Learn More: Your Period Cycle In 4 Phases
We experience hundreds of periods in our lifetime and sadly most people dread that time of the month time and time again. But did you know that there are four distinct phases of your menstrual cycle and each have their own physical and emotional effects? Learning more about our cycles can help us work with our cycle not against it.
The menstrual cycle is complex and is controlled and regulated by various glands and hormones. The part of the brain, the hypothalamus prompts the pituitary gland to produce certain chemicals that signals to the ovaries to secrete the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. 
The four phases:
- Follicular phase
- Luteal phase
In a month these are the faces and emotions a uterus may make. Is this accurate for you?
Menstruation starts when the hormone progesterone plunges which prompts the elimination of the uterus lining from the body through the vagina. Menstrual blood also contains endometrial cells and mucus. This is the week of your cycle when your energy levels are the lowest, so it's best to listen to your body and allow yourself some good rest.  
Foods that can help in this stage include foods rich in iron, zinc and iodine and water-rich foods. Some food ideas include kidney beans, kale, mushrooms and watermelon. Focusing on blood building foods can help replenish the system as well. 
The Follicular Phase
The follicular phase begins on the first day of menstruation and ends with ovulation. It is called the follicular stage because the pituitary gland releases a hormone called Follicle Stimulating Hormone which prompts the ovary to produce 5-20 follicles. Each follicle houses an immature egg, typically one follicle will mature while the others will die. The follicle growth will stimulate the thickening of the uterus lining in preparation for possible pregnancy.   Oestrogen and testosterone will begin to rise which will boost your energy and often will improve your energy and brain function. 
To really boost your energy the focus of the diet should be on increasing iron rich foods and vitamin B12. Some foods rich in iron include grass-fed beef, organic chicken and wild caught fish. Vegetarian sources include dark leafy greens, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Light, fresh, colourful foods are best in this stage of your cycle. 
Ovulation involves the release of a mature egg from the surface of the ovary. This typically occurs mid-cycle, approximately 2 weeks before menstruation happens. This is when oestrogen and progesterone are at their peak, boosting all the effects of the follicular stage. This means that you're usually more positive, body confident and yearning for social connection. When you begin to feel this way, go out and do things, experience different events and socialise  .
During this stage you should focus on fibre rich vegetables like asparagus and broccoli and antioxidant rich foods such as strawberries, coconut and guava. It is better to opt for smaller quantities of carbohydrates and instead choose lighter varieties in quinoa and red lentils. 
The first 2-3 days of the luteal phase may feel quite similar to the ovulation phase however this changes when oestrogen and testosterone decrease and you feel more relaxed. The second half of this phase is notoriously known for PMS like food cravings, bloating and moodiness.  
Cravings are a sign of the hormonal changes occurring in our body. Notice this and eat everything in moderation.
To help curb cravings and reduce bloating eat foods rich in vitamin B, calcium, magnesium and fibre as these foods help reduce sugar cravings and fluid retention. 
If a fertilised egg implants itself into the lining of the uterus there is an increase in hCG hormone (produced during pregnancy) and the body will keep producing raised levels of progesterone which is needed to maintain the thickened lining of the uterus.  
So there you have it, the four phases of your menstrual cycle! The cyclical nature of the human body is truly amazing and we should embrace and feel empowered by all the highs and lows of it all.