Since the beginning of time I would assume, women recognized nuances in their energy levels, emotions, sleep, appetite and sex drive over the course of a month. If they paid close attention they may have even noticed a predictable pattern. As far back as my high school days, I recall girls declaring they had PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome), and that meant watch out! They might bite your head off or burst into tears. So, we’ve had an understanding about how our menstrual cycle impacts our mood — but let me tell you, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
A study published in the journal Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics sheds light on how hormonal fluctuations women experience each month play a role in many of our body’s responses. Understanding these hormonal patterns and using that knowledge to our benefit led to the creation of “cycle syncing.”
It’s a big topic fueling big interest — mostly in women who would like to better optimize their monthly cycle, or at least brace for it in a strategic way. There’s a lot to get your head around, so I’ll do my best to break it down into digestible chunks, rolling it out over several articles so you can determine how deep you would like to dive on the subject.
Let’s call this the “Get to know cycle syncing” article. Consider it an introduction.
Cycle syncing analyzes the impact of the hormones progesterone and estrogen as their levels fluctuate as part of the reproductive cycle, in child-bearing women in particular.
It is a tantalizing and powerful idea that we can moderate our diet and activities based on where we are in our monthly cycle.
Biologically speaking, we have three phases of the monthly cycle. I’ll walk you through them and correlate the hormonal trend in each.
Follicular (pre-egg or ovulatory) phase. Day 1 begins with your period. Both estrogen and progesterone are low as the top layers of the endometrium are shed, and menstrual bleeding occurs. This lasts 1-5 days.
Later in the follicular phase, the pituitary gland increases hormones to stimulate follicles preceding release of an egg. This lasts 6-14 days.
Ovulatory phase. Estrogen peaks. Testosterone and progesterone rise. It includes the fertile window — the optimal time for getting pregnant. This goes from days 15-17.
Luteal (post egg) phase. Marked by a surge in progesterone and estrogen as the body prepares the uterus in case an embryo is implanted. Hormones decrease if there is no fertilized egg. This lasts days 18-28.
For cycle syncing purposes, the follicular phase is split, with menstruation, or your period being a fourth phase.
Each week, we’ll look at the influence these phases and hormones have in overall mood, energy, diet and so on. Generally speaking, rising or high levels of hormones are more energizing than low levels. So onward we go, syncing cycles to help you better your lifestyle!