Although I’ve known my health issues were hormonal right from the beginning, I never gave “eating for my cycle” much thought until recently. I always thought the idea was not very well-founded in evidence. For years I simply spent my time improving my diet as best as I could and adding different wholefoods in overtime. This was a very slow process for me and one that I am still working on. I knew some general rules of eating for hormone health that I tried to incorporate from the beginning, but it wasn’t until I read a couple of scientific studies that spoke about the different phases of the menstrual cycle having different nutritional requirements that I decided to experiment with shifting my meals around to suit my cycle and adding specific foods that were nutritionally appropriate for each phase of the menstrual cycle. If you don’t know anything about the different phases of the menstrual cycle, you can read my article here: https://hazelandcacao.com/understanding-the-menstrual-cycle/
Of all the four menstrual phases I believe eating for menstruation is the most important because with some knowledge it can help us learn how to replenish lost stores which will set us up for a better cycle all month long. This article DOES NOT suggest eating certain foods only at certain times of the month. WE NEED ALL NUTRIENTS ALL MONTH LONG. The idea is not to eliminate healthy foods at certain times of the month (eg. greens are important all month long) but rather to help tweak the diet by adding foods based on the different nutritional requirements at each stage as well as the physiological differences in each stage. I also thought it important to write this article as there are very few plant-based resources on how to eat for your cycle. Most of the information online suggests animal foods high in iron for the menstrual phase so it can be difficult to know what to eat if you are plant-based.
How to eat plant-based for menstrual phase:
This is the bleeding phase, during this phase, it is important to replenish lost nutrients, particularly iron. About 1mg of iron is lost with each day of bleeding and if bleeding is heavy, more iron can be lost. Iron needs vitamin C and copper for better absorption. It is also important to rehydrate and re-mineralize our bodies to compensate for the lost fluid. Adding sea salt or Himalayan salt to water in the mornings is an easy way to do this. During the menstrual phase, our hormones are flatlined. They are at the lowest point they will be in the month. During this time we rely on our neurotransmitters to boost our mood, instead of our hormones. Foods high in tryptophan, tyrosine, zinc, magnesium, and b vitamins (especially vitamin b6) and plant-based omega 3 are especially beneficial for mood and to help ease period pain (read my articles about period pain here https://hazelandcacao.com/getting-to-the-root-cause-of-period-pain/. )
Appetite during the menstrual phase is different for every woman. Ideally, appetite is increased during the first half of menstruation to help replenish nutrients, however, many women experience a sudden drop in appetite especially if their period causes a lot of pain which can lead to nausea.
The following list of foods is just an idea of some plant-based foods that are rich in iron, zinc as well as mood-boosting anti-inflammatory foods. There are many other wonderful foods that fit this category. I am working on ways to incorporate more of these foods into my diet at this phase. After trialing eating for my cycle for a few months, it was interesting to see that I naturally gravitated to these foods more anyway.