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This three-part blog series will detail each of the phases of your cycle (menstrual, follicular, ovulatory, and luteal) what those cycles mean, food and lifestyle tips, and herbs you can take to optimize your body during each phase of your cycle.

What is the Menstrual phase?

Your period is the first phase of your cycle and easily the most talked about of the four phases. It is a common belief that you only have two phases to your cycle: bleeding and not bleeding. However, your hormone cycle is broken up into four different phases: menstrual, follicular, ovulatory, and luteal phase. In this blog, we will be focusing on the menstrual phase as it is the first and arguably one of the most foundational to a woman’s wellbeing.

The menstrual phase is usually the most challenging phase. It is common to experience bloating, tiredness, cramps, and mood swings—many of us find ourselves just wanting to lie down in bed and eat a whole box of chocolates. Although it can come with unwanted symptoms, this phase can give us insights into our overall health.

The length of the menstrual cycle is 21-35 days (the average being 26-28 days) and begins with the first day of your period. On average, women tend to bleed for 2-7 days. However, many of us don’t understand the significance of our periods and why we experience this phenomenon every month for most of our reproductive lives.

In short, our periods happen as a result of not developing an embryo. Your body works hard all month long to prepare itself for implantation. The ovary releases an egg during ovulation, the womb lining starts to thicken, and the egg travels down the fallopian tubes. When the egg is not fertilized, it is reabsorbed into the body, and estrogen as well as progesterone begins to fall.

The result is the thickened endometrial (or womb lining) exiting through the body as what we know to be our period. As we all know, the menstrual cycle can come with many signs and symptoms. Typically, in the week leading up to one’s period, many women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This is due to the rising and falling of certain hormones and they often experience bloating, breast tenderness, breakouts along the jawline or cheek, as well as mood swings.

The Fifth Vital Sign

Most people probably know that we have four main vital signs (body temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure)—however, there is a fifth overlooked sign for women that can give us a great look into our overall health. The menstrual cycle a.k.a. the fifth vital sign can help to find missing links in your health by looking at how regular your cycle is (regular is 21-35 days), how intense your cramps are, and even what your blood looks like.

In order to keep tabs on your cycle’s regularity, it is worth looking into period-tracking apps such as Flo or Natural Cycles. These apps are prediction-based and work based on the data that you provide. They ask questions about your mood, basal body temperature (if you choose to track that), cervical mucus, sex drive, skin conditions, as well as other symptoms to make an educated prediction on when your period is most likely to start.

These apps are also great for tracking ovulation—especially if you utilize basal body temperatures and LH strips (which test for the rise of the luteinizing hormone). Factors that can cause cycle irregularities include stress, improper nutrition, birth control, hormonal issues such as PCOS, and more. Keeping track of your cycle can help you stay vigilant and notice when something might be off such as a cycle that is too short or too long.

As previously mentioned, what your blood looks like can give you insights into your health. Very dark or bright red blood can be considered healthy. While in traditional Chinese medicine, a lighter blood color is a sign of a qi (your energy) deficiency. In Western medicine, this could mean low estrogen.

How Can We Support Our Bodies During our Period? Often times, the four phases of our cycle can be thought of as seasons: menstrual (winter), follicular (spring), ovulatory (summer), and luteal (autumn). This can give us some indication of lifestyle choices we want to make, food choices, and even the herbs that we might choose.

For your period, you might want to focus on nutrient-dense foods and know that a bigger appetite is normal during this time. Foods like warming soups, leafy greens, dark chocolate, and stews can be a great addition to this phase.

Prioritizing movement like walking, yoga, gentle pilates, or even just resting can be really beneficial during this time—no need to feel like you need to hammer out an intense strength training workout (save that for your ovulatory phase).

Herbs you might want to focus on are warming herbs like ginger, which can work to bring heat into the reproductive system and minimize cramps. For an easy-to-use formula, Hormone Harmonizer™ has got your back. This hormone-helping formula contains maca root, shatavari, ashwagandha, ginger, and acai berry to support your body's natural mood fluctuations and stabilize energy. Raspberry leaf is another great herb to utilize during your period as it has been shown to help reduce cramping.


Understanding and supporting your body during your menstrual cycle is a holistic journey that involves embracing various aspects of your well-being. We've delved into the intricacies of the menstrual cycle, recognizing it as a natural and vital process that deserves attention and care. From nutritional choices to lifestyle considerations, we've explored ways to create a supportive environment for your body.

Here's to honoring our bodies, embracing self-care, and fostering a deeper connection with the natural rhythms that make each woman beautifully unique. Stay tuned for part two which will explore the follicular and ovulatory phase.

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Written by Makayla H.

Herbal Educator