October 7, 2019 | 61 minutes, 24 seconds
Every once in a while, you read something so important, you just want to make sure everyone hears about it. Recently, I read the book 28 Days by women’s health journalist Gabrielle Lichterman, who sourced thousands of scientific studies to explain and verify what women feel during each day of their menstrual cycle.
Commonly, a woman’s menstrual experience is Cliff Noted down to whether she has PMS or not. However, the daily ebb and flow of reproductive hormones is nothing short of miraculous and can explain a woman’s likes, dislikes, mood, behavior, and much more.
In 28 Days, Gabrielle cites studies that explain changes in mood, energy, introversion, extroversion, shopping habits, desire to socialize, health vulnerabilities, sleep habits, libido, cravings, cognitive function, and women’s intuition for each day of her menstrual cycle.
I am grateful to have Gabrielle as my podcast guest, where we dive deep into the science, Ayurvedic wisdom, and Gabrielle’s interpretation of a woman’s hormonal cycle. Her work is presented in her book and apps easily found by searching her educational outreach mission Hormonology.
Quick Homology Review!
During week one of your cycle (which starts on the first day of your period), the hormone estrogen slowly begins to rebuild in preparation for another monthly cycle of the moon. While estrogen is just starting to rise, it is still low, supporting an introverted mind and desire to be quiet and less social.
The menstrual period is a time of blood loss and dipping iron levels, which can also make one feel low on energy, moody, quiet, and introspective. Ayurveda always suggests to rest at this time to allow estrogen to lift and iron reserves to be nourished.
Note: Women with PMS, heavy cycles, or moodiness during week one should have ferritin (stored iron) levels tested. Learn more about iron support here.
In week one, think of rising estrogen as a kind of caffeine that makes you feel good, but without some of the jittery side effects. The first part of week one (during the period) can mask some of the feel-good benefits of estrogen, but for most women this is clearly felt by the end of week one.
In week one, estrogen is slowly rising, while progesterone and testosterone stay low, letting estrogen do all the work of boosting energy, mood, ambition, a growing libido, extroversion, and new-found desire for activity.
During week two, estrogen steadily rises, along with confidence, energy, mental clarity, libido, drive, and mood. This is often the best time of a women’s cycle, but that is not to say that the others are bad. Each week offers you a new, different, deeper, and more introspective look at life through the changing hormonal lens of the 28-day cycle.
Progesterone stays low throughout week two, but right before ovulation (at the end of week two), there is a short-lived spike in testosterone. This, just like in men, can boost libido, competitive desire for a mate, confidence, and extroversion. The combination of high estrogen and surging testosterone at this time can account for more extreme shopping, eating, and romantic and ambitious behavior.
This is also a time of greater women’s intuition, due to heightened estrogen, which boosts awareness at a time where getting pregnant is a hormonal imperative.
We Recommend035: Ayurveda for Women’s Health
Week three, which starts on day 15 after the beginning of your period, is accompanied by a crash in estrogen and rising progesterone. Energy levels shift from high to low, libido crashes, and you begin to crave comfort foods and energy drinks to return to that high estrogen/testosterone feel-good place you just came out of.
The tendency is to become more introverted, introspective, quiet, intuitive, and thoughtful during week three. This intuitive state is perhaps a more natural one than the ovulatory spike, as it is dialing down estrogen and quieting the mind that boost intuitive decision-making skills.
Week three is a higher progesterone time that can drive more cravings and water retention. If this is associated with lymph congestion, it can cause bloat, breast swelling, tenderness, and breakouts, as well as moodiness and tiredness.
This is the caffeine withdrawal week, where you feel like something is draining your energy. By the end of week three, estrogen starts to rise again, which puts some gas back in your tank. But this is associated with still-rising progesterone, which mellows you out. The combination at the end of week three is a feeling like you are the calm center of a storm. While energy and mental clarity are on the rise, you are still sedated by progesterone, so you easily stay centered.
Week four, the final week of the cycle, is accompanied by a final drop in estrogen and progesterone, which once again shifts the mind to a more introspective, cautious, intuitive, and introverted state. While week three started with a dip in estrogen, mimicking caffeine withdrawal, week four spends all seven days in an estrogen and progesterone dive.
Because all the feel-good hormones are dipping during this time, any weak links or underlying health concerns can be exacerbated. It is a good time to do a self-health check and see where the body may need some supportive care. A natural dip in hormones provides deep thinking, introspection, and intuition. This is like pulling back the bow of silence and insight before taking those insights into action. PMS at this time, while somewhat normal, may reflect an imbalance that could be addressed with lifestyle, diet, or herbal support.
Does your cycle seem to follow this pattern? Let us know!
Gabrielle Lichterman is the founder of Hormonology—an educational outreach mission that teaches women and girls how the ups and downs of hormones in their menstrual cycle impact their moods, health, and behavior every day.
In 2005, Gabrielle pioneered the movement to live in sync with your menstrual cycle, which is now followed by countless women worldwide.
As a way to help spread hormone knowledge to others, Gabrielle created the Hormone Horoscope Apps and Female Forecaster App (available at the App Store and Google Play) and is the author of 28 Days: What Your Cycle Reveals About Your Moods, Health and Potential.
Gabrielle gets her hormone expertise from more than 20 years as a women’s health journalist. Her articles have appeared in dozens of major publications around the globe, including CosmoGirl, First for Women, Glamour, Marie Claire, New York Daily News, Self, Teen People, Woman’s World, and Working Mother. She’s also the former editor of WebMD’s health newsletters.
To learn more about Gabrielle and her Hormonology mission, visit MyHormonology.com.
Podcasts with Dr. John Douillard, DC, CAP are dynamic, hour-long lectures blending ancient wisdom of Ayurveda with modern science!
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