The Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
My name is Katie & I am a Functional Diagnostic Nutritionist and Registered Holistic Nutritionist who runs a virtual women’s health practice focusing on hormones and gut health called Holistico! I help women all over the world get their periods back, overcome PCOS, recover from birth control, get rid of IBS/SIBO, heal their metabolism, clear their skin & so much more. You can find me over at: https://www.holistico.ca/
I am super excited to be teaching you all about your menstrual cycle during this blog takeover! A lot of myths will be busted so let’s get to it!
First off, there are 3-4 phases to your menstrual cycle depending on how you want to look at it! Why were we not taught this in school?? Who knows.
And believe it or not, the main event is not your period. It is ovulation. Here are the phases:
Follicular (includes menstrual phase): Starts day 1 of your period and ends when your luteinizing hormone (LH) surges. Once LH increases you know ovulation is just about to arrive. The follicular phase is the time where your follicles develop in the ovaries. This is typically the longest phase and could be anywhere from 10-27 days. The lining of your uterus called the endometrium will become thick with not only fluid but nutrients to nourish a potential embryo. As you can see in the picture, this phase is when progesterone and estrogen will be at their lowest which can result in less energy. Be sure to give your body plenty of rest, love and nourishment during this phase! I generally recommend eating more nutrient dense foods and sticking to slow movement rather than intense workouts, especially during your period.
Menstrual: Starts the first day of menses and ends the last day of menses. This could be anywhere from 3-7 days. If it is on the shorter end, you may not be producing enough progesterone in relation to estrogen. If fertilization does not take place, your period will begin when your endometrium sheds. Try to incorporate more blood building foods during this time specifically like organic beets, grass fed beef and other red meats as well as well cooked dark leafy greens.
Ovulatory: This is the shortest but most important phase lasting usually 16 to 32 hours. It begins when hormones start to surge which is why you may feel more energetic and have a stronger libido. One of the ovaries will release one egg each cycle from the overriding follicle. LH will stimulate the follicle to swell and rupture which allows the egg to be released. The ovulatory phase ends with the release of this egg.
Luteal: This phase starts right after the ovulatory phase and ends on day 1 of your next period. This phase is when progesterone starts being produced. It may be anywhere from 10-17 days. If it is shorter than 10 days, I recommend getting your progesterone levels checked as they are likely low. You can do this with a simple blood test from your doctor. Just try to pinpoint ovulation using the Fertility Awareness Method and get tested approximately 5 days after that. Estrogen and progesterone both should be high in this phase in order to prepare the endometrial lining for an embryo. Then they will form the corpus luteum which is what produces large quantities of progesterone allowing the endometrium to thicken. It thickens in order to prevent sperm and bacteria from entering into the uterus. The corpus luteum will prepare the uterus if pregnancy does occur. If pregnancy does not occur, estrogen and progesterone will reduce by the end of this phase resulting in menstruation.
It’s important to know that this cycle is extremely important even if you don’t want to conceive. Our bodies natural instinct is to be ready and prepared for pregnancy (even if you don’t want it). If your body feels threatened from internal or external stressors than it will put ovulation on the back burner and prioritize other systems in order to keep you alive. This is not an ideal state to be in chronically. We want to nourish our bodies so they are in balance and feel safe enough to function the way they are meant too.
What happens when you stop ovulating?
You stop producing progesterone. Your body can only produce progesterone once it has ovulated. This is why hormonal birth control can be so problematic for many women because it shuts off ovulation completely (in order to ensure pregnancy does not occur). Check out my blog https://www.holistico.ca/
What is progesterone and why is it important?
Progesterone is a sex hormone mainly produced in the corpus luteum (endocrine gland within the ovary) with small amounts produced in the adrenal glands. During pregnancy, it is primarily produced in the placenta. In the adrenals, progesterone is the precursor to aldosterone and in pregnancy it stimulates the production of breast milk. It can be stored in our fat tissue and is meant to maintain the lining of the uterus. Progesterone is our calming, anti-inflammatory hormone that increases our metabolism, balances estrogen/testosterone and is extremely protective to our bones and heart. Many hormone imbalances occur because women are either not producing progesterone at all or are not producing enough in order to balance out their other hormones. This can result in an array of symptoms such as;
- headaches or migraines
- light or heavy bleeding
- hair loss
- breast tenderness
- hot flashes
- low libido or vaginal dryness
The list goes on…
If you are experiencing a multitude of these symptoms please know that they are not normal and I highly recommend looking into doing a DUTCH test to see exactly what is going on with your hormones, circadian rhythm and metabolites. As always, test don’t guess! Here is more info on the DUTCH: https://www.holistico.
This is why ovulation is the star of the show and why we can’t have a true period without ovulation. Bleeding on hormonal birth control is not a true period, it is simply a withdrawal bleed because ovulation is not present. Some women may experience anovulatory cycles (especially coming off the birth control pill) where they still have a monthly bleed but again, that is not a true period.
I honestly love my job so much because I get to help so many amazing women just like you have a healthy period. Your period is like getting a monthly report card on your health and it is truly a women’s super power! I like to call it our 5th vital sign. If you are struggling with any of the symptoms above please be sure to book a free discovery call so we can get you feeling yourself again: https://p.bttr.to/
I can’t wait to e-meet you!!!
Hormone & Gut Nutritionist
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