Ever since I was younger, I dreaded that “time of the month.”
Every month, it came and it went. I would experience symptoms of being tired, groggy and just simply out of it when my period would arrive. However, I was trained to persevere through it, pop an Advil and get on with my day. Totally unappreciative of my body and what my menstrual cycle actually meant.
It truly wasn’t until I did my research on hormonal birth control did I realize how disconnected I was from my body.
Every single morning, my birth control alarm would go off and I would mindlessly pop some hormones into my body not knowing the effects it had on me. There was one point, where I took birth control that would stop my period all together. I thought this was amazing! No more PMS, no more tampons, no more embarrassment!
There were even days where I would forget to take my birth control and double up the next day.
Again, not really knowing the harm I was doing to it and potentially the health of my future. It was more than just pregnancy prevention.
Read about my birth control story here.
Once I stopped hormonal birth control, I grew an appreciation for my menstrual cycle and my period’s health. I got closer to my body, learned how to listen to it and became one with it.
I wanted to invite my friend Haley Cada (@avoeats) on the blog today to go in depth about period health. She is a Menstrual Cycle Coach + Holistic Nutritionist and is passionate about women reclaiming the wisdom of their menstrual cycles.
I’ve had Haley on the blog before to talk about intuitive eating, eating disorders and recovery. Check out our interview here. That interview really hit home for me!
But this time, I brought Haley on the blog to go in depth… I mean share every little detail about the topic: period health and our menstrual cycle.
Since our menstrual cycle tells us A LOT about our health, I thought this topic would be super valuable for all of the ladies out here!
With that said – please welcome Haley Cada aka @avoeats!
First off, thank you so much for having me on the blog again. It is such an honor & I’m grateful that this information will be able to reach your tribe!
My name is Haley, I am a Menstrual Cycle Coach + Holistic Nutritionist. I guide women in healing their periods & living in sync with their cycle. I got into this space through my own journey with birth control & how it ultimately was so detrimental to my physical + emotional health. As I shared on my previous post with you in 2019, I suffered from Disordered Eating & Body Image challenges through high school + college. (honestly who doesn’t unfortunately) Simultaneously, I was experimenting with different forms of birth control.
Long story short, my body completely rejected hormonal birth control & the IUD. I was 21 years old, in a serious partnership & having to figure out how in the world I wasn’t going to get pregnant. That was when I began diving deep into understanding the science & physiology behind the Menstrual Cycle & Natural Fertility. I am a nerd at heart and loved learning all the incredible ways that the female body works in such beautiful unison.
I have been studying the menstrual cycle for 5 years & have my degree in Nutrition, yet I didn’t begin to infuse the two together until I had already started coaching women. I quickly saw that women were either on hormonal birth control for years suppressing their natural hormonal flow, or their cycles were a source of pain + suffering. Within a few months of coaching women on food & body challenges, I quickly realized that my passion was in guiding women to create a healthy & harmonious relationship to their cycle. What really started out as a personal journey, quickly transpired into a collective movement.
Share with us the importance of growing closer to your cycle
From a physical standpoint, our Menstrual Cycle is a direct indicator into our overall health & can oftentimes be the first sign that our hormones are off kilter. Despite what society would like us to believe, painful periods, cramps & PMS are not normal. The female body was not created to malfunction for an entire week or two leading up to your bleed. By seeing the menstrual cycle as a report card, you can begin to make necessary shifts + changes that will support your overall health + happiness.
From an emotional & spiritual perspective, our cycle offers us many built in lessons and guides us in understanding ourselves on a much deeper level. I like to say that our Menstrual Cycle practice as women is our spiritual practice. When we follow the seasons of the cycle, and tune into the visceral and emotional changes that occur each month, we can begin to create a dialogue between mind & womb. I have been interested in personal development since I was 19, and nothing has led me to a more embodied knowing of self than my cycle.
Share with us what that looks like – what are the steps to grow closer and be in tune?
The first step is to begin tracking your cycle. I recommend starting with what day of your cycle you are on (day 1 is the first day of bleeding) as well as recording emotional & physical symptoms. There are many period tracking apps however, I prefer a journal, as it contributes to the practice being more sacred & allows us to drop into our bodies after a long day. I recommend this journal for anyone who is wanting to engage with this practice.
From there, tuning into the different seasons of the cycle is a wonderful way to begin working with the different energies that present themselves. The cycle is divided into 4 phases or seasons, which all mirror the seasons of the Earth.
- Menstruation or Inner Winter | Days 1 – 5
- Follicular Phase or Inner Spring | Days 6 – 11
- Ovulation or Inner Summer | Days 12 – 20
- Luteal Phase or Inner Autumn | Days 21 – 28
Lastly, I always recommend that women begin a womb embodiment practice. This can look like many different things ~ deep breathing into this space, rubbing oils on your womb, beginning to develop a felt sense of what this sacred space feels like. Simply breathing & feeling into this space within the body is revolutionary. Start small, even if it’s just 5 minutes.
What foods should we eat for each day?
I love cyclical nutrition! I think that it’s a wonderful way to ensure the body is receiving a variety of nutrients, while also supporting the changing nutritional needs throughout the cycle.
First off, an overall healthy diet that is filled with an abundance of plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds + grains along with moderate animal protein & a variety of fermented foods is always where I begin.
Once you have the foundation established, it can be a fun & supportive way to play around with consuming different foods based off where you are in the cycle.
In order to keep this as simple as possible for the readers, let’s think of the cycle in 2 distinct phases. We have the Yang Phase, which consists of the Follicular & Ovulatory phases and we have the Yin Phase, which consists of the Luteal & Menstrual phases.
In the Yang phase of the cycle, our digestive fire is high. Consuming cooling, fresh & raw foods during these phases helps to balance heat levels in the body. Vegetables, juices, smoothies & fruit are all really supportive during these 2 phases. We are also focusing on building healthy eggs in the ovaries, so foods such as eggs + healthy fats are really supportive here as well.
In the Yin phase of the cycle, digestive fire has decreased, therefore we want to fill the body with warming foods + spices. I love allll the root vegetables in my Yin phases. Foods such as potatoes, carrots & beets are often the center of my plate. It’s also important to consume foods that will support liver detoxification, since many PMS symptoms can arise when there are excess levels of estrogen. Foods that support this are cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, etc) as well as foods high in Vitamin C & E such as citrus + tropical fruits & a mix of nuts + seeds.
If there is any phase that nutrition should be emphasized, it would be the Menstrual Phase. The uterus is shedding + losing vital nutrients, fluid & blood. Consuming mineral rich broths & foods that are high in Iron, Magnesium & Zinc will support the body in rebuilding the endometrial lining & will also serve the womb throughout the rest of the cycle.
How should we workout/ is it okay if we don’t? 😉
During menstruation, I recommend you don’t work out at all! Light yoga or a walk is okay, but if you don’t feel like moving your body, that is totally normal! From a very simplistic point of view, in the Yang Phase (Follicular & Ovulatory) engaging in more high intensity workouts makes sense from a hormonal perspective. Activities such as spin, yoga sculpt & boxing are really great here.
As you transition into your Yin Phase (Luteal & Menstrual) begin to focus on more restorative exercises such as gentle yoga, walking & pilates.
I always like to add too, if you are having period challenges or any hormonal imbalance, less exercise is best. While exercise has so many benefits to it, it can also be the major culprit behind hormonal imbalances.
How should we schedule out our days when on our period?
Yes, I love this question and it’s going to look so different for everyone. In a perfect world, I would love for every woman to be able to honor 2 full days for her bleed to do whatever she desires. This is a potent time, as the left + right hemispheres of the brain are communicating more directly. Because of this we may experience heightened intuition & visions around the month ahead.
However, in our modern society I understand that isn’t realistic for all women. Anything you can do in this phase to lighten the load will be supportive ~ prep some food beforehand, clean the house, aim to wrap up any loose ends in your projects. If you are in a partnership, communicate to them that this will be a time of inward jouraning and that you may enjoy some more space for the next few days. Any way that you can take radical care of yourself in this phase will be registered in the subconscious.
Also, I would like to note that pushing through our periods or pretending that we can override the hormonal milieu that is occuring, most likely will result in symptoms, whether it be painful periods, cramps or PMS. These are all messengers that are asking for us to tune deeper into our bodies & surrender into these uncomfortable phases.
What does a healthy cycle look like?
A healthy cycle arrives every 25 – 35 days. Our menstruation period should be anywhere between 3-7 days, with the first couple days being the heaviest. Minimal to no premenstrual spotting is best, and blood should be a rich red color. Brown, grey or purple blood are all signs of a deeper hormonal imbalance. As far as cramps, PMS or painful periods go, none of these symptoms are normal. What is normal is to experience sensations in your womb leading up to menstruation, as the uterus is expanding in volume and slowly begins to contract. It’s also normal to feel more tired, hungry and less engaged during the Luteal & Menstrual phases. We must remember we are cyclical beings, who are not meant to feel the same every single day.
Thank you so much for being a guest on the blog! Please let us know how we can find you!
Here is a link for a free gift, that goes into the 4 Inner Seasons of the Menstrual Cycle. It comes with a cycle map & journal questions for each phase 🙂