Why cycle sync?

Kay Ali Hormone Nutritionist in London_Period Power

Graphic by Kay Ali Copyright 2020.

Three days into the New Year, an email popped up that had me screeching for joy. Glamour Magazine asked for an interview. It was a surreal moment because not only is this the magazine I grew up reading, just three days before, I jotted it down into my book of manifestations for 2020. The cynical scientist in me says it's just coincidence. But my inner mystic says I totally drew them in. Either way, here's the unedited interview I gave them about why we should work with the rise and fall of our hormones in our menstrual cycle. In other words, cycle sync...

"Living in sync with your period is the key to unlocking a happy and healthy life. That’s because the rise and fall of our sex hormones throughout our menstrual cycle not only impacts ovulation and menstruation, but our overall wellbeing. Understanding the changes that occur allows us to adjust our lifestyles in a way that feels right for us. It’s about dropping stress and guilt for the choices we make; rather accepting that our bodies change on a daily basis and choosing to work with it.

Why our sex hormones are important for overall health

It's not me, it's my hormones. By hormone specialist and nutritionist Kay Ali

Graphic by Kay Ali Copyright 2020.

I like to think of hormones as messages that an organ produces to deliver a specific instruction to a cell, ultimately telling it what to do. For example, when our ovaries produce oestrogen in the first half of our cycle, it targets cells that line our uterus instructing them to grow. This is so that in the event of pregnancy, there’s a rich blood supply for successful implantation.

However, oestrogen can only deliver its message by the presence of specific oestrogen receptor sites on cells. Each hormone has their own receptors; they act as a letter box that allows the hormone to effectively deliver its instructions. Understanding this is important because wherever we find these receptors, indicates where the hormone influences our health.

We know that oestrogen receptor sites exist on bone tissue, the liver, throughout the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, urogenital and gastrointestinal tract as well as across the reproductive system. We even find oestrogen receptors in adipose tissue suggesting that the hormone can impact our body fat composition. It’s not surprising then, that the role of this sex hormone is much bigger than reproduction and menstruation. Research shows that it influences insulin sensitivity, inflammatory response, our moods and so much more.

It’s worth keeping in mind, that I’ve illustrated the impact of just one sex hormone. We see a similar pattern across different tissues in the body with progesterone and testosterone receptor sites too; indicating the importance of all our sex hormones for overall health and wellbeing.

The power of cycle syncing

This is why getting in tune with our menstrual cycle is powerful. In fact, it’s so powerful it transforms our bodies into four distinctive characters every month; I like to think of them as Hormone Heroines. When we don’t understand this about ourselves we can wind up feeling unstable and like there is something wrong with us, when in fact there isn’t. We’re just out of tune with where we are in our cycle.

Menstruation Days 1-7: Our Batwoman emerges

Kay Ali's Hormone Heroines_Batwoman embodies how we feel during menstruation_London Hormone Specialist

Graphic by Kay Ali Copyright 2020.

On the first day of our period all three of our main sex hormones are at their lowest. As a result, we tend to be a little more withdrawn. Clients report feeling flatter and fatigued. In extreme cases, our skin can feel drier due to the lack of oestrogen. Oestrogen has been shown to boost skin hydration. I recommend increasing foods high in Omega 3 during this time. Foods like sardines, mackerel and anchovies are naturally high in Omega 3 which have been shown to increase dermal ceramides, essential for reducing transdermal water loss in the skin. At this time, it may help to switch out your moisturiser for a heavier formula too.

Follicular Phase Days 7-14: Our Catwoman pounces

Kay Ali's Hormone Heroines_Catwoman embodies how we feel during follicular phase of the menstrual cycle_London Hormone Specialist

Graphic by Kay Ali Copyright 2020.

By day 7 oestrogen production builds momentum, peaking at day 14. Progesterone and testosterone remain low. Clinical data shows that oestrogen improves insulin sensitivity; therefore we tend to crave sugar less and notice our energy levels are more stable during this phase. As a result, I recommend women optimise their lifestyle as much as possible around this. It’s easier to eat less sugar and follow a high protein and good fats diet. Due to improved energy, now is also a good time to commit to high intensity workouts.

Similarly, for some women oestrogen causes our blood vessels to dilate, resulting in improved circulation and raised body temperature. With improved blood flow around the body, your skin may appear plumper, rosier and more youthful. Most of us feel sexier and more confident at this time of the month, much like Catwoman. I recommend making the most of it; organise that date, socialise with friends more or be bold and get yourself noticed at work.

Ovulation Day 15: Our Wonder woman moment

Kay Ali's Hormone Heroines_Wonder woman embodies how we feel duringovulation_London Hormone Specialist

Graphic by Kay Ali Copyright 2020.

Unfortunately, for one day only we see a peak in all three of our hormones. This is your day of ovulation, which I think of as our Wonder Woman phase. Testosterone is at its highest, which alongside oestrogen has been shown to increase libido. It’s common to feel frisky and incredibly sociable on this day.

Luteal Phase Days 16-28: Our She Hulk rises

Kay Ali's Hormone Heroines_She-Hulk embodies how we feel during luteal phase of menstruation_London Hormone Specialist