You may have heard of cycle syncing which has now amassed over 336 million searches on TikTok and has taken the wellness world by storm. But what is cycle syncing? Read on to find out if we should be optimising our lifestyle to fit around our menstrual cycle.
What is cycle syncing?
Cycle syncing involves changing your lifestyle habits such as diet or exercise to align with the different phases of the menstrual cycle to help balance your hormones and optimise your cycle (1). The menstrual cycle consists of 4 phases; the menstrual phase, the follicular phase, the ovulatory phase and the luteal phase.
Tired of the all too familiar discomfort and symptoms of your menstrual cycle?
Cycle syncing is an approach that allows you to optimise your health and fitness goals, helping you to feel more in tune with your body's natural rhythms. This ultimately encourages you to start working with your body, rather than against it. Benefits include; more energy, better sleep, improved metabolism, increased libido, alleviated PMS symptoms and more effective workouts.
How do our hormones change throughout the menstrual cycle?
The menstrual phase (days 1-7) involves the shedding of the uterus lining caused by decreased oestrogen and progesterone levels, causing a normal vaginal bleed. During this time, women may experience abdominal cramping, headaches and nausea.
The follicular phase (days 8-13) involves thickening of the uterine lining. Energy levels and mood often improve. This phase lasts 13-14 days.
The ovulatory phase (days 14-21) is when ovulation occurs. Oestrogen and progesterone levels rise which can boost your mood, energy levels and libido. This is the phase where pregnancy is most likely to occur. This phase lasts about 3 days.
The final phase of the menstrual cycle is the luteal phase (days 22-28). Oestrogen and progesterone levels continue to rise and then - if pregnancy does not occur, fall as the body prepares for the menstruation phase. Often feelings of anxiety are higher during this phase. PMS symptoms may occur, such as bloating, acne, fatigue, mood swings and low libido.
How to cycle sync to gain the best results?
During the menstrual phase, it is important to supply the body with iron and zinc through comforting foods such as soups and stews that contain green leafy vegetables and high-quality proteins. Whilst you may want to curl up in a blanket on your sofa all day long, low impact exercise such as yoga or walking is beneficial as it can help improve your mood, tackle those painful cramps and reduce fatigue. However, this is the optimal time for rest, so don't push yourself too hard!
During the follicular phase, it is important to replenish your body with iron and iodine after menstruation. This means incorporating green leafy vegetables and healthy fats such as fish, avocado and olive oil. Now that energy levels have increased, it is a good time for higher-intensity workouts such as running, cycling and swimming. This is a great time to challenge yourself and reach those goals!
As hormone levels peak during the ovulatory phase, you want to prioritise foods that help balance your hormones such as berries, tomatoes and bell peppers. This is a good time to engage in HIIT and endurance workouts which can help boost your metabolism. This is also the stage at which your body is most most fertile which is important to bear in mind!
During the luteal phase, energy levels are lower, moods may fluctuate, and appetite may increase. It's important to consume adequate amounts of carbohydrates, B-vitamins and magnesium, including foods such as sweet potatoes, lentils and, butternut squash. Dark chocolate is beneficial to incorporate into your diet and this may help curb some of those sweet cravings! To prepare your body for menstruation, reduce the intensity of your workouts to low impact movements such as pilates or yoga.
Is Iodine the solution you’ve been looking for all this time?
Did you know that one of the primary causes of disrupted menstrual cycles is an iodine deficiency? Hypothyroidism occurs when the body's iodine levels decrease, and the thyroid gland cannot produce enough thyroid hormone (T3 & T4) leading to a hormonal imbalance. This can cause unpleasant symptoms such as weight gain and fatigue, sensitivity to the cold, thinning hair, brittle nails and dry skin (5).
Now how does this affect cycle syncing? For cycle syncing to be beneficial, it is best to have a regular cycle. A regular cycle lasts anywhere from 23 to 35 days long (4) and can only be achieved through a balance in hormones. Studies show that 68% of women with low thyroid hormone experience irregular menstrual cycles, compared to only 12% of healthy women (6).
Iodine deficiency can even contribute to painful conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome which is characterised by irregular periods, or endometriosis which causes inflammation, scarring and pain. Whilst cycle syncing aims to reduce unpleasant symptoms of the menstrual cycle, adequate iodine intake may also contribute to the regulation of the cycle and avoiding heavy bleeding. Subsequently, it’s important to ensure your body is receiving optimal levels of iodine throughout the month.
Supplement essential iodine with Doctor Seaweed
If the symptoms of iodine deficiency sound all too familiar, perhaps this is causing those unwanted symptoms and an irregular cycle. Up to 80% of women are not getting enough iodine, making this one of the leading nutrient deficiencies worldwide. Dietary sources of iodine include white fish, dairy and seaweed yet, with the rise in plant-based diets, many of us are not getting enough.
Seaweed is the most rich and plant-based source of natural iodine but admittedly not the tastiest of foods. Doctor Seaweed’s Weed and Wonderful supplements make it easy to ensure you are getting adequate iodine intake. Just one capsule contains the same iodine levels you would expect to find in a portion of haddock making it an easy and affordable way to ensure you are consuming enough iodine!
This paired with cycle syncing will optimise your menstrual cycle to ensure you look and feel wonderful. Doctor Seaweed’s Beauty+ supplements also contains the essential iodine needed for optimal women’s health, plus added vitamins A, B2, B3, C, E, biotin, selenium and zinc. These key nutrients will help to balance your hormones and support each phase of the menstrual cycle by improving energy levels, mood, libido and metabolism. Click here to shop Beauty+
1. What Is Cycle Syncing? [Internet]. Healthline. 2020. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/guide-to-cycle-syncing-how-to-start
2. Laurence E. Cycle Syncing: Everything You Need To Know [Internet]. Forbes Health. 2022. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/health/family/cycle-syncing/
3. Girl L @ BB. Cycle Syncing: How to Sync Your Diet, Workouts, and Productivity to Your Menstrual Cycle [Internet]. Balanced Black Girl. 2022 [cited 2023 Apr 25]. Available from: https://www.balancedblackgirl.com/cycle-syncing/
4. NHS Choices. Periods and fertility in the menstrual cycle - Periods [Internet]. NHS. 2019. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/periods/fertility-in-the-menstrual-cycle/
5. Iodine Deficiency: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Prevention [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. 2022. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/23417-iodine-deficiency#:~:text=Hypothyroidism%20occurs%20when%20your%20body%27s
6. 10 Signs and Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency [Internet]. Healthline. 2017 [cited 2023 Apr 25]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/iodine-deficiency-symptoms#:~:text=Like%20most%20symptoms%20of%20iodine