Springtime for the Body

“Spring is the time of plans and projects.” - Leo Tolstoy

Spring is the season of resurgence, when the rain and the gradual warming of the earth and air prompt new growth and set the sap running in the trees. 

In the reproductive cycle, spring’s equivalent is the follicular phase – a stretch of roughly two weeks during which a new egg ripens in the ovaries, ahead of release at ovulation. This phase, which begins on the first day of your period, is the longest segment of the typical menstrual cycle. 

Here’s what happens during this monthly springtime of the body: the shedding of the uterine lining triggers the pituitary gland to release Follicular Stimulating Hormone (FSH), which in turn tells the ovaries to start preparing follicles, the fluid-filled sacs that house immature eggs. Typically, only one of these will go on to reach full maturity.  

As it grows, this chosen egg releases a special type of estrogen called estradiol that instructs the uterus to prepare itself for the possibility of fertilization by growing a thickened lining. Estrogen levels, which plummet before menstruation, soar to a peak reached just before ovulation.

Estrogen has power. It sharpens mental acuity and memory. Physical coordination improves, as does stamina. In the follicular phase, as in spring, you feel naturally happier and your interest in sex can also receive a boost. Some women have even reported an intensified sense of smell.

The follicular phase is a monthly gift from our bodies: a time of happiness, optimism, and high energy.

It is also an excellent time to schedule activities where you need to shine physically, emotionally, or mentally. Book that romantic weekend in the mountains. Schedule that all-important presentation. Sign up for that 5k run. Go all out at the gym.

As always, the right nutrition can help you make the most of your heightened intellectual and physical energy.

In the early days of the follicular phase, you can counteract breast tenderness and other leftover premenstrual symptoms by eating foods containing phytoestrogen (e.g. lentils and soybeans). These can give you a head start on the happier times estrogen will bring.

Magnesium levels tend to drop during the follicular phase, so it’s a good idea to up your consumption of foods high in magnesium. Think leafy greens, nuts and seeds (pumpkin and flaxseeds are particularly good), fatty fishes such as salmon and tuna, soybeans, and avocados. And if you’re hungry for a treat, dark chocolate is the magnesium-rich choice. 

Your body is actually better at metabolizing fats in the follicular phase than at other times of the month, so you can be more generous with your carbohydrates. But you should eat these early in the day so they can be used as energy, not stored in the body. And try to focus on bulky carbs like brown rice, oats, legumes, and lentils, which take longer to digest.

A healthy, balanced diet will only add to the natural bounce – or should we say spring? –  you’ll have in your step during this high-energy part of the month. All the better to achieve everything you have planned.

So get out there and enjoy the spring!

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