Understanding the fluctuations of hormones at different phases of the menstrual cycle is a cornerstone of smart programming for female health. It’s also important to note that all women experience the menstrual cycle differently (bio-individuality) so be sure to be flexible with the information provided in this lesson.
Menstruation/Early Follicular phase lasts in general 4-7 days. This is when the Period begins as estrogen and progesterone production drops significantly while luteinizing and follicular stimulating hormone (LH and FSH respectively) increase and the uterine wall is shed through the vagina along with blood, mucus, and tissue. Symptoms will vary on an individual basis but expect cramping, bloating, fatigue, achiness, and mood swings to name a few.
Late Follicular Phase lasts in general 8-14 days. A significant spike in estrogen occurs along with a small increase in progesterone and testosterone resulting in greater insulin sensitivity, more energy, stronger connective tissue health, and improved work capacity
Ovulation lasts in general for 3-4 days and occurs at the transition between the Follicular and Luteal phases. This is a highly anabolic period with peak levels of Estrogen and Testosterone resulting in a greater ability to recover from stress, increased libido, and pain tolerance. As the body transitions to the Early Luteal Phase, estrogen plummets while progesterone increases. If cortisol levels are high due to high-stress lifestyle factors, progesterone also may elevate cortisol levels further resulting in mood swings, irritability, and an increase in basal body temperature. Again, symptoms will vary from person to person.
Early Luteal Phase estrogen begins to increase again, albeit at a much slower rate compared to the follicular phase. Progesterone experiences an increased rate of production. Physiology will typically be “normal” during this 5-6 day window although light PMS symptoms may occur.
Late Luteal Phase Progesterone reaches its peak at a higher concentration than estrogen. An increase in cortisol may result in mood swings and irritability along with greater catabolism. An increase in the hormone relaxin may also occur resulting in greater joint laxity and decreased tissue tolerance. Inflammatory cytokines are also elevated leading to slower recovery times and sensitivity to pain may be heightened as well.