Expert insight on what to eat and how to move through your menstrual cycle

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Knowing how to nourish and support your body throughout your menstrual cycle could make the world of difference. Here, expert columnist Claudine Thornhill reveals how you can go with the natural flow of yours

Expert insight on what to eat and how to move through your menstrual cycle

Many aspects of a woman’s life are defined by cycles; nothing more so than her menstrual cycle. While the menstrual cycle can range from anywhere between every 21 to 35 days, there’s also a cycle within it, which, much like the moon phases and the seasons, is split into four phases. Many people have seen and felt the benefits of living and eating in sync with the natural rhythm of their cycles – want to try for yourself? Here I’ll break down why and how to do it.

The menstrual phase

Assuming day one is the first day of your period, this phase happens on days one through five of the cycle. Many will experience low energy and a decrease in motivation around this time due low oestrogen and progesterone.

To replenish the body, mineral-rich foods such as bone broths, red meat, and seafood for iron and zinc, along with comforting foods like soups and stews, are helpful. Since ginger is antispasmodic, ginger tea can be a helpful pain reliever for those with cramps.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not like that woman in the commercials who is happily cycling through lush green fields at this time. Gentle movement such as walking, light weight training, yoga, or pilates is preferable to anything too strenuous or high energy.

The follicular phase

This phase includes the menstrual phase through to ovulation.

Diet-wise, women can consume iron and magnesium-rich green vegetables, such as spring greens, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts. Vitamin C foods, such as lemons, oranges, and limes, support detoxification and increase the absorption of iron foods, while nettle tea supports hormone balance. Eggs and lean protein will support egg quality, and fermented foods such as tempeh, kimchi, yoghurt, and miso will provide gut-supporting probiotics.

Once menstruation is over, energy starts to rise and cardio, as well as weight training with heavier weights feels more doable, and since this period leads up to ovulation, a time when a woman is most fertile, it is an ideal time to connect with our creativity, whether it be singing, dancing, or trying something new to move the body in different ways.

The ovulatory phase

This is a brief period of three to five days around the middle of the cycle. Generally, your energy (and libido) will be its highest during this phase.

During both the follicular and ovulatory phases, oestrogen is rising and there may be a desire to eat lighter and leaner foods. Nutrient-dense raw fruits and veggies will provide fibre, and continuing to eat fermented foods will support gut health, which is essential for menstrual health. Avocados, salmon, and chia seeds provide the healthy fats required to balance hormones. At this phase, light grains such as quinoa and couscous are preferred over dense carbs.

Since energy is at its peak at this time, this is the moment to get those high intensity and cardio workouts in, which will also help to balance oestrogen lev

How the pursuit of wellbeing unites us all

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Whatever route we explore to achieve it, and whatever unique barriers we face, there is a unifying desire that connects us all: to nurture our wellbeing

How the pursuit of wellbeing unites us all

In my time doing this job, I’ve sat down with a lot of different people. I’ve chatted with global superstars, actors, singers, and models. But also, artists, activists, authors, campaigners, community leaders, volunteers, people going through incredibly tough times, ordinary people doing extraordinary things – and, one time, a troupe of burlesque dancers.

You’ve probably noticed this in your own life, but two things I’ve learnt are: 1. The experiences we’ve had, the people we’ve mixed with, the causes we care about, and the ways we live our lives come together to create very unique people with very unique thoughts, feelings, and ideas. And, 2. There is so much that unites us.

People talk about a ‘universal language’ – something that can be understood by every human being, no matter their background, or what language they speak. Some may point to music as an example of this. Dance is another one, and football might edge its way in there, too. But something that the era of silent films shows us is that so much can be conveyed by tapping into the very basics of the human experience: our emotions, our passion – our actions, and our reactions.

In issue 71, we look at how the pursuit of wellbeing connects us all. We assess the importance of queer spaces on p28, and highlight the need to bring Traveller mental health conversations into the mainstream on p57. On p16, we explore how the Victorian tradition of a ‘change of air’ could reset our minds and help us find a sense of peace. And, on p32, we meet an 85-year-old and a 31-year-old who moved in together as part of an innovative scheme that addresses some of the UK’s most pressing issues.

From the six pillars of work-life balance (p36) to mastering the ‘physiological sigh’ (p39), this issue is also overflowing with tips and ideas that you can take with you to make an immediate difference in your life.

How the pursuit of wellbeing unites us all

But that's not all. The issue 71 print edition includes:

Fascinating features on parasocial relationships, yoga for desk workers, the joy of reading aloud, and recognising when you're being emotionally invalidated.

Life-changing hacks on dealing with information overload, navigating unwanted diet advice, and helping kids develop healthy gaming habits.

Expert advice on topics such as how to be more open-minded, dealing with intergenerational trauma, and an exploration of OCD.

Other people are endlessly fascinating. We can gain so much from their know

Intergenerational living: what is it and how can it improve our social relationships?

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A closer connection between those across the spectrum of life could hold some magnificent opportunities for all involved. Let’s explore the power of intergenerational living…

Intergenerational living: what is it and how can it improve our social relationships?

How many people do you regularly interact with who are of a different age to you, another generation? Now take away your close friends and family, does that change things?

In reality, apart from maybe someone we work with, or say hello to in the supermarket, many of us only have fleeting moments, rather than deep connections, with people of differing ages and stages of life.

But, why is this so important? Diversity is critical to our wellbeing, offering new perspectives, insight, and even improving our creativity! And intergenerational relationships contribute greatly to this. They go far beyond befriending and volunteering, both of which are still beneficial, but encompass learning, laughing, teaching, supporting, and really experiencing life together.

With so many wide-ranging benefits of intergenerational relationships – socially, mentally, and emotionally – I’d like to celebrate and share some of the ways that they can help you to thrive, and invite you to get involved, too.

A new age

One of the best ways to connect more deeply with other generations is by getting involved in your community – and learning from the range of characters you’ll meet there. Some incredible initiatives have launched over the years, including Food for Life which hosts local events, from cook-a-longs to teaching people how to grow their own food, for people of all ages and backgrounds. Plus, the Eden Project organises a ‘month of community’ in June, inviting people to get together to celebrate friendship, food, and fun with their neighbours.

It doesn’t stop there though. We constantly hear about the care needs of older adults and issues of social isolation. But it’s become apparent, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, that despite young people having access to large social media channels, they suffer social isolation as much as older adults. Depression and anxiety are not confined to the young either.

The Office of National Statistics estimates that approximately 67 million people live in the UK, and that 18.6% are over the age of 65. By 2041, that figure is set to increase to 26%. At the same time, the increasing cost of living, and various other challenges, means that larger numbers of young people are still living at home. Could there be a way for these parties to support one another, and address the issues of loneliness at the same time?

If we see age merely as a differentiator, we’re pigeon-holing ourselves. It doesn’t fit the 70-year-old motorcyclist or gig-goer, or the teenage baking or cross-stitch enthusiast. It simply gets us trapped in stereotypes, and limits our opportunities to connect – but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Intergenerational living: what is it and how can it improve our social relationships?

Breaking the mould

Drawing together different groups in society has a wealth of benefits, which initiatives like

5 powerful tips for managing conflict in social situations

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Whether it’s a meeting at work or a family dynamic that conjures up concern around the possibility of clashes, here are five effective ways you can proactively manage tough conversations and situations

1. Assume the best

5 powerful tips for managing conflict in social situations

It’s easy to talk ourselves into fearing a situation, and expecting the worst, even when we have no evidence that things will play out as we imagine. However, by catastrophising and anticipating conflict we’re telling ourselves that we’re about to be in danger, and our mind and body will then react as if that is true.

Intercept anticipatory negative thoughts as they enter your mind by asking yourself: ‘Do I know this to be true?’ If the answer is no, ask yourself how you would like the conversation or event to play out instead.

2. Set intentions

You can’t manage how other people will communicate or react, but you can present yourself in a way that you are proud of. By writing down how you will behave and communicate, you’re setting positive intentions that will help you manage your interactions. Read through your intentions again before your meet-up, so they’re fresh in your mind.

3. Put in a pause

If you believe that the situation is going south, you don’t have to passively slide down the slippery route to conflict! Putting a pause in the middle of proceedings can really help.

This is situation dependent, but if things feel like they’re escalating into unproductive territory, simply say: “I really want to continue this conversation. I just need to go to the bathroom/grab some water/blow my nose, and when I get back, let’s talk about this further.”

While you’re away from the discussion, slow your breathing down, making each exhale longer than the inhale, and remember the intentions you’ve set for yourself. When you re-enter the discussion, thank the person for waiting for you – hopefully, tension will have dissipated and tempers will calm.

4. Stay grounded

If verbal conflict should arise, physically ground yourself by placing both feet flat on the floor, and by keeping your breathing steady. Avoid interrupting the other person, and take a breath before you speak, both of which can help to prevent the conversation from escalating into a rally of positional points.

If you believe that the situation cannot be rectified at that moment, say so, and be clear about how you wish to be treated and proceed. This doesn’t have to be combative. You could try: “It seems that we disagree on this. I respect you, and I think it would be great for us both to have some time to think about what we’ve shared. Shall we give each other a bit of time and space to process the discussion, and chat again in a couple of days?”

5. You’re safe and loved

Conflict, or even the anticipation of conflict, can make us feel shaky and off-centre. Take some time to ‘come down’ after your interaction. If you can, take a walk outdoors and use the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding method – focus on five t