Let it shine: Embracing inner summer aka the ovulatory phase

It’s been a while since I shared my experiences with menstrual cycle awareness practice and part of the reason is that it has become such a habit for me to live this way that I don’t consciously think about it as much as I used to. Menstrual cycle awareness is exactly that, living with a conscious awareness of your menstrual cycle. I’m not sure I really like the term but at least it does what it says on the tin. In their book Wild Power, Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Wurlizter use the term “Menstruality” which I also love as it brings in the elements of spirituality and mysticism which are directly tied to this practice.

Today I want to share about my experience with inner summer aka the ovulatory phase. Usually the second half of our cycle gets the most attention because PMS and difficult periods can be the most disruptive to our lives and therefore the luteal and menstrual phases are the ones we tend to focus on. Ovulation is usually forgotten about, until we decide we want to get pregnant and then it becomes the holy grail and something to be measured, analysed and hunted down. However, I think there is such a beauty in the ovulatory phase even for women like me who are not ready to have children yet, or those who have already passed this phase of life.

To begin with the science, ovulation is the process of releasing an egg from one of our ovaries. Ovulation itself can be considered as the main event of the menstrual cycle because if we do not ovulate, we do not menstruate. Yes, you can still experience a bleed during an an-ovulatory cycle but you will not be fertile and it is not considered to be a true period. To me, ovulation is the creative miracle of feminine energy and something to be celebrated. Ensuring healthy ovulation is an important part of my holistic health coaching practice as it brings so many benefits on all levels of our being: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

The ovulatory phase begins a few days before ovulation and lasts until a few days after. It can also be considered the “fertile window” for women practicing fertility awareness method as these are the days when we are most likely to get pregnant if we aren’t using contraception. At the beginning of the ovulatory phase, we are dominated by the hormone estrogen but we also experience spikes in Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinising Hormone (LH) which cause a mature egg to be released. Progesterone levels remain low until after ovulation as this hormone is released from the ovary at the site the egg was released.

Image credit: Hello Clue app

For me ovulation brings with it this sense of expansion and super-human capacities. In a good month, I can feel energised and radiant and like I can handle anything life throws at me. There is this almost fizzing creative energy where I feel inspired and have many ideas for creative projects, my business and life in general. It’s also a time when I feel most social which as an introvert I embrace whole-heartedly. Often I find being around other people exhausting and I need time to recharge afterwards but around ovulation my social capacity increases a lot! I feel like I have more energy for my close relationships and a greater capacity to put myself out there in challenging social situations.

It’s also a time when I feel my most physically attractive and confident. At this time of my cycle I love wearing clothes which feel feminine and taking the time for self-care routines which make me feel beautiful like taking time to style my hair or painting my nails. At other times in my cycle my self-care is more focused on the emotional level like meditation, journalling and relaxation. During ovulation I feel more liberated and comfortable in my body but there is also this sense of magnetism which I think runs even deeper than the physical level. I think as women we just have this energy during ovulation that attracts others, whether that is sexual partners, friends, work connections or even children.

Before I started to practice menstrual cycle awareness, I did notice these subtle differences but I didn’t understand what I was experiencing. I distinctly remember one week feeling on top of the world and the next feeling it come crashing down around me. I would wonder what was going wrong and point the finger of blame towards others or towards my own body. In reality the shifts we experience are perfectly natural and more gradual like a tide moving in and out throughout each month, the waxing and waning of the moon or the changing of the seasons. When we have present awareness and consciously go with this flow rather than fighting against it, life can be a truly beautiful experience.

Although awareness is always the best place to start, actually making lifestyle changes can be tough. One of the ongoing problems I have with this phase of my cycle is that I think that I can do it all. I start multiple projects at once and then either don’t finish them or burn myself out trying to finish what I started. I struggle to decide how to spend my energy, whether to focus on work or play. I fill up my diary for the next few weeks without realising that once my inner autumn aka pre-menstrual phase arrives I am more likely to want to chill at home with a book or spend time writing rather than going out dancing or hosting workshops. This is why using a period tracker app or calendar can be a useful tool because it helps you to think ahead and plan accordingly!

I find that channeling the increased energy of the ovulation phase into one or a few projects is the best way to feel fulfilled rather than overwhelmed by the end of the cycle. It can be extremely satisfying to see a creative project or a specific task through from start to finish over the course of the month. If we germinate ideas and set goals after our period and focus our energy throughout the cycle, we really can achieve great things. Just like we have this sense of closure and preparation for hibernation at the end of summer, it brings us a sense of fulfillment to tie up lose ends as we approach our next bleed and we can surrender to relaxation knowing that we have put our creative energy to good use.

If you are interested in learning more about living in sync with your menstrual cycle, take a look at my other posts in the menstrual cycle awareness category and definitely consider reading the book Wild Power which I recommend to all of my female health coaching clients. Discovering and syncing with this inner rhythm has helped me so much to understand and connect with my body, my feminine energy and nature itself. It’s something that is rarely talked about and we are not taught in school but yet it is a current that runs under the river of our lives and affects everything we do. Living in a female body comes with many challenges but I would never change it for the world.

Over to you…

Do you currently track your menstrual cycle? What is your experience of ovulation aka inner summer? Is it a time you are consciously aware of or would like to be in the future? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Like this post and follow my blog for more posts on nutrition and yoga for healthy, balanced hormones!

If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me or check out the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I am a qualified Public Health Nutritionist and hatha yoga teacher and my specialty is helping women to balance their hormones and heal their body and metabolism after restrictive dieting. I would love to work together with you to move past any health blocks and get you feeling your best again!

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Get your period back on a vegan diet – is it possible?

Women often ask me whether it’s possible to heal your hormones and get your period back on a vegan diet. In this post I will give my opinion and explain my reasons why. If you haven’t read my previous posts on the HA recovery diet and how I got my period back, I’d recommend to check those out first before going ahead with this one. There I explain all about the factors that can cause your period to disappear or become irregular. I also explain in detail and the nutrition strategy to recover your menstrual cycle after Hypothalamic Amenorrhea.

So to return to the initial question: can you get your period back on a vegan diet? The short answer is yes, it’s absolutely possible and I did it myself. I went vegan in 2015 after watching documentaries about the environmental impact of animal agriculture and the health benefits of a plant-based diet. At the time I was committed and I chose to maintain my vegan diet whilst trying to recover my period. I did manage to get my period back after 4 months of going “all-in” with my diet and no exercise. So it is definitely possible to get your period back on a vegan diet!

However, does this mean I recommend a vegan diet to my clients? Or that I believe it is optimal to get your period back on a vegan diet? Definitely not! In fact, I am no longer vegan and re-introduced animal products to my diet 3 years ago. Although I have no regrets, if I could go back in time with the information I have now I would definitely choose differently. Here are a few reasons why it might be more difficult to get your period back on a vegan diet. This is a topic I have researched extensively over the years and I have personal experience with.

Why might it be hard to get your period back on a vegan diet?

Eating the calories needed to heal

One of the important factors for many women with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea is eating enough calories. When you lose your period due to an energy imbalance, increasing your energy intake is very important. You need to eat enough to support your bodily functions and daily activities. Plus extra for healing and repair of damage caused by malnourishment. You can definitely do this on a vegan diet simply by eating more food. However, as many plant-based foods are more calorie dilute this can be a struggle!

Fruit and vegetables, starchy carbs and legumes all have a high amount of water and fiber. If you base your vegan diet on these healthy whole foods, you might find that you get full before you consume the amount of calories that your body really needs. This makes a plant-based diet great for weight loss! Unfortunately, it’s counter-productive when boosting your energy intake is your goal. If you want to get your period back on a vegan diet you need to eat a lot of food!

How to eat more calories on a vegan diet

Adding in energy dense vegan foods such as nuts and seeds, nut butters, oil and processed foods helps. These foods are lower in water and fibre. This means they take up less space in your stomach and are easier on your digestive system. But in my experience, bloating and other digestive issues are likely. Even when consuming the minimum calorie intake for healing your hormones. As a vegan I ate a lot of beans, vegetables and nut butters which are all super high in fibre. Actually I forgot how it felt not to be bloated until I finally reduced the amount of fibre I was consuming.

If you want to try to get your period back on a vegan diet, focus on lower fibre foods. Don’t get caught up in the low fat trend. Eat fats from nuts, seeds and coconut. Opt for easy to digest foods such as bread or crackers with jam, processed cereals and plant-based milk. However, as I will come to in the next point, these are not the most nutritious foods. Therefore, you might find that your body needs a large quantity of them to satisfy your nutrient needs for healing.

Getting adequate nutrients

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea is an issue primarily of energy imbalance, but as all foods contain both macro and micronutrients, not eating enough food can easily lead to nutritional deficiencies. Part of recovering your menstrual cycle is nutritional rehabilitation. This means flooding the body with as many building blocks for repair as possible. Nutrients that can be difficult to obtain and absorb in a vegan diet include iron, calcium, vitamin A (retinol) and vitamin D.

Under stress our bodies also use some nutrients at a much faster rate than usual. Yes, it is theoretically possible to eat a well planned vegan diet which meets all of the recommended daily amounts. However, we don’t have control of our internal processes. Often hormonal imbalance and compromised digestion go hand in hand. If your digestion is poor, you can’t be sure you are benefitting from all of these nutrients.

Nutritional rehabilitation

It’s important to reflect on your history with dieting. Consider if your past experience with restricting the amount or types of foods you eat could put you at risk of nutrient deficiencies. If you’re unsure you can also ask your doctor to run a blood test for the key nutrients. If you have the budget, you can also order tests online via companies such as Thriva or Forth. What ever diet you follow, make sure to include foods containing these nutrients to rebuild your stores.

The only problem is that there may also be additional compounds present in animal products which we don’t yet fully understand and aren’t covered by tests. I think it is better to heal your body with a high nutrient, omnivorous diet. Then once your body is healthy and functioning optimally you can consider adopting a more plant-based diet long term if you desire. You want to make the healing process and simple as possible for yourself! You have a whole lifetime to follow a vegan diet once you get your period back and your body is healthy again.

Quantity and type of fat

In general, the vegan diet tends to be higher in carbohydrates and lower in fat compared to diets including animal-based products. In addition, the fats available in plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds and avocados are generally poly-unsaturated fats. There is some research to suggest that these fats are actually less supportive to metabolic health. Conversely, saturated fats which you mostly find in meat and dairy, are pro-metabolic.

Losing your period is commonly a sign of being in a lower metabolic state. So you really want to be eating a metabolism supporting diet to get your period back. I am by no means saying nuts and seeds are unhealthy and that you should avoid them entirely. But when you want to send the body the signal that the famine is over and its safe to rev up the metabolism and reproductive system, you want to make sure you are consuming enough saturated fat. Adding in more fat from coconut is a good step towards a more metabolically supportive vegan diet. Eating coconut oil, milk or flakes will make it easier to get your period back on a vegan diet. However, consuming more variety of fats and nutrients from animal based sources will take your diet to the next level.

Cholesterol sources

Animal fats also contain cholesterol which is another nutrient you want to include daily when you are trying to get your period back. Often cholesterol is demonised and nutrition guidelines tell us to avoid high-cholesterol foods if we want to be healthy. When it comes to hormone balancing and especially recovering from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, hormone production is lower than it should be. In this case, having some cholesterol in your diet is actually beneficial and speed up the healing process.

Cholesterol is a building block for reproductive hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are necessary for a healthy menstrual cycle and regular period! Cholesterol cannot be synthesised by plants and is only found in animal-based foods such as meat and eggs. Therefore consuming even a small amount of these foods on a regular basis can support your hormone healing process.

Overcoming mental restriction

This is a tricky one because personally, adopting a vegan diet was what finally enabled me to let go of restrictive dieting and allow myself to eat an abundance of food. Because I was no longer focusing on choosing food to maintain a low body weight. I was focused on sourcing ethical food which took the focus away from calories and allowed me to eat more. That said, once I finally decided to let go of veganism and re-introduce animal products, I experienced a whole new level of food freedom which I didn’t know I was missing.

Especially in social situations where I had always felt isolated being the only vegan. I think you have to be very honest with yourself about the reason you want to follow a vegan diet. Is there is any chance that a desire to restrict your food is influencing your decision? Are you consuming a balanced vegan diet or are there still rules and restrictions present? Do you still fear certain foods because you believe they are toxic or will make you gain weight?

Restrictive vegan diet rabit holes

Unfortunately, there are also many rabbit holes to fall down when it comes to the vegan diet. This can lead to some pretty extreme dietary restrictive diets. Raw vegan, starch solution, high carb low fat, 80 10 10, vegan keto just to name a few! So while it is possible to get your period back on a vegan diet, I’d say that for a full mental recovery following a balanced diet that includes all foods is optimal.

Coming back to the idea of safety, you want to create an environment of abundance. You need to really allow your body to relax and heal. This requires abundance both in terms of quantity and variety of foods. If you are 100% sure that you are choosing a vegan diet for ethical reasons only, support your body better by eating a varied and balanced vegan diet. Don’t be being seduced by the health claims of these more restricted vegan diets!

Summary on whether it’s possible to get your period back on a vegan diet

So those are my thoughts on why a vegan diet is not optimal when trying to recover your period. I understand that for some, eating animal products is simply not an option. So I hope the few tips for how you can modify your vegan diet to be more hormonally supportive were also helpful. Are you interested in this topic? Would you like me to talk more about my experience with getting my period back on a vegan diet? Leave a comment below or drop me an email at moonlifeyoga.mail@gmail.com!

Over to you…

Please like and share this post to support my business. Share with anyone who might benefit from this article and follow my blog for more posts on holistic health and hormone healing.

Contact me for guidance, support and accountability on your period recovery journey. I will make the process easy for you and help you to overcome any road blocks. I would love to work together with you to get your hormones balance and you feeling your best again!

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hypothalamic amenorrhea

Why your menstrual cycle is a sign of health

It’s been a while since I talked about my favourite topic.. the menstrual cycle aka your period. Specifically why your menstrual cycle is important for your overall health and the problems associated with not having a regular period. Any guys out there, maybe this isn’t the article for you but feel free to read on and you could just learn something to help the ladies in your life!

We usually think of our menstrual cycle as two phases: bleeding and not bleeding. In reality it is a menstrual cycle with levels of several reproductive hormones shifting throughout the month. The amount of these hormones your body produces is sensitive to stress, including both physical stress from under-eating and over-exercising and mental and emotional stress. When you lose your period because something is off in your lifestyle is it called Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA). I wrote all about this in a previous post so you can check that out if you are interested in learning more. But here I want to focus on the problems that come with not having a menstrual cycle.

The problems with not having a menstrual cycle

Fertility

The most obvious reason to have a regular, healthy period is of course your fertility. The whole point of your menstrual cycle is to prepare your body for pregnancy and allow you to have a baby. If you don’t have your period, it’s very unlikely you are going to be able to get pregnant. The main event of your menstrual cycle is ovulation. This is the release of a mature egg from one of your ovaries. If you aren’t ovulating, pregnancy is simply impossible.

But what if you have decided you don’t want children or you’ve already had children? It’s still important for you to have your period too! I spent many years believing it was “fine” that I didn’t have my period and it was actually pretty convenient to be honest, not to have to buy tampons, worry about getting pregnant or have my period ruining my plans but once I found out what it means to not have a period and how unhealthy it is for your body I was shocked and I wished I’d been told sooner.

Bone health and osteoporosis

One of the key hormones that drives your menstrual cycle is estrogen. Apart from it’s role in your menstrual cycle, did you know that estrogen also helps to build your bones? When women enter the menopause and stop producing estrogen they start to lose bone mineral density and are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis or brittle bones. Not having a regular period is a sign that your hormone balance is off and estrogen levels could be low.

Girls who don’t have their period due to hypothalamic amenorrhea during their teenage years are at risk of developing early onset osteopenia which can lead to osteoporosis if not treated. This might not mean much when you are young but trust me, you want to make sure you are building strong bones while you can! And don’t forget that your if your bones are losing minerals then it’s highly likely that your teeth are suffering too putting you at increased risk of cavities and teeth sensitivity. Who thought that periods and teeth were related??

Heart disease risk

Another surprising link is between hypothalamic amenorrhea and heart disease. Estrogen has an anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory effect in the body and also acts as a vasodilator meaning it causes your blood vessels to expand and low levels of estrogen have been linked with an increased risk of developing heart disease. Even though most of the research is in post-menopausal women, there have also been studies linking low estrogen levels in younger women with build up of plaque in the arteries and increased risk of heart disease in later life.

Yes this is even for those who exercise! You might think you are being super healthy and boosting your cardio-vascular system but if you are exercising excessively and you have lost your period then you are undoing all of that hard work. Another thing I wish I’d known about sooner..

Other problems with not having a menstrual cycle

Hormonal imbalance

Not only does not having a menstrual cycle put you at risk for issues later in life, it can also cause problems in the here and now. Low estrogen can also be the explanation for fatigue, headaches, low sex drive, vaginal dryness, anxiety, depression and insomnia just to name a few. And as well as your reproductive hormones, not having your period could be a sign that other things are off in your body. We often think of our body systems acting in isolation but in reality, all of these things are connected and if one falls down it can have a domino effect throughout your body.

Cortisol

Often women withamenorrhea have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol which also has been associated with bone loss as well as anxiety, insomnia and lower thyroid hormones. In hypothalamic amenorrhea, your metabolism is suppressed which could explain symptoms of hypo-thyroidism such as feeling cold all of the time, hair loss and low energy levels. Many women who develop hypothalamic amenorrhea due to restricting their food intake also experience digestive problems like bloating, stomach pain, constipation and food intolerances. If you don’t have your period and you feel like you are constantly struggling with digestive issues, then maybe the two could be related.

What should you do if you’ve lost your period?

So if you have made it to the end of this post, well done and I hope I didn’t scare you too much. If this is you, don’t worry, now you know you can do something about it! First you can read my blog posts about hypothalamic amenorrhea, how to recover and my recovery story. I’d also recommend buying the book No Period Now What by Nicola Rinaldi if you want an in depth explanation of all things hypothalamic amenorrhea related.

If you need that final push to commit to getting your period back, definitely buy her book. If you think you have hypothalamic amenorrhea, visit your GP to get your hormone levels checked and Nicola also offers blood test results analysis through her website if you’re unsure. Three steps you can take right now:

  1. Eat more food and let go of any dietary rules and restrictions
  2. Take a break from intense exercise for at least a month
  3. Reduce the stress in your life and add more stress relieving activities

Easier said than done I know, but I believe in you! It’s never too late to recover your period and undo at least some of the damage to your body from hypothalamic amenorrhea. Recovery is challenging but so worth it.

References

Emma O’Donnell, Jack M. Goodman, Paula J. Harvey, Cardiovascular Consequences of Ovarian Disruption: A Focus on Functional Hypothalamic Amenorrhea in Physically Active Women, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 96, Issue 12, 1 December 2011, Pages 3638–3648, https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2011-1223

Over to you…

  • Comment: Have you ever experienced missing periods? How did you regain your menstrual cycle?
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Shufelt, C. L., Torbati, T., & Dutra, E. (2017). Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and the Long-Term Health Consequences. Seminars in reproductive medicine35(3), 256–262. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0037-1603581

Why is understanding the menstrual cycle phases important?

Getting to know your menstrual cycle and understanding the menstrual cycle phases is not just for women who are trying to get pregnant, it is an amazing way for any woman to connect with her feminine body and develop on a psychological and soul level. Our menstrual cycle is the rhythm of our life, like an under current which is always present whether we are aware of it or not. Each month we shift through four menstrual cycle phases, each with subtle but distinct effects on our energy levels, mood, desires and abilities. Learning about these menstrual cycle phases and starting to track your own menstrual cycle is the first step along a path of becoming a truly healthy and connected woman.

When I first started my periods as a young teenager, I had no clue about my menstrual cycle and how to work with it. I saw it as a monthly inconvenience that either took me by surprise, risking embarrassment at school every time I stood up from my chair, or warned me of it’s arrival through horrible mood swings and painful cramps. When my menstrual cycle stopped due to undereating and over exercising, part of me was glad because I didn’t have to deal with the mess of my periods and the fear of getting pregnant. But after a while, I started to feel kind of lost and unfeminine without it and when I finally got my period back after 8 years of having no natural cycle I was overjoyed and found I had a whole new desire to understand and connect with my menstrual cycle.

Whilst trying to recover my period I read a lot from inspiring female leaders in the field of menstruality and cycle synching including Alexandra Pope, Sjanie Wurlizter, Miranda Gray and Alissa Vitti. They opened my eyes to the magic of my hormones and helped me to understand the menstrual cycle phases. I could finally see how my hormones were impacting me on a day to day basis and it gave me a framework to understand some of the seemingly random physical symptoms and mood changes I was going through each month. I’d always known about the dreaded PMS and “shark week” when I could be moody and snappy as hell. But what I didn’t know that these were also times where I was primed to see through the BS to view things as they really are, stand up for myself and others and be more open to spiritual connection. Women have been trained to see the abilities of these times as negative and disruptive when in reality there are hidden gems there too.

Same goes for the start of a new menstrual cycle. I always had some awareness of the relief I felt after my period was over and I could get back to “normal” but I didn’t know how to move slowly and gradually build up my momentum to avoid burning out and reaching ovulation feeling depleted and unmotivated. In fact I didn’t even know what ovulation meant, outside of the biology textbook definition that is! I didn’t know that the ovulatory phase brings with it it’s own powers of sensuality, magnetism and the ability to make things happen in the world. I wasn’t ware that that ovulation is a phase of the menstrual cycle where we are primed to connect with others and build strong relationships both in our personal and work life, or that this isn’t a state we should expect ourselves to be in continuously but that we should appreciate it and enjoy it while it lasts each month.

I used to wonder why I could feel fine about my life for three weeks of the month and then when the pre-menstrual phase came around I would start to doubt and question everything. I felt like the menstrual cycle gremlin was invading my mind each month and disguising my true thoughts and feelings under this veil of negativity. I would get so emotional, triggered into an hour of screaming frustration or soggy tears and wonder where the hell it came from. But after learning about the menstrual cycle phases and becoming more aware of my hormonal changes throughout the month I started to understand that during the follicular and ovulatory phases we are more outward facing and we can more easily tune out our inner world and deep emotions. However as we cross over into the pre-menstrual phase, those inner lights become brighter and we can’t help but look at them and sometimes be blinded by it.

4 phases of the menstrual cycle infographic

Understanding the menstrual cycle phases can help us to accept and appreciate the many different parts of ourselves, both the ones that our praised by society and the ones that give women a bad name. I think it’s a shame that we weren’t taught how to connect with our menstrual cycle from a young age and I think teaching girls this now will help to raise a generation of strong, powerful women. In my health coaching practice and yoga classes, I hope to share some of this wisdom with other girls and women, to encourage them to embrace their feminine nature and live with this mindful awareness of their inner rhythms.

Unfortunately, so many women are experiencing hormonal imbalances and infertility these days and I think a big part of this is that we are living so out of tune with our menstrual cycles. This is not to say that we have to go back to the old days and lose all of the progress we have made in empowering women and opening up new opportunities. Rather, we can now take the next step and be modern women doing all of the things that we desire in society whilst maintaining a respect for our feminine bodies and an understanding of how to take care of ourselves and meet our needs.

I hope you enjoyed this post on the importance of understanding the stages of the menstrual cycle. For a summary of the four menstrual cycle phases, check out this post and my other posts on menstrual cycle awareness and cyclic living!

Over to you…

Let me know in the comments below how you feel about your menstrual cycle, do you feel connected to it or is it something that you wish you could forget? Like and share this post to support my business and follow my blog for more on menstrual cycle awareness, yoga and holistic health.

If you are interested in learning how to connect with your cycle, you can enroll in my health coaching program Prepare for Pregnancy where I will teach you how to nourish your body using nutrition, intuitive movement, stress management and menstrual cycle awareness. I would love to work with you to help you connect with your feminine rhythms and restore your natural health and vitality!

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what to eat on your period - banana oat pancakes

Recipes for your period: Banana oat pancakes

As promised, here is the recipe for the banana oat pancakes I made on the first day of my period. I’m not much of one for complicated recipes so this one is simple and quick. I’m sure you can find many pancake recipes out there but this is one that worked for me. I love eating energy dense meals like this during my period as it helps me to get in plenty of nutrients without feeling too full and bloated. I also don’t have as much of an appetite during the first couple of days of my period (after being super hungry the days before!) so making tasty meals, especially with a bit of sweetness is perfect!

Ingredients

2 eggs**
2 small ripe bananas
1/2c oats
1/4c milk (or non-dairy alternative)
1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
1 tbsp coconut oil for cooking
Toppings of choice!

**To make the recipe vegan try replacing the eggs with 2 “chia eggs

what to eat on your period - banana oat pancakes

Instructions

  • Start by blending the oats on high speed into a flour (I used a nutri-bullet but any blender should do the trick)
  • Add the rests of the ingredients and blend for about 10 seconds until combined well
  • Let the mixture rest for about 10 minutes to thicken up
  • Heat approx. 1/2 tbsp coconut oil on a frying pan on medium heat
  • Pour the pancake mix into small circles on the surface of the pan, trying to keep them separate
  • Heat until bubbles start to appear on the surface of the pancakes
  • FLIP to the other side and cook for a few more minutes
  • Serve the pancakes and repeat with any remaining mixture (this batch did 2 pans of 3 pancakes each)

I topped mine with honey this time but you can do any combination you like. Chopped nuts or nut butter, tahini, chocolate syrup or fruit are all great options so experiment and find your favourites!

Over to you…

Let me know in the comments if you try this recipe and what your favourite toppings are!

  • Like this post and follow my blog for more recipes and posts on how to eat to support your menstrual cycle.
  • If you’re interested in reading more about nutrition and the menstrual cycle check out the posts linked below.
  • If you want to work with me to get healthy and balance your hormones, contact me for more information about the nutrition and health coaching packages I offer.

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Yoga for during your period / Yoga for period cramps

Should you practice yoga during your period? Yes! Practicing yoga can be very supportive for women during menstruation. Yoga can help to relax the body and mind, reducing tension which can cause symptoms such as intense cramps, lower back pain and headaches during your period. However, I recommend taking a break from exercise for a few days during your period and this includes any intense yoga practice. If you normally practice a more active form of yoga such as vinyasa flow or ashtanga, I suggest taking a break for a few days. Instead, choose a more gentle, restorative yoga practice during your period, at least during your first couple of bleeding days or until your flow is less heavy. A yoga sequence for period cramps, such as the one in this article is a much better way to support your body during this time to relieve period cramps and help you to feel better.

Yoga poses to avoid during your period

As well as more intense yoga flows, you should also avoid strong standing poses, inversions and backbends during your period if you really want to support your body and it’s natural rhythms. These poses can be strenuous on the body and could leave you feeling more fatigued during this natural time of rest and rejuvenation. Standing poses and backbends require a lot of core activation and tension in the abdomen which can increase period cramps and pelvic pain during your period. Inversions such as headstands, shoulder stand and handstands can also interfere with the downward flow or apana energy associated with elimination of period blood so it’s better to avoid these poses for a few days and practice the yoga sequence for period cramps below instead if you want to feel your best during your period and throughout the rest of your menstrual cycle.

Yoga poses for period pain

There are certain yoga poses which help to relieve pain in the pelvis and lower back during your period. Yoga poses for period pain include forward bends, hip openers and supported reclining postures which all help to relax and open up the muscles which tend to hold tension causing painful period cramps and back ache during your period. The yoga for period cramps sequence below includes a combination of supported standing and seated forward folds, hip openers and reclined back bends which will help to relieve period cramps and lower back pain as well as encouraging your nervous system to relax and let go so you can feel a sense of calm and wellbeing during your period. Menstruation is a natural time to reflect and turn inwards and yoga can really help to experience this effect.

Practicing the restorative period yoga poses below regularly during menstruation can help to reduce pain and discomfort during menstruation and help you on your way to pain-free periods in future cycles. If you have problems such as irregular menstrual cycles or heavy menstrual blood flow, these period yoga poses can also help to regulate your menstrual cycle over time by toning the muscles within your pelvic bowl and improving blood flow to your reproductive organs.

What you will need:

  • Yoga mat, towel or blanket
  • Bolster or dense cushion (see here for how to make a DIY bolster out of rolled up towels)
  • Folded blanket or towel (optional)
  • Yoga blocks (optional)
  • A quiet space to practice where you won’t be disturbed

Explore the period yoga pose descriptions and photos below , then practice this yoga sequence for period cramps in your own time. You can hold each posture for between 1 and 5 minutes, depending on how much time you have for your yoga practice. To improve flexibility, longer holds are better as you can really relax into the poses and allow your deep muscles to open up in their own time. The final reclining pose I suggest taking a bit longer, maybe 5 or 10 minutes to rest and relax with your eyes closed.

Standing forward fold (Uttasana)

Standing forward folds help to relieve tension in the lower back, reduce period cramps and calm the nervous system. During your period, practice forward folds with the knees bent deeply so you can rest your chest on your knees or support yourself with your hands on the ground or head on a block for a more restorative posture. Focus on a long straight lower back as much as possible to avoid straining and really feel the stretching along the back of your legs and a release in your neck and upper spine.

Hip opening with butterfly pose (Baddha Konasana)

Tight hips can create tension in the abdomen leading to painful period cramps and back ache. Baddha konasana pose is one of my favourites to release the inner thighs and outer hip muscles. This is where you bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to open, creating a diamond shape between your legs. Practice with your hips raised by sitting on a folded blanket and rest your upper body on a bolster or dense cushion for a full body relaxation. Yogi squat is another great pose for increasing hip flexibility! Sit on a block or two in this pose if you have knee issues or you can’t quite access the full squat yet, don’t be afraid to lift the heels off the ground.

Seated wide angle pose (Upavistha Konasana)

Another great yoga pose for period pain is seated wide angle pose or seated wide leg forward fold. This pose opens and relaxes the pelvic floor muscles, supports a healthy menstrual flow and helps to relieve period cramps. To practice this pose, open your legs in a straddle position, as wide as comfortable to stretch the inner thigh muscles gently. Again, during your period I recommend using a bolster or cushion for support and focusing on relaxing into the pose rather than trying to force a deeper stretch.

Adding a side bend and forward fold over each leg helps to lengthen and release tension in the lower back during your period. Focus on keeping both hips grounded on the mat and feel the stretch all the way from your hip, through your side body to the tips of your fingers in one long line of energy. Again, use the cushion or bolster for support, taking the weight of your upper body so that you can relax and let go.

Supine bound angle pose (Supta baddha konasana)

My favourite restorative yoga pose for period cramps or painful periods in general is supine bound angle pose. Practice this pose leaning back on a bolster for the ultimate relaxation experience! This gentle chest opener replaces back bends and acts as a counter pose to all of the forward folds in this sequence. The legs are in the same diamond shape as in the seated version of the pose above. The bolster should be touching your sacrum so that your spine is fully supported. Play around with different heights of your bolster to find the most comfortable spot where you can relax for 5 to 10 minutes at the end of your practice.

You can experiment with different arm variations to find what feels good, either arms outstretched at shoulder height or resting on your lower belly. You can even try out variations of yoni mudra in this position (as demonstrated by Ancient Yoga in the video below) as a gesture of connection with your womb and creative centre.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoy practicing this sequence of yoga for period cramps. Let me know if you give it a go and how you feel afterwards. Please like this post and follow my blog if you want more yoga sequences for support throughout your menstrual cycle. You can find a follow along version of this sequence on my Youtube channel Moon Life Yoga.

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Sources

The Women’s Yoga Book (2011) by Bobby Clennell
Yoni Shatki (2014) by Uma Dinsmore Tuli
My BWY teacher training instructor the lovely Emma Lloyd

cycle tracking day 1 menstrual phase

Stress and the menstrual cycle: Self-care tips for the menstrual phase

Today is the first day of my period and day 1 of a new menstrual cycle – yay! I love the menstrual phase or “inner winter”, not only because it brings a relief of the tension of the pre-menstrual phase but because it is the time of the month when I honour myself with rest and self-care. The last couple of cycles have been pretty messed up for me with all of the craziness going on in the world. Being stuck in lockdown working super hard then quitting my job and moving abroad then going into lockdown again here in Greece.. it’s been pretty stressful to say the least and it showed in my cycles. I had 3 cycles which were 35-37 days long, intense period pains and stagnant blood (this shows up as brown colour with the texture of dirt). So I’m happy that this month things seem to be back to normal with a 30 day cycle and a healthy red flow.

This is one thing I love about menstrual cycle awareness practice. When something isn’t quite right in our lifestyle, often our menstrual cycles are the first place it shows and if we’re not paying attention we can totally miss it. Tracking your cycle length, flow quality and any symptoms showing up throughout the month is a great way to get to know your cycle and tune into the state of your health. Intense pain, excessive PMS symptoms or irregular cycles can all be a sign that something isn’t quite right internally or in your environment. If you notice something strange or unusual, that is a red flag and a hint for you to get quiet for a moment and ask yourself what is going on.

Stress alone can be enough to throw a spanner in the works when it comes to our cycles. This doesn’t have to be a traumatic event but it can be the build up of small stresses due to living in the fast-paced high pressure society that we do. If we don’t have an outlet or a way to manage these stresses, this can lead to chronic tension in the mind and body which affects our overall health, including our hormones. In this post I explain how you can reduce stress and balance your hormones using minimalism, journalling and meditation. Using these techniques, or anything else that helps you to unwind and relax are important all throughout your cycle but even more so during your period. Yin yoga sequences are perfect and I am planning to share more here soon so watch out for that if you’re interested!

Today I was lucky to have the space for a slow morning. I made one of my favourite menstrual phase breakfast recipes, banana oat pancakes and swapped out my morning coffee for a warming chai herbal tea. I’ve been trying to get into the habit of dry body brushing for the last month after reading about the benefits but I’m not always good at remembering to do it. This morning though I decided to pamper myself a bit and took the time to dry body brush, have a long relaxing shower and moisturise from head to toe. I even straightened my hair and put on a bit of make up even though I have no intention of going anywhere today! This afternoon I was teaching a yoga class so I had to prepare for that and do a bit of house work but I did my best to move at my bodies’ pace and take it easy. I made the class a really relaxing and grounding hatha flow and I put on some calming music while I worked.

Now I am feeling peaceful and comfortable in my body – a welcome change from the agony of the last couple of months! I was feeling inspired to share a bit about my experience of the menstrual phase and a few of my tips for looking after yourself during this time. I’m aware everyone’s experience is different when it comes to periods and that conditions such as endometriosis and PCOS can make menstruation a difficult time. However, I’m sure that taking as much time as you have available, whether that’s ten minutes or three hours, will help you to make your period as comfortable as possible. A few months of practicing this and you never know, you might even start to love this phase too.

My top 5 tips for self-care during your period

  1. Wipe 3 things off your to do list – delegate them to a day in the cycle when you have more energy

2. Slow down – even if you have tasks you can’t avoid, try to do them at your bodies’ pace

3. Pamper yourself – whether that’s a luxurious shower (try to avoid hot baths while you are bleeding) or wearing your favourite body lotion, do something to nourish your body

4. Nourish your body – make yourself some nutrient dense, yummy foods. See here for my tips on nutrition for the menstrual phase

5. Rest – take a break from intense exercise and focus instead on light stretching, walking or yin yoga. Your body will thank you for it!

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this short post on stress and self-care during the menstrual phase. Please like this post and follow my blog for more on healthy hormones and holistic health.

  • Let me know in the comments below if you try out any of these tips or any other self-care you practice to feel better during your period
  • If you are looking for support and guidance in balancing your hormones and looking and feeling great, contact me for further information on the health coaching packages I offer. Together we will set you up with a plan to get your hormones balanced and you feeing your best mentally and physically.

Other posts you might like

cycling exercise during period recovery

Can exercise delay periods? 5 ways exercise can slow Hrecovery

Can exercise delay periods? | The short answer is yes! Exercise is one of the factors which can lead to delayed or missing periods aka Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. In particular too much exercise or too high intensity exercise. If your body perceives your exercise as a stress or if you aren’t eating enough to fuel your activities then exercise can delay periods.

A common question from women trying to recover from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea is “Can exercise delay periods coming back?” or “Can I exercise while trying to get my period back?”. I wrote another post about my tips for exercising during HA recovery. If you are thinking about taking a break and need some motivation, here are 5 ways exercise can work against your recovery.

Can exercise delay periods? 5 reasons why!

1. It burns calories

Exercise burns calories which could otherwise be directed towards healing and repair of damage caused by dieting. The point of eating a lot more food during recovery is to flood the body with energy and nutrients to use for healing and repair. Exercise burns up some of these precious resources which will only prolong the healing process. Often women find it hard to meet the minimum recommended calorie intake for recovery and if you choose to exercise you should eat even more to compensate which can be a challenge.

2. Compensation for eating

Many women use exercise as a way to compensate for “over-eating” and it can be temping to start to move more when we allow ourselves to eat in abundance. We don’t want to exchange one control mechanism for another, we want to be completely free of all restrictions and compensations around food. We want to get to a place where we let go of any toxic beliefs around exercise and let go of guilt for resting. Exercising to make up for eating more is just another form of disordered eating behaviour.

3. Exercise causes stress

Intense exercise is perceived as a stress by our hypothalamus, the brain master control centre. This means it can continue to feel it is unsafe to reproduce and not send the signal to restart our cycles. Although exercise is a good way to relieve mental stress, it is a physical stress on the body as it depletes glycogen reserves, increases the heart rate and damages muscle tissue. Exercise is healthy for a healthy body but if you don’t have your period you are not healthy right now and rest and recuperation will be your medicine.

4. Weight control

For many women with HA, exercise has long been used as a way to manipulate their body and separating exercise from weight loss is difficult. We want to get to the point were we can exercise for fun and well being, regardless of the impact that it has on our physical appearance. If we continue to exercise during recovery, we might not do some of the mental work that is needed to fully break free of the weight loss mindset. It’s likely that you need to gain weight if you have lost your period and exercising could make this more difficult.

5. Appetite supression

Exercise can be used as an appetite suppressant or a distraction from hunger. Exercise puts our nervous system in “fight or flight” mode when our body is stimulated and running on adrenaline which decreases hunger. You might find that you are more hungry on rest days because your body has calmed down and this is exactly what we want for healing. If you are hungry on a physical or mental level you should eat. Don’t fall into the trap of being “too busy to eat” as this will only delay your recovery.

Can exercise delay periods after HA recovery

Once you have recovered your period and have accepted your healed body, you might want to start exercising again. Hopefully this is from a much better headspace! By this I mean it will be a conscious choice to take pleasure from movement rather than because you feel you have to control your body in some way.

As long as you are taking care not to push yourself too hard, you should be able to exercise in the future without losing your period again. It’s best to listen to your body and observe any signs of hormonal imbalance to know if you are on the right track. I enjoy hiking, cycling, dancing and yoga and I am able to do these things regularly and maintain a healthy period.

Over to you…

I hope this article gave you something to think about! It’s a personal choice whether you decide to stop exercising all together during your recovery. Women have recovered successfully from HA whilst still exercising but it is my opinion that we recover faster and more completely if we give our bodies chance to rest and fully repair.

  • Let me know in the comments, how do you feel about taking a break from exercise? Does it feel scary or a relief? For those in recovery, are you still exercising or taking a break?
  • If you are looking for support, guidance and accountability on your period recovery journey, please contact me for further information on the health coaching packages I offer. Together we will set you up with a plan to get your hormones balanced and you feeing your best mentally and physically.

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exercise and hypothalamic amenorrhea

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, the cause of your missing period?

If you are here, you are likely wondering why your period has gone missing. You aren’t pregnant, you don’t have any health issues that you know of. Nevertheless, your period has been missing for months or even years. Perhaps I can offer you an answer. In this article I explain a condition called Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, one of the common causes of missing periods. I will also outline it’s causes and a basic treatment plan to get your period back.

What is Hypothalamic Amenorrhea?

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA) or Functional Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (FHA) is when a woman has no period for 6 months in a row or more, despite having no anatomical or disease-related reason for lack of menstruation. Functional means behaviour related and we will come to what those behaviours might be later in this post.

Primary vs. Secondary Amenorrhea

Amenorrhea is the medical term for missing periods or the absence of a menstrual cycle. Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and Functional Hypothalamic Amenorrhea are known as secondary amenorrhea. This is when a woman’s periods have stopped or she has missed several periods in a row. Primary amenorrhea is when a woman has reached reproductive age (usually15 or 16) and her periods have not yet started.

Primary amenorrhea can be due to genetic conditions affecting the ovaries, hormonal issues relating to the pituitary or hypothalamus glands or structural problems with the reproductive system. The most common causes of secondary amenorrhea are pregnancy, breast-feeding and menopause but it can also be due to birth control methods such as the contraceptive pill or implant as well as functional conditions such as Hypothalamic Amenorrhea.

NHS: Amenorrhea

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea symptoms

If you have ruled out other causes of missing periods, Hypothalamic Amenorrhea could be the most likely diagnosis. Aside from missing periods, there are many other symptoms which can occur with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. I have listed some examples below, although not all (or even any!) of these symptoms have to be present and every woman’s body is different.

  • Thinning hair or hair loss
  • Feeling cold, especially cold hands and feet
  • Excessive tiredness or low energy
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Low sex drive or no libido
  • Abnormal appetite
  • Low bone density or osteopenia

These symptoms are similar to those of hypothyroid. This is because Hypothalamic Amenorrhea often occurs alongside low thyroid function. Both are related to a lowered metabolic rate although the causes might be different. As a result, in some cases a hypothyroid diagnosis can be reversed following a Hypothalamic Amenorrhea treatment plan.

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea explained

If you aren’t interested in the science part then feel free to skip to the next section!

Hypothalamic refers to the hypothalamus, an area of the brain sometimes called the “master controller”. The hypothalamus has many functions, the main ones being regulating hormone levels and maintaining stable conditions inside the body. Primarily core body temperature, blood pressure and appetite. It does this sending out correcting signals responding to changes in internal and external factors.

One of these signals relevant to Hypothalamic Amenorrhea is the release of Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). This signal causes another gland, the pituitary to release Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing hormone (LH). FSH and LH are responsible for maturing a follicle in the ovaries and releasing the mature egg. The release of an egg is called ovulation and is the main event in the menstrual cycle.

Watch the short video below if you want to learn more about how the hypothalamus and pituitary glands work together.

The ovaries are the reproductive organs which release the sex-hormones estrogen and testosterone. These hormones also play a role in regulating the menstrual cycle and reproductive health. The hypothalamus and the pituitary are connected to the ovaries along what is called the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Ovarian (HPO) axis. In Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, there is disruption to the HPO axis due to some sort of stress on the body. This results in low levels of FSH, LH and estrogen. Put simply, no ovulation and a missing period.

What causes Hypothalamic Amenorrhea?

There are several factors at play when it comes to missing periods:

  • Under eating, chronic or restrictive dieting or poor nutrition
  • Over-exercise, especially endurance sports
  • Low body weight or rapid/extreme weight loss
  • Stress and excessive worry

The typical woman suffering from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea is a type-A personality and over-achiever in all areas of life. Especially when this perfectionism extends to diet, exercise and body weight. Extreme examples are women who are constantly on a diet, restricting calories or types of foods and go running 7 days a week. Those who maintain a very low weight even though they are fighting against their body to stay there. Or women who work or study long hours expecting nothing but the best from themselves at all times.

But Hypothalamic Amenorrhea can also affect women in less extreme circumstances who might have lost weight quickly in a “healthy” way or who have been accidently under-fueling over a long period of time (I’m talking to you busy working mums!). Another example is women who have gone through a stressful life transition. Basically our bodies are trying to keep us safe and alive by conserving calories during a stressful time.

Treatment for Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

There has been a steady increase in the number of searches for “how to get my period back” over the last 10 years. In the case of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea recovery the formula is pretty simple although implementing it can be difficult!

EAT REST RELAX REPEAT

  1. Eat plenty of food and I’m talking a surplus of calories
  2. Let go of any diet restrictions and consume all food groups
  3. Take a break from intense exercise
  4. Rest or focus on low intensity movement such as light yoga
  5. Remove as many stressors from your life as possible
  6. Take time to relax and de-stress every day
  7. Consider therapy to help with making the changes above if they feel challenging

I will talk more about the specifics of this healing protocol in future posts. Alternatively, apply to work with me for personalised advice and guidance on your healing journey.

Summary

In conclusion, Hypothalamic Amenorrhea is a fairly common condition amongst women who restrict their diet, are under stress or exercise excessively. It is usually treatable and requires a combination of rehabilative nutrition, rest and stress management. This is best done under the guidance of a doctor, nutritionist or health coach depending on the severity of the situation.

I hope this article helped you to better understand Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and why your periods might have stopped. Let me know in the comments, what is the most difficult part of the recovery formula for you?

Over to you…

  • Comment: Have you ever experienced missing periods? Had you heard of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea before?
  • Like this post and share to support my business
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Information sources

Gibson S, Fleming N, Zuijdwijk C, Dumont T. Where Have the Periods Gone? The Evaluation and Management of Functional Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. J Clin Res Pediatr Endocrinol. 2020;12(Suppl 1):18-27. doi:10.4274/jcrpe.galenos.2019.2019.S0178

How I got my period back after 8 years of HA

I shared a story a while ago about my experience with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA) and how I got my period back (see my posts here). But I finally decided to make a video about this topic as I realised just how important it is to spread this message. I don’t know whether it is just the online circles I hang around in but I feel like hormonal issues are becoming much more prevalent, especially in young women.

What is Hypothalamic Amenorrhea?

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea is the absence of menstrual cycles due to stress or negative energy balancing in the body. Menstrual disorders like that are affecting more and more women as we strive to achieve the perfect body through restrictive diets and punishing exercise regimes.

I don’t think social media is helping as we now are faced with images of attractive women and messages of how to eat and exercise to stay skinny, youthful and beautiful whenever we open up our phones or computers. Often this is packaged up as health but is this truly the message being sent? I don’t think so.

More like we are being shown an ideal which is unhealthy for most and unattainable for many. I’m sure that a good proportion of the women in the fitness industry are suffering inside, over exercising and restricting their diet to the point of physical deprivation and mental anxiety. Of course there are the exceptions but on the whole I think the fitness industry these days is pretty toxic.

How I got my period back after 8 years

Watch the video below from my Youtube Channel where I share my story of how I got my period back. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for links to my other articles where I share the specifics about diet and exercise for recovery.

Getting my period back after having HA for 8 years (!!) was a huge turning point in my life. this experience is what sparked my passion for nutrition and yoga that I love sharing to this day. I am still interested in health, including eating well and moving my body. But nowadays this is from a much more relaxed, intuitive place.

I’m not fighting my body at every turn I’m just going with the flow. I am able to maintain a healthy body without depriving myself or running myself into the ground and my mind is sooo much calmer and happier for it.

Summary

If you know anyone who could benefit from this message please feel free to share this video. Or if you are ready to work with me to rebalance your hormones and get healthy in a holistic, intuitive way then apply for holistic health coaching.

Over you to you…

  • Comment: How do you feel about the HA recovery diet? Which is the most difficult element for you?
  • Like this post and share to support my business
  • Follow my blog for more posts on nutrition, yoga and holistic health

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