware of how biology works. Remember, if you are trying to support and heal your hormones, you can't use supplements and quick fixes, but here's what you should do.
Think of hormones like a highway. If one hormone has an "accident", the entire highway will be affected. It isn't an imbalance and it won't be fixed if you fix another part of the system, you need to unclog that one specifically. You cannot just fix one particularly area or hormone and think that you will suddenly be "balanced". Now, let's get into the REAL solutions.
What is circadian rhythm fasting?
Circadian rhythm fasting or the sun cycle diet fosters timing our meals with the rise and fall of the sun and the corresponding dips and surges in cortisol - a naturally occurring hormone that significantly affects the metabolism of the food we eat. When cortisol is high in the morning, our metabolism is also up and running to effectively convert the food we eat into energy, whereas, a dip in cortisol later in the day results in the metabolism slowing down, making it more likely for our body to store the food we eat as fat. Circadian fasting is a type of intermittent fasting that is in conjunction with our body’s internal clock. It encompasses eating all of our food for the day within a specific window of time, often a 10-hour window (such as 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.) or an 8-hour window (such as 11 p.m. to 7 p.m.).
What are the benefits of circadian fasting?
Linking circadian fasting with the menstrual cycle may provide numerous health benefits. It helps align our gut health with our internal clock, which, in turn, balances out the hormones making our energy skyrocket. Some more remarkable benefits of circadian fasting are:
- Higher energy levels
- Better digestion
- Reduced inflammation
- Enhanced immune function
- Balanced metabolism
How do dietary changes support hormonal health?
Consuming foods like probiotics and healing teas, along with practicing circadian fasting can have a transformative effect on your overall health. These foods help realig a fragile system in the body that comprises hormones, the immune system and the digestive tract - the three systems that work so closely together that when you improve one system, the other two also develop, causing your overall energy levels to shoot up.How to practice circadian fasting during your menstrual cycle for balanced hormones and revitalized energy?
To give you the know-how on circadian fasting during the menstrual cycle, here is a simple guide to practicing this time-restricted fasting for each menstrual phase along with some great eating tips for fostering hormonal balance and long-term wellness.Menstrual phase (Days 1-5)
The first day of your cycle is when your period starts. During this phase, progesterone and estrogen levels are low, causing some common menstrual symptoms like cramping, mood swings, lower back pain and fatigue.
How to fast?
Contrary to popular belief, fasting during your period is okay. However, you should start around day two or three of your period, because in the initial days you may be losing a fair amount of blood and still recovering from the hormonal crash. Once your flow slows down and you feel less tired, you can practice circadian fasting by choosing a time period that suits your needs.
What to eat?
Hydration is key. You must drink seven to eight glasses of water in a day. Dehydration during your period may give you headaches and muscle aches. Fruits like watermelon, melon and cucumber will help you to stay hydrated. To soothe cramps, drink ginger, peppermint or chai tea. Menstrual blood loss often results to iron deficiency, so make sure you eat iron-rich food like spinach, apples and legumes. Break your fast with fruits, vegetables or whole grains as that will support your body’s hormone production.Follicular phase (Days 6-14)
This phase begins after menstruation. At this stage, estrogen and progesterone levels are on the rise. You may notice higher energy, radiant skin and an increased sex drive. You may also feel highly optimistic, which is why this phase is great for trying new things and incorporating more exercise into your routine.
How to fast?
Since this is an optimal time to fast, you can choose a shorter or a longer eating window depending on how you feel. Nevertheless, remember to break your fast with foods that support your hormonal production like fruits and vegetables.
What to eat?
You should eat a lot of green and leafy vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and spinach. Phytoestrogen foods like hummus, soybean, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds should also be added to your diet. A healthy dose of antioxidants and fiber-rich foods like green tea, citrus fruits and matcha is also recommended. Some women feel increasingly dehydrated during this phase due to the high levels of hormones. Hence, remember to drink lots of water and try incorporating some mineral-rich sea salt into your diet. These nourishing foods will provide nutrients to a maturing follicle and promote fertility.Ovulatory phase (Days 15-17)
The follicular phase is followed by the ovulatory phase. In this phase, your estrogen levels will be at their highest, causing a drastic increase in your energy levels.
How to fast?
You can opt for a shorter eating window (10am to 6pm) and incorporate more weight training.
What to eat?
Eat antioxidant-rich fruits like raspberries, coconut, strawberries and guava that assist the detoxification of rising hormones in the liver. To tackle inflammation, consume nuts, dry fruits and oatmeal. You can add sunflower seeds, almonds, pecans and pistachios to make delicious smoothies that will not only satisfy your taste palate but will also support your overall mood by boosting serotonin production. Limit refined carbohydrates, sugar and trans-fats.Luteal phase (Days 18-28)
This phase is after ovulation and before menstruation. In the luteal phase (also known as the post egg release phase) your hormones surge and diminish within the span of 15 to 18 days. During the phase, your body starts preparing for another round of ovulation and menstruation. There is a rise in progesterone and you may experience premenstrual symptoms like mood swings, irritability, brain fog and bloating.
How to fast?
Since the body is already vulnerable to stress during this phase, it is recommended to avoid any additional stressors like fasting or high intensity workouts. The estrogen hormone also drops leading to drastic shifts in mood and energy levels which is why it is important to go easy on your body by eating nutrient-rich foods like leafy greens.
What to eat?
To satisfy the hunger pangs during this phase, make sure to eat less but at regular intervals. Since an increase in progesterone can slow digestion, opt for foods that are rich in fibers like broccoli, raspberries, avocado, carrots, strawberries and apples. Also add foods rich in calcium and magnesium such as, almonds, spinach, kale, dark chocolate, cashews, beans and lentils to curb cravings and reduce bloating. Lastly, sip on peppermint tea at night to help promote hormonal balance.
While fasting and eating whole foods are excellent ways to maintain a healthier and more harmonious life, remember to manage your stress and get adequate sleep for optimal hormonal balance.
We hope you found this helpful—if so, please share! check out some additional resources and products for support below.
If you want to check out our Balance + Restore supplement, order it here.
Chai latte is a great way to lower blood sugar so that your pms symptoms are easier. Check it out here.
Also, check out our meal plans here as well if you need a full overhaul for your body.
Finally, book a consultation with Dr. Shah here for a personalized, customized plan for you!