Here’s how your hormones are impacting your body month-round…
You’re probably used to your body behaving erratically when your period arrives, but your menstrual cycle impacts you far beyond the days that you bleed.
With hormone levels shifting constantly throughout the month, your mental and physical wellbeing can also seem like it’s in a perpetual state of flux.
However, understanding your unique cycle is the first step towards making it work for you – from enjoying a better quality of sleep to working out a beauty routine that acknowledges your changing skincare needs.
Here are some of the more unexpected ways your cycle can meddle with day to day life, and what you can do to ensure that disruption is as limited as possible…
Anyone who’s suffered a time-of-the-month breakout will be well aware of the connection between your skin and your cycle, but understanding exactly what you can expect to see from week to week can help you get ahead of your hormones to unlock your best complexion.
“During menstruation, your hormones are at their lowest and skin can feel dry and sensitive,” explains Dr Samantha Miller, a specialist in sexual and reproductive health.
“Following menstruation, during the rest of the follicular phase, oestrogen starts to rise in preparation for ovulation. Higher oestrogen levels are associated with increased collagen production and good skin hydration,” – a good time to focus on exfoliation.
“Ovulation occurs around the middle of the cycle, just after the peak level of oestrogen. Not only does ovulation often make us feel more attractive, but our skin is often at its best, with increased elasticity and pores appearing smaller.”
“Finally, we hit the luteal phase - which is often the worst time for breakouts. Oestrogen is lower and progesterone peaks, and for those with oily skin, increased production of sebum can lead to breakouts and congestion right before our period.”
Once you understand what to expect from your skin, you can select your products accordingly. Menstrual care brand Yoppie is a good place to start - their range of products are designed to help you take control of your menstrual health all month long, including a range of hormonal skin sheet masks that sync with each phase of your cycle.
If you find that your quality of sleep often see-saws between “eight hours out cold” and “tossing and turning like a rotisserie chicken”, chances are your cycle has something to do with it.
While we’re all familiar with the pain of trying to sleep with cramps, the week before bleeding can also prove testing when it comes to getting enough rest.
“The fluctuation in oestrogen and progesterone can increase your body temperature,” explains Sonia Khan, senior pharmacist at Medicine Direct, “which can make it harder for you to get to sleep.”
That hormonal shift might only see your body temperature increase by around half a degree, but that’s plenty to make you feel as though you’re burning up.
With that in mind, you might want to change up your bedding for week four of your cycle, opting for a lighter duvet and a soft, breathable cover.
On a more positive note, your cycle will also usually grant you a few days where you sleep like a baby.
That tends to happen immediately after your period, when your body has an increased response to melatonin – the hormone that sends you to sleep.
If it feels like your body is far more cooperative during some workouts than others, it’s worth considering where you’re at in your cycle, and planning your activity accordingly.
For example, during the third week of your cycle, peaking oestrogen levels can leave you feeling like you have energy to burn, which is why a lot of people like to crank up their routine during this phase.
Then during the luteal phase in week four, the combination of oestrogen and progesterone in your system can help to burn fat, making it a prime time to schedule cardio, aerobics or HIIT sessions.
There’s even something to be said for exercising during menstruation, even if it feels like the last thing you want to be doing.
“Exercise helps to keep you feeling positive and can also help you to manage pain, which can help to pre-empt mood swings,” explains Sonia Khan.
“Some light yoga can offer a good, gentle option for exercising on your period as it helps you to focus your mind on your breathing, and away from any physical or emotional discomfort you might be feeling.”
If you feel like you need a helping hand, Yoppie’s Hormone Hero nutritional supplements use ingredients such as zinc and vitamin B6 to help combat feelings of bloating and fatigue.
Then if PMS is sapping your motivation levels, Yoppie’s Mood Food nutritional supplements can help alleviate hormonal mood swings, irritability and anxiety – just the thing when active movement feels like a bridge too far.
The relationship between your menstrual cycle and how you eat is complex, but while there’s no need to dictate all your meals according to the calendar, certain nutritional choices can definitely make a difference.
The first thing to recognise is that the struggle with cravings is real – shifting levels of oestrogen and progesterone in the luteal phase can result in cravings for carbs and sugar, as can plunging serotonin levels.
It’s fine to satisfy those cravings, too – trying to impose a rigid diet at this point in your cycle would be masochistic. However, it’s worth making some nutritionally sound decisions, like opting for complex carbs like lentils or oats that will make you feel better for longer.
It’s also an idea to limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol and fizzy drinks, all of which can trigger cramps.
Then, during the menstruation, consider upping your consumption of red meat, spinach and other dark leafy greens to combat the iron lost through bleeding.
Want to get on top of your cycle? Yoppie’s range of products are designed to help you take control of your menstrual health all month long – not just when your period comes. From toxin-free organic period care and hormonal skincare solutions, to PMS and menstrual health targeted supplements, you can shop by product or by symptom, with the option to create a personalised menstrual care plan that’s totally unique to you. Better still, you can get 25% off your first subscription order when you use the code MYPHASE at checkout. Click here to start building your plan today.