Let’s be honest: periods can be messy, painful, and get in the way of our cute, new white jeans. Not to mention, our heightened emotions and sensitivity can sometimes make us feel, well, crazy. But, menstruating monthly is a (very important!) indication that our reproductive systemandour body as a whole is balanced and working as it should. Our hormones – yes, like those responsible for PMS – affect much more than just our period. They influenceeverything, from our energy levels to our cognitive state, our nutrient needs, our sex drive, our bloating, and the glow of our skin. From the classic PMS emotional rollercoaster to a burst of energy the next day, our hormones dictate everything–how we feel, our appetite, our thoughts, and even our behaviors. Living by the cycle, or cycle syncing, is a way to tap into the power of these hormones, maximizing their benefits and regaining control over our period.
What is the Infradian Rhythm?
If you’ve read this blog post, you’re familiar with the Circadian Rhythm, our body’s biological clock that is responsible for the sleep/wake cycle. Similarly, our menstrual cycle has aclock of its own, the Infradian Rhythm, which is our body’s second internal timekeeper. It plays a role in six different systems of the body: our brain, metabolism, immune system, microbiome, stress-response system, and the reproductive system. Various hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, that are released during the menstrual cycle create this rhythm. Many of us spend little time thinking about the tick-tocking of our biological clocks; however, science has shown, and psychologists believe, that by tuning in and living by our natural rhythms, we can live healthier and more balanced lives.
Why Does Our Infradian Rhythm Matter?
Wellness doesn’t just mean hitting the gym and drinking a green juice every day. Instead,though wellness can look different from person to person, all of us strive, and should be able to, to lead happy, healthy, and balanced lives. By living by our body’s natural cycle, we will be able to listen to our own intuition and live in a way that positively impacts various aspects of our lives. The more attention we give to our Infradian Rhythm, the more positivity we will get back in return. While the most noticeable effect is likely menstruation itself, there are other facets of life that will reap the benefits, too. This includes:
- Energy levels
- Immune system function
- Mental acuity
- Digestion and bloating
- Stress and anxiety levels
The inverse is true, though; when we disrupt our Infradian Rhythm, we can have negative impacts on our own body. This can lead to:
- An irregular menstrual cycle
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Decreased immune system function
- Higher anxiety and stress
- Less focus and concentration
By tracking each day of our cycle, instead of just the days we are menstruating, we set our bodies up for big wins in the wellness department. Let’s take a closer look at what these cycles are, when they occur, and how we can intertwine them with our lives to maximize their benefits.
Menstrual Cycle 101
The menstrual cycle hasfour main phases, which occur over the span of 4 weeks:
- Menstruation phase: days 1–5
- Follicular phase: days 6–14
- Ovulatory phase: days 15–17
- Luteal phase: days 18–28
The days listed above are averages; of course, everybody’s body is different. To start, simply count day 1 as the first day of your period, and continue from there. By tuning into our unique infradian rhythms, we can understand how we change both physically and mentally during each phase, allowing us to align our lives to suit.
Energy and Exercise
Are you familiar with the cliché that we want chocolate during menstruation or that "bottomless pit" feeling, when seemingly nothing can satisfy cravings? Or, have you experienced the pre-period constipation and bloating? Well, we now have an answer: our Infradian Rhythm affects the way our bodies metabolize and digest foods at different phases of our cycle. More specifically, our resting metabolic rate fluctuates from stage to stage, meaning our bodies are burning more or fewer calories while resting as our cycle progresses. These changes to our resting metabolic rate are directly linked to our energy levels, which, consequently, affect how we feel during exercise. According to the cycle synching method, it may be beneficial to switch up workouts based on the menstrual cycle instead of maximizing a calorie burn or working up a big sweat. Below is a general guideline of exercise intensities that will decrease cramping and allow you to show up as your best self at the gym.
Menstrual: Light Movement; think yoga, stretching, and long walks
Follicular: Light Cardio; short runs, hiking, or hot yoga that works up a sweat
Ovulation: Circuit HIIT; try spinning or full body interval workouts
Luteal: Light to Moderate Exercise; opt for strength training or Pilates
Remember: listening to our body is the most important thing! One day might call for a little extra umph, and another day might have our body feeling a bit more tired than usual. By listening to our body, we capitalize on our hormones and can feel our absolute best.
Diet and nutrition are two key components of any wellness regimen, and they’re especially important when it comes to the Infradian Rhythm. Many of us are stuck in routine eating habits (i.e., eating the same or similar foods day after day). But, as the ratios of our hormones change during the month, our nutritional needs do, too. Overall, focus on eating whole foods to balance hormones and eating every 3 to 4 hours. Some go-to foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains.
Menstrual: Estrogen is on the rise. Drink soothing teas to combat cramps, and chocolate to satisfy any cravings. Limit or avoid fatty foods, excess caffeine, and salty foods.
Follicular: Incorporate sprouted and fermented foods, such as broccoli, kimchi, sauerkraut, and Greek yogurt. These will help the body better metabolize estrogen.
Ovulatory: Estrogen is at an all-time high. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods, specifically whole fruits, veggies, and almonds.
Luteal: Both estrogen and progesterone surge and then sharply decrease during this time. Eat foods that will produce serotonin, like leafy greens, quinoa, and buckwheat. Magnesium-rich foods, like spinach, pumpkin seeds, and dark chocolate will help the body fight fatigue. Avoid red meat, dairy, added salt, carbonated drinks, and alcohol. These foods can trigger digestive discomfort and cramps.
Sleep and Rest
The menstrual cycle has been shown to affect sleep patterns in many ways, particularly negatively affecting quality of and duration of sleep. A 2012 study found that insomnia was twice as likely in women with severe PMS, or premenstrual syndrome. For most women, the luteal and menstruation phases present the most difficulties when it comes to sleep. Here are some tips and tricks to guarantee a good night’s rest:
- Wind down: read a good book or take a warm bath just before bedtime
- Stop using devices 30 minutes before sleep
- Try a 10 minute meditation
- Use white noise, such as rainfall or ocean waves, to drift off to sleep
If you need a little extra help, Sleep has your back. By combining five herbs, and leaving out melatonin, we created your new nighttime BFF. Simply pop 2-3 capsules, regardless of where you are in your cycle, and drift off into a restful sleep.
Learning how to use our body’s Infradian Rhythm can lead to maximizing energy peaks and optimizing digestion while also providing time for the rest the body needs during menstruation. Remember that month to month fluctuation is a normal part of life! Always listen to the body, even if it seems to not exactly follow the general outline we’ve discussed. By paying attention to our cycle, we can begin to find more balance, focus, happiness, and ease with every aspect of life. Pay attention to how the body is responding to cycle synching, and it will, in turn, thank us for all of the attention and care we are putting into it.