Here's how cycle syncing your diet can help you achieve healthier skin

Healthy gut and healthy skin!

Harper's Bazaar India

We’ve all felt enslaved to our hormones at some point in time, and it’s not just our imagination. Crying one minute, ecstatic the next, even off-the-wall frisky at times—women often experience erratic moods and bodily responses, and we may have our menstrual cycle to point fingers at. Hormone fluctuations over the monthly menstrual cycle are crucial in our body’s responses. They affect our emotional status, appetite, thought processes, and more. So, we spoke to experts to help us break down cycle syncing with the goal of healthier skin.

What is cycle syncing?
Cycle syncing is when you change lifestyle habits, like your diet or exercise routine, to match the phases of your menstrual cycle. By doing this, you may become more in tune with your hormonal needs and be able to better manage your cycle. As our hormones ebb and flow over four weeks, our menstrual cycle biologically has four distinct eras. To understand dietary changes during your cycle, it is pertinent to understand what your cycle is. As board-certified dermatologist, Dr Jaishree Sharad explains, “The menstrual cycle consists of four phases:

The menstrual phase (days 0-7): the lining of the uterus (known as the endometrium) is actively shedding and bleeding. Both estrogen and progesterone are low. Your energy levels are down.

Follicular phase (days 8-13): Estrogen rises and the endometrium builds back up. Your energy levels begin to rise.

Ovulation phase (days 14 and 15): This is when your ovaries release an egg. The estrogen and testosterone levels are at their peak, as is your energy.

Luteal phase (days 16-28): The sac left behind after the egg is released produces progesterone. Some women experience symptoms of PMS towards the end.”

Of course, the duration of these eras varies from person to person. As your hormones fluctuate, so can your energy and mood, which affects how your body may approach dietary preferences, wellness practices, and fitness. 

Does cycle syncing help?
“Cycle syncing is a way of honouring the natural shifts in hormones. We can use our menstrual cycles to benefit our health as well as get clearer skin and an overall improved quality of life”, says nutritionist Rashi Chowdhary. Once you realise in which phase of the menstrual cycle you are and what’s going on with your hormones, it's advisable to select the food you consume appropriately. “Some people might experience oiliness, acne, dryness, and/or various other symptoms during different periods of their cycle. Consuming a nutrient-rich diet throughout the month can contribute to our overall skin health,” says Anshuka Parwani, celebrity wellness expert and founder of Anshuka Yoga. 

What to eat and when?
"In the follicular phase, when estrogen is on the rise, choosing cruciferous veggies, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds will do some good to support the hormonal rise. When it's ovulation time, you want salmon, good fats, leafy greens, blueberries, and walnuts," adds Chowdhary. Moving on to the luteal phase, when your progesterone is supposed to be dominant, you should opt for more wild yams, sweet potatoes, good carbs, and maybe some dark chocolate to boost serotonin. During your menstruation phase, opt for comforting choices like pumpkin, maybe some hot soups! “Iron-rich food is always a good idea because your body is trying to replenish its lost iron. Vitamin C consumption can be upped to further increase iron absorption,” adds Parwani. “Although diet is not the be-all-end-all for healthy skin, it does play a significant role in helping you reach your skin goals. Diet needs to be adjusted and modified in individuals according to their own skin needs,” advises Dr Sharad. She further states that consuming foods like lean proteins, whole grains, healthy fats, nuts, and berries, and drinking lots of water can lead to healthier skin when paired with a healthy lifestyle. 


A post shared by ANSHUKA YOGA (@anshukayoga)

What not to eat?
Parwani further mentions, “Overall, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich foods are a hit when it comes to clear, healthy skin. Probiotics are great because your gut and skin share a direct relation, so you want to keep your gut healthy and detoxified.” Now that we know what to eat, let’s have a look at what foods to avoid. Fried food and highly processed foods aren't doing your skin any favours. Refined carbs, excessive red meats, excessive dairy consumption, alcohol consumption, and smoking are known to visibly harm skin health, too. “To keep excessive acne in check, it’s best to go for low-glycemic foods. Eliminate those inflammatory oils and fats, and opt for anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Don't forget the good probiotics for better gut health. During the follicular cycle, focus on foods that support estrogen,” adds Chowhdary. Estrogen plays an important role in maintaining a clear, radiant complexion. So it's not just about what you avoid, but also about choosing the right foods to keep your skin in the clear! 

In conclusion
Experts recommend following a practical approach when it comes to cycle syncing. Instead of strict rules, focus on including a variety of phase-appropriate foods. Maintaining healthy, clear skin is a multi-faceted endeavour. Hydration is key, too, so don't forget to drink plenty of water and electrolytes during your luteal phase. Stress and sleep management are equally important when seeking that lit-from-within healthy skin glow. Since research concerning the benefits of cycle syncing is still in a young stage, it’s best to seek professional guidance and consult your nutritionist, trainer, and dermatologist to help reach your specific goals. While syncing your workouts to your period might not have too many scientifically proven benefits, when it comes to improving skin health, being active and maintaining an overall consistent holistic lifestyle is certainly key to good skin. Paying attention to how your body reacts to different foods is equally important, so you can do what makes your skin and body feel best.