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Home > Learn > FYI > >Biohacking Your Menstrual Cycle

Biohacking Your Menstrual Cycle

Oct 20, 23 8 min

Originally published 07/20/2020. Updated for accuracy and relevancy on 10/20/2023.

By Rachel Norman. Medically reviewed by Dr. Kenosha Gleaton.

What Is Biohacking?

Biohacking, a method to “upgrade” your body by altering your lifestyle and diet, is a term gaining more and more attention in the media. [1] While some of these changes may lead to positive results, biohacking techniques can become dangerous if not approved by a healthcare provider. It’s important to always consult with a medical professional if you are making extreme lifestyle changes. Keep in mind that making healthier choices isn’t likely to cause a dramatic shift in your health overnight, but can still lead to positive outcomes down the road. [1] 

Biohacking the Menstrual Cycle

Whether or not all biohacking claims are true remains to be seen; however, there is some data to support the trend specifically known as “cycle syncing.” [2] Each phase of the menstrual cycle causes notable changes in the brain and body. By understanding these changes, menstruating people can adapt their lifestyle to the phase of their menstrual cycle—aka cycle syncing. [2]

Menstruation

The first phase of the menstrual cycle, menstruation, starts on the first day of your period. [2] During this phase, the most obvious physical change is vaginal bleeding, which can happen for four to eight days. Estrogen and progesterone levels are very low, which is one reason you may feel emotional or depressed during this phase. [3] One of estrogen’s roles is producing serotonin and releasing endorphins, so when it is at its lowest, people are more likely to feel depressed. [4] Biohacking techniques during menstruation may include [2-4]:

  • Understanding the reasons behind emotional changes and using a combination of meditation, yoga, or other stress-relieving activities to combat these changes
  • Increasing intake of iron, vitamin C, vitamin K, and omega-3s
    • Iron can replace lost iron from bleeding, vitamin C increases iron absorption, vitamin K reduces heavy bleeding, and omega-3s may relieve cramping and inflammation. 
    • Taking iron supplements during menstruation does help improve hemoglobin concentration in the blood; however, taking iron supplements throughout the whole menstrual cycle causes a higher rate of improvement [5]
  • Focus on low-intensity activities when being active. Allow yourself to take a rest day or do an easier workout. 

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Follicular Phase

The follicular phase technically starts on the first day of menstruation, but for our purposes, we will be focusing specifically on the period of time between menstruation and ovulation. [2] 

The follicular phase is marked by an increase in follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH causes the growth of several follicles on the surface of the ovaries, one of which will release an egg during ovulation. [6] These follicles release high amounts of estrogen, as do the ovaries, so it’s common to feel motivated during this time and have higher energy. [2,3,6] Biohacking during the follicular phase may include [2,3,6]:

  • Eating a diet full of lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. These foods may support increased energy levels and can fuel higher-intensity workouts. You may also want to consume more foods that can help balance your increased estrogen levels, including fermented foods, cruciferous vegetables, healthy fats, and leafy greens. 
  • Doing higher intensity and cardio-focused workouts such as HIIT, cycling, running, or swimming. 
  • Scheduling meetings and social events to capitalize on your increased energy levels. 

Ovulation

Ovulation begins around day 14 when luteinizing hormone (LH) levels peak. [2,6] This hormone causes the follicle to release a mature egg, which will migrate to the uterus and await fertilization. [6] For this reason, the ovulation phase is the best time to try to get pregnant. To better track ovulation and aid in getting pregnant, you can use ovulation tests. Estrogen and testosterone levels are at their highest during ovulation, leading to some of the highest energy levels of the month. [2] Examples of biohacking during ovulation may include:

  • Eating estrogen-balancing foods helps your liver break down high levels of estrogen. These include vegetables, fermented foods, healthy fats, etc. [2] 
  • Eating foods high in zinc, since it is necessary for both ovulation and fertilization of the egg [7]
    • Foods like pumpkin seeds and nuts are high in zinc.
    • The body’s natural production of zinc is at its lowest during ovulation, which is why outside supplementation is important. [8] 
  • Take advantage of your high energy levels with high-intensity exercise. Try something new like spinning or kickboxing, or aim for a new personal best with your usual activities, be it running, weight lifting, etc. 

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Luteal Phase

The luteal phase, the final of the four phases, begins when the follicle bursts, overlapping with ovulation. The remains of this follicle stay on the surface of the ovary and release progesterone and estrogen, which cause the uterus lining to thicken in preparation for a fertilized egg. [6] If and when that egg does not get fertilized, the body will shed the uterine lining, leading to the start of menstruation and a new cycle. Hormones sharply decrease from their peak levels during ovulation, which causes symptoms many of us know as PMS (premenstrual syndrome). It’s common to experience feelings of anger, depression, and anxiety, as well as hunger and cravings. [2,3] Biohacking during the luteal phase may include:

  • Drinking lots of water: staying hydrated can help reduce bloating, brain fog, and some PMS symptoms. 
  • Work in concentrated bursts or attempt to complete shorter tasks. You may experience brain fog or fatigue during the luteal phase, so plan accordingly!
  • Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids at the end of the luteal phase can alleviate both the mental and physical symptoms of PMS. [11] 
    • Various seafood such as herring, salmon, and oysters are high in omega-3. For those who don’t eat or don’t like seafood, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans have a high dose of omega-3s!
  • Give in to some cravings- you’ve certainly earned a piece of chocolate or a bag of chips. You can also curb hunger with high-fiber foods such as leafy greens and sweet potatoes. You need the extra energy during the luteal phase, which is all the more reason to eat a satisfying meal! [12] 

Cycle Syncing 

Cycle syncing not only helps you feel your best during each phase of your cycle, but it may also help you get pregnant. Being aware of the different phases of the menstrual cycle, including when you’re ovulating and most likely to conceive, can increase your chances of getting pregnant. Need some help calculating ovulation? Use our free ovulation calculator online, or measure LH levels with Natalist Ovulation Tests

Coming off of Hormonal Birth Control

Cycle syncing is not applicable if you use hormonal birth control, since it overrides your natural hormones and prevents ovulation. [2] However, it’s normal to experience irregular cycles for a few weeks after discontinuing hormonal birth control, so cycle-syncing methods may be helpful for determining how your body is adjusting. [2] Supplements such as inositol can encourage ovulation in certain groups, supporting a regular menstrual cycle! 

Support Your Cycle Health with Natalist

Biohacking your body can be used to help reduce the symptoms of hormonal fluctuations during your menstrual cycle, such as insomnia, hormonal acne, severe PMS, or bloating, but should never replace a visit to your provider. If you’re experiencing abnormal symptoms, difficulty conceiving, or you have general questions about your reproductive health, you should speak with a healthcare provider. 

Read about nutrition and its effects on fertility, and review what exactly the hormone progesterone does on the Natalist blog. For those trying to conceive, check out our Menstrual Cycle Supplements Bundle which contains menstrual cycle supplements formulated to support cycle regularity and successful ovulation!


References:

  1. Bhanote, M. Geng, C. What to know about biohacking. Medical News Today. October 2022. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/biohacking
  2. Albers, S. Nutrition and Exercise Throughout Your Menstrual Cycle. April 2023. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/nutrition-and-exercise-throughout-your-menstrual-cycle/
  3. Farage MA, Osborn TW, MacLean AB. Cognitive, sensory, and emotional changes associated with the menstrual cycle: a review. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2008;278(4):299-307. doi:10.1007/s00404-008-0708-2
  4. Rubinow DR, Schmidt PJ, Roca CA. Estrogen-serotonin interactions: implications for affective regulation. Biol Psychiatry. 1998;44(9):839-850. doi:10.1016/s0006-3223(98)00162-0
  5. Februhartanty J, Dillon D, Khusun H. Will iron supplementation given during menstruation improve iron status better than weekly supplementation?. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2002;11(1):36-41. doi:10.1046/j.1440-6047.2002.00264.x
  6. Reed BG, Carr BR. The Normal Menstrual Cycle and the Control of Ovulation. [Updated 2018 Aug 5]. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Blackman MR, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279054/
  7. Favier AE. The role of zinc in reproduction. Hormonal mechanisms. Biol Trace Elem Res. 1992;32:363-382. doi:10.1007/BF02784623
  8. Deuster PA, Dolev E, Bernier LL, Trostmann UH. Magnesium and zinc status during the menstrual cycle. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1987;157(4 Pt 1):964-968. doi:10.1016/s0002-9378(87)80096-0
  9. Bullivant SB, Sellergren SA, Stern K, et al. Women's sexual experience during the menstrual cycle: identification of the sexual phase by noninvasive measurement of luteinizing hormone. J Sex Res. 2004;41(1):82-93. doi:10.1080/00224490409552216
  10. Lord T, Taylor K. Monthly fluctuation in task concentration in female college students. Percept Mot Skills. 1991;72(2):435-439. doi:10.2466/pms.1991.72.2.435
  11. Sohrabi N, Kashanian M, Ghafoori SS, Malakouti SK. Evaluation of the effect of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: "a pilot trial" [published correction appears in Complement Ther Med. 2023 Mar;72:102919]. Complement Ther Med. 2013;21(3):141-146. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2012.12.008
  12. Webb P. 24-hour energy expenditure and the menstrual cycle. Am J Clin Nutr. 1986;44(5):614-619. doi:10.1093/ajcn/44.5.614

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