Did you know that you can put an end to the annoying symptoms of your menstrual cycle by changing your diet?
Following my plan for this quarantine about learning new things and feeding my mind with interesting facts, I have been reading Alisa Vitti’s book “In the Flo”, I liked it so much that I have it in an audio format as well as the physical copy.
I had heard about the seed-cycle diet in the past, in which some days you eat flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds; and other days sesame and sunflower seeds. This helps balance the production of the female hormones, progesterone, and estrogen naturally. But what she talks about in her book, goes much further than the seeds diet!
I first heard a podcast where Alisa was interviewed. I was curious and looked for more information. What she teaches in the book is truly impressive. I have learned so much about the ins and outs of my own body!
How is it that no one has told me about this before?
She offers a 4-week solution to manage your energy and time according to your female biochemistry. By working with each phase of your menstrual cycle, you will support your hormones, unblock peak creativity and productivity, and avoid fatigue.
Alisa’s first book is called WomanCode. In it, she explains that within each menstrual phase women’s hormones change, and this causes energy levels and dietary needs to change as well.
What is the Infradian Rhythm?
Alisa explains that women have an infradian rhythm, which lasts about 28 days or so and it is what we know as the menstrual cycle.
Here are 4 phases of the menstrual cycle:
- Follicular: It starts right after menstruation and lasts 7 to 10 days
- Ovulation: lasts 3 to 4 days
- Luteal: 10 to 14 days
- Menstruation: 3 to 7 days
During the luteal phase, for example, Alisa recommends that you eat roasted vegetables to avoid increased sugar cravings and that you increase your intake of green leafy vegetables to avoid inflammation. She also says that exercise during the luteal phase should be less intense, such as doing gentle yoga or light weights.
Below you can see a table I prepared for you to see the phases and what you should do regarding diet and exercise. It is not an exhaustive table, but it is a start.
The important thing about each phase is to know what our body’s needs are, when you can expect more from it, and when you should take a break without blaming yourself for feeling less energetic on those days.
Alisa has done a lot of research and quotes even more studies in her book. She explains how the male hormone pattern follows the circadian rhythm (24-hour), and women follow the infradian rhythm. We, women, have a dynamic metabolism.
One of the things I found interesting was that most of the studies that are done for diets like ketogenic, or certain types of exercise, like high intensity, are done mainly in men, and in a minority of women (who are usually not in their reproductive years).
The reason is that it is easier to do such studies in people who have a 24-hour biological rhythm (circadian rhythm) rather than a 28-day rhythm. So how can we know if these exercises and diets also work for women with an infradian rhythm?
It’s difficult to know!
Alisa also talks about why many women try to lose weight, or go on a diet and this doesn’t work for them. How we sometimes blame ourselves for not having the energy to exercise every single day of the year. Or how we sometimes feel guilty for not being able to maintain a 5 am early morning routine every single day of the year to become “more productive”.
The infradian rhythm affects our metabolism: sometimes it is slower and we need fewer calories, raw foods, perhaps even intermittent fasting. Other times our metabolism is faster and we need more calories, eat more, and more slow or complex carbohydrates.
Alisa believes that suffering from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is not normal and that our body is designed to function without symptoms or colic. For Alisa, PMS means that you have a hormonal imbalance. But you can avoid this by eating enough of the right food.
Changing your diet according to the phases of your menstrual cycle helps to metabolise female hormones and have a healthy balance between them. One of the examples Alisa talks about is that we consume too much Omega 6 (in oils and processed foods). This can cause us to have more uterine contractions (cramps). She believes that if you change what you eat, you change your experience.
Alisa Vitti’s general tips for relieving menstrual cycle discomfort:
- Listen to your body and respond to its needs.
- Start modifying what you eat and when depending on the phase you are in
- Eat fermented pickles like kimchi and sauerkraut to strengthen your intestinal microbiota
- Avoid consumption of sugar.
- Adapt your exercise to your menstrual cycle.
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