Written by Heidi BrockMyer
Just like nature cycles through four seasons during the course of the year, your body cycles through four phases during each menstrual cycle. As you tune into the changing seasons of the year, you eat different foods and switch clothing to support your body as it adjusts to the environmental changes.
These adjustments are intuitive. You instinctively know to eat in-season produce, drink warm teas during the winter, and eat refreshing watermelon to stay hydrated during hot summer months. However you may not be as in tune with the needs of your body during each phase of your menstrual cycle. Supporting each phase helps you to maintain a regular healthy menstrual cycle, balance your hormones and sustain the health of your eggs and uterine lining.
In our culture, we aren’t taught much about our reproductive systems, let alone about the phases of our menstrual cycle. Many women don’t know what fertile cervical mucus is until they start learning to chart their cycles.
Most of us don’t know that a healthier cycle is the prerequisite for improving fertility and creating a healthy pregnancy. I compare it to tilling the soils to prepare for an abundant harvest. By gaining insight into the rhythms of your cycle, you can influence the health of your cycle and your fertility, which is where the wisdom of Chinese medicine has so much to offer.
Each phase typically lasts about seven days if you maintain a regular 28 day cycle. The first phase of your cycle begins with the first day of your period. Although you may only have flow for one to three days, this first week is considered the first phase.
The primary goal during this phase is to completely shed your uterine lining. Energy needs to be flowing in the right direction, which is down and out of your body. This is a delicate phase. A lot of movement is taking place and so your body should rest and be allowed to do it’s thing.
It takes energy for the body to release the lining. If energy flow is weakened or disrupted, you may not fully shed the lining. Old stagnant blood can stick around and cause clots.
Acupuncturist’s Tip: Stay hydrated and drink additional electrolytes. If you crave red meat, you likely need the iron. Otherwise avoid eating heavy and greasy foods.
During your period, avoid exercising. Gentle stretching and light walking are acceptable.
PHASE 2-FOLLICULAR PHASE
BUILD YIN AND BLOOD
Phase two begins around one week after your period starts and lasts until ovulation.
The primary goal during the second phase is to rebuild blood and nutrients to nourish a healthy uterine lining and support the maturation of a healthy egg for ovulation. As soon as your flow stops, you can begin nourishing your body to build up blood and fluids again.
This is considered the yin phase (versus yang) of your menstrual cycle. Yin is the substance and fluid material of your body, while yang is energy that fuels movement and function.
Although it’s important during all four phases of your cycle to get a good night’s sleep, your body especially needs it during this time. By missing out on quality sleep, you may not replenish your blood supply adequately, which can affect the health of your lining and eggs, especially if this is a chronic habit.
Acupuncturist’s Tip: : During this phase, eat plenty of nourishing foods, like soups and stews, iron-rich cooked vegetables and organic animal protein to rebuild your blood supply and mature an egg for ovulation.
Avoid excessively sweating and overly vigorous exercise during this time. Get plenty of sleep.
PROMOTE YANG (WARMTH AND MOVEMENT)
Phase three begins with ovulation and lasts for one week following ovulation. This phase begins when the “yin” (blood and fluids) comes to a climax and transforms into yang as the body signals that it’s ready for ovulation.
The yang phase embodies warmth and movement. This is why your basal body temperature should rise immediately after ovulating. The hormones released during this phase of your cycle warm up the body to promote the release of the egg-containing follicle.
The warmth encourages dilation and blood flow so that the egg can be released from the follicle and travel unobstructed down the open fallopian tubes. Yangenergy catalyzes the follicular shell to transform into the corpus luteum.
Acupuncturist’s Tip:During this phase, keep your feet, lower back and abdomen warm. Stretching the hips, lower back, and pelvic area can help increase blood flow and movement in the reproductive organs while relieving congestion.
Avoid cold foods, raw vegetables, and phlegm producing foods, like sugar and dairy during this phase as these can cause congestion and fluid buildup in your tubes and uterus. Congestion makes it difficult for the sperm to reach the eggs and for an embryo to make the journey down the tubes.
PHASE 4-IMPLANTATION OR PRE-MENSTRUAL PHASE
REGULATE THE FLOW OF QI (PREMENSTRUAL PHASE) OR PROMOTE YANG (IMPLANTATION)
This phase begins about one week after ovulation and ends the day you get your period or a confirmed pregnancy with the first day of your late period.
This phase sustains the warmth and movement of energy or “qi”. Your temperatures should continue to stay high during this phase and typically drop off right before you begin your period. If implantation took place (usually between 7-10 days after ovulation), then warmth and blood flow will continue to be the main priority as you nourish a growing embryo.
If you are not pregnant, the yang energy gathers to a peak then transforms back into yin with the onset of your period. Your hormones adjust before you start shedding the uterine lining. When this energy bottlenecks, it may result in a variety of PMS symptoms like moodiness, bloating, and headaches.
Acupuncturist’s Tip: During this phase to minimize stress, as it disrupts the flow of qi and can worsen the symptoms. Caffeine and alcohol should also be avoided, while exercise and stretching helps regulate the flow of qi.
Your body performs infinite miracles every moment of every day in every cell. The better you understand your body, the better you can support it. The more in tune you are with your cycle, the more you can till the soils of your fertility.
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Article Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-to-balance-the-phases-of-your-menstrual-cycle-to_us