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Biohacking Your Internal Clock: A Holistic Way To Optimize Women's Health


Did you know that women have more than one internal clock? Whaaat? I must have missed that lecture in medical school! We’re all familiar with the circadian rhythm, our 24-hour clock that governs many essential biological processes including metabolism, cleaning and clearing redundant cellular components (autophagy), emotions, wake/asleep, body temperature, immune function, insulin sensitivity, and hormone production (Ballantyne, 2017). The lesser known infradian rhythm is a 28-day cycle that regulates the menstrual cycle (Vitti, 2020). Like the circadian rhythm, the infradian rhythm plays a crucial role in the female body.


Research on the subject is limited, but according to author and founder of FloLiving, Alisa Vitti, the infradian rhythm affects six different systems of the body.

  1. BRAIN

  2. METABOLISM

  3. IMMUNE SYSTEM

  4. MICROBIOME

  5. STRESS RESPONSE SYSTEM

  6. REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM


The infradian rhythm works in tandem with the circadian rhythm. They essentially dance with one another. It’s important to note that if the circadian rhythm is misaligned (Baron & Reid, 2014), it’s going to affect the infradian rhythm and vice versa. Disruption of circadian rhythms is associated with disturbances in menstrual function (Baker & Driver, 2007).


Let’s quickly review the menstrual cycle. The female body moves through four different cycles, which the infradian rhythm governs.

  • PHASE 1: MENSTRUAL (Days 1-7)

  • PHASE 2: FOLLICULAR (Days 8-13)

  • PHASE 3: OVULATORY (Days 14-21)

  • PHASE 4: LUTEAL (Days 22-28)

During each phase, the body is shifting things like energy levels, body temperature, metabolism, cortisol levels, sleep quality, and so forth. You may notice you sleep better during certain phases of your cycles over others or your skin is more glowing.


Vitti claims that “using phase-based self-care not only supports your month-long hormone cycle but also your 24-hour sleep-wake cycle” (Vitti, 2020). She calls it cycle syncing, which is a curated way to work with the menstrual cycle when it comes to what you eat, how you exercise, productivity, sex drive, supplements, etc. Instead of eating the same thing all the time or doing the same kind of workouts and intensity or trying to crank out a project when your focus is at an all-time low, you follow a rhythm that is supportive of your menstrual cycle, which in turn is supportive of things like your energy levels, metabolism, and focus.


  • PHASE 1: MENSTRUAL (Days 1-7)

What happens: Levels of estrogen and progesterone are low.

What to eat: Vitamin B-complex, omega-3, antioxidants, and magnesium

supplements. Eat vegetables, fruits, fish, and herbal teas. Avoid fried foods, alcohol,

and caffeine. Eat complex carbs to keep your blood sugar stable.

How to exercise: During this phase, your energy levels are low, so give yourself the

rest you need. Light movements like stretching, yoga, and walks are recommended.

What to do: This is the time in your cycle when you need high-quality sleep, care,

and rest. It’s also the time to sit and ponder over which aspects of your life need

more attention.

  • PHASE 2: FOLLICULAR (Days 8-13)

What happens: Estrogen and progesterone are on the rise.

What to eat: Foods that support the metabolism of estrogen (fruits, vegetables,

fermented foods, proteins, and zinc supplements). Eat lighter meals.

How to exercise: During this phase, your metabolism gets slower. Hence, fat

burning, cardio, HIIT workout, and strength training are recommended.

What to do: This phase is likely to be the “happy” phase of your cycle. With

increased creativity and optimism, this time is perfect to dive into new projects.

  • PHASE 3: OVULATORY (Days 14-21)

What happens: Estrogen peaks; testosterone and progesterone also rises.

What to eat: Support the liver and detoxify excess hormones with dietary fiber. Eat

fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts, oils, and quality proteins. Take supplements

containing vitamin C, vitamin B-complex, and antioxidants.

How to exercise: High energy movements like running and sprinting to enhance

your stamina.

What to do: During this phase, your sex drive, confidence, and energy level are

likely to be high and you are more extroverted. This is the time for all those

meaningful conversations, and closing the deals.

  • PHASE 4: LUTEAL (Days 22-28)

What happens: Progesterone at its highest.

What to eat: At this phase, your food cravings might start. To combat cravings

include calcium, omega-3, magnesium, and B-vitamins in your diet. Control blood

sugar with healthy fats and high-quality meat.

How to exercise: Light or moderate exercises like yoga, pilates, and low-intensity

cardio.

What to do: Focus on self-care. At this point, your body needs to relax.

Understanding the infradian rhythm is an excellent way to peek into the

biochemistry of your body.




Cycle syncing is a powerful tool to help you be more loving to yourself during your cycle AND be more in tune with your body because you're learning to understand what goes on during each cycle and how best to support it. The U.S. Women's Soccer team track their periods to optimize their athletic performance!


I encourage you to check out Alisa Vitti’s books and her app, MyFlo. She has a wealth of information on the female cycle and hormones. You’ll learn things like how to curb food cravings and support your hunger levels, how to support your cortisol levels with the kind of movement your body needs, and how to plan out your schedule for increased productivity and focus.


One last thing to consider...every woman is different, so the changes faced during this cycle are also different. Keeping a daily log of your symptoms and moods for a few months helps you decipher your pattern. Once you identify these patterns, you will know what foods to avoid, what symptoms to expect and how to improve your overall performance and mental health. Your menstrual cycle does not need to control you. With intention, you can learn how to work with your cycle, instead of against it. In time, you’ll build a better relationship with your cycle and how to move in tandem with it so you can live your life more vibrantly!


Inspired Wellness, PLLC can help you reimagine your health by diving deeper into your health narrative and personalize a health plan for you. We will never promise a cure, but we will always help you to get closer towards attaining your health goals. You will be heard, supported, and empowered with the knowledge, tools, and skills that will carry you throughout your health journey. We offer two different types of packages: non-membership and membership options. If you are a DIY action taker, we have an Inspired Menu Library that takes the guess work out of many different types of meal plans (e.g., anti-inflammatory, elimination, plant-based, etc.) and we also have an online academy for a structured learning format.


References


Baker, F. C., & Driver, H. S. (2007). Circadian rhythms, sleep, and the menstrual cycle. Sleep Medicine, 8(6), 613–622. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2006.09.011


Ballantyne, S. (2017). Paleo Principles. Las Vegas, NV: Victory Belt Publishing.


Baron, K. G., & Reid, K. J. (2014). Circadian misalignment and health. International Review of Psychiatry (Abingdon, England), 26(2), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.3109/09540261.2014.911149


National Institute of General Medical Sciences. (2020). Circadian Rhythms. Retrieved from https://nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/Circadian-Rhythms.aspx


Vitti, A. (2020). Infradian Rhythm: Your Guide to a Perfect Cycle. Retrieved from https://www.floliving.com/infradian-rhythm/

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