The foods to eat before, during and after your period
Feeling full of beans one minute then completely flat the next, getting those chocolate cravings you just have to satisfy, and becoming irritated by your s/o for absolutely no reason are all annoying symptoms of the hormonal fluctuations that occur throughout the month for women. The good news is if you become aware of where you’re at in your cycle, you can use this knowledge to your advantage. We spoke to naturopath, nutritionist, herbalist, personal trainer and yoga instructor Twyla Watson from Being Well about how to change our meal – and snacking! – game depending on where you're at in your menstrual cycle.
Phase one: Menstruation (day 1 to 5-ish)
AKA your period, the menstruation phase occurs when your uterus sheds its inner lining of soft tissue and blood vessels.
Fuel your body with foods that are nourishing, warming, blood-building and easy on the digestive system as these are best during menstruation. Think miso soup with ginger, and light broths with cooked vegetables.
Phase two: Follicular (day 1 to 13-ish)
This phase also begins on the first day of menstruation but lasts for almost two weeks. It’s now that your pituitary gland secretes a hormone which stimulates the egg cells in your ovaries to grow.
During the follicular phase, focus on fresh, nutrient-dense foods with lots of healthy fats to provide building blocks for reproductive hormones and reduce inflammation. Hello avocados, nuts, seeds, and oily fish like salmon. One delicious salad, coming right up!
Phase three: Ovulation (day 14-ish)
Ovulation occurs around halfway through your cycle, when the ovary releases the matured egg cell into the fallopian tube. Ovulation lasts between 12 and 48 hours but you are potentially fertile for up to seven days around this time.
Oestrogen has been building since the beginning of your cycle and is at its highest level right now. Light and cleansing foods that will help you to appropriately metabolise/detoxify this oestrogen are important in this phase. These include things like fermented foods to help the good gut bacteria break down oestrogen, and lots of good fibre to help carry it out of the body. You may notice your appetite is naturally lower in this phase than any other, so if ever there was a time to try a shorter feeding window or an ‘intermittent fast’, this would be it.
Phase four: Luteal (day 15 to 28-ish)
If a sperm cell has not impregnated the egg cell during ovulation, it’s during the luteal phase that the egg cell disintegrates and your hormones prepare for the next menstrual cycle.
Don’t beat yourself up if you get carbohydrate cravings in this phase — it’s really common as our body switches gear and starts to use energy differently. Instead, give yourself comforting and sustaining foods such as roast vegetable salads and coconut and cacao smoothies, and savour sweet mouthfuls of dark chocolate.
Do you have any tips for beating cravings? Let us know in the comments below!