This week around the store and on socials we’ve been diving into the second phase of our monthly cycle: the follicular phase. This is such a unique time in our cycle as our hormones fluctuate and our energy shifts. Spring has sprung in our bodies and there are ways that we can support this phase as our “let’s do this!” attitude takes over! In this point of your cycle, your hormone, estrogen is beginning to rise. Your energy starts out relatively low but you should feel a gradual rise in energy levels as you get further into this stage (or what we call the mid-follicular phase) and closer to the time of ovulation. You may start to feel like you’ve found your stride again. This phase offers us a lot but it is easy to over do it and burn out so it’s important to be mindful of your energy and what to do with it.
What is going on in the body?
The follicular phase starts on the first day of menstruation and ends with ovulation. Prompted by the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland releases follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone stimulates the ovary to produce around five to 20 follicles (tiny nodules or cysts), which bead on the surface. Each follicle houses an immature egg. Usually, only one follicle will mature into an egg, while the others disintegrate back into the body. This usually occurs around day 11 of a healthy, full-length cycle. The growth of the follicles stimulates the lining of the uterus to thicken in preparation for possible pregnancy.
So, how can we support this phase?
Energy and Creativity
As previously mentioned, estrogen is on the rise during this phase. This can lead to sharpened focus, decision making, and memory. It may be a great time to apply for that job you’ve been wanting, take that interview, apply to that graduate program, dig into creating that business plan you’ve been putting off, or start a new project!
Mind and Mood
Estrogen will reach its peak, bringing a calm and optimistic headspace, while a higher level of testosterone enhances energy, confidence, and motivation. You might be eager to socialize, connect with girlfriends, or go out on the town. You might even notice estrogen-driven clearer skin and more symmetrical features that make you feel more attractive and sexier to yourself! According to Aviva Romm MD, studies even show a keener ability for recognizing facial expressions and more empathy as a result. So get out, reconnect, or be bold and make a new friend!
Higher estrogen levels may help sleep come easier now, but if not, use these sleep tips below, and know that good sleep should return when progesterone ramps up during the second half of your cycle.
- Destress before bed. Try listening to calming music or a white noise machine or maybe wind down with a warm shower or relaxing bath before bed. Use essential oils like lavender to relax your body.
- Unplug 2 hours before sleep time. The blue light emitted by your electronics can impact your body’s production of melatonin, the sleep hormone that maintains your circadian rhythm.
- Keep your bedroom cool. Hormones that elevate your body temperature during parts of your cycle might make falling asleep difficult. Keep your bedroom between 60-68 degrees for a cool sleeping climate.
- Stretch before bed. Although, we recommend this every night no matter what phase of your cycle you’re in; stretching can be especially helpful for winding down and relaxing before bed.
- Establish a bedtime routine. Going to bed at the same time consistently helps the body to know when it’s time to calm down and sleep.
Food: Hormonal changes make your sense of smell and taste especially sensitive which may lead to food aversions or cravings. Cravings and appetite typically subside as you head towards ovulation so it’s common to feel more at home in your body. Here are some foods to focus on incorporating during this phase…
- Healthy fats: Avocado, olives, coconut oil, and nut butters are best during this phase. Did you know avocados are the top ovulation-supporting food? They contain cholesterol which helps your body to make hormones, helps you to absorb nutrients, and keeps you satisfied.
- Veggies: Nutrient-dense veggies are essential. They contain high levels of vitamin A, potassium, and fiber to keep things moving and keep your gut healthy. They also help the body detox estrogen to keep hormones balanced.
- Fruits: Fruits high in vitamin C are full of the antioxidants needed for egg health and protect against free radical damage. Overall, these foods support your liver detox as well.
- Seeds: Pumpkin seeds and flaxseed contain phytoestrogen to help support estrogen production/detoxification. They’re also rich in zinc and omega-3’s for ovulation support.
- Protein: Eggs, chicken, and trout are our go-to’s during this phase! Protein helps to replenish the body, increase energy, and promote healthy egg production.
As energy increases during this phase, it can become a little easier to incorporate new recipes or you may feel up to the challenge of finding the perfect smoothie blend to get those nutrients and vitamins in. This week we on our Instagram and Facebook, we shared a great follicular phase-supporting smoothie! Below, you will find another favorite – great for keeping those hormones happy and growing healthy follicles.
Coconut Pumpkin Chia Pudding
1/4 C. ground chia seeds*
1/4 C. plain coconut yogurt (almond yogurt works too!)*
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp ground flaxseed*
1 tbsp ground pumpkin seeds*
1/4 C. pumpkin puree*
1 tsp. maca powder*
*items in store
1. Stir together chia seeds, water, yogurt, pumpkin puree. Cover and refrigerate overnight. If you’re in a rush, less time will do. We’d recommend at least 3-4 hours.
2. Add in flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, and maca powder. (This can be done the night before as well but may taste fresher if done this way.)
3. Top with fruit and honey of your choice, and you have the perfect breakfast or snack!
Exercise: An energy boost and urge to move around and be more active might inspire you to enjoy some higher intensity workouts so this is a great time to embrace riding your bike, jumping rope, and lifting weights. Just be sure to ease into it so you don’t burn yourself out.
Sex and Relationships: For several days before we ovulate, rising testosterone and estrogen most likely increase your sex drive – in a big way. You may feel like your sexiest self. Have some fun! Get that exercise in and that extra energy out.
As we wrap up another info-packed week on the phases of our menstrual cycle, we hope that you’ve taken away some valuable pieces of information that can be applied to your routine for the better! We are always here to help you navigate any changes or answer any questions you may have about getting your menstrual cycle on the right path and feeling like a healthier, happier, you! We are located at 4242 Gordon Dr. here in Sioux City, IA. upstairs, above Chiropractic First of Iowa. If you’re not in the area, please give us a call at (712) 525-0478 or message us on social media to set up a virtual chat.
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