The Menstrual Cycle is something that affects over a billion people across the world each month. Though many may only know a little about their cycle, and the way it affects the body. Our guide walks you through the stages of the menstrual cycle, the symptoms it causes, and which supplements are needed to help ease them.
Table of Contents:
- Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
- What is PMS?
- 10 Common Symptoms of the Menstrual Cycle
- Supplements to Support your Menstrual Cycle
- Top 4 Tips to Manage your Period
Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
The menstrual cycle is made up of four different stages, starting with a healthy period, followed by three more phases.
The four stages are:
- Follicular phase
- Luteal phase
Each phase contributes to a different stage of the uterus preparing for pregnancy. If you are not pregnant, the uterus lining sheds, to restart the cycle in preparation for pregnancy again.
The first stage is menstruation, known as the period. This is a period of bleeding, where the uterus sheds its lining and this flows out of the vagina. The average length of this phase of the menstrual cycle is 3 to 7 days.
2. Follicular Phase
The second stage begins on the first day of the period, but continues for around 14 days, and ends at ovulation. This phase of the menstrual cycle is triggered by the pituitary gland, which stimulates the production of follicles on the surface of an ovary. One follicle usually matures into an egg, and your uterus lining thickens, to prepare for the egg.
This phase of the menstrual cycle is where an egg is released from an ovary once it has matured, and travels along the fallopian tubes. This happens once a month, around 14 days before your period. For those trying to conceive, it is important to know the period of ovulation. Usually lasting from 16 to 32 hours, this is the most effective time to get pregnant.
4. Luteal Phase
This phase comes after ovulation, where progesterone and estrogen are released by cells in the ovary (known as the corpus luteum). If a fertilised egg is implanted in the uterus, then progesterone continues to be produced, maintaining the uterus thickness. If no pregnancy occurs, the ovary cells die, progesterone levels drop, and the uterus lining sheds, and menstruation (period) begins again.
What is PMS?
Premenstrual Syndrome is known as PMS. PMS is a condition that affects the emotions, physical health, and behaviour of those with periods during certain days of the menstrual cycle. This may be due to the change in hormone and brain chemical levels. Nearly two billion people across the world experience a period each month, though not everyone will experience PMS.
PMS is often known as the symptoms which can arise from these hormonal and chemical fluctuations. Experiencing PMS symptoms can be part of a healthy period, and it’s helpful to be able to identify these signs. That way, you may become more in tune with your own menstrual cycle.
10 Common Symptoms of the Menstrual Cycle
PMS, or premenstrual syndrome often comes along with symptoms which can cause discomfort during your menstrual cycle. Symptoms are most common just before and during menstruation, or the period. Throughout the menstrual cycle, hormones regulate your cycle, but also affect your mental, emotional, and physical health.
The main ways in which your menstrual cycle affects your health include:
- Feeling bloated
- Tender breasts
- Mood swings
- Feeling irritable/upset
- Spotty or oily skin
- Hot flashes
- Feeling tired
These can all have an impact on your mood and sleep, as well as have you reaching for women's supplements to support you through.
In the first half of your cycle, energy levels, memory, and pain tolerance are likely to be higher. However, in the second half, you may experience a lack of energy. This can make you feel more lethargic and forgetful, because your serotonin and glucose levels tend to be lower.
Supplements to Support your Menstrual Cycle
Throughout your menstrual cycle, you need essential nutrients to provide your body with everything it needs. Optimal intake of vitamin and mineral supplements can also help to alleviate symptoms of the menstrual cycle.
The key nutrients you need during the menstrual cycle, include:
- Iron - During menstruation, your body sheds the uterus lining and blood built up in preparation to receive an egg. This contains a lot of iron. Heavy bleeding can be the most common cause of iron deficiency anaemia in those who have periods. Therefore, ensuring your levels are regulated with iron supplements is important.
- B Vitamins - The most important B vitamins during your menstrual cycle are B6 and B1, though they are best taken as a vitamin B supplement which combines all 8. The benefits of vitamin B can help to support your energy levels and promote cognitive function.
- Vitamin D - Vitamin D is known for supporting your muscle and bone health. The benefits of vitamin D include helping to regulate your cycle, relieve muscle tension and improve your mood. Low levels are linked with irregular periods, therefore taking vitamin D supplements can support you during your menstrual cycle.
- Magnesium - This mineral has been known to help relieve menstrual aches, because magnesium is known for relieving muscle tension, as a natural muscle relaxant. Other benefits of magnesium include improving premenstrual mood changes, irritability, as well as helping you to sleep. Magnesium supplements can be applied to the skin, making soothing your menstrual cycle symptoms more hassle-free than ever.
- Zinc - One of the benefits of zinc includes its role in maintaining skin and hair health, as well as its contribution to your immune system. Zinc supplements are another essential nutrient for your menstrual cycle.
- Calcium - This mineral is an important nutrient for your menstrual cycle, which could help with relieving menstrual aches, fluid retention, mood disorders, and food cravings.
- Vitamin E - Vitamin E may benefit your menstrual cycle by reducing pain, and supporting blood flow.
- Fish oils - Fish oils contain the omega-3 fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. It is thought fish oils can help to relieve menstrual tension. Including these fatty acids in your diet could help to support you through your menstrual cycle.
It is important to acknowledge nutrient reference value guidelines when taking supplements, as well as staying within the safe upper limits of nutrients. That way, you can ensure you see essential vitamin and mineral benefits, while staying within healthy levels.
Top 4 Tips to Manage your Period
The menstrual cycle can be a difficult transition to adapt to, and continue about your day to day. However, making small lifestyle changes can help to avoid discomfort on a low level. For comfort during the first stage of the menstrual cycle, these tips include:
- Balance your diet - Ensure you consume a healthy, balanced diet. This includes low salt, and a reduced caffeine intake. Make sure your diet contains the important food groups, the types of vitamins and types of minerals your body needs. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and vitamin D, and low in animal fats could reduce your PMS symptoms.
- Get proper sleep - Disturbed sleep, or sleep deprivation, is often common among those with a menstrual cycle. This is often both before, and during, the period. A regular sleep cycle can help to alleviate your menstrual cycle symptoms. Exercise and regular sleep routine, as well as avoiding caffeine in the evening can help to establish better sleep during your menstrual cycle. Sleep supplements can help you to drift off peacefully, which could help support you through your menstrual cycle.
- Reduce stress - During stress, your hormone levels of cortisol is higher, and this can disturb your estrogen levels. Estrogen plays a key role in menstruation, which means combating stress is a good way to regulate your cycle and avoid menstrual cycle symptoms.
- Exercise regularly - Studies have suggested that those who exercise regularly are less likely to experience PMS symptoms during their menstrual cycle. Regular exercise releases hormones such as serotonin and endorphins, which contribute to a good mood. This could help to reduce menstrual pain, cramps, and mood fluctuations.
Supplementing with BetterYou
At BetterYou, we specialize in pill-free nutritional supplements. From energy supplements for that needed boost, and childrens' vitamins for their growth and development. Start your health journey today.