Introduction Into Cyclical Living
By Dr. Alexandra Cope
Illustration by Marta Pucci
Have you noticed that there are certain times of the month you can follow all the wellness practices, manage work, family, and life balance without a problem? Then there are those other times of the month that you can’t even find your own keys to get out of the door?
If you are female bodied or transitioning, you have an Infradian Rhythm. This is our macrocosm time keeper in relation to our Circadian Rhythm (our 24 hour time clock). Medicine and research has totally discounted our unique rhythm. This rhythm is based on our menstrual cycles and endocrine system.
An infradian rhythm is not unique to femme-bodied humans, other mammals follow infradian rhythms for survival behavior such as migration, mating, shedding, and hibernation. Yet, the medical industrial complex has totally discounted hormonal shifts and patterns that occur during a woman’s menstrual cycle and treated women as if we have the same 24-hour hormonal clock as men. This can explain why we have had an explosion of applied treatments in the wellness industry on biohacking, yet women’s autoimmune and chronic disease illness rates are increasing rather than declining.
Blanket statement practices are rarely applied to women's hormones. It is rarely researched how wellness lifestyle recommendations affect us throughout the month.
For instance, fasting can often be helpful during the follicular phase, and harmful during the luteal phase. Just as there is a medical industrial complex that has the ability to cause harm, there is a wellness industrial complex. Unfortunately, the wellness industry has capitalized on women’s body image. One way of taking our power back is using cyclical living as a tool to rest, grind, and achieve.
As cycling womxn, throughout the month, we shift. Just as the moon waxes and wanes, so does our estrogen, progesterone, uterine lining, cortisol, metabolism, and so much more. Our energy and appetite shifts throughout the month, due to cortisol and metabolic shifts. From this, we can begin to amplify our health practices using herbs, food, and exercise that mirror our monthly cycles.
What is the first step to practicing in tune with our cycles?
The easiest way to start is to use a biphasic plan.
Bleeding to Ovulation
Ovulation to Bleeding
During the follicular phase, we build estrogen. Estrogen is the hormone that helps us identify as WOMXN. She is a hormone of flexibility and juiciness. And a very anabolic hormone.
How is healthy estrogen made? The brain signals to our follicles in our ovaries to begin making estrogen. At the same time, the ovaries holler that they need more estrogen to the brain in order to develop healthy follicles.
The granulosa cells in the ovaries actually aromatize other hormones in order to create estrogen. Estrogen does her job by creating healthy fertile cervical mucus (juicy, white, and egg white like), helping the brain function, creating more flexibility in ligaments and tissues, and more.
Our Metabolism and cortisol shifts throughout the cycle, shifting our temperature, capacity for stress, and energy. Your metabolism shifts from higher during menstruation of the follicular phase to slower during the second half of the follicular phase. Your stress hormone, cortisol, is also not as high during this time. As you keep building to ovulation, you can use this anabolic time to build a healthy uterine lining, healthy cervical mucus, more muscle, and hone in on building/ organizing projects.
During this time, you can consume less calories or perhaps use fasting as a method to build healthy stem cells, which then in turn, help you build healthy muscle. As you build muscle, you increase mitochondria, therefore, increase energy and detoxification capacity.
During the shedding period of your follicular phase (menstruation), your metabolism is slightly higher, this is a time to eat cleansing warming and blood building foods. Such as dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, beets, game meats, organ meats, etc. This makes total logical sense since we get the period eats. I have found that cravings are more intense if you withhold your natural tendency to eat more with your cycle. I’m not talking about ice cream and bonbons. Although, there is no shame in indulgence. I am talking about more healthy carbs such as millet, sweet potatoes, and beets, healthy proteins such as bison, and healthy fibers such as chia pudding treats and greens.
Herbs I would recommend during this follicular phase are Maca, Tulsi, Motherwort, Peony, Dong Quai, Lady’s Mantle, Licorice, and Rose.
In the Copesthetic Health Biphasic Line, I created an estrogen balancing formula, Follicular Blend, to target a healthy ovulation. This formula is not simply composed of estrogenic herbs, but targets cortisol regulation (HPA Axis), radioactive protection, fertility building herbs, uterine tonifying herbs. Stay tuned, herb geeks, I will have more content for each herb soon! Essentially, each herb was carefully chosen to balance the complete symphony of hormones in your system, and provide protection from endocrine disrupting chemicals and radiation.
The second half of your cycle looks totally different, During the Luteal Phase, Estrogen begins to decline and progesterone comes in to refine uterine lining. Ovulation basically occurs at the intersection of estrogen and progesterone, and progesterone takes over as the primary sex hormone. The shining star follicle that had been working so hard with estrogen to develop, releases her egg, and the left over “egg shell” or corpus luteum begins to release progesterone. Progesterone is what maintains the uterine lining after estrogen has built it. Because estrogen is lower, and progesterone is higher, you can think of this as the catabolic state. Cortisol is generally higher during this period of time and so is your metabolism.
Before moving onto the rest of the luteal phase, let’s throw testosterone into the mix. Many women’s health advocates fail to put testosterone into biphasic sex hormone equations. testosterone (T) mostly peaks the day before your period and right around ovulation. You know that you have T peaking at a healthy level if your sex drive increases and you feel extra productive and focused during these two times. Use these times to great have sex, before your period to not get pregnant and at ovulation to get pregnant ;-). Okay, back to pre period preparations...
Logistically, if you are more annoyed, frustrated, or anxious, you may be able to look into a cortisol and progesterone connection. This is because cortisol can take over your sex hormone pathway and steal all of the healthy fats to create more cortisol. Before your period, it is recommended to minimize all stressors to your system. This includes your food intake: fast less or fast for less hours, increase healthy carbohydrates, and continue eating a balance of fiber, fats, protein, and carbohydrates. If you continue to fast and are calorie-restricted during the luteal phase, you can end up with more stress hormones and hormonal mayhem. This is also a time to decrease your exercise duration and intensity. Get curious about focusing on restorative exercises such as Yoga, meditation, moderate hiking, and walking during this time of the month.
Herbs I recommend during the Luteal Phase: Tulsi, Vitex, Licorice, Wild Yam, Schizandra, Evening Primrose, Ashwagandha.
In Copesthetic Health bi-phasic formula, Luteal Blend, I created a balance of herbs that promote progesterone in order to help ease premenstrual tension and create a balance for you to be more embodied during this cortisol shift. Just like the follicular blend, this blend supports the whole body, yet has more motherwort in it to ease PMS symptoms, Vitex to support LH/FSH and progesterone. Licorice and Schizandra help support the conversion of hormones to build healthy progesterone levels and have more ease while you prepare for your bleed.
Did you realize that your brain functioning can decline as much as 25% during your cycle? Or that your relationships are healthier during phases of your cycle? Or that your sex drive is up and down?
Using these methods and phases, can be a game changer for your work, body, spirit, and relationships. It is my wish that we all reclaim our natural relationship with Earth, Moon, and our own cycles so that we can heal ourselves and our communities.
Now more than ever, the world needs us and our gifts. If you are not cycling, no problem. Use the moon as your guide for dosing.
The waxing moon, new moon (menstrual) to full moon (ovulation), represents the follicular phase. The waning moon, full moon to the new moon, represents the luteal phase. I created Copesthetic Health Biphasic Blends with the intentions to bring more ritual, celebrating our cyclical nature.
I hope that it helps you as much as it has myself and my patients throughout the years. Cheers to your health!
Shop Copesthetic Health Biphasic Collection here.
Dr. Alexandra Cope
Boketto’s in-house Naturopath, Dr. Cope, is a trauma-trained physician with a professional background, including a 5 year Medical Degree and Naturopath License from The National University of Natural Medicine, 2 years of clinicals with an ENT Naturopath, 2 years of clinicals in Transgender Medicine, a homeopathic certification from the New England School of Homeopathy, as well as Food Sovereignty Training. Dr. Cope strives to inspire empowerment on all levels, focusing on womxn’s health, libido, fertility, and contraceptive options. She specializes in fasting, digestive health, microbiome restoration, and the fertility journey before and after motherhood.
Her new line The Biphasic Collection helps support hormone health.