Want to better understand your menstrual cycle? Well I’m here to share 7 ways that you can hack your menstrual cycle! If you follow my social media posts than you may already know that the #1 way I’m going to share is by charting your menstrual cycle so that you can better understand exactly what is happening during your cycle.
- Chart Your Menstrual Cycle
One of the best ways to hack your menstrual cycle is by learning to chart your cycle with a fertility awareness based method. There quite a few different methods of cycle charting, but my preferred Tell-All method is the SymptoThermal Double Check Method because it can reveal so much about your hormonal and menstrual cycle health. Your menstrual speaks loudly to you, but you need to know how to interpret it to hack your cycle. Charting your cycle shows you exactly what your hormones are doing in each cycle, you are able to see how sleep or lack of it affects your cycle, as well as how food, travel, supplements, prescription drugs, stress, etc. can affect your menstrual cycle. When you are able to look at your cervical mucous and basal body temperature observations, you can see how your body responds to your lifestyle habits and daily choices and you are able to make the necessary adjustments to improve your hormonal health and menstrual cycle health.
- Sync with Your Menstrual Cycle
If charting your cycle sounds too daunting, then syncing with your menstrual cycle is another option. Cycle syncing allows you to move in tune with the seasons of your menstrual cycle. I define the seasons of the cycle as winter for menses, spring for your early infertile days (the time after menstruation before your fertile window opens as estrogen levels rise), summer for your fertile window and autumn for your luteal phase infertile days. When you are able to adapt your life so that it is syncing with the hormonal fluctuations of your menstrual cycle you feel more in balance. When estrogen and progesterone levels are low during menses and the early infertile days (winter and spring), you can relax a bit more and give yourself permission to rest. When estrogen levels are rising and high during your fertile window (summer), you have more energy and can grab life by the horns. When estrogen and progesterone levels are fluctuating, rising and dipping in your luteal phase (autumn) you will better understand why you may be a bit more emotional or why your energy rises and falls. With this knowledge you are able to modify your lifestyle to support hormonal function and your menstrual cycle.
- Balance Your Hormones
Your endocrine system is an extremely sensitive system. It responds to internal and external factors and it can be disrupted by a number of factors. Balancing your hormones is literally a balancing act, so being mindful of what you put into your body, what you put onto your body, how you move your body, who you interact with and how you interact with them matters. Creating balance in mind, body, heart and spirit can help to balance hormones. It’s a whole body approach but taking small mindful steps each day can support you in reaching hormonal harmony.
- Audit Your Diet
Do you enjoy sugar, salt, gluten, dairy, processed foods? Looking at what you put into your body is the first step to improving your menstrual cycle because menstrual health is directly affected by gut health. Your gut microbiome directly affects your vaginal microbiome, therefore, what you eat really does affect your menstrual cycle. There is no one size fits all diet for improving your menstrual cycle as it is completely individualistic and dependent upon ancestry and your unique constitution. For some people, going vegetarian works, while others see improvement on a WAP diet, and yet others say vegan, paleo, omnivore, raw, etc… it really is unique to each individual. What you can do is start a food diary to see how your body and your menstrual cycle responds to what you eat. This can be a tedious process, but it’s well worth it when you’re able to pinpoint what foods affect your menstrual cycle. Your overall health starts in the gut, so it’s best to take a deeper look into what goes into your mouth.
- Vary Your Movement Patterns
Movement is nourishment for the body and your internal organs. By movement I mean working out, walking, dancing, taking the stairs, yoga asana, squatting, swimming, spending more time moving than you do sitting in chairs. You don’t need to become a gym rat or cardio bunny but you do need to move throughout the day to keep your body functioning optimally. Today’s society is mostly sedentary with short periods of movement, which is not optimal for proper organ function. Your fascia is the biggest organ in the body, it encases every organ and muscle in your body. When the fascia that supports and surrounds the pelvis, pelvic floor and organs of the lesser pelvis (which includes our bladder, uterus and ovaries) becomes tight and tense, you can experience pain and discomfort in the pelvic region, especially during menstruation. Varying your movement patterns, lifting weights, incorporating spiraling, circling and undulating movements into your routine and utilizing fascial release techniques can all improve your menstrual cycle. Healthy fascia can support a healthy menstrual cycle.
- Reduce Stress & Anxiety
Another important factor in improving menstrual cycle health and balancing hormones is reducing stress and anxiety. My go-to practices for reducing stress are meditation, yoga nidra, restorative and yin yoga, as well as eliminating or reducing my exposure to known stressors. If your menstrual cycle is out of balance, take a look at your stress levels. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’re stressed out until you look at your menstrual cycle… remember, it speaks loudly. One way to reduce stress is to avoid the places, people and things that stress you out and cause anxiety. It can be difficult when it’s your job, place of work or people in your life like family, close friends, partner, but you do have a choice as to how much you engage in these situations. Make a list of what stresses you out, then do your best to avoid or reduce your exposure to the things that cause you stress.
- Create a Sleep Sanctuary
Rest and sleep are extremely important for menstrual cycle function. The body self-heals and regenerates during rest and sleep. Melatonin is the hormone that not only regulates sleep but it’s also responsible for the start of menses and determines the length of the ovulatory cycle. Melatonin also directly influences the start of menopause. Melatonin production can even delay your period! Now do you see how important sleep and rest are to your menstrual cycle. Creating a sleep sanctuary can improve your menstrual cycle because you are more likely to enter a deep sleep which produces more melatonin. Sleep sanctuaries are dark, meaning zero to minimal light entering the room, electronic interference is at a minimum, the room is at a comfortable temperature for you, the ambience should be one in which you want to rest in and you get to decide what that means for you. Starting a bedtime routine is also important in creating your sleep sanctuary. Reduce your screen time 1 hour before bed, meditate or practice yoga asana before bed, read a book, take a bath, diffuse essential oils for sleep, self-massage or fascial release techniques, self-care practices can all help to prepare you for entering your sleep sanctuary.
The key point of this post is that you can empower and reclaim your menstrual cycle and you can improve your menstrual cycle health. You just need to know where to look and how to get started. My advice is to start with one thing, diet is typically the most effective but also the most involved. There is no quick fix to improving your menstrual cycle and hormonal birth control is NOT the answer. It takes time, dedication and trial & error to find out exactly what is influencing your hormones and disrupting your menstrual cycle. Take your time, give yourself grace and work with a qualified professional if you need support during your healing journey.