Syncing the food you eat with your cycle is a excellent way to bring mindful eating and supportive nourishment to your body while focusing on fertility. A healthier cycle is the prerequisite for improving fertility and a healthy pregnancy. Supporting each phase helps you to maintain a regular healthy menstrual cycle, balance your hormones and sustain the health of your eggs and lining.
The better you understand your body, the better you can support it. Similarly, the more in tune you are with your cycle, the more you can maximize your fertility. Which is why it is important to learn the wisdom that Chinese medicine has to offer for each phase and its corresponding beneficial nutrition.
There are four phases to your menstrual cycle, each lasting roughly a week: The Menstrual Phase is when you are bleeding, Follicular Phase for when the follicles are growing, Ovulatory Phase for when your body releases the egg and it travels down the fallopian tube, and lastly the Luteal Phase where the implantation of an embryo is possible.
Phase 1: Menstruation (while bleeding)
Primary goal: Move Blood
The primary goal during this phase is to properly shed your uterine lining. It takes energy for the body to release the lining. This is a delicate phase. There is a lot of movement taking place and your body needs rest. It is recommended to avoid exercise, and focus on gentle walking and stretching. It is important to stay hydrated, and if you crave red meat you are likely needing iron. Eating pork or duck to satisfy this craving is recommended.
Phase 2: Follicular Phase (follicles are growing)
Primary goal: Build Blood (Yin)
The primary goal during the second phase is to rebuild blood and substance to nourish a healthy uterine lining and support the maturation of a healthy egg for ovulation.
Good sleep is especially important during this time. In Chinese medicine, going to sleep before 11pm is recommended, as this is the time that your body starts replenishing its blood supply and heals the tissues of your body while you sleep.
Phase 3: Ovulatory Phase (body releases the egg and it travels down the fallopian tube)
Primary goal: Promote warmth and movement in body (Yang)
This phase is all about warmth and movement, which is why your basal body temperature should rise immediately after having ovulated. The hormones released during this phase of your cycle warm up the body to promote the release of the egg-containing follicle. It is important during this phase to keep your abdomen, lower back and feet warm. Gentle stretching of the pelvic, lower back and hips helps promote blood flow to the reproductive area and relieves congestion in the area. Avoiding raw foods and cold foods is important during this time, as well as dairy and sugar. These foods aid in congestions which makes it difficult for the sperm to reach the eggs and for the embryo to makes its journey down the tubes.
Phase 4: Luteal Phase (Implantation of embryo)
Primary goal: Regulate the flow of Qi and promote implantation
Your temperature should remain high during this phase, dropping right before your period begins. If you are pregnant, which typically occurs 7-10 days after ovulation, the warmth and blood flow continue to be your main priority. If pregnancy does not occur, your body is gathering energy to shed its uterine lining. Sometimes this energy does not flow smoothly or gets blocked, resulting in PMS symptoms like bloating and moodiness. Minimizing stress during this phase is important, as well as avoiding alcohol and caffeine which can make all the symptoms worse by disrupting the flow of qi.
Foods To Follow For Each Phase Of Your Cycle
The chart below is meant as a guideline for you to incorporate different foods for each of the four phases of your cycle. The food recommendations are based on the energetic quality and how they match up with your cycle, the micronutrients that are needed for each phase of your cycle, and also on estrogen metabolism-so it is kept flowing and processing through your body. There is no need to cause stress by trying to follow this list 100%, simply eating the majority of your foods from this list already is a wonderful accomplishment.
See our post on seed cycling to learn about the benefits of eating seeds for your cycle. Seed cycling specifically helps balance estrogen and progesterone throughout your cycle.
Food recommendation chart modified from Flo Living: https://www.floliving.com