Let's turn to the experts on what happens during the follicular phase of the cycle...
What is it? The follicular phase, to put it simply, is what comes after your 'bleed' or menstruation. It lasts until you ovulate and is the time when your ovaries are preparing to release an egg . Some women may even release 2 eggs- we will explore that in a later blog post about the ovulation phase. Estrogen surges during the follicular phase which creates a thickened lining in the uterus (which you will later shed during your menstruation).
First off, the state of research for women's health is quite honestly shocking. For a long time, women in their menstruating years have been omitted from clinical studies because of the *variability* in the female cycle. However, that is also our greatest asset to research- we are dynamic, changing, cyclical creatures who can react COMPLETELY differently one day to the next. It's definitely time for more research and studies to include people with menstrual cycles.
There are some epic authors who have written about the infradian rhythm aka menstrual cycle, here's what they have to say:
Alissa Vitti, author of In the FLO, has published a few interesting insights about the follicular phase:
The follicular phase is a time of new beginnings, when fresh ideas can spring to mind and estrogen rises making you feel innovative and energetic
You might like to ask yourself, " What do you want more of, where shall I set my intentions this month?" and plan for the cycle phases ahead
A great time to meal prep, plan your budget and schedule in social time
Eat vibrant, light foods to feel energised and healthy
Focus on phytoestrogens (kimchi, veggies, oats) to prepare your microbiome for ovulation
Intermittent fasting may feel right during your follicular phase as you can get away with less overall calories and won't be so ravenous like during your luteal phase
You may enjoy turning to exercise that is a bit higher in intensity now that the bleeding is over... think dancing, cycling, being in nature, even a bit of HIIT closer to ovulation time
Another power-house author, Stacy T. Sims has commented on the importance of probiotics in performance and health stating that it can improve energy, immunity, heat tolerance and overall well-being (Sims, 2016). As Vitti mentioned, the follicular phase may be a good time to supplement with probiotics in order to prepare the body for it's vital ovulation.
Lara Briden, author of Period Repair Manual, explains that the younger a menstruator is, the less Follicular-Stimulation Hormone (FSH) they'll have which makes a follicular phase slightly longer for a 20 year old than say a 45 year old. She also explains how estradial is released during follicular phase which can be associated with feelings of 'happiness' and libido. Estradiol can also have positive affects on your muscles, skin, sleep, bones, heart and so on (Briden, 2018).
These three books have become like period bibles to me over the last 5 or so years. What books are on your 'must read' list for cyclical wellness? Comment below...
Up next, we will explore the research around the ovulation phase of the cycle and what that might look like and feel like in action. See you soon x
Briden, L. (2018). Period Repair Manual: Every Woman’s Guide to better periods. Macmillan.
Sims, S. T. (2016). Roar. Rodale.
Vitti, A. (2020). In the flo. HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.
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