By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
Women’s bodies are meant to fluctuate as our hormones shift through the month, and what this means is that our moods, physical health, productivity, creativity, appetite, libido, immune systems can all vary week by week. One of the best acts of self-care you can do, is to track your menstrual cycle and how you are feeling in order to work with your cycle rather than fighting against it.
Since we have monthly fluctuations, it’s time to embrace the positive aspects of this variability. For example, if you are extremely creative in the days leading up to ovulation, this is the time to schedule in creative parts of your job, writing projects, brainstorming sessions, or simply some creative projects in your free time. You may also find that in the premenstrual week that your focus and productivity is very high, and this is time when you can get large volumes of work moving. And during menstruation, most women are more tired and introspective. Slowing down during this time, and allowing yourself extra rest as your body is calling for will allow you to ease into the next phase of your cycle.
Consider tracking the following relative to your menstrual cycle, and look for patterns:
- Your mood – joyous, sad, irritable, calm, anxious,,…
- Communication skills
- Introverted / extroverted
- Physical signs – bloating, breast tenderness, appetite, food cravings, cramps, headaches
When you’re working with your cycle, rather than against it, you’re able to optimize your energy and strengths during different parts of the month.
We all tend to be too hard on ourselves, and have an expectation of being perfectly level and consistent day after day. This is not the reality of female hormones, so let’s embrace what they do provide us with – a consistently cyclical motion of strengths, which can be used to our advantage week by week when they are recognized.
By tracking your cycle, you may also find some trends in your physical health that you didn’t recognize as being cyclical. For example, many women with irritable bowel syndrome notice fluctuations with their cycle, and also migraines, allergies, urinary tract infections, yeast infections to name a few. By recognizing a hormonal trigger for a symptom, we have one additional avenue to treat it.
If you find that by tracking your cycle, there are too many days with pain, low mood, bloating, breast swelling or inflammation, we can address these directly by supporting optimal hormone metabolism with liver support, rebalancing digestive flora, addressing stress hormone imbalance, and finally correcting hormone balance if still needed. This is something that naturopathic medicine does excel at!
Tracking your cycle can simply be on your calendar, but there are also some fun apps that allow you to track your moods and also add notes. A few of my favourites are: iPeriod, Period Tracker, Clue. If you are tracking your temperatures specifically for fertility, some of the best apps are: Fertility Friend, and Kindara.
My hope with this article is that by watching your fluctuations through the month, you begin to embrace the ups and downs and see the strengths of each phase of your cycle. This can be an act of self-care and an empowering process!