The bad news: January is going to be menstrually challenging, says women’s hormone expert and Well+Good Council member Alisa Vitti. The good news: It doesn’t have to be that way! Here, the “hormone whisperer” explains what you can do in December to make your first period of 2018 a happy one.
I’m going to make a prediction: Your period will be worse in January than it was in December.
No, I’m not psychic—but I feel confident in saying this. Here’s why. This month, as we celebrate the holidays, lots of us enjoy cookies, Champagne, and all sorts of sweet treats. Those desserts and alcohol tend to contain more refined carbohydrates, which disrupt your blood sugar levels, which in turn throws off your menstrual cycle.
A lot of women actually worry they’re pregnant after the holidays because their period arrives days late.
Our crazy December schedules don’t help matters, either. Thanks to travel and stress, our sleep is off, our circadian rhythm is upended, and it’s easy to become deficient in micronutrients. All of that makes it more difficult for you to have an adequate luteal phase of your menstrual cycle. (If you don’t know your luteal from your follicular phase, here’s a rundown.) You might not make enough progesterone, and if you have significantly more estrogen than progesterone, then you will have all of the stereotypical symptoms and experiences of PMS.
The food, the travel, the stress—it all can wind up disrupting your cycle. Ovulation can be temporarily delayed, and sometimes women will experience an irregular cycle at the beginning of the year. (A lot of women actually worry they’re pregnant after the holidays because their period arrives days late!)
It doesn’t have to be this way, though—here’s my advice for having hormonally balanced holidays this year.
How to avoid the new year crash
This is a pretty common problem for women in January. That’s important to know because if you’re someone who’s trying to start a resolution with health and fitness goals that month, when this is all happening in the background, it’s going to be so much harder for you to stick with a plan.
Let’s say your period is due at the end of January. You might feel okay the first week or two of the month, but then you’re going to start to feel really crummy in the second half. Whatever diet or exercise routine you’re trying to stick to will become impossible as your body craves micronutrients. So then, you start eating things you would rather not be eating.
There’s always something that’s working against our hormones, so we need a way to level the playing field when the vicissitudes of life pop up. Over the 17 years I’ve been researching the menstrual cycle and hormones, I’ve learned that there is a specific set of micronutrients women always need. They include magnesium, vitamin D3, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids. (This is why I created my Balance supplements.) Come January, if you stay consistent in getting these micronutrients, you can sail through while everyone else is having PMS from hell.
I also recommend doing a four-day hormone detox after the holidays. It’s a quick food program to help flush all the junk that you might have been eating. It’s best to do it right after your last period. After that, proactively front-load complex carbohydrates, cruciferous vegetables, and healthy fats to help you with sugar cravings that may have developed over the holidays.
What to put on your plate
Come January, have brown rice bowls and sweet potatoes for breakfast. If you crave carbs like baked goods, bread, and pasta, it just means you’re deficient in key micronutrients. Don’t deprive yourself! Lean into those cravings by supplying your body with foods you do need.
Complex carbohydrates, root vegetables, and whole grains are a good way to do that. Cooked leafy greens will help your liver process estrogen, and the healthy fats help stabilize mood and energy. These are the foods I recommend during the luteal phase to help you coordinate what it is you’re eating with each phase of your cycle. They’ll be most helpful during PMS—but they’ll help you feel good all year long, too.
Women’s hormone expert Alisa Vitti is the creator of the MyFLO hormone-balancing period tracker app; the best-selling author of WomanCode, and the founder of FLOLiving.com, a virtual health center that supports women’s hormonal and reproductive health.
What should Alisa write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to [email protected].