Uncovering The 4 Phases of the Menstrual Cycle – The Menstrual Phase

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Over the next couple of months, I’d like to take you on a deep dive into the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle and explain more in-depth about each one of them. We shall be Uncovering The 4 Phases of the Menstrual Cycle and learning about what foods, herbs and lifestyle practices are best suited for which phase and more. Let’s go!

The 4 Phases of the Menstrual Cycle

A menstruating woman will go through four different phases of her cycle each month.

Days:

1 – 5: Menstrual phase

1 to 13: Follicular phase

14: Ovulation phase

15 to 28: Luteal phase

Uncovering The 4 Phases of the Menstrual Cycle - tampons and menstrual cups

You may have spotted a bit of an overlap there. Indeed, you read that correctly. The follicular phase starts on the first day of your cycle (which is also the first day of your period and therefore menstrual phase). It typically lasts until ovulation which is usually around days 14-16 of your cycle, depending on the length of your personal cycle.

After ovulation, the luteal phase begins and continues through days 15-28 (again, depending on your personal cycle). This continues up to your next period.

Natural hormonal changes prompt these changes in phases throughout the month. Interestingly, based on these hormonal changes and the health of your menstrual cycles, you can really see what’s going on in your body and how healthy your hormone levels are. 

As a general rule, a healthy cycle is anywhere from 21-35 days. That being said, the average cycle is typically 28 days with ovulation occurring at day 14.
Naturally, we’re not all the same, therefore your personal phases may differ. However, regardless of the length of your cycle, you’ll typically find that there’s a level of consistency to your rhythm each month, and that’s what you want to focus on.

Phase 1 – The Menstrual Phase

Unsurprisingly, the first blog in our 4-part series will be on the menstrual phase. Here we will cover:

  • What is the menstrual phase
  • What is happening in your body at this time
  • Diet and lifestyle tips to support you and your hormones through this phase
Uncovering The 4 Phases of the Menstrual Cycle - reusable sanitary towels

Menstrual Phase (Days 1-5)

The menstrual phase begins on the first day of menstruation and lasts until the 5th day of the menstrual cycle.  The hormone progesterone drops on this day which is what causes the uterine lining to shed, aka, your period. Bleeding tends to last between 3 and 5 days in healthy individuals.

It’s not uncommon to notice changes in your dietary and lifestyle wants and needs. You’re certainly not the first woman in the world to have a seemingly irrational craving for chocolate or wishing you could sleep so much more! This is nothing to worry about and is totally normal. During this phase, energy levels tend to be at their lowest.

In fact, it’s often simply a sign that your body is telling you you need more iron and magnesium-rich foods, as well as rest during this phase.

Diet Tips to Support You During The Menstrual Phase

Focus on mineral-rich foods, especially those containing iron and magnesium.

  • Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
  • Beetroot | Sweet Potato | Parsnip | Swede
  • Avocado | Berries | Bananas
  • Bone Broths/Vegetable Broths
  • Seaweeds
  • Legumes – Black Beans | Red Kidney Beans | Aduki Beans
  • Black Rice | Buckwheat | Quinoa | Amaranth
  • Nuts and Seeds – Chia Seeds | Hemp Seeds | Walnuts | Almonds
  • Olive oil
  • Oily Fish
  • Eggs
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Drink plenty of water – Regular water | Coconut water | Herbal teas

Try to avoid:

  • Excessive caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Very salty food
  • Heavy and fatty foods (greasy and oily foods, not foods containing good fats)
  • Highly processed foods
  • Refined Sugars
Clipper Red Raspberry Leaf Tea Bags

Herbs to Support The Menstrual Phase

Red Raspberry Leaf

The calcium, iron and magnesium found in raspberry leaves are the very nutrients your body need at this time. This is easy to make into an infusion or decoction.

Nettle leaf

Also high in minerals, nettle leaf is an absolute star during this phase. It’s easy to take as an infusion, decoction, tincture or supplement. It’s high in iron and also helps to reduce inflammation. If you combine red raspberry and nettle together you’ll get a double whammy of nutrients.

Chaga

Y’all know I have a strong love for chaga, and all medicinal mushrooms come to think of it. Chaga is a true love of mine. Not only is it seriously nutrient-dense, but it also offers antioxidant levels off the chart to help reduce inflammation aka period pain. And having a side of immune support never goes amiss. I wrote a whole blog post on it here.

Turmeric/Curcumin

This gorgeous golden root is an absolute star when it comes to pain relief. Turmeric offers significant anti-inflammatory qualities, as well as pain-relieving properties. If you experience any pain or inflammation before or during your menstruation, try adding some turmeric into your diet.

Agnus Castus

A.Vogel Agnus castus is a licensed herbal remedy which can be used to help relieve symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) such as menstrual cramps, breast tenderness, bloating, irritability and mood swings.

It works by gently supporting progesterone, the opposing hormone to oestrogen and can help to restore hormonal balance.

One thing to note is that you must take this every day. It generally takes about 3 months to see results. Sorting out your hormones is not a quick fix!

(Please note, anyone using hormonal contraceptives, whether the Pill, an injection, an implant or the coil, should not use herbs such as Agnus castus as these effect hormone levels.)

Uncovering The 4 Phases of the Menstrual Cycle - white woman in the bath holding a flower

Lifestyle Tips to Support the Menstrual Phase

Exercise

When it comes to exercise, try to avoid high-impact/strenuous workouts during this time. HIIT workouts, spin groups and weight lifting take a lot out of the body at this time. Instead, opt for more gentle forms of movement such as walking, light stretching or restorative yin yoga.

Heat

Naturally, heat is very comforting, so if you have a bath, throw in some relaxing bath salts and take a dip. Hot water bottles are also a comforting option.

drawing of a menstrual cup

Menstrual Cups

If you haven’t tried menstrual cups yet, I encourage you to try them. Here’s a couple of blog posts going into more detail about them:

Some people find that swapping over to menstrual cups or period undies actually helps reduce period pain and cramping. Others just find the experience a lot nicer. And for others, it’s an excellent step toward being more eco-friendly.

That’s it for part one of Uncovering The 4 Phases of the Menstrual Cycle.

Emily Nöth

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*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention.

Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication