Infradian rhythm diet: How your cycles can affect your mind and body
By: St. Luke’s Health - The Woodlands Hospital | Published 06/07/2022
Have you heard the news? Your body has a second biological clock! It helps you to feel happier, have more energy, and get the rest you need after a very long day. And you can actually change up your diet and exercise routine based on what part of the cycle you’re in to feel at your best. We want to help you maximize your body’s natural cycles, so let’s get a better idea of our different biological rhythms.
What is an infradian rhythm versus a circadian rhythm?
You’ve probably heard of the term “circadian rhythm,” your body’s 24-hour biological cycle, typically regulated by body temperature, sunlight, and the Earth’s rotation on its axis. But what about infradian rhythm? This refers to cycles that are longer than 24 hours, like monthly or annual cycles, regulated by timing functions inside the body. Various hormones, like melatonin, provide seasonal information so the body knows what part of the phase it should be in.
Biological cycles are not lone wolves but rather are very friendly with each other. The hormone melatonin, regulated by the infradian rhythm, tells your body when it is time for some shut-eye. In turn, your body temperature influences your circadian rhythm and helps time the release of melatonin. All of it works together to help your body work as a whole.
What is an example of an infradian rhythm cycle?
Examples of infradian rhythms can include a woman’s menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and seasonal affective disorder—even hibernation for bears! The most commonly researched infradian rhythm is menstruation. Scientists are finding information on the best times to eat certain foods and perform different exercise routines based on this rhythm.
What is the infradian rhythm controlled by?
Your hormones play a significant role in controlling your infradian rhythms. Because it’s the most researched type of infradian rhythm, we can look at the menstrual cycle to understand how this works. During the four phases of a menstrual cycle, hormones are flowing through the body at various rates. For example, the female sex hormone estrogen is highest during the mid-luteal and mid-follicular phases, regulating ovulation.
Are there certain foods I should eat for different phases of my period?
Speaking of the luteal phase, a woman’s resting metabolic rate, or the rate at which your body burns energy, is actually highest during this week. What does this mean? Your appetite is likely to increase around this time, encouraging you to consume more calories. Your energy levels directly link to your metabolic rate, and you will be able to burn more calories during this phase as well. Let’s break down each phase:
Menstruation phase (days 1–5). Your resting metabolic rate is lower, appetite decreases, and energy levels are lower. Try eating vegetables, fruit, and fish and practicing light exercise.
Follicular phase (days 6–14). All of your levels are rising but still on the lower level. Keep practicing light activities like yoga and consuming light meals, like fruits, vegetables, and proteins.
Ovulatory phase (days 15–17). You can begin practicing high-intensity exercise as your energy levels continue rising. Your metabolic rate and appetite will also increase so that you can eat more calories throughout the day. You can also detoxify excess hormones by eating lots of dietary fiber found in certain fruits, vegetables, nuts, oils, and quality proteins.
Luteal phase (days 18–28). Higher resting metabolic rate, appetite, and energy levels. However, these levels will begin to decrease towards the end of this phase. So when your body tells you it needs to slow down, listen to it. This phase is also filled with the (sometimes) dreaded cravings, which you can combat with healthy fats like avocado, dark chocolate, and yogurt.
Can the infradian rhythm diet improve my mental health?
At the start of your period or menstrual phase, serotonin levels drop, which affects mood stabilization, sleeping, and digestion. This is one reason you’re likely to feel a little worse during the menstruation phase. Serotonin levels are also low during the second half of your luteal phase when premenstruation syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) symptoms show. Try to plan your big social outings and important work meetings for the weeks of your follicular and ovulatory phases when your serotonin levels are higher.
Get started by keeping notes of specific changes during your menstrual cycle. Each phase of your cycle will be unique to you, so it’s essential to take a personalized approach to this rhythm. Once you’ve tracked some patterns, see what simple changes, including light exercise like yoga during your luteal and menstrual phases—the end to the beginning of your cycle—can have on your overall well-being.
Schedule an appointment for a well-woman exam with a St. Luke’s Health OBGYN to get more information on how to maximize your hormonal functions. If you have more significant hormonal issues, seek help from a St. Luke’s Health endocrinologist. When we work with seasonal changes, rather than against them, we can maximize our body’s natural state.