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How to Decode Vaginal Discharge and Unpleasant Odor

There are things you can talk about with everyone: the weather, books and movies, pets and kids.

There are things you talk about with close friends: sex, money, that funny thing that happened at work. 

And then there are the things you talk about with no one at all, like vaginal discharge and vaginal odor.

But vaginal discharge and vaginal odor are not just normal and expected aspects of having a vagina, but they are important indicators of health. We need more discussion about them, not less. 

Today’s blog is all about what you need to know about your vaginal odor and discharge. I’m here to tell you that the vulva and vagina have a natural scent, that some types of discharge throughout your cycle are normal, and that—when vaginal odor and discharge are ‘off’—you can use them as a guide to what’s going wrong and how to fix it. 

All Vaginas Have a Characteristic Scent

If you take away one thing from this blog post, I want it to be that your vulva and vagina have a natural, normal,  scent.  This is NOT an unpleasant odor. When your vaginal ecosystem is healthy, you should notice a musky scent. This scent will have similar characteristics to how you smell when you work up a sweat. And it’s unique to you, like a fingerprint.

Women have been conditioned to believe that vaginal odor is gross - thanks patriarchy—from about 1900 to around 1950, it was common practice to douche with lysol!—but the vagina has a natural, earthy, smell. We do far more damage to our health when we try to eradicate that natural odor.  

The vagina’s natural smell is related to the vaginal microbiome. To understand why getting familiar with your unique scent is so important, it’s essential to understand how the vaginal microbiome protects the vagina against infection and what can throw the vaginal microbiome—and, hence, vaginal odor—out of balance. 

What is the Vaginal Microbiome?

Just like the gut, the vagina is colonized by a diverse community of bacteria. When the good and bad bacteria in the vagina are healthy and in balance, you should notice your baseline musky smell. When the balance of bacteria gets off kilter, that’s when you’ll notice pungent odor and unusual discharge. Keeping the vaginal microbiome healthy is critically important because a balanced vaginal ecosystem helps prevent vaginal infections and other problems. A healthy vaginal microbiome is a first line immune defense against conditions like bacterial vaginosis and other unpleasant infections. 

What Damages the Vaginal Microbiome

Lots of things have a negative influence on vaginal flora. One factor is low estrogen, which can happen when estrogen drops during the luteal phase (the week before your period) and during the week of your period; when estrogen drops after giving birth; when estrogen starts behaving erratically and, ultimately, trending lower during perimenopause (the average onset age of perimenopause is 35); and during menopause, when estrogen production largely stops altogether. 

How does low estrogen negatively affect the vaginal ecosystem? Estrogen helps feed the healthy bacteria in the vagina. When estrogen dips, so does that colony of good bacteria. Less estrogen also correlates with vaginal dryness—and a drier vagina is more susceptible to invasion by unwelcome bacteria.

But low estrogen isn’t the only thing that messes with the vaginal microbiome. Synthetic fragrances and chemicals—like those found in douches, scented menstrual products, and scented laundry detergent—are bad for vaginal bacterial balance. So is hormonal birth control. A high-glycemic diet is another big problem. Yeast thrives on sugar, which makes eating sugary treats one of the best ways to add fuel to the fire of a yeast infection. And new sexual partners, as delightful as that can be, can bring its own vaginal woes. New bacteria can find its way into the vagina during intercourse, causing microbial discord. 

Finally, if your overall microbiome is off, this can affect your vaginal microbiome. There is some evidence that taking oral probiotics may help restore a healthy balance of microbes in the vagina, suggesting a link between the health of the gut microbiome and the health of the vaginal microbiome. That gives women one more reason to prioritize gut health as part of their overall strategy for staying healthy. 

Understand Your Own Signature Scent

Every woman has a slightly different baseline smell, and it is normal to notice slight differences in your own smell from time to time. These shifts are triggered by diet and other environmental factors that ebb and flow during the course of life. 

It’s important to become intimately familiar with your own signature scent. That way, you will be able to tell immediately when something changes in your vaginal ecosystem and you can take steps to fix it. When your natural scent becomes more pungent or turns unpleasant, it’s a sign of infection or other imbalance that requires your attention. 

By becoming an expert on your own body, you can prevent problems before they start and take effective steps to correct imbalances if/when they get triggered. 

Be On the Lookout These Two Types of Vaginal Odor Changes

If your vaginal odor becomes unpleasant and fishy smelling, it can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis (BV), which requires treatment. It can also be a sign of trichomoniasis, which is a sexually transmitted disease that is often mistaken for BV because it is also accompanied by an unpleasant odor and discharge. If you suspect either condition, consult a licensed healthcare practitioner for treatment. 

In rare cases, a foul-smelling shift in vaginal odor can be a sign of abnormal cells on the cervix. Other symptoms of cervical abnormalities include bloody discharge, bleeding in between periods, and pelvic pain. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and it’s been a while since you’ve had a pap smear, make haste to the OBGYN’s office and get a check-up. In the vast majority of cases, it’s something benign, like a bacterial infection, but it is best to err on the side of safety.

Decoding Discharge

Most types of vaginal discharge are normal. Here’s what you can and should expect to see in your underwear — and when you want to seek treatment. 

Normal discharge:

  1. White (or clear) discharge throughout your cycle. This thin, relatively odorless discharge is called leukorrhea and it helps keep the vagina clean. You will notice it in your underwear, but otherwise it shouldn’t itch, be clumpy, or cause problems. 
  2. A stretchy, slippery discharge with the consistency of egg whites during ovulation. This is cervical fluid and it is completely normal. It helps sperm travel into your vagina and fertilize an egg. Some women see a lot of cervical fluid during ovulation and this, too, is normal. It just means you’re healthy and fertile! 

Abnormal discharge:

  1. Thin, gray discharge. A grayish tint to your discharge, accompanied by a pungent fishy smell, is a sign of BV. If you notice these two symptoms in combination, schedule an appointment with an OBGYN
  2. Greenish or grayish discharge. Along with a negative shift in vaginal odor, a greenish or grayish color can be a sign of trichomoniasis. As with BV, make sure to see a trusted health care practitioner if you suspect trich. 
  3. Yellowish-green discharge. This can be a sign of a bacterial STD, like chlamydia or gonorrhea. (You may also notice burning with urination.) If you suspect a bacterial STD is the cause of your abnormal discharge, see a healthcare practitioner...and get your sexual partner(s) tested, as well. These infections can be treated with antibiotics, but if both of you don’t seek treatment, you will just pass the infection back and forth, no matter how many antibiotics you take. 
  4. White, clumpy discharge. If your symptoms also include itching, this is probably a yeast infection

Prevent Odor and Discharge Problems Before They Star
Here’s my top advice on protecting your vaginal ecosystem and preventing odor problems before they start:

1. Pay Attention to What You Eat — And What You Don’t Eat. Gut health has a profound impact on hormone health and vaginal health, and optimal hormone health is the best starting place for building a healthy vaginal ecosystem. When your vaginal ecosystem is healthy, your signature scent is mild and pleasant. 

Eat high-fiber, high-phytonutrient, low-sugar foods to support your microbiome (think avocadoes, cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, nuts and seeds) to support your microbiome, and make sure extra sugar isn’t sneaking into your daily routine in the form of beverages like soda or fancy coffee drinks. Yeast feeds off sugar, so the more you have in your diet, the greater the chance of getting a yeast infection (or making one worse).

2. Never, ever use douche. These products are marketed as a way to improve vaginal odor, but—ultimately—they do the exact opposite. The harsh chemicals and synthetic fragrances in douche disrupt the vaginal microbiome, which predisposes you to bacterial infections and, yes, a fishy, foul smell. When it comes to smelling great, douching is your enemy.

3. Choose natural menstrual products. You want everything that comes into close contact with your vulva and vagina to be natural — no harsh chemicals, no heavy perfumes, synthetic fibers. Avoid scented menstrual products and tampons or pads with dyes. Look for condoms and lubes with safe, non-toxic ingredients. I like Sustain Natural’s Organic Lubricant, which eschews silicone, petroleum, parabens, and other gnarly additives. Plus, 95-percent of its ingredients are organic. For solo pleasure time, try Aloe Cadabra or Coconu, which are both a vaginal moisturizer and a lubricant. 

4. Reconsider your birth control. Hormonal birth control (the pill) can interfere with the balance of good and bad bugs in the microbiome, which can predispose you to a bacterial infection. Then, treating the bacterial infection with antibiotics can further disrupt the microbiome, setting the stage for even more infections. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that results in an unpleasant smell. Consider switching to a non-hormonal form of birth control (though always consult a doctor before making any changes) and talk with a trusted healthcare practitioner about natural remedies like boric acid suppositories or D-mannose supplements, which has been shown to be just as effective as antibiotics at preventing recurrent UTIs and unwelcome odors. 

5. Choose the right underwear. Cotton, cotton, cotton! This is your mantra when choosing underwear. Your vagina needs to be able to breath (which cotton allows) to smell its best. Organic cotton is ideal, if you can find it. Make sure to launder your underwear with unscented laundry detergent that is free of toxic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. I recommend sleeping sans underwear when you can. Wearing nothing at all is great for vaginal health. Kala makes great organic cotton underwear!

6. Use condoms and dental dams. These help keep unwanted, microbiome-disrupting bacteria out of the vagina. Condoms and dental dams can also help stop pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID, which happens when unwelcome bacteria travel from the vagina to the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. 

7. Use The Cycle Syncing Method™ to even out dips in estrogen. Because low levels of estrogen can trigger imbalances in the vaginal ecosystem, you’ll want to engage in phase-based self care to regulate and harmonize the natural ebbs and flows of your 28-day hormone cycle (this is particularly important if you are in perimenopause). Your levels of estrogen will naturally go up and down during the month, but when you engage in phase-based self-care, they should go up and down within a range that doesn’t trigger unwanted symptoms. 

Natural Remedies for Vaginal Imbalances

Sometimes a bacterial infection or other imbalance strikes no matter how careful you are to prevent it. Here’s what I recommend if that happens.

If you get a yeast infection: I recommend taking Vitanica Yeast Arrest and Jarrow’s specially formulated vaginal probiotic

If you get bacterial vaginosis (bv): As a first step, I recommend tending to your gut health. Imbalanced gut flora can be a trigger for imbalanced vaginal flora. Take a high-quality probiotic supplement every day and emphasize probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. 

To treat BV naturally and directly, consider trying a natural vaginal suppository. Vitanica makes a high-quality suppository for BV. Or look for one that contains berberine, which may help combat treatment-resistant biofilms that can make BV a chronic condition.

Always remember that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that work for you. You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!

Your Guide to a Symptom-Free Perimenopause

Many women fear perimenopause, that time in life when a woman’s reproductive hormones start to downshift. Indeed, perimenopause has gotten a bad reputation because it can be accompanied by a raft of unpleasant symptoms, including weight gain, mood swings, severe period problems (like heavy or irregular, bloating, and PMS), feeling tired all the time, lackluster skin and hair, thyroid issues, non-existent libido, and infertility. But here’s what most women don’t know: these symptoms aren’t inevitable. Yes, the hormonal shifts during perimenopause are real, but the symptoms are optional. When you adopt a phase-based self-care routine, you can sidestep the unpleasant symptoms of perimenopause.And don’t stop reading if you’re in your 20s and perimenopause is the last thing on your mind! If you’re experiencing any type of period problem or hormonal imbalance right now, your symptoms are a harbinger of things to come… and not in a good way. If you feel crummy now and you don’t take steps to balance your hormones, you stand to feel even worse during perimenopause.

What is Perimenopause?

Perimenopause means “around menopause” and it starts for most women around age 35 and lasts until menopause (your very last bleed). Symptoms can crop up during perimenopause because of the inevitable hormonal shifts that happen as the body starts to move out of its childbearing orientation. More specifically, perimenopause is characterized by uneven swings in estrogen, progesterone and androgens. These hormones follow a more or less even pattern during your 20s and early 30s, but they start to behave more erratically as you enter your late 30s and 40s and, as you get closer to menopause, they start to trend downward. Environmental Factors Make Perimenopause Symptoms WorseNow add in the fact that life in one’s late 30s and early 40s can be full of unique stressors: raising young children and teenagers, working long (often stressful) hours at the peak of one’s career, navigating busy family schedules, and caring for aging parents. This can send the stress hormone cortisol on its own frenzied roller coaster, so now in addition to shifts in reproductive hormones, a woman might be facing the symptoms of high cortisol, like feeling tired-but-wired all the time, never sleeping, intense sugar cravings, and imbalanced blood sugar. Your level of exposure to endocrine disrupting toxins also makes a difference in how well you’ll navigate perimenopause. Today there are more endocrine disruptors in the environment than ever before, and these chemicals can overwhelm the body’s detox system (which is in charge of getting rid of used-up hormones as well as toxins) and wreak a special kind of havoc on the thyroid, which is very sensitive to chemical exposure.

The Two Phases of Perimenopause

Perimenopause happens in two phases: Phase 1 and Phase 2. Today I’m going to focus on how you can ease symptoms and engage in cyclical self-care during Phase 1, but it’s important to understand both phases.Phase 1 (35 to 45 years old)This phase is when reproductive hormone production starts to shift and become less consistent. That said, if you’re in good hormonal health and you’re engaging in cyclical self-care (see my advice below) you shouldn’t feel symptoms during this phase. You should be ovulating and menstruating regularly and have good muscle tone, skin quality, energy, and sex drive. In other words, you should still be making enough hormones to feel vital and youthful. If you are experiencing symptoms like difficulty with fertility, vaginal dryness, accelerated skin aging, or dry hair (or all of the above), these are signs that your hormones need some TLC...ASAP!Phase Two (45 to 55 years old)During this phase, FSH levels rise to the point where you no longer ovulate. And while that sounds dramatic, this phase will be relatively smooth sailing if you’ve taken care of your hormonal health during Phase 1. However, many women let the symptoms they experience in Phase 1 go unaddressed and that compounds their symptoms in Phase 2.But as I said earlier, extreme symptoms aren’t inevitable during perimenopuase. You can use targeted strategies in each phase to ease symptoms and feel your best.

Phase 1 Perimenopause: Symptoms & Solutions

I recommend that all women follow the same core food, supplement, and cyclical self-care strategies in Phase 1 to minimize perimenopause symptoms. Then, if you still don’t feel your best, you can customize the protocol by taking specific steps to address your unique symptoms. Here are my three core strategies for every woman in perimenopause, followed by steps you can take to address specific, lingering symptoms.

The 3 Core Strategies for a Symptom-Free Perimenopause

Strategy #1: Practice Phase-based eating. The first essential strategy for having a symptom-free perimenopause is to eat specific foods each week of your cycle, changing what you eat in each phase to support optimal hormone balance and metabolism. This phase-based approach to eating provides the most variety of micronutrients to support overall hormonal balance. It also ensures that you’re getting key foods at critical times to break down the excess levels of estrogen that can cause breakouts and PMS. Not to mention that this approach will improve the quality of your bleed, support fertility, and boost sex drive, energy, and mood. You’ll enjoy a wide variety of cuisines when you start eating cyclically – macrobiotic, raw, ketogenic, Mediterranean, some intermittent fasting and not ever get stuck doing one day in and day out. Phase-based eating is the true differentiator for the FLO protocol. Everything about your diet and lifestyle should be relevant to your female biochemistry, and the FLO protocol ensures that. Strategy #2: Engage in phase-based exercise. The cyclical nature of your 28-day menstrual cycle provides the perfect architecture for planning how to work out and when to work out. During each phase of your menstrual cycle your body is primed for different kinds of exercise. At certain times—during the luteal phase and during menstruation, for example—the nutrients and hormones in your body are directed toward building up the lining up of your uterus, so you won’t have all the internal resources you need to work out at full capacity. During the other phases, however, your body can channel all its resources into a really strong workout.By engaging in phase-based exercise, you will save yourself from exhaustion, burn-out, and unpleasant perimenopause symptoms. Get my recommendations for what type of movement to engage in and when right here. Strategy #3: Maximize Your Micronutrients With Perimenopause Supplements. If you’re eating a whole-food, phase-based diet and you’re exercising in sync with your cycle, do you need to take supplements to have a symptom-free perimenopause? Yes!Supplements are non-negotiable for keeping hormones balanced and stable as you enter Phase 1 perimenopause. Food should always be your first strategy. To heal your hormones, you have to feed your body a micronutrient-rich diet of hormonally-supportive foods in a cycle-syncing pattern. There’s no single supplement that can make up for bad or inconsistent food choices. But supplementing with specific micronutrients gives the body the extra support it needs during times of hormonal transition. This is why we created the EASE supplement kit—to help you prolong youth with healthier hormones. Here are the micronutrients you'll find in EASE, and how they will support your perimenopause journey:

  • Melatonin: Supports slow hormonal aging by increasing egg quality and chances of conception and promoting deeper sleep and rest. Also helps support a healthy sex drive and may support healthier bones.
  • B vitamins, Saffron, and Scelectium: This combination supports healthier, more regular ovulation, boosts energy and clears stress, increases mental focus, reduces hot flashes and stress, and supports moods.

In addition to EASE, you may want to consider a probiotic. A healthy microbiome is essential for managing hormonal conditions—and this is especially true as you enter perimenopause. Women aged 35 to 45 need optimal gut health in order to absorb the key micronutrients they get in their food and supplement. Good gut health also means a healthy estrobolome, or the community of bugs in the gut that help metabolize excess estrogen.

Specific Strategies for Lingering Perimenopause Symptoms

Once you’ve put my 3 core strategies in place, you will start to feel better. But you may still need additional support in certain areas. That’s normal. Here are some of the common symptoms unique to perimenopause and additional steps you can take to help ease them:Irregular, heavy, or painful periods. Try taking Vitex, also called chasteberry. It has been shown to support regular ovulation and healthy progesterone levels. But proceed with caution if you have PCOS. In some women with PCOS, certain reproductive hormones are already high and Vitex may raise those hormones even further, which you don’t want. PMS/PMDD.Studies also suggest that Vitex, also called Chasteberry, may help improve symptoms of PMS and PMDD. One study even found that Vitex outperformed fluoxetine (generic name for Prozac) for easing symptoms of PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder). Fertility struggles. By supporting regular ovulation and healthy hormone levels, Vitex can be a great choice for fertility support during perimenopause. Research that looked at a proprietary blend of herbs that included Vitex found that the supplement supported fertility without negative side effects. (Don’t combine Vitex with fertility drugs, however, because that can lead to over stimulation of the ovaries) CoQ10 has also been shown to help improve egg quality. Depression and irritability. Try taking maca powder, which studies suggest may help improve symptoms of depression. Some animal research also suggests that maca may help with cognitive function and concentration. Weight gain. Try alpha lipoic acid, which helps support healthy blood sugar and insulin balance and, in turn, healthy weight loss and healthy weight maintenance. The compound may also guard against bone loss. ALA also helps support and nourish the liver and optimal liver function is essential for getting rid of excess estrogen and keeping reproductive hormones balanced. Alpha lipoic acid is one the key ingredients in the my Balance Detox supplement. Dull skin and hair. A high-quality omega-3 supplement will help nourish dry skin and hair. Also, an obvious tip, but one that often gets overlooked and under-appreciated: stay hydrated! This works wonders for skin and hair. Low sex drive.Studies suggest that maca may help boost sex drive in menopausal women, and other research found that maca may act as a “toner of hormonal processes” in early post-menopausal women. Additional research has shown that maca may help with low libido as a side effect of taking SSRI antidepressant medications in menopausal women. The adaptogenic herb ashwagandhamay also help support sexual function in women. Stress and anxiety. Taming stress requires a multipronged approach, one that includes lifestyle modifications, exercise, and more. But adaptogenic herbs can be a powerful part of your stress-reduction arsenal. I recommend ashwagandha, which research suggests is a safe and effective way to build up resistance to stress and improve self-reported quality of life. Holy Basil is another great choice for stress and anxiety support, according to research.Coming Off Birth Control to Conceive. If you’re coming off birth control after many years on the pill, I recommend several important steps for hormone healing and fertility support. But one of the best things you can do is prioritize eating leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. These foods help support estrogen metabolism in the liver and bring your hormones back into balance after years of hormonal birth control. Thyroid issues. With thyroid concerns, your first best bet is always to consult a trusted healthcare practitioner. You’ll want to run thyroid lab tests and discuss next steps with a licensed professional. But you’ll also want to make it a top priority to avoid endocrine-disrupting chemicals as much as possible. The thyroid is uniquely sensitive to endocrine disruptors. I recommend ALL women take steps to protect themselves from these environmental chemicals, but it is especially critical if your are working to heal your thyroid. Always remember, that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you! You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!

Support Your Hormonal Health and Perimenopause Journey With BALANCE + EASE

hormonal balance supplements

Because you've asked for hormone-friendly supplement recommendations, I created a solution that I am so thrilled to be able to offer to you on your hormonal balancing journey:Balance by FLO Living Supplements is a complete package that works together to keep your hormone levels healthy. Balance includes a 2-month (2 cycle) supply so you’re never caught short in any phase of your cycle.When you take these 5 supplements daily, you’ll be giving your body excellent micronutrients to support healthier hormone levels. Which means that you’ll start to see your worst period symptoms get better… and even disappear after a while.

Learn more about the BALANCE Bio-Hacking Supplement Kit

perimenopause supplements

To best support your perimenopause journey, I recommend BALANCE in conjunction with EASE. The extremely slow hormonal changes that take place during the first phase of menopause are normal — and they also need support. When your cycle remains regular for as long as possible, you will have better brain, heart, muscle, and bone health after menopause.

Learn more about EASE Perimenopause Supplements

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The Benefits of Berberine For PCOS

Every once in a while a star comes along...In the world of hormonal health, berberine is one of those breakthrough agents. The supplement has been used by women for thousands of years to treat everything from obesity to inflammation to infertility. Berberine is even said to be so effective that it's considered just as efficacious as a drug for treating certain health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Want some more good news? Emerging research suggests that berberine is beneficial for balancing hormones, especially when it comes to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Berberine provides numerous benefits for women living with PCOS, including improved fertility, weight loss, and reduced inflammation.

What is berberine?

Depending on where you are in your journey with PCOS, you may have spent the last decade seeking support from various experts or you may just now be researching ways to alleviate symptoms for the first time. Either way, we're here to empower you to heal your hormones with super supplements like berberine. Berberine is an organic compound found in plants like goldenseal, barberry, Oregon grape, and tree turmeric. Once you take the supplement, it’s transported into the bloodstream where it affects the body at the molecular level and creates change within our cells. According to a 2014 review, one of the biggest advantages of berberine is that it offers a “harmonious distribution” into several targets in the body.

This means that berberine offers a holistic approach to supporting your body while preventing various chronic conditions and without causing many side effects.The berberine supplement naturally provides various health benefits but is particularly touted for its ability to lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol. It’s also said to help with acne, obesity, cholesterol, depression, and diabetes.

Berberine benefits for PCOS

Ok, so let’s talk about how this super supplement can help those of us living with PCOS. As a reminder, PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that is characterized by having too many androgens (male hormones) in the body. This imbalance interferes with regular menstrual cycles which means that most women with PCOS experience missed or irregular periods.Research shows that berberine can provide various benefits to women with PCOS, including relief from some of the unpleasant (to say the least!) symptoms and side effects.

Here are some of the amazing ways berberine supports women:

Supports weight loss

It doesn’t seem fair, but PCOS will cause some women to gain weight, especially around the waistline. Because of this, one of the most common questions we're asked is, “What is the best diet for my PCOS?” Paleo, low carb, keto, raw ... I understand the need to find a solution that’s in your control. Unfortunately, many popular diets don’t consider women's biology, menstrual cycles, or our evolving hormone patterns — and that is why they so often fail us. Following an approved eating plan can certainly help (more healthy fats, high-quality proteins, complex carbs, and fewer processed sugars), but research shows that berberine can be just as supportive.

A small study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine followed individuals with metabolic syndrome who took 300 milligrams of berberine three times per day for three months. At the end of the study, their body mass indexes (BMIs) dropped from an obese range to an overweight range, and they also lost an average of two inches around their waistlines.

Improves insulin sensitivity

For those of us who prefer a more holistic approach to treating their PCOS, berberine continues to be our favorite. A recent review of five studies totaling more than 1,000 women found some pretty amazing insights regarding berberine for PCOS management. One of the biggest takeaways was that berberine seemed to improve insulin sensitivity. This is important because we know that dysregulated insulin is often involved in the development of PCOS.According to a different analysis of nine randomized controlled trials of women with PCOS with insulin resistance, there was no difference between berberine and metformin when it came to alleviating insulin resistance, improving glycolipid metabolism, or reproductive endocrine condition.

Improves ovulation

When I first started the FLO Living protocol, my goal was to help other women alleviate symptoms of PCOS, support regular ovulation, and regain regular periods. My promise was to work with women to re-establish their monthly ovulation and menstruation through restoring key micronutrients. I always say that this can be achieved through your diet and lifestyle, and it’s really supplements like berberine that help make it happen.

Findings from the analysis of more than 1,000 women that I mentioned earlier also showed that berberine demonstrated a positive effect on fertility and live birth rates; suggesting that the supplement improved insulin resistance in theca cells (the endocrine cells associated with ovarian follicles) with an improvement of the ovulation rate per cycle.

Reduces the risk of metabolic concerns

Research also shows that compared with metformin, berberine has positive effects on the metabolic characteristics of women with PCOS. Metabolic syndrome is defined as a cluster of conditions that together can together increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.A clinical study found that treatment with berberine (versus metformin) showed a decrease in waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. What’s more, it also pointed to an increase in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and sex hormone-binding globulin. Knowing that all of this can be attributed to a supplement instead of mainstream medication is so powerful.

Where can I find berberine?

Flo Living has a new supplement kit called RESTORE that’s designed specifically for women living with PCOS.

The kit includes high-quality ingredients:

Berberine

Diindolylmethane (DIM)

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)

Inositol

Turmeric

‍And most importantly, it’s designed to help improve your hormonal healing process and provide support as you bring your body back into balance.If you’re ready to feel better and take ownership of your hormonal health, check out RESTORE today.

Resources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5839379/

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11427-013-4568-z

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S037887411400871X

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7028834/

https://www.floliving.com/pcos-and-diet/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3310165/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6261244/

https://eje.bioscientifica.com/view/journals/eje/166/1/99.xml

How to Clear Hormonal Acne

As an adult, you assumed breakouts were a thing of the past once. But, no. Your skin is smooth until the week before your period and then, boom, it’s like you’re 16 all over again, with acne appearing most prominently on your chin, jawline, neck, shoulders, and back.

Cyclical breakouts are caused by hormones. A woman’s hormone levels rise and fall over the course of 28 days, in a cycle known as the infradian rhythm, and these hormone shifts are normal and natural. They are an innate part of female physiology when we are in our reproductive years.

When our hormones are balanced, we don’t experience unpleasant symptoms like acne throughout our monthly cycle. When our hormones are imbalanced, we experience a host of unpleasant symptoms, including acne. Here’s another way to look at it: Hormone shifts throughout the month are normal (and can be leveraged to our advantage).

Acne isn’t. The good news? You can use food, lifestyle, and supplement strategies to balance your hormones and erase cyclical acne. When it comes to adult acne, knowledge is power. Here’s everything you need to know to say goodbye to cyclical acne forever.

Meet your 28-Day Cycle, aka Your Infradian Rhythm

The first step toward clear skin all month long is to understand what’s happening in your body over the course of your infradian rhythm. During your 28-day hormone cycle, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels naturally rise and fall. When your system is healthy and you’re cycling normally, these fluctuations occur in familiar patterns. Specifically:

  • During the follicular phase (which is the first days of your cycle up until ovulation): estrogen levels begin to rise
  • During the ovulation phase (mid-cycle): estrogen and testosterone rise until they peak
  • During the luteal phase (which occurs right after ovulation and up until you start bleeding): estrogen, testosterone and progesterone rises in the first half and then falls
  • During the menstrual phase (bleeding): all hormone levels fall to their lowest levels

The hormone changes that happen during each phase mean different things for all aspects of your life, affecting your energy levels, concentration, communication skills, and strengths and weaknesses. It also affects your skin.

How Fluctuating Hormones Affect Skin

Estrogen and progesterone levels affect the thickness of the skin differently each phase of your cycle.  During the follicular phase and especially during ovulation, high levels of estrogen boost collagen, make the skin thicker, and improve elasticity. You can thank the estrogen during this phase for that famed ‘ovulation glow’.  Testosterone levels also rise during the luteal phase and that helps keep skin thick. But testosterone is a double-edged sword when it comes to skin. Studies show a link between spikes in testosterone and acne.So this is the crucial point in your cycle when you either become vulnerable to breakouts or go through the second half of your cycle with clear skin. What causes some women to break out and others to barely notice a blemish? The difference is in the body’s ability to efficiently process and eliminate the excess estrogen and testosterone in the system as levels rise.If your body isn’t processing hormones properly during your luteal phase and eliminating them efficiently, excess estrogen and excess testosterone accumulate and fuel acne.This happens in two ways: the excess estrogen causes estrogen dominance and skin inflammation, and the extra testosterone triggers the sebaceous glands to produce more oil.For women with optimally functioning endocrine systems, these hormonal peaks don’t cause a lot of problems. But for women who can’t process hormones correctly, acne is often the unwanted result.Premenstrually and during your period, estrogen drops and your skin gets thinner, retains less moisture, and produces less collagen.  Progesterone rising and falling in the luteal phase can worsen skin conditions if present.

This is why The Cycle Syncing Method® is so effective in addressing these fluctuations, as you’ll be eating in ways that improve estrogen and progesterone imbalances.

Signs that Acne is Caused by Imbalanced Hormones

Do you need to clear your adult acne?

So timing — that is, when you breakout — is a major sign that acne is hormonal. Breakouts during the luteal (premenstrual) phase are a sure sign that your hormones are out of balance and could use some TLC. Another sign of hormonal acne is where you breakout. Breakouts along the chin and jaw line are a sign of hormonal acne. Pimples on the temple are another common sign of a hormonal imbalance that stems from liver congestion due to excess estrogen. If you’ve got pimples on your forehead, it’s usually a sign of a gut imbalance.Here are more telltale signs of specific hormone imbalances and root causes of acne:

  • If you break out during ovulation, the cause is high estrogen and you will need to support your body’s ability to break it down more quickly during this phase with cruciferous vegetables.
  • If you break out before your period, the cause is low progesterone and you can use food and lifestyle to support boosting progesterone. The supplement Vitex can also help support progesterone.
  • If you break out all the time, the cause is inflammation, so incorporate inflammation-fighting foods into your diet like cruciferous vegetables and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and egg yolks.
  • If you break out during stressful situations, the cause is high cortisol and dysregulated insulin. Focus on balancing blood sugar and limiting high-sugar foods.
  • If you break out after 35, the cause is the erratic hormonal shifts related to perimenopause. Make it a priority to engage in The Cycle Syncing Method® to bring balance back to your monthly hormone shifts.
  • If you break out during postpartum/miscarriage, the cause is plunging levels of estrogen and progesterone and the return of menstruation. If your period has returned, your priority here should be engaging in phase-based self care by practicing The Cycle Syncing Method®. If your cycle has not returned, seek out support from acupuncture.

None of the root causes of acne can be spot treated. Hormone-driven and inflammation-driven acne are caused by imbalances inside your body that need to be addressed at the core. I offer phase-specific skin care advice below, but any long-term fix for easing acne must go beyond skin care strategies. A holistic, sustained and sustainable fix for adult acne must include food, supplement, and lifestyle strategies.

Your Skin Care Schedule During Your 28-Day Cycle

Here’s how to time your skin care routine to match your hormonal needs throughout the month:

  • Day 7-12 (follicular phase). If you get a facial with extractions, schedule it during your follicular phase. This is also the time to do any hair removal.
  • Day 13-24 (ovulation/first half of luteal). Facials are still okay during this time, but it’s best to go for masks, not extractions. Dry brushing is a great way to help the lymph offload the estrogen. You don’t need much in the way of products during this phase.
  • Day 25-Day 28 (the second half of luteal). This is a perfect time for home care with your favorite products and using oil-based serum to reduce sebum production. Clay masks are also great during this time, and you can use products with lactic acid to shrink pores.
  • Day 1 – Day 6 (Bleeding). During menstruation, focus on restorative, soothing skin care. Think hydrating and calming masks, and collagen masks.  

NOTE: Don’t have any extractions or hair removal during the second half of the month when skin is thinner and increased blood flow to your capillaries means more post-extraction swelling. Save facial appointments until right after your bleed is over.

Every day of your cycle. I take Balance Supplements every day of my cycle to make sure my hormones and skin can be at their best throughout the month. Whatever you do to optimize your micronutrients, don’t skip this step! Clear skin starts on the inside and with what we eat and how we supplement.…. And if you don’t have any idea where you are in your cycle, start tracking it now with the MyFLO app. You can only practice cyclical self-care when you know which phase you’re in!

4 Factors That Contribute to Hormone Imbalances and Cyclical Acne

Hormone imbalances are the root cause of adult acne, and there are several key ways our hormones get out of balance. Here are five main factors that affect hormonal harmony:

  1. Micronutrient deficiencies: In order for the body to make enough hormones — and to eliminate excess hormones efficiently and effectively via the liver  — we need optimal levels of key micronutrients. When our bodies are deficient in specific micronutrients, we will be more prone to breakouts.
  2. Your detoxification system is sluggish. If you experience acne as part of your 28-day hormone cycle—for example, if you notice breakouts around ovulation (mid-cycle) and/or right before your period—it’s a sign that your body isn’t processing and eliminating excess hormones. Here’s what happens: during the second half of your cycle, estrogen and testosterone peak. If your detox system (lymphatic system, liver, and large intestine)  iscongested and can’t get rid of these excess hormones quickly enough, estrogen builds up in your body (estrogen dominance) and causes problems (like skin inflammation). The extra testosterone sends signals to your sebaceous glands to produce more oil. Acne is the result.
  3. Inflammation: Chronic inflammation, which is fueled by a variety of common factors — from eating pro-inflammatory foods to being too sedentary to exposure to toxic chemicals — is a root cause of acne.
  4. You’re not getting enough exercise (or sex!) Both exercise and sex help flush the stress hormone cortisol from the body — and keeping cortisol moving out of the body is essential for glowing, gorgeous skin. If you’re not moving enough or clocking enough amazing orgasms, the evidence could show on your face.

Why the Conventional Acne Treatments You’re Using Aren’t Working

When I had acne, I tried everything my doctor would give me. I was desperate to improve the way my skin looked and the way I felt about myself. I imagine you’ve also gone through a list of potions and pills, hoping each would work for you. I personally tried a long course of antibiotics to stop the acne, which permanently stained my teeth slightly yellow and destroyed my gut microbiome so badly that I spent my entire freshman year of college with viruses, yeast infections, and flu-like symptoms. I tried Retinol-A cream and Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide thinking I could heal my skin from the outside and just fix the surface of the issue. Needless to say, none of those things worked.There’s a reason these commonly prescribed medications don’t work — and most even come with dangerous side effects:

  • The birth control pill: The pill disrupts your microbiome, endocrine system, and micronutrient levels – all systems essential for keeping your skin clear. You may have clear skin while you’re taking it, but not without added side effects that can worsen issues like PCOS, plus increase your risk of some reproductive cancers. Once you decide to stop using hormonal birth control, a common symptom of the withdrawal period is acne, often worse than you’ve had before because of the internal disruption that has occurred as a result of the medication.
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics do incredible damage to the microbiome because they don’t distinguish between good bacteria and bad bacteria—they just kill all of them—and robust gut health is important for clear skin. As with hormonal birth control, when you come off the antibiotics, the acne may not only return, it can be much worse than it was before because of the microbiome damage.
  • Spironolactone/Aldactone: Just as I don’t recommend synthetic hormonal birth control or meat and dairy that contain synthetic hormones, I don’t recommend the steroid medication spironolactone. This steroid is nothing like the hormones your body produces on its own. It disrupts your body’s production of testosterone by confusing your body with a synthetically similar steroid. Plus, spironolactone use can trigger one of the most common hormone imbalance issues (and a cause of acne)—estrogen dominance—as well as depression, blood clots, and increased risk of some cancers. Spironolactone is not safe to take long term and is not going to prevent acne beyond the point that you are using it.
  • Isotretinoin (originally Accutane): If you’re prescribed Isotretinoin, then you are also prescribed hormonal birth control, because Isotretinoin causes birth defects. There are other side effects—including an initial worsening of acne—and severe depression. The original patented drug, Accutane, was discontinued after many users developed inflammatory bowel disease and use of the drug was associated with increased risk of suicide. Usually this medication is offered as a last resort, but rarely have diet and lifestyle changes been part of prior acne-treatment protocols.

Once I figured out how to eat and live to support my hormones, my skin cleared up (and a lot of other great stuff happened too). My skin’s been clear ever since and I’ve helped many other women achieve the same lasting success.

Worst Foods for Your Skin

One of the most powerful ways to balance your hormones and support clear skin is by what you eat — and what you don’t eat. Your liver needs enough key micronutrients from food to help your body detoxify excess hormones and other skin damaging waste products, so it's important to prioritize foods that contain those micronutrients and liver support compounds — foods like cruciferous vegetables, dark leafy greens, and small, oily fish like sardines (rich in skin-friendly omega 3 fats). Because inflammation drives acne, it’s important to avoid eating inflammatory foods, like sugar and dairy.Here are some of the specific foods I recommend saying goodbye to entirely if you experience cyclical breakouts:

  • Dairy – In addition to the fact that a lot of US dairy products contain synthetic hormones that contribute to hormone imbalances, dairy is inflammatory — and inflammation is a root cause of acne.
  • Peanuts – The same allergens in peanuts that cause certain people to have serious adverse reactions can cause many other folks to experience skin inflammation.
  • Soy Isolate– This form of highly processed soy can create estrogen overload in those who are already hormonally sensitive.
  • Canola, sunflower, safflower, vegetable oil – These cooking oils have more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. A high ratio of omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats is inflammatory — and hard on the skin.
  • Caffeine Coffee and black and green teas strip your body of essential B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc, all of which are important for healthy, glowing, and clear skin.
  • Gluten – Like dairy, gluten is inflammatory and can increase the likelihood of breakouts

What foods are best for clear skin? I give you my top recommendations below, in my step-by-step guide to clear skin.

How to Solve Cyclical Acne for Good — Your Step-By-Step Guide

The skin is the largest organ of detoxification and one of your top goals for easing cyclical acne is detoxing the excess hormones and other toxins in your body. Here are my top strategies for saying goodbye to cyclical acne for good, and I save the most important — supplementing for detoxification and glowing skin — for last. Pay special attention to the supplements section. Targeted micronutrients in the form of high-quality supplements are what really move the needle on your skin health.

Step One: Understand that hormonal acne is an “inside job”

The root causes of acne start deep within your body. They don’t start at the level of the skin. That means that any changes you make to your skin care routine will only help so much… and, if you do nothing else, the root causes of your acne will smolder on. So your first step in easing hormonal acne is shifting your mindset. You can only truly address hormonal acne by understanding it for what it is — a condition with internal root causes — and then using food, supplement, and lifestyle strategies to address those root causes.

Step Two: Practice The Cycle Syncing Method™

The Cycle Syncing Method™ is the practice of living in a way that gets your hormones working for you rather than against you. It involves tailoring your self-care and hormone-support routines to your unique needs during each phase of your 28-day hormone cycle. It is also what differentiates the Flo Protocol from other hormone support programs, and it is what will ultimately make the biggest difference when it comes to clear skin. The first step in practicing The Cycle Syncing Method™ is to track your cycle. Once you know what’s happening in your body each week of the month, it’s time to match what you eat, how you move, and even how you plan your schedule and how you interact with others with your hormones.

Step Three: Eat your way to clear skin

Food is one of the most powerful levers you can pull when it comes to easing hormonal acne. That’s because the right foods address not just one but several root causes of acne. Specifically, you can use food to (1) reduce system-wide inflammation, which fuels acne; (2) address hormone imbalances, like estrogen dominance, which exacerbate skin issues; (3) support your body’s natural ability to detoxify, (4) balance your blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, which calms your oil glands and decreases the bioavailability of androgens (high levels of androgens can trigger breakouts); and (5) patch up micronutrient deficiencies that can contribute to breakouts. Wanna do a deep dive on eating for acne, including which foods to prioritize? Here’s where to turn:

  • To learn which foods to eat to support detoxification, go here.
  • To build an anti-inflammatory, micronutrient-rich eating plan, go here.
  • To find out the worst foods for acne, go here.

What’s on your plate is one of your best defenses against breakouts. Make food a top priority in healing the root causes of acne.

Step Four: Find good skin care

There are a plethora of organic skin care lines to address acne-prone skin, from Marie Veronique to Renee Rouleau Anti Bump Solution. Check out Credo Beauty and Cap Beauty for more excellent options. This is an important step because if you’re giving up the medicated topicals, you will need something to help with skin turnover, pore decongestion, excess oil, and cysts.

Step Five: Use targeted supplementation to clear your skin

As I said, I saved one of the most critical steps for last. The right supplementation can make all the difference between slightly improving your acne and clearing it for good. You will read a lot on the Internet about micronutrients that are best for skin, but after nearly 20 years of research — and of using these same supplements to clear my own hormonal acne — this is what I recommend:

  • Magnesium. A lack of magnesium causes skin inflammation. Taking magnesium with calcium combined in supplement form can lower the amount of C-reactive proteins in your body which cause this inflammation. Calcium is part of our tissue matrix – bones, cells, and skin – and very important for skin cell renewal.
  • Omega-3s. Getting your omega-3 fatty acids in fish or flax oil will give you almost instant results. Clearer, softer, smoother skin as well as stronger hair and nails – you can see it happen in days. They have a big picture, whole body affect, as well as results in the short term. I also advise supplementation. It is hard to overstate the importance of omega-3 fatty acids when it comes to skin health.
  • Zinc. Zinc deficiency is a very common issue for many women. When we are deficient in zinc our pores become easily irritated by bacteria and show redness. A large-scale scientific study concluded that zinc supplementation is very effective even when compared to commonly prescribed antibiotics. I also recommend having a little bit of grass-fed liver every week as part of a meal or as a snack. It’s full of copper and vitamin A. The copper will balance out the zinc in your body and the vitamin A is what your liver needs to detoxify from excess hormones. A well-functioning liver boosts your absorption of all vitamins and minerals and prevent deficiencies developing in the first place.
  • Probiotics. We need probiotics for a healthy gut. A common symptom of a damaged and depleted microbiome is acne and other skin issues like rosacea. It’s particularly important with hormonal acne as your microbiome assists your body in processing and eliminating excess estrogen. If you’ve been on the Pill or antibiotics for any length of time, probiotics could be key to getting your skin back on track.
  • B Vitamins. Your skin needs B-vitamins to regenerate and renew as they provide the energy all of your cells need for fuel. Taking a good B-complex every day that includes a high level of B6 will target hormonal and premenstrual acne. B6 prevents skin inflammation and overproduction of sebum (the oil your skin produces at can create acne issues).

Always remember that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you. You can do this – the science of your body is on your side.

Here is A Great Video Resource For You - 5 Ways to Stop Hormonal Acne

Balance Supplements

I designed my Balance Supplements specifically to help women address these key deficiencies, balance their hormones, and reclaim their energy.You don’t need to feel listless and exhausted for 1-2 weeks every month. You can reclaim your energy in as little as one 28-day hormone cycle. BALANCE by FLO Living is the FIRST supplement kit for happier periods that supports balancing your hormones. Balance Supplements include five formulations that provide essential micronutrients to balance your hormones. Think of them as your personal “insurance policy” against environmental factors that are (knowingly or unknowingly) zapping your energy every month. Balance Supplements can help you have more energy within a few weeks!

The Supplements Every Woman Should Take

For as long as I’ve been teaching women about hormonal health, I’ve been asked questions about supplements. What brands are best? Which supplements help solve period problems? Does a food-based healing protocol need to include supplements at all? I’ve got answers to these questions, and more. In this post, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about supplements for hormone balance, healthy endocrine function, and symptom-free periods. A little knowledge goes a long way when it comes to supplements.

You’ll save money (because you won’t spend it on low-quality or mismatched supplements). You’ll save time (because you won’t have to research which supplements target which symptoms of which brands are better and worse). And you’ll fast track your healing. Supplements support and amplify every other lifestyle change you make to improve your hormone health. You’ll get to your goal of symptom-free periods faster when high-quality, targeted supplements are part of your protocol.

Do You Need Supplements If You’re Eating the Right Foods?

When it comes to healing your hormones, food is always first. There’s no budging on that. To recalibrate your endocrine system and erase period problems, you have to feed your body a micronutrient-rich diet of hormonally-supportive foods in a phase-based pattern. No single supplement will solve symptoms like bloating, acne, PMS, cramps, heavy or irregular periods, missing periods, mood swings, and fatigue.

That said, adding specific high-quality supplements to an already-nourishing diet will speed up your healing process and provide support as you bring your body back into balance. I’m a big believer in using supplements selectively and intelligently to help the body heal.After years of exhaustive research, I have identified which micronutrients are non-negotiable for optimal hormone health. I’ll go into each micronutrient in detail below, but first it’s important to answer a few questions.

Why Aren’t Women Getting Enough Micronutrients?

Phytonutrient-dense whole foods, like leafy green vegetables, avocados, pastured eggs, and omega 3-rich fish like salmon, contain micronutrients that support the endocrine system — micronutrients like magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and vitamin D. But we often don’t get enough of these micronutrients in our food, even when we’re eating perfectly.

Why?

There are several reasons. One critical factor is that most women are not eating or exercising in ways that support our infradian rhythm, the 28-day hormone cycle that functions as the body’s second clock. Another factor is that many fruits and vegetables are grown in nutrient-depleted soil, so they don’t contain enough of the good stuff to support optimal health. It’s also because a lot of environmental factors —  many beyond our control — collude to rob our bodies of precious micronutrients faster than we can take them in. It’s also because of the very real limits of our busy lives.

Many of us simply don’t have the time to cook, let alone eat, 9 to 11 servings of vegetables a day.Food comes first when healing your hormones. But sometimes a micronutrient-rich diet of hormonally-supportive foods isn’t enough to achieve optimal hormone health. Sometimes your body needs an extra boost.

What Causes Micronutrient Deficiency?

As I mentioned in the previous section, sometimes micronutrient deficiency just happens, even when you’re doing everything right. But there are some habits and practices that might seem healthy (or at least not harmful) but that, in fact, deplete essential micronutrients and make hormone imbalances worse.Here are 8 common ways you might be unintentionally speeding up micronutrient loss in your body:

  1. You drink caffeine. Caffeine leaches precious micronutrients from the body.
  2. You drink alcohol regularly. Regular alcohol consumption bleeds the body of micronutrients, too.
  3. You take the pill (or you have in the past). Same problem as caffeine. The pill causes your body to jettison micronutrients faster than you can replace them.
  4. You engage in extreme diets. Maybe you only eat one or two types of food, or you are following a food protocol that has you cut out some macronutrients all together (like carbs). Restrictive diets can’t give you the wide breadth of micronutrients you need for optimal hormone health, no matter how healthy the foods you’re eating are. Same goes if you don’t eat enough calories each day. Eating too few calories can present separate challenges for hormonal health, but not getting ample micronutrients is one of them.
  5. You exercise too much. Over-exercise depletes the body of essential micronutrients faster than you can replace them.
  6. You use conventional health and body care products. These products are full of toxins that tax the endocrine system and prevent optimal micronutrient levels.
  7. You use conventional house-cleaning products. Same deal as using conventional health and body care products.
  8. You experience chronic, unremitting stress. Emotional stress taxes the body and works against optimal micronutrient levels.

Luckily, some high-quality targeted supplements can help replenish your micronutrient stores.

The 5 Essential Supplements for Hormones

Here are the five essential supplements that I recommend for optimal hormone health:

B-complex

I can’t say enough good things about B-vitamins. They’re necessary for good health and many women just don’t get enough. A deficiency in B vitamins can cause low energy and fatigue since they’re crucial for so many metabolic functions. B6 is a particularly important vitamin for boosting progesterone production to counteract excess estrogen (a top cause of hormonal dysfunction). B6 supports the development of the corpus luteum, which is where all your progesterone originates, and it supports liver function as the liver works to remove excess estrogen from the body. It’s great for the immune system, too.

Magnesium

Magnesium helps support the pituitary gland. Without it, we produce less FSH (follicular stimulating), LH (luteinizing), and TSH (thyroid stimulating). Low levels of those foundational hormones can cause irregular ovulation and thyroid problems, which can lead to bigger hormonal issues. Magnesium is involved in over 300 catalytic reactions in the body and most women are magnesium deficient. Bloating, headaches, and muscle tension (among other symptoms) can be a sign of magnesium deficiency.

Liver detoxifier/estrogen metabolizer

Your liver is your main organ for detoxification and it plays a critical role in maintaining hormonal balance and keeping symptoms at bay. To do its work properly, the liver needs a full supply of micronutrients and antioxidants, which we can get in part from food — but, as I mentioned earlier in the post, we often don’t get enough from our food. The liver especially needs micronutrients and antioxidants like vitamin C, alpha lipoic acid, turmeric and selenium.  When your liver is well nourished, it can efficiently break down excess estrogen and help keep estrogen and progesterone in balance, which is a critical factor in keeping period problems at bay. If your body can’t efficiently process toxins like excess hormones, you’ll be more likely to develop menstrual, fertility, and libido problems.

Probiotics

A healthy microbiome is essential for maintaining hormone balance and staving off symptoms. There’s a community of bacteria in the gut called the estrobolome. The estrobolome produces an enzyme that supports the metabolization of estrogen. This makes the gut an important part of the elimination system that ushers hormones out of the body. Give the hard-working bugs in your gut a boost with a probiotic, which is food for the gut bugs that live in the GI tract. This can do wonders for your endocrine health.

D3-Omega-3 blend

Studies have shown that 93% of women dealing with infertility issues are vitamin D3 deficient, and women with higher vitamin D3 levels are four times more likely to conceive via IVF than women with low levels. The reason? Vitamin D3 acts like a master hormone in the body and a low concentration of vitamin D3 can throw off the tightly choreographed dance that all our bodies hormones do with each other. Specifically, low vitamin D can add fuel to the fire of estrogen dominance, which can lead to a host of hormonal issues. Omega-3 fats are good mood stabilization and reducing cramps. My formulation also includes vitamins K1 and K2 for bone and heart health and collagen for skin and hair. I consider these the five essential supplements that every woman needs to heal her hormones and erase period problems.

What Supplement Brand is Best?

In the past I’ve recommended products available at health food stores, but I always dreamed of formulating my own supplements that met my extremely high standards. I finally decided to do it when, a few years ago, some of the supplements sold at big-box retailers were outed for not containing the ingredients listed on the label. I really get peeved when women waste money on health-promoting products that don’t work, because that happened to me at the beginning of my hormonal health journey. It’s almost impossible to know which brands to trust, and once you find a reliable source, then it’s time to decide which of their million products to actually purchase.I’d finally had enough of the confusion. So I created Balance by FLO Living, the first and only cycle-syncing supplement set. The five formulations in Balance by FLO Living provide the essential micronutrient support that you need to balance your hormones. Think of them as your personal “insurance policy” against endocrine disruptors like stress, coffee, environmental toxins, lack of sleep, and plain-old modern life.You no longer have to waste money on low-quality supplements or supplements that don’t target your unique hormonal profile. I’ve formulated all the essential supplements you need to heal your hormones with the highest quality ingredients. The Balance FLO supplement kit is thoroughly researched, rigorously tested, and perfectly suited to meet your needs.

The Supporting Players: More Supplements that Help Heal Hormones

The supplements I listed above are the ones I sell in my Balance by FLO Living supplement kit, and they’re essential for any menstruating woman who experiences symptoms like PMS, acne, bloating, cramps, hormonal migraines, PCOS, mood swings, fatigue, heavy or irregular periods, missing periods, or other period problems. But you can add other high-quality supplements to your protocol if you want to take your hormonal healing to the next level. Here are a few more supplements that can be “supporting players” on your quest for optimal menstrual health.

Turmeric

Certain spices, like turmeric, improve circulation to all organs, including the uterus and ovaries. The better the blood is flowing to your organs, the more oxygen is present, and the better their overall health, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. That’s not all: more blood flow to the reproductive organs supports regular periods and boosts fertility. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric and it is a powerful anti-inflammatory, which can help with period pain, cramps, and headaches. (It’s also great for overall general health.) Curcumin helps keep blood sugar stable, which is important for all women who are hormonally-sensitive, and it has been shown to slow the growth of uterine fibroids. Studies also suggest that this warming spice may protect against the development of breast and ovarian cancers and may help women who suffer with endometriosis.You can cook with turmeric, add it to hot beverages like tea, or take it as a supplement. Look for a brand like Thorne that uses curcumin phytosome, which is the form best absorbed by the body.

Cinnamon

Blood sugar balance is critically important for hormone balance, and studies show that cinnamon supports stable blood sugar. You can take cinnamon as a supplement — I like New Chapter’s Cinnamon Force — and add it liberally to meals and drinks. Healing your hormones has never been so delicious.

Adaptogenic herbs

Adaptogens help your body respond to stress, which is exquisitely important when you are working to heal your hormones.Taking adaptogenic herbs is a generally safe practice that can ease symptoms and improve quality of life. But herbs should only be part of your stress-reduction and hormone-balancing strategy after you’ve addressed some of the bigger lifestyle factors that drive hormone issues, like sleep deprivation, exposure to chronic stressors, exposure to toxins, and being out of touch with your natural hormone cycle. If your tank is running on empty, and has been for a while, start with the big stuff. When you’ve made progress in those areas, it might be time to consider an adaptogen.Adaptogens that I like include:

Ashwagandha — This well-researched herb has been shown to reduce oxidative stress (also known as the internal process that contributes to cell damage and accelerated aging) and support a healthy stress response. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, ashwagandha was shown to improve stress resistance and participants’ self-assessed quality of life. When it comes to hormones, ashwagandha has been shown to improve sexual function and low libido for some women (perhaps because it supports healthy testosterone production). Other studies suggest that this herb can dramatically slow down cell division in estrogen-receptor positive breast cancers. I recommend ashwagandha if you struggle with anxiety and/or if you’re wrestling with low libido.

Holy Basil —  Research suggests that holy basil may help support liver function. The liver detoxes excess hormones from the body and helps prevent estrogen dominance. For healthy hormones, you need a healthy liver. Holy basil may also help stabilize blood sugar. I recommend holy basil if stress and anxiety are an issue and you also wrestle with imbalanced blood sugar. If you have a history of taking over-the-counter or prescription medications, you may consider taking holy basil for liver and detox support.

Reishi mushroom — Reishi is a powerful adaptogen that is also chock full of antioxidants. These mushrooms have been lauded for their anti-tumor, anti-androgenic, anti-aging, and immune-boosting effects. I don’t believe in superfoods as such — no one food or single intervention can be a miracle cure on its own — but if any plant comes close to deserving the title of a super food, I’d nominate reishi mushrooms. The antioxidant and chemopreventive benefits of reishi are well-studied, and when it comes to hormones, studies show that reishi (and other cordyceps mushrooms) may help ease symptoms of PCOS, hirsutism, and acne by exerting an anti-androgenic effect in the body. I recommend reishi mushrooms if you’re struggling with acne, unwanted hair growth, or symptoms related to PCOS.

Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes help you break down the food you eat and absorb nutrients better. If you experience indigestion, gas, or bloating, or if you suspect you have a nutrient deficiency, try them out! Rainbow Light is one of my favorite brands. But don’t take this brand while pregnant as it contains bromelain, which is not safe for pregnancy.Don’t forget that supplements are exactly what the word suggests: supplemental boosts to an already balanced diet. If your diet is not working for you, supplements will have little effect. Always remember that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you. You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!

Balance Supplements

I designed my Balance Supplements specifically to help women address these key deficiencies, balance their hormones, and reclaim their energy.You don’t need to feel listless and exhausted for 1-2 weeks every month. You can reclaim your energy in as little as one 28-day hormone cycle. BALANCE by FLO Living is the FIRST supplement kit for happier periods that supports balancing your hormones. Balance Supplements include five formulations that provide essential micronutrients to balance your hormones. Think of them as your personal “insurance policy” against environmental factors that are (knowingly or unknowingly) zapping your energy every month. Balance Supplements can help you have more energy within a few weeks!

How DIM Supplements Support Hormonal Health

Broccoli, Brussels, cabbage, cauliflower: what do they all have in common? Other than being what some might call an acquired taste, they’re an excellent source of folate, fiber, and vitamins C, E, and K. Just as importantly (but less commonly discussed), they all also contain a plant compound called diindolylmethane (DIM). DIM is a metabolite of indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a phytonutrient found in cruciferous vegetables, which is said to stimulate detoxifying enzymes that are found in the liver and gut. This action is essential to happier hormones because we know that the microbiome is a key player in regulating hormones, especially estrogen levels. When I3C comes into contact with your stomach acid (via a forkful of broccoli or a supplement), it sparks a chemical reaction that converts it to DIM. That’s when our bodies start to benefit!

Research shows that DIM can reduce the risk of estrogen-driven cancers—such as breast cancer and cervical cancer—by supporting healthy estrogen metabolism and promoting estrogen and testosterone balance. Another small study found that DIM may also have protective benefits against thyroid disorders, which are four to five times more likely to affect women than men.

DIM has also been shown to protect against acne, support healthy weight balance, and help with menopause—all side effects of those imbalanced hormones that we’re working each day to fix. Sounds pretty good, right?If you're anything like I was when I first began this hormonal health journey, you're likely all ears when it comes to a natural and holistic solution for alleviating discomfort.

That’s why I’m here today to share everything you need to know to help yourself. Stay with me for a deep dive on DIM’s ability to restore healthy hormone balance and how that’s major for anyone living with PCOS, fibroids, endometriosis, or acne.

Here are some common hormonal issues DIM can help with:

PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common causes of infertility among women of reproductive age. This hormonal imbalance can cause weight gain, acne, and irregular periods, as well as more severe consequences like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.Today, conventional medicine often points to oral contraceptive pills as the first line of defense against the condition, but the FLO Living team believes in taking a different path. Our focus (backed by science) is a more integrative approach to regulating hormones. After all, if you can utilize food, supplements, and lifestyle changes to address the root cause of your PCOS, why wouldn’t you?For example, a recent case study highlighted a 21-year-old woman with PCOS who was suffering from irregular periods, acne, and hirsutism (excess hair that usually grows around the mouth and chin). Since the woman preferred a natural approach to care, she worked with her practitioner to create a treatment plan which included acupuncture, as well as DIM and vitex agnus-castus. After 10 months, the woman regained a regular menstrual cycle and a more balanced level of testosterone in her body. Such a powerful example of advocating for your own health!While more clinical research is needed to further support cases like this, preclinical data shows that DIM provides beneficial effects on estrogen metabolism and its antiandrogen effects. To clarify, this means that DIM plays a role in reducing or blocking the effects of androgens (male hormones), like testosterone on the body. This is important because research shows that an excess of androgens may play a role in the development of PCOS, and may certainly contribute to some of those unpleasant side effects and flare-ups.

Fibroids and heavy bleeding

Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that develop in the wall of the uterus and can range in size from very tiny (the size of a pea) to very large (the size of a melon). Some women have no symptoms, but for others, these fibroids can cause heavy periods, painful intercourse, frequent urination, bloating, and reproductive problems. This translates to major discomfort, especially during events which should be fun—like beach vacations and sex! Although uterine fibroids can be unpleasant, they’re actually pretty common. A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that 80-90% of African American women and 70% of white women will develop fibroids by age 50. So what can we do about it?

fibroid pain

Again, a primary treatment for fibroids is a prescription for the birth control pill, but a smarter way to treat uterine fibroids is by actually understanding and addressing the root cause. If you’re suffering from uterine fibroids or heavy bleeding and you aren’t interested in birth control or surgery like a myomectomy, then why not consider DIM supplements? DIM is known to reduce harmful estrogen metabolites and just might provide that relief you’re looking for.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when endometrial tissue (normally found in the uterus) grows outside the uterus. If you or a loved one suffers from endometriosis, you don’t need me to tell you how painful and debilitating the condition can be.And if you are suffering, know you’re not alone. According to the latest count, more than 11% of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 are living with this often painful condition. Unfortunately, the number might even be higher because many women with endometriosis aren’t diagnosed right away. In fact, the average delay in diagnosis is nearly seven whole years.One of the things that researchers are still working on is the best way to treat endometriosis. That’s why it’s my mission to help women realize that while there’s no one specific cure, there are countless resources to get help and get it sooner. Supplements like DIM can balance hormones and reduce inflammation which can drastically ameliorate endometriosis symptoms and improve quality of life. A study from a few years ago looked at supplementing dienogest, a standard endometriosis treatment, with DIM in order to help with irregular bleeding. The results found that women who added DIM to their treatment plan experienced decreased pelvic pain and improved menstrual bleeding. DIM also showed a decrease in endometrial cell life which could mean that the cells would have less time to grow on the pelvic walls and cause heavy, painful periods.

Acne

Clear acne by balancing your hormones

Acne ... you didn't want it when you were a teenager and you definitely don't want it as an adult. But what can you do? Well, as I’ve said before, knowledge is power when it comes to hormonal acne.Our hormones naturally shift throughout the monthly menstrual cycle, and when they're imbalanced, it can lead to pesky problems like acne. Hormonal breakouts tend to present during the luteal (premenstrual) phase, and are most often along the chin and jawline. Pimples on your forehead can signify a gut imbalance, and a breakout on the temple usually means liver congestion due to an excess of estrogen.Hormone-driven and inflammation-driven acne are both caused by imbalances inside the body and the right supplements can make the difference between improving your acne versus addressing the root cause and clearing it for good. When you supplement with DIM, it works to promote beneficial estrogen metabolism.

How do I get my DIM fix?

food for follicular phase

I'm a big believer in eating to heal your hormones and cruciferous vegetables are certainly part of the equation. If you've ever tried the FLO Living 4 week food challenge then you'll recall that I suggest broccoli for the follicular phase (before you ovulate, after your period), brussels sprouts when you're ovulating, cauliflower and collard greens right before you have your period (luteal phase), and kale when you're menstruating.However, I don’t know anyone who loves Brussel sprouts enough to get their entire dose of DIM from their dinner plate. As well-intended as we all are, relying solely on cruciferous vegetables for DIM can be challenging, which is why supplements can help!

Ready to try a DIM supplement?

FLO Living has got you covered. It’s overwhelming to try to solve your hormone issues all by yourself (been there, done that), which is why I created the FLO Living supplement kits to provide the essential micronutrient support you need to heal and feel whole.

DIM is a primary ingredient in two of my new FLO Living Supplement Kits: RESTORE for PCOS and RELEASE for fibroids and heavy bleeding. Each supplement kit includes high-quality ingredients that are designed to work together in harmony to help you feel your best.

Learn how to try the Flo Living Supplement Kit that’s right for you here.

The Stress-Hormone Connection

Women are hit particularly hard by stress. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America, affecting 40 million adults in the United States or 18.1% of the population every year. But women are more likely than men to report having a great deal of stress, and almost half of all women say their stress has increased over the past five years (compared to 39-percent of men).

Worst of all, stress is uniquely hard on women and our reproductive hormones. Here’s what you need to know about how stress affects your menstrual cycle and how you can protect yourself from the damaging effects of stress.

Stress & Your Menstrual Cycle

When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands pump out adrenaline and cortisol, which gets your body ready to either fight or run away from a real or perceived danger in your environment (the fight-or-flight response). This hormonal cascade is a natural process — and, in instances of grave danger, an extremely useful one. But when this happens over and over again, triggered by everyday stressors like deadlines instead of life-or-death threats, it depletes your cortisol reserve, leaving your adrenals unable to respond properly to stress.

A woman’s stress response is also different based on where she is in her 28-day hormone cycle, called the infradian rhythm. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is naturally at different levels in the first and second half of the infradian rhythm and it is important to tailor our self-care and exercise routines accordingly so as not to further disrupt cortisol and cause even more hormone imbalances. This stress response, paired with lack of appropriate phase-based self-care,  has a lot of negative effects on your hormones. Here are the ways stress damages your hormones and negatively affects your well-being:

  1. Stress messes with blood sugar. Stress raises cortisol levels and disrupts your blood sugar which, in turn, disrupts your ovulation and period. Imbalanced blood sugar harms your hormones. One of the foundations of the FLO Protocol is using food and supplements to balance blood sugar. Improving your blood sugar is one of the single best things you can do to balance your hormones and heal period problems like acne, PMS, bloating, cramps, heavy or irregular periods, and missing periods.
  2. Stress lowers progesterone. The stress hormone cortisol blocks progesterone production and lowers progesterone levels. That’s because your body uses progesterone to make cortisol and respond to the stress — and the more stress you experience, the more progesterone your body will ‘steal’ to make cortisol. This messes with your cycle by lengthening your luteal phase and makes your periods start of slow, with a lot of brown spotting and brown blood before your regular flow.
  3. Stress delays ovulation. If you experience stress around the time you typically ovulate, the increased levels of cortisol can delay or even prevent ovulation. Stress’s negative influence on ovulation makes sense evolutionarily – a pregnancy on top of a stressful period in a person’s life is not ideal. By stopping ovulation, your body is trying to preserve energy to deal with the stress before conception takes place.
  4. Stress changes the timing of your period. A period of stress after you ovulate can throw your hormones off balance. If you experience a high level of stress after you ovulate, you may experience spotting, an early period, or a period that looks or feels different than your norm in terms of  consistency, color, length, or symptoms like cramping.
  5. Stress can cause your period to go missing. Intense stress can cause anovulatory cycles, or months when you don’t ovulate at all. This means no period, or a small bit of ‘breakthrough’ bleeding (which isn’t a real period, but rather your uterus still needing to shed its lining).
  6. Stress causes vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Excess cortisol from stress depletes the body of essential vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. B vitamins, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids are especially susceptible to stress — and are especially important for soothing your overworked adrenal system. Stress causes you to lose the micronutrients you need the most to help calm your fight-or-flight response!
  7. Stress disrupts up your gut. Stress can interfere with the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut — and a healthy gut is critically important for any woman who wants to balance hormones and erase period problems. That’s because the gut flora, and specifically a colony of bacteria called the estrobolome, help process and eliminate excess hormones from the body — and when your elimination system is sluggish, your hormones will get out of balance.

Why Most Exercise Plans Don’t Work for Women

Women are the biggest consumers of wellness-industry products and protocols. Yet most of the research behind these strategies is conducted on men, and women’s bodies work differently than men’s bodies. Women have unique biochemical needs that go unaddressed by exercise plans built around male-centered research. That leaves women to try different exercise plans, be disappointed, and then try some more. It’s a cycle that causes untold stress, energy, money, heartache, and sanity.

The fitness industry has good intentions. (Many people don’t talk about the gender bias in wellness research. I’m here to change that!) But when different exercise strategies are sold to the public as great for everyone, it can leave women feeling like it’s their fault if they don’t get the results they want. We  can start to feel like we must not have done it right or tried hard enough or that we lack willpower.

Lack of willpower is not the problem.The problem is that women, all too often, are following exercise protocols that benefit men more than women — or, in some cases, protocols that actively work against a woman’s hormones and sabotage her health and fitness goals. Times up on the gender bias in the diet and fitness industry. As women, we’re biochemically different than men. When we adopt approaches that are designed to work with our unique biological distinctions—when we stop biohacking with the boys—we will start to see results.

The key to biohacking your unique female biochemistry is to understand your 28-day cycle and to match your food and exercise to your natural hormonal shifts. When you sync your self care with your cycle, you’ll experience easier periods, less PMS, reduced bloating, clearer skin, and improvements in weight and body composition. By acknowledging your hormonal reality, you’ll finally be able to look and feel your best.

Is Burnout a Real Thing? What Does it Mean for your Hormones?

That exhausted, depleted, frazzled feeling you have every Friday night (or every night) after work)?It's burnout. And it’s a real, diagnosable condition.That’s according to the World Health Organization (WHO), who last month declared burnout a legitimate occupational phenomenon. Burnout is a result of “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” said the organization, and it negatively influences one’s health.The condition is characterized by three things:

  1. Feeling depleted or exhausted
  2. Feeling cynical or negative about one’s job, or feeling increased mental distance from one’s job
  3. Being less effective and productive on the job

This news will come as no surprise to anyone with a demanding job or other workplace stressors, like a difficult boss, unsupportive co-workers, an unhealthy work environment, a long commute, and/or the expectation of “being on” 24-hours a day. As the speed of work picks up, and as more of us work around-the-clock, burnout has become a way of life. But women have a key advantage when it comes to battling back against burnout. We can tap into the natural rhythms of our 28-day hormone cycle and use our natural strengths during each phase to work more efficiently, be more productive (without feeling overburdened), and find more satisfaction—and less stress—in our jobs.

The Hormone-Burnout Connection

The idea that your hormones could help you have an easier and less stressful experience at work might seem far-fetched, but I’m not making this up!Research shows that our hormone cycles have a direct influence on our mood, energy, creativity, and worldview. So when we plan our activities in accordance with the natural flow of our hormones, we can be top-performing, high-achieving women with energy left over at the end of the day—no to-do list app necessary. (Though we benefit greatly from knowing where we are in our cycle, which is what I designed the MyFLO app to help you do.)If, however, we ignore our hormonal patterns and force ourselves to work in a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week time construct (one that works for men because of their more quotidian hormonal patterns), we’re more likely to experience burnout—and, as women, that chronic stress shows up in our our cycles, fertility, sex drive, and mood. In other words, working the same way, with the same rhythm, day in and day out makes period problems worse… and that prevents us from taking advantage of the solution, which depends on a healthy cycle!It’s a bit circuitous, I know, but that is exactly what it is: a vicious cycle. When we don’t practice The Cycle Syncing Method™, our hormones fall deeper into imbalance—and that makes it harder to use our cycle as a powerful tool for escaping burnout.As women, our strengths, desires, talents, and behavior shifts with our changing hormone patterns each month. Having female hormones does not mean you lose a week a month to PMS and your period. It just means that by noticing these shifts and then working with your hormones, you can make your hormones work for you.

Heal Workplace Stress By Learning To Work With Your Hormones

To harness the power of your hormones, first you need to know what your hormones are doing and when. That’s where the MyFLO app comes in. It allows you track your cycle and tune into which phase you’re in at any given time.Once you’re familiar with your cycle, you’re ready to practice The Cycle Syncing Method™, which is the method I developed for engaging in phase-based self-care. The Cycle Syncing Method™ involves working with food, movement, and time management to feel and perform your best (you can learn more about every aspect of the practice here), but for today I’m going to focus on how you can engage The Cycle Syncing Method™ specifically to battle workplace burnout.Here are the four phases of your 28-day hormone cycle and how you can harness your natural strengths during each one to perform better at work, while stressing less!

Follicular Phase

  • When: The week after your period ends
  • What’s happening hormonally: Estrogen is on the rise
  • What to do: Set your intentions for the coming weeks, clarify your vision and purpose at work, organize what you want to accomplish next. Get moving on new projects. This is a time to really lay the groundwork for what comes next.

Ovulation Phase

  • When: Mid-cycle for 3–5 days
  • What’s happening hormonally: Estrogen is at its highest point
  • What to do: Share your intentions with colleagues, collaborate with like-minded folks, schedule meetings, connect with others, brainstorm to find solutions. This is a time to bring others on board with your vision and to work as a team.

Luteal/Premenstrual Phase

  • When: About 10–12 days before your period begins
  • What’s happening hormonally: Progesterone is at its highest point
  • What to do: This is your ‘get it done’ time! You are at your most organized during this phase and you love getting granular about the details. Make this phase all about accomplishing the activities and goals you outlined during your follicular phase.

Menstrual phase

  • When: The days when you are bleeding
  • What’s happening hormonally: All of your hormones are at a low point
  • What to do: Slow down, reflect on what’s happened over the last month, and practice gratitude for all the good things you’ve accomplished. Think back on any areas of your work life that feel less than optimal or that need more attention and use them as a starting point for setting intentions during your next follicular phase.

I guarantee that if you start to prioritize projects at work in line with your cycle, you will experience less stress and greater productivity. Burnout will no longer be a way of life.And if you really want to transform your work life, you’ll engage the other aspects of The Cycle Syncing Method™ in combination with the changes you make at work. This involves food, movement, supplements, and self-care. If you put all these changes into place, you will be unstoppable at work — and you will experience far less stress in your day-to-day life.

How to Outsmart Stress And Heal Your Hormones

Don’t let stress hijack your period. If you are experiencing period problems and stress is playing a role in your symptoms, it’s time to take stress management seriously. A stressed-out cycle is a message. It’s a call-to-action from your body.Here are my top strategies for healing stress and solving your period problems:

FLO Stress Strategy #1: Focus on food

Your first step is to eat hormonally-supportive foods in a phase-based pattern, which helps soothe and support your adrenal glands, turn the dial down on cortisol production, and break the stress cycle. Not to mention that eating nutrient-dense foods at the right times of your cycle will boost your metabolism, support digestion, blood sugar balance, regulate your cycles, detoxify your system, and increase your energy. You can leverage food in multiple ways to combat stress and balance hormones, but I recommend starting by emphasizing healthy fats, like avocados and olive oil, to calm your nervous system, and making sure you’re eating a lot of fiber and fermented foods to help support the microbiome. You can read more about using the The Cycle Syncing Method™ with food here.

FLO Stress Strategy #2: Eat a good breakfast

A nutritious and filling breakfast will set you up for a day of stable blood sugar and balanced hormones. It should also bring in all those essential de-stressing vitamins and minerals like magnesium and B vitamins. I have a whole lot of great (and easy) ideas for breakfast for you right here. If you can make a natural probiotic like sauerkraut or kimchi part of your first meal of the day, even better, as that will help heal your gut. Use coconut oil along the way to boost your body’s intake of good fats.

FLO Stress Strategy #3: Exercise

Exercise is one of your best weapons when it comes to battling stress, but only if you do the right type of exercise at the right times of the month. If you’re doing high-intensity workouts during the wrong time of the month, or if you force yourself to workout the same way every day, you will make hormone balance and period problems worse. To get all the details about exercise and your cycle, go here. But the brief takeaway is this: The first half of your cycle is the ideal time for high-intensity workouts. The second half of your cycle is better suited for slower, more restorative workouts. In your luteal phase, shift from high intensity bouts of exercise to activities like yoga, walking, and easy bike rides.

FLO Stress Strategy #4: Sleep

Get some! No matter which phase of your cycle you’re in, getting enough high-quality sleep is hugely important in easing stress. Studies suggest that women need more sleep than men. Think of sleep as one of the essential micronutrients you need for a healthy period — and don’t skimp on it!

FLO Stress Strategy #5: Make time for pleasure

Whether this means self-pleasure or spa treatments to you, do what makes you feel good at least once a week. I have some tips for better orgasms and hormone-safe spa treatments including the best recipe for a long, indulgent bath for a relaxing night in. Start scheduling times for self-care into your working week as though it were a meeting or gym session and don’t flake on feeling good. You’ll reduce excess cortisol hormone this way and see the benefits fast.

FLO Stress Strategy #6: Supplements

Anti-anxiety mediations and SSRIs are often prescribed for stress. These drugs are designed to block or manage symptoms, not address root causes, and they do not work for everyone and have a long list of side effects. It’s always preferable to address stress-related symptoms like fatigue, depression, and anxiety with food and natural supplements before turning to pharmaceuticals.Here are the botanicals I recommend for stress and anxiety:

But remember: these supplements will only work effectively to reduce anxiety as part of a broader strategy to support your adrenals, address blood sugar, and balance your hormones. And here are the micronutrients that I consider absolutely essential for combating stress, balancing hormones, supporting healthy menstrual cycles, and boosting fertility:

  1. Magnesium: This powerful mineral calms your nervous system and helps balance cortisol. When your stress system is in balance your levels of progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, FSH and LH will follow suit. Magnesium also helps to control insulin production, which reduces sugar cravings and blood sugar spikes, and it helps you get a great night’s sleep.
  2. B5: Also known as pantothenic acid, this vitamin is crucial for theadrenal glands, the organs responsible for pumping out cortisol. Studies have shown that supplementing with B5 helps stimulate adrenal cells, which in turn, helps regulate your body’s stress response.
  3. Omega-3s: Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation (which is an internal stressor on the body) and help improve mood.

If you’re ready to stop living with daily, debilitating stress, then it’s time to seek out natural solutions that will support your adrenals, balance your mood, and empower you to take on everything life throws your way. You can’t always control the external stressors around you, but you absolutely can better manage your internal responses. Why not arm yourself with the most effective, safe, and natural tools available?

Stop spot-treating your symptoms and white-knuckling through your anxiety: Order the Balance Supplement Kit and get the daily dose of essential vitamins and minerals you need to kick stress to the curb, once and for all.

What Women Need to Know about Caffeine

Attention, Coffee and Tea Drinkers: Did you know that caffeine disrupts your hormones — including insulin, cortisol, and reproductive hormones — for many hours after you drink it, interfering with blood sugar, sleep AND a wide range of physiological processes? For example:Caffeine hijacks your delicate hormonal wiring and wreaks havoc on your health in significant ways — from increasing the stress hormone cortisol (especially in women) to fueling the growth of benign breast cysts and increasing the risk of infertility and miscarriage.

Studies show that insulin rates are significantly higher after caffeine intake than after participants drank placebos without caffeine. And that’s not all. Caffeine stays in women’s bodies longer than men’s and it robs women of essential hormone-balancing nutrients and minerals. Caffeine consumption is also linked with increases in blood pressure in females (but not males).

This makes coffee and caffeinated beverages dangerous stuff if you suffer from existing hormone balances — or if you are concerned about protecting your hormones and your fertility in the future. What’s more, only 10 percent of the population is able to efficiently metabolize caffeine. If you’re one of the 9 in 10 people who have trouble processing caffeine, you might be extra susceptible to caffeine’s hormone disrupting effects.

Are You Able to Metabolize Caffeine?

Caffeine is broken down by the liver using the CYP1A2 enzyme. The CYP1A2 enzyme is regulated by the CYP1A2 gene. If you have a mutation in this gene, it affects how your liver breaks down and eliminates caffeine from your system. Based on your gene variation, you’ll either make a lot of this enzyme (and be a successful caffeine guzzler) or a little (and be unable to safely process caffeine). If you have a CYP1A2 mutation, a 2006 study found that you are at an elevated risk of suffering a heart attack from consuming 2 or more cups of coffee a day. Heart disease is the number 1 killer of women, so I think it makes sense for all women to  think twice before consuming caffeine.

The Mayo Clinic notes that too much caffeine can cause a variety of problems, from fertility struggles to insomnia and irritability. The CYP1A2 gene is also involved in the metabolism of estrogen. So if you struggle with PMS or a diagnosed estrogen-dominant condition like PCOS, fibroids, or endometriosis, then you have reason to suspect that you have a CYP1A2 mutation and are making less of the enzyme that breaks down both caffeine and estrogen. In 2008, research was done to build on the earlier studies linking caffeine to breast tissue changes and showed some association with increased risk of negative changes in breast tissue. Perhaps the variation in risk factors has something to do with this gene variation?

I think if there’s a history of breast cancer in your family, then this is important information to consider.Women often ask me about black and green tea, especially match, which is an antioxidant-rich green tea. Certainly teas provide certain health benefits, and matcha is rich in health-promoting compounds that protect cellular health and support physiological functions. But the fact remains that these beverages contain caffeine — and caffeine poses unique challenges for any woman with hormone imbalances. If you plan to indulge in caffeine once in a while, I think matcha is a great splurge, but I still maintain that women in their reproductive years should avoid most caffeine most of the time.

This is why getting off caffeine is such an important part of the FLO protocol. If you’re struggling with any hormone related issue (and if you’re reading this, you likely are), it’s important to remove any potential endocrine disruptors from your daily diet and lifestyle routine, including caffeine. You want to give your hormone system the break it needs to heal and come back into balance.

How Can I Tell if I Have a Hormone Imbalance (...aka How Do I Know if I Should Ditch Caffeine?)

I encourage all people with female physiology who are in their reproductive years to say no to caffeine. But women who suffer from hormone imbalances or a diagnosed hormone condition, like PCOS, fibroids, ovarian cysts, or endometriosis, should make going caffeine-free a top priority. How do you know if your hormones are out of balance (and that giving up caffeine is a good idea for you)? Here are some signs and symptoms of a hormone imbalance:

  • PMS
  • Severe period cramps
  • Bloating
  • Acne
  • Moodiness/depression
  • Anxiety
  • You have been steadily gaining weight for a few months or years
  • You can’t seem to lose weight even with a healthy diet and increased exercise
  • Chronic exhaustion/fatigue
  • Cyclical migraines
  • Sugar cravings
  • Breast or ovarian cysts
  • Low sex drive
  • Low energy
  • Endometriosis
  • PCOS

Women who are experiencing one or more of these symptoms should consider ditching caffeine for good. You should also give up caffeine if you suspect you have a caffeine intolerance.

How Can I Tell If I’m Caffeine Intolerant?

As I mentioned above, caffeine intolerance is surprisingly common, but most of us think of ourselves as immune to caffeine’s harshest effects. And almost everyone who drinks coffee or other caffeinated beverages will recognize that familiar pick-me-up feeling that caffeine brings. But if you experience any of the symptoms on the following list—symptoms that are often attributed to other conditions or physiological responses—you might be caffeine intolerant. Symptoms like:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue (yes, fatigue!)
  • High blood pressure
  • Poorly balanced blood sugar
  • Digestive distress
  • Feeling wired but tired
  • Racing heartbeat

You suffer from a hormone condition related to estrogen dominance (like PCOS or endometriosis)In many cases, these symptoms are chalked up to other diagnoses, like adrenal fatigue or anxiety disorders, but the real culprit might be coffee OR the causes of your symptoms are multifactorial and coffee consumption is one of the factors.

Caffeine Damages Fertility — in Both Men and Women

Caffeine has a significant negative impact on fertility for both men and women, yet it’s rarely ever mentioned as a dietary change that supports conception. Here’s just some of what the research tells us about the link between caffeine and infertility:

What About Upgraded Coffee?

In my new book, In the FLO, I expose the gender bias inherent in medical, fitness, and nutrition research and in health trends. Upgraded coffee is a great example of this in action. It can be great for men, and it's questionable for women.

Here's why:

Coffee can be a potent biohacking tool for men who experience an energy dip in the afternoon as they run out of  their testosterone and cortisol supply for the day or for those who are intermittent fasting. People with female physiology, however, do not have the same issue, nor is it safe to practice intermittent fasting during your reproductive years, as I uncover in In the FLO, and, hence, do not need to compensate for the same daily energy dip. For men, caffeine as an energy booster makes sense for their bodies and their unique hormone patterns (so long as they have no CYP1A2 gene variation).In the female-centric health paradigm, you want to boost your energy by balancing your blood sugar and supporting as your estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and insulin fluctuations throughout the month by working with your infradian rhythm.  

Eliminating coffee and using The Cycle Syncing Method™ to eat, move, and supplement in a phase-based pattern is the best way to biohack for increased energy. Women’s bodies are brilliantly designed to conserve energy (so we are better able to conceive and carry a pregnancy). Our bodies retain fluids longer and we metabolize the compounds contained in foods and beverages much more slowly. Men drink and excrete both alcohol and caffeine faster and more efficiently than women, meaning these substances don’t have as significant an impact on their physiology or lead to caffeine toxicity.

If you have female hormones and you choose to consume caffeine, it IS essential to consume it with or after a meal that contains some healthy fats — to keep blood sugar stable and never on an empty stomach. You don’t need to add butter to your coffee. But of course my top recommendation is to give up caffeine all together!

How to Wean Yourself Off Coffee

Ready to give your hormones some TLC by ditching coffee? Here’s how to come off coffee with fewer withdrawal symptoms and no loss of energy:

Eat a big, nutrient-dense breakfast.

Eat a phytonutrient-rich breakfast with lots of healthy, high-quality fats and protein every day. This could be a (free-range organic) egg omelette with spinach plus gluten-free avocado toast drizzled in extra virgin olive oil. Or a smoothie with nut butter and hemp protein.  Make breakfast the biggest meal of your day. Your body needs most of its fuel in the morning (rather than the evening) to support healthy energy levels throughout the day.

Shore up your adrenal system with supplements and adaptogenic herbs.

Herbs like ginkgo biloba and rhodiola support sharp thinking and mental focus, making them a good addition to your routine when you are trying to give up coffee and caffeinated tea. Vitamin B12 and vitamin B5 are necessary nutrients for maintaining healthy sustained energy everyday, and most people are deficient. Maca root powder is another plant compound that helps boost energy and support the adrenal system without taking a toll in adrenal and whole body health, like coffee does.

Seek out healthy substitutes.

Swap coffee for kukicha or “twig” tea, which is made from the roasted stem from which green tea leaves are plucked. It has a nutty taste and is perfect any time of the day. It’s also alkalizing for the blood versus the acid-forming cup of coffee. I am a tea collector, and I know that most herbal tea over time just tastes like hot potpourri. But kukicha tea is in a non-floral, non-herbaceous class by itself. You can also drink maca root powder as a tea. It has a coffee-like taste, helps with energy and detox, and is especially delicious with a bit of non-dairy creamer and a small dollop of honey. Roasted dandelion root tea and burdock root tea both have a satisfying earthy flavor.

Replenish your micronutrients.

Coffee drains the body of essential micronutrients. If you have a history of caffeine use, your body will need supplemental nutrients in order to bring your reproductive hormones back into balance.

Practice The Cycle Syncing Method™.

When you eat, exercise, and work in a way that supports your fluctuating hormones, you will build energy daily instead of working against your hormones and leaving yourself depleted and drained. If you are new to The Cycle Syncing Method™, star by downloading the MyFlo app and tracking your 28-day hormone cycle, also known as your infradian rhythm.

If you occasionally Indulge in caffeine, remember that size matters.

Take the European approach to coffee drinking. Drink a small cup of fresh espresso, rather than a giant cup (or two or three) of coffee and only have it with food. And make a habit of savoring your occasional cup of coffee instead of guzzling it on the run. And on any day you have caffeine, make sure to rehydrate with coconut water or another healthy source of electrolytes.

How to Biohack Your Orgasm

If your sex life leaves you wanting, you’re in good company. A 2015 study found that over half of all women described their sex life as unfulfilling, and Americans — specifically young Americans — are having less sex than previous generations. I talk with women everyday, both clients and friends, who describe low libido and trouble with orgasm like it is a fact of life. Why are Americans, and particularly women, experiencing such dissatisfaction in their sex lives? The reasons are many, from relational problems to the demands and stresses of modern life (which have only increased during the pandemic), and the solutions are just as wide-ranging. Sometimes it requires working on our relationships; sometimes it requires looking at our work-life balance. Often it requires both.

But a big contributing factor for women in their reproductive years is lack of knowledge about the infradian rhythm, or the 28-day hormone cycle we experience each month. The infradian rhythm modulates sexual desire and response across the menstrual cycle. The more you know about the infradian rhythm, the better sex you can have. Women also experience four distinct stages of arousal, and the more you know about each stage, the better orgasms you can have.  For a deeper dive, check out chapter 8 of In the FLO.

There are two steps to biohacking your orgasm:

Step 1 - Learn how to get and stay in orgasmic plateau for as long as possible

Step 2 - Identify which phase of the cycle you're in so you can provide yourself with the hacks you need to achieve orgasmic plateau in each phase successfully.

Here’s what you need to know:

Understanding the Stages of Arousal

The first step in having a more fulfilling sex life is understanding the mechanics of the arousal process. When you understand the four distinct phases of arousal, you’re better able to biohack your sexual response and experience better, more consistent pleasure.

The first stage of arousal: Tumescence

The first stage of arousal is called tumescence. It’s when you experience the tingly sensation of wanting to have sex. Here’s what’s happening inside your body during tumescence: your heart races and blood rushes to your clitoris. You also experience vaginal lubrication and increased blood flow to the breasts and nipples. During certain phases of your cycle, including this one, it can take longer for this initial arousal process to kick in (which we will talk more about in a minute), and you can take extra steps to help your body along during those phases.

The Second Stage of Arousal: Orgasmic Plateau

Levels of dopamine and epinephrine increase and the pleasure centers in your brain light up like  a Christmas tree. Meanwhile, activity goes down in the brain regions associated with anxiety. Your clitoris becomes more sensitive and your brain sends signals to your muscles telling them to contract. Climax is where your body is headed, and your body is getting ready for that. But don’t rush the process. Extending the orgasmic plateau helps your body release stress hormones and triggers other health benefits, like improved immune function. Spending more time in the plateau stage can also lead to a more powerful orgasm. I recommend trying to spend close to 20 minutes in this stage once or twice a week.

The Third Stage of Arousal: Climax

This stage is brief but powerful! It’s when your brain produces a rush of feel-good neurochemicals that make your whole body tingle. If you are having sex with a partner, those same chemicals will increase your feelings of connectedness with that person. Your muscles contract and relax This lasts a short time, but it electrifies the nerve endings in your clitoris and feels fantastic.

The Fourth Stage of Arousal: Refractory Period

This stage is when your body starts to come back to baseline. Your physiological systems slow back down and most people feel relaxed and connected.

How to Sync Your Orgasm with Your Infradian Rhythm

The next step in biohacking your way to more pleasure is to understand how your hormones change over the course of your infradian rhythm, or the 28-day hormone cycle your body moves through every month. As your hormones shift and change each month, it affects your cognitive function, energy, mood, and libido, as well as how you experience the four stages of arousal. Many women think that, if it is taking them longer than usual to climax or to get in the mood, there is something wrong with them. That’s not the case! How long it takes for your body to feel ready for sex depends on which phase of your cycle you’re in. The more you know about the phases of your cycle, the more you can work with your body to experience more pleasure.

Here is what you need to know about the 4 phases of your cycle:

FOLLICULAR

  • Duration: 7–10 Days
  • Cyclical Focus: Novelty
  • Hormonal happenings: Low hormone levels during this phase, but your estrogen is rising.
  • Body: Dry phase. Vaginal dryness is normal.
  • Desire focus: You need to engage the biggest sexual organ in the body — your brain — to get in the mood.
  • Practical: Use lubricant during this phase and take your time getting to the orgasmic plateau.

OVULATORY

  • Duration: 3–4 Days
  • Cyclical Focus: Receiving
  • Hormonal happenings: You get your biggest surge of estrogen during this phase, and testosterone comes on the scene.
  • Body: Wet phase. Lots of cervical fluid during this phase provides natural lubrication.
  • Desire focus: Ovulation stimulates your desire to procreate, so you will be more in the mood physically during this phase.
  • Practical: You likely won’t need lube during this phase and you can achieve orgasmic plateau more easily with clitoral stimulation.

LUTEAL

  • Duration: 10–14 Days
  • Cyclical Focus: Clarity
  • Hormonal happenings: Estrogen and progesterone arrive on the scene, and testosterone is still present in the first half of this phase.
  • Body: Wet phase. Self-lubricating.
  • Desire: In the first half of this phase, testosterone will increase libido. During the second half of this phase, you might be less interested in sex than normal as your hormone levels start to wane.
  • Practical: Focus on lots of foreplay during this time — and take your time. Don’t rush toward the orgasmic plateau.

MENSTRUAL

  • Duration: 3–7 Days Cyclical
  • Focus: Recharge
  • Hormonal happenings: Your hormones are at their lowest levels during this phase. Body: Dry phase (menstrual blood is not lubricating).
  • Desire focus: It can be normal not to feel desire at all during this phase, but the increased volume of the uterus can add pleasurable pressure to your g-spot, reminding you that sex might feel good right now.
  • Practical: Use lube and focus on the clitoris.

If your sex life has become lackluster, or if you’ve always suspected that you could be experiencing more sexual pleasure, use this cyclical knowledge to biohack your orgasm. Orgasm is good for your health: it helps balance hormones and flush the stress hormone cortisol. It is also good for your quality of life. And if you want to learn even more about sex and your cycle, check out my latest book In the Flo.

Always remember that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you! You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!

The Best Detox for Women

Quick fixes don’t work, though we all wish they would. If you’ve been following FLO Living for a while (or even for a short time), you know I advocate for making good choices every day, creating sustainable lifestyle habits that last for the long term, and living in line with your infradian rhythm, or the innate 28-day hormone cycle that controls six key areas of the body, all year long. It’s an evidence based, results-driven perspective and it really works.

That said, I do recommend doing the right kind of detox — emphasis on the words “right kind” — periodically. A detox that focuses on replenishing the nutrients and minerals your body needs while reducing the amount of nutritional clutter that comes into your body (think sugar, caffeine, and the pesticides and herbicides found on conventional produce) can kickstart hormonal healing and accelerate the disappearance of period problems like heavy or irregular periods, fatigue, acne, moodiness, brain fog, bloating, weight gain, and weight loss resistance. What makes a detox healthy and supportive (versus depleting and destabilizing)? When should you detox? How can you detox safely?

In this post, I give you everything you need to know about doing a safe, hormone-supportive detox. And I share the detailed 4-Day Detox plan that I designed specifically to help you balance your hormones and erase period problems.If you’ve tried detox protocols in the past and they haven’t worked, this post is for you.

How Do You Know If You Need to Detox?

A healthy, hormone-supportive detox isn’t a daily lifestyle. It’s a short, thoughtful, nourishing protocol that you can follow a couple times a year to help rebalance your hormones ease pesky period problems. How can you tell when you’d benefit from doing a hormone supportive detox? Here are some clues your body might be giving you:

  • You feel sluggish and tired most days, even after getting a good night’s sleep
  • You have trouble concentrating
  • You feel irritable and moody most days
  • Your body feels heavy, weighed down
  • You feel bloated most days
  • Your PMS is worse than usual
  • You’re breaking out regularly
  • You’re having increased food cravings
  • You’ve been relying on caffeine to jumpstart each day
  • You’ve been relying on alcohol to come down at night
  • You’ve gained some weight and it just won’t seem to come back off

If you can identify with the symptoms on this list, your hormones need some TLC and one of the best ways to start that process is with a detox. But not just any detox! A healthy, healing detox is NOT a crash diet, juice cleanse, or fast. If you want to feel energized, refreshed, boosted in body and spirit, as well as lose a few pounds and get glowing skin, you need a detox that nourishes and supports you, not deprives you.

Why Is Doing a Detox Important?

Modern life is hard on hormones. Here are just some of the things we are exposed to everyday that interfere with optimal hormone balance and contribute to unpleasant symptoms like fatigue, acne, depression, anxiety, brain fog, mood swings, weight gain, weight loss resistance, and period problems, like severe PMS, heavy or irregular periods, bloating, and menstrual migraines:

  • Environmental toxins (household cleaning products, body care products, lawn chemicals)
  • The pesticides and herbicides on conventional food
  • Sugar/high-glycemic foods
  • Gluten
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Not eating enough phytonutrient-rich foods
  • Chronic stress
  • Sleep deprivation

What is the Best Detox Protocol for Women?

The best detox for people with female physiology in their reproductive years is a detox that helps balance hormones, replenish missing nutrients and minerals, support the liver, and facilitate the elimination of toxins — all while allowing you to feel nourished and satisfied. Fasts, juice cleanses, and starvation diets do more damage to hormones than good!I’ve designed a simple, powerfully effective detox that accomplishes all of this. My 4-Day Hormone Detox has you eating fresh, nourishing food for 3 meals a day, plus snacks. You won’t feel hungry, hangry, or deprived. You will prep food and then you will be eating frequently throughout the day, instead of watching the clock for your next juice.

Many women have told me that the 4-Dday Hormone Detox is not something they live through but something they actually look forward to!Women who have done this cleanse have lost 10 lbs, cleared up stubborn acne, improved their energy, sharpened their thinking, solved period problems, and boosted their moods.I created this cleanse using the principles of functional nutrition and my deep understanding of hormonal biochemistry. Every meal combines foods that help support the liver and that help restore and sustain the delicate endocrine (hormone) system.

What’s more, the detox is designed to stabilize blood sugar, regulate your adrenal system, improve estrogen elimination, and engage your healing feminine energy. The protocol will also increase the micronutrients you need to manufacture the right amounts of these hormones and to signal to them to do their jobs at the right times for you.

What to Expect During and After the Detox?

The 4-Day Hormone Detox is designed to boost your energy, ease period problems, clear your skin, and improve your mood. It also resets your relationship with food, getting you back into healthy balance.More specifically, here is some of what you can expect:

Skin Benefits

The main environmental triggers of adult acne are dairy, caffeine, sugar (and high-glycemic foods, and gluten, and these are all eliminated during the 4-Day Detox. You’ll also increase the amount of skin-clearing, hormone-supportive nutrients in your diet, especially omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. These micronutrients also support your liver, which is responsible for clearing excess estrogen from your system. When the liver is sluggish, excess estrogen builds up and contributes to breakouts.

Menstrual Health Benefits

Because the Detox is designed to balance your hormones, you will notice an improvement in period problems, like PMS, cramps, bloating, and heavy or irregular periods.

Mood Benefits

If you’ve been experiencing anxiety, low mood, depression, or just a sluggishness and demotivation, then the 4-Day Detox can help. One root cause of mood swings and hormone instability is imbalanced blood sugar. The Detox is designed to balance blood sugar. Many women experience their worst moods (or mood swings) the week before their period, and this is fueled by high estrogen/low progesterone, which the Detox also helps correct by supporting the liver (to eliminate excess estrogen) and boosting B vitamin stores (which helps with progesterone production).

Body Composition Benefits

Bloating can get better during the detox. You’re might also  lose a few pounds, too. That’s because balanced blood sugar correlates with lower levels of insulin — and lower insulin is correlated with less fat stored around the waistline. (Insulin is an important and necessary hormone in the body, but too much of it in the body — which happens when blood sugar is high or chronically unstable — is associated with the storage of unwanted body fat.)

Emotional Benefits

During the detox, you’ll be journaling on specific topics that will expand your perspective, increase your sense of confidence and calm, and support you in connecting with your feminine energy and creativity. You’ll be having a conversation with yourself and your body that you can use to make positive changes in your life. The Detox is also designed to shift your relationship with food, encouraging you to actually engage with and enjoy what you eat.If your body and mind need a boost, I highly recommend the 4-day Hormone Detox. It is nourishing, restorative, and easy — no deprivation or punishing rules — so it can be rolled out when you need it to help you get back on track. WHEN is the optimal time to do a detox? You should do a detox during your follicular and ovulation phases only. Due to infradian changes, your metabolism is slower in the first half of your cycle and requires less calories, so you can tolerate the cleanse most easily then. Learn more about the infradian effect on metabolism here.

What Happens After You Finish the 4-Day Hormone Detox

After the 4-Dday Hormone Detox, it’s important to take small but effective steps everyday to keep toxins out of your system. You’ll want to maintain the good work you did during the targeted detox to keep your hormones healthy all year round.I recommend eating a nutrient-dense diet, full of good fats, greens, high-fiber foods, and high-quality proteins. Your liver needs the nutrients from those foods to process the excess hormones and toxins and eliminate them from your body. Specifically, the liver breaks down and eliminates toxins in four phases:

Phase 1: The liver breaks down toxins into smaller components by using nutrients from food such as glutathione, B vitamins, and C vitamins. These smaller components are called free radicals and they are more toxic once they’re broken down, so it’s critical to flush them from the body ASAP.

Phase 2: These free radicals are combined with the selenium and amino acids in the liver – again, sourced from your food – and they become harmless and water-soluble through the process.

Phase 3: Then these water-soluble molecules bind to fiber — yes, the very same fiber you get in food! — and are escorted out of the body.

Phase 4: Toxins are eliminated via your skin, your lymphatic system, and bowel movements.This is one of the reasons why food is such a core component of the FLO Protocol, and why living in line with your infradian rhythm depends so heavily on the foods you eat (and don’t eat). Optimal liver function also helps promote healthy weight maintenance and weight loss.  In short, your liver needs MORE nutrients, not less, to do its job effectively. To supply your liver with a steady stream of hormone-supportive nutrients and promote detox everyday, give the following foods a starring role in your daily diet all year round:

  • Gutathione-heavy vegetables like avocados, carrots, broccoli, spinach, apples, asparagus and melon. Add two additional servings a day
  • Selenium-rich foods like as oats, eggs, and Brazil nuts.
  • Fiber-rich foods like nuts, seeds, lentils and peas. Add flaxseeds to your breakfast eggs and lunch salad.

You can also speed up the elimination process and get those toxins out your body fast with a couple of simple lifestyle hacks.

  • Sweat – encourage your lymphatic system to get in on the game of releasing toxins by giving it a gentle movement massage. Workout in a way that makes you sweat, whether that’s a home dance workout or a hatha yoga class.
  • Soak – draw yourself a bath full of epsom salts, the ancient and highly effective way to detox via your body’s largest organ – your skin.

In addition, I recommend all people with female physiology in their reproductive years take targeted, hormone-supportive supplements that insure your liver gets all the nutrients it needs to do its elimination work. Even when we eat the cleanest diet, there are factors beyond our control (like the nutrient-depleted soil our food is grown in) that make it difficult to get all the nutrients we need from food. The five formulations in Balance by FLO Living provide the essential micronutrient support that you need to balance your hormones. Think of them as your personal “insurance policy” against endocrine disruptors like stress, coffee, environmental toxins, lack of sleep, and plain-old modern life.

You no longer have to waste money on low-quality supplements or supplements that don’t target your unique hormonal profile. I’ve formulated all the essential supplements you need to heal your hormones with the highest quality ingredients. The Balance by FLO Living supplement kit is thoroughly researched, rigorously tested, and perfectly suited to meet your needs. Always remember that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you. You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!

Balance Supplements

I designed my Balance Supplements specifically to help women address these key deficiencies, balance their hormones, and reclaim their energy.You don’t need to feel listless and exhausted for 1-2 weeks every month. You can reclaim your energy in as little as one 28-day hormone cycle. BALANCE by FLO Living is the FIRST supplement kit for happier periods that supports balancing your hormones. Balance Supplements include five formulations that provide essential micronutrients to balance your hormones. Think of them as your personal “insurance policy” against environmental factors that are (knowingly or unknowingly) zapping your energy every month. Balance Supplements can help you have more energy within a few weeks!

Cycle Syncing with Herbs & Supplements

PMS stinks. You shouldn’t have to spend one week each month with pain, bloating, acne, brain fog, and fatigue. You shouldn’t lose so much time to feeling crummy. You don’t deserve all those weeks of lost productivity and being less present and engaged in your life. If PMS and period problems are part of your life, you’re being robbed! You can reclaim your health and your life. How? By using food, supplements and lifestyle to address the root causes of period pain and PMS.At Flo Living, we believe all women should have access to easy, affordable reproductive care.

For over 15 years we’ve helped thousands of women around the world balance their hormones and reclaim their health with nutrition, supplements and lifestyle. Our proven protocol is backed by science and research to help you achieve real results.Sure, you can try spot treating your period problems with ibuprofen. But spot treating doesn’t work, which — let’s face it— you already knew. If spot treating worked, you’d take an ibuprofen or Midol and feel all-the-way better. Your fatigue would disappear. Your acne would clear right up. You would feel healthy and well all month long. Have you ever taken ibuprofen and felt truly alive and symptom-free?

Simply put, spot treating PMS doesn’t work. In fact, it can make the underlying issues that cause PMS and period problems worse. Why? Two reasons:

  1. Spot treatments pave over symptoms instead of treating the root causes. You may get temporary relief from popping an ibuprofen, but the hormone imbalances that cause your symptoms go untreated and ignored — and, often, they get worse.
  2. Spot treating means taking supplements ONLY when you have symptoms, and by the time you have symptoms your system is already out of balance. The hormone imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, and system-wide asymmetry that is causing you to feel miserable is already well established, and spot treating can’t fix that.

But you CAN erase period problems and PMS. You don’t have to suffer every month.I used to have terrible PMS, but now I have healthy, regular periods. I only know my period is coming when my period tracking app tells me it’s coming. This is a complete turnaround from when I was younger. My PMS left me on the sofa, curled up with a hot water bottle, and desperately trying to hide my acne and bloating.

What’s the secret to easing PMS and having happier periods every month? It’s supporting your hormones during each phase of your 28-day hormone cycle, not just taking a pill when symptoms crop up. Having a better period means doing the OPPOSITE of spot treating: The secret is using specific herbs and supplements in every phase of your monthly cycle to address root causes BEFORE they become pesky, unwanted symptoms.  

The Benefits of Cycle Syncing with Herbs & Supplements

When you choose the right foods, adaptogens, and herbs at the right time during your cycle, you will ease PMS symptoms AND you will do so much more. You’ll experience:

  • Consistent, clear mental focus every day of the month
  • Consistent energy levels every day of the month
  • Clear skin all month long
  • No bloating or cramping the week before your period
  • Steadier mood without dramatic mood swings

The first step to successfully synchronizing your food, supplement, and lifestyle choices with your 28-day hormone cycle — and freeing yourself from PMS and problem periods — is understanding your hormone cycle, which is governed by the infradian rhythm, and supporting your body in key ways during each phase of the cycle.

Support Your Body’s Second Cycle: The Infradian Rhythm

Menstruating women experience two biological cycles:

  1. THE CIRCADIAN RHYTHM is the 24-hour biological cycle that people of all genders experience. It governs the sleep-wake cycle and energy fluctuations each day.
  2. THE INFRADIAN RHYTHM is the 28-day hormonal cycle. It’s experienced by people with female physiology during their reproductive years. The infradian rhythm has four phases, and each one requires specific herb and micronutrient support to balance hormones and keep symptoms at bay.

The infradian rhythm, also known as the body’s ‘second clock’, affects six different body systems:

  1. Brain
  2. Metabolism
  3. Immune system
  4. Microbiome
  5. Stress response system
  6. Reproductive system

How much of a difference does the infradian rhythm make on these six systems?

  • The infradian rhythm creates a 25% change in your brain chemistry over the course of each month, which means you will have different levels of focus, and different areas of strength, during the course of each month. When you plan your schedule in accordance with your infradian rhythm, you can be more productive with less stress.
  • Metabolism speeds up and slows down across the infradian rhythm, requiring changes in when and what you eat, and how you work out.
  • Cortisol levels go up during certain phases of your infradian cycle, so without proper support and care during those phases you may experience more stress and inflammation, and your workouts (depending on what type of workouts you do) may be counterproductive.
  • Your skin changes throughout the course of your infradian rhythm, meaning you will benefit from different skin care routines at different times of the month
  • As your hormones fluctuate during the infradian rhythm, your body requires different herb and supplement support to help you system stay balanced. Targeted herbs also help your body detox, and keeps your whole body nourished.

The infradian rhythm has four distinct phases. Your body and brain change significantly in each phase, as your reproductive hormones fluctuate:

  • Phase 1: Follicular (the 7 to 10 days after your period)
  • Phase 2: Ovulatory (the to 4 days in the middle of your cycle)
  • Phase 3: Luteal (the 10 to 14 days between ovulation and your period)
  • Phase 4: Menstrual (the 3 to 7 days of your period)

The Best Herbs & Supplements for Each Phase of Your Infradian Rhythm

Since your hormones are changing each week, and you have different symptoms from those hormonal ratios each phase, it makes sense for you to use supplements in a targeted way for each phase to ease symptoms and smooth out your cycle.  I designed the FLO Living Cycle Syncing Supplements to give you the targeted support you need for a symptom-free cycle. These supplements give you the herbal and micronutrient infrastructure you need  to address the root causes of period problems and erase symptoms like PMS, bloating, acne, mood swings, low energy, and fatigue.   And you simply take the one for the phase you’re in - period.

#1: CoQ10 for the FOLLICULAR PHASE

Right after your period ends, you can feel fatigued and less focused. You need to create deep energy from within your cells.  CoQ10 is an antioxidant that supports healthy energy levels, protects our cells against oxidative stress, and may even help reverse some of the damage caused by free radicals. (That is a fancy way of saying that it helps slow down aging). CoQ10 helps support balanced blood sugar, which is essential for maintaining healthy hormones, and it helps promote good ovarian response and egg health. CoQ10 is important for protecting your fertility now and in the future.

#2: DIM for the OVULATORY PHASE

It’s very common for excess estrogen during this phase can trigger ovarian pain and acne. Your body needs help to break down estrogen faster. DIM is a powerful natural compound found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussel sprouts, and it helps your body clear out used-up estrogen. Studies show that DIM helps support healthy estrogen levels. Balanced estrogen levels are key for clear skin all month long and healthy weight maintenance. Helping the body detox estrogen efficiently and effectively also helps reduce PMS symptoms like cramps and bloating.

#3: Chromium and cinnamon for the LUTEAL PHASE

Metabolism is naturally higher during the luteal phase of the cycle. But most of us don’t eat enough calories because we’ve been taught to believe that we should eat the same calories daily (turns out that’s only good for the guys). Our ability to burn calories goes up — but so do our food cravings. During this phase, it’s critical to maintain balanced blood sugar, so taking a supplement that supports blood sugar stability can be really helpful during this phase. Research shows that consuming cinnamon is associated with significant decreases in fasting blood glucose, and chromium has been shown to help with insulin sensitivity and better carbohydrate metabolism.

#4: Quercetin and Nettles for the MENSTRUAL PHASE

During the menstrual phase of your cycle, your uterus needs support to reduce inflammation and soothe cramps. That’s why I chose quercetin and nettles for this supplement. Both help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Nettles are rich in vitamins A and C, as well as iron and calcium, which helps replenish nutrients during your bleed. Quercetin supports healthy immune system function which is slightly suppressed during this phase and a healthy inflammatory response. I’ve been researching the best herb and supplement strategies for menstruating women for the past 20 years, and I designed these powerful, supportive supplements using my deep well of knowledge. If you suffer from PMS and other period problems, I invite you to try the FLO Living Cycle Syncing Supplements. They are specifically designed to support your unique female physiology and address the root causes of period problems and PMS. Unlike spot treatments like ibuprofen, the FLO Living Cycle Syncing Supplements help you optimize your hormones during each phase of your cycle so you can find lasting relief. You deserve better than the temporary, partially effective, and sometimes dangerous spot treatments on the market. Each formula in the FLO Living Cycle Syncing Supplement kit has been scientifically developed using therapeutic-grade herbs, and we guarantee NO fillers and NO impurities. It’s a myth that PMS is part of life, and that cramps, bloating, and other symptoms are just part of having a period. Period problems AREN’T inevitable. You can use your knowledge of the infradian rhythm to address the root causes of PMS and period pain and transform your monthly cycle into one that is symptom free. You deserve to feel better!At Flo Living, we are building a future where it’s easy and simple to get targeted support for your hormonal symptoms from your first period to your last. With the right support, women in their reproductive years can ease their symptoms, live with less pain, and look and feel their best — which is what every woman deserves.

NOTE: We use the words “woman” and “women” and she/her pronouns throughout these posts for ease of writing, but the principles and advice apply to any person, regardless of gender identity, who was born with female physiology. At the same time, if you are a person born with male physiology and you identify as non-binary or you are transitioning to identify as female, using a cyclical support system can help you feel more in sync with your female energy.

The Cycle Syncing® Supplement Kit

Targeted Nutraceuticals to help you optimize each phase of your cycle

Since your hormones change each phase of your cycle and you have different symptoms from those hormonal ratios each phase, you need targeted supplements for each phase to ease those specific symptoms during that phase.This kit will help relieve your period symptoms so you can stay energized and focused all month long.

Which Book Should You Read?

I love how social media is connecting us as women in a historic way. I love sharing everything I’ve learned over the past 15 years about female biochemistry, functional nutrition, endocrinology, and neuropsychology AND I love hearing from you. Specifically, I love your questions!Recently, I’ve been getting asked one question in particular: “Hey Alisa, I want to read your new book. Should I start with your first book WomanCode? Or should I start with your new book In the FLo?My answer is: Yes, and yes. 😊In all seriousness, I’m honored and thrilled when women read my books. I am on a mission to help move the conversation and the care forward for women for their hormones. I believe we deserve to feel better and I want that for you.These are some of the things that are possible:

  • Your period problems may improve, or you may notice your periods become problem-free
  • You may experience less PMS, or you may notice that your PMS improves so much that you don’t notice symptoms
  • If your period has been missing or irregular, your period may come back or you may experience more regular periods
  • Your skin may clear up.
  • Your mood may improve.
  • Your energy might improve.
  • You might experience more presence and joy in your life
  • Yoy might notice you are more productive at work (while putting in less effort — a win-win!)
  • You might notice that your sleep is more restorative and/or that your fall asleep easier
  • Your sex drive may improve.
  • Your anxiety may go down.

I built FLO Living as a virtual online health center to help women solve their hormonal symptoms, and that is what my team and I do 24/7 everyday of the year. We offer a variety of programs and resources, from free guides and detox protocols to individual coaching sessions and targeted hormone-balancing supplements.   Why?  Because women deserve more from their hormonal healthcare.  It’s time to finally feel better in our bodies.I invite people with period problems to start wherever they feel most comfortable. For some, it might be a membership in one of our Cycle Syncing™ programs. For others, it might be doing some deep reading — and for that I recommend my books. You can start with either one — or both! Here is a guide to each book to help you choose the best starting place for you.

IF YOU HAVE A MENSTRUAL CONDITION:

Start with my book WomanCode: Perfect Your Cycle Amplify Your Fertility, Supercharge Your Sex Drive, and Become a Power Source if…

  • You suffer from missing or irregular periods or other period problems like PCOS, Fibroids, Endometriosis, bloating, acne, PMS, severe cramps, heavy bleeding, or menstrual migraines.
  • You’ve been led to believe that Western medicine is the only option you have for healing your hormones
  • You’ve tried a bunch of Rxs, like prescription acne medication and hormonal birth control and they haven’t worked — or they’ve made your hormone problems worse.
  • You feel off — like you’re weighed down, lacking energy, lacking vitality, stuck — and you want to feel better.
  • You want to learn about functional nutrition, exercise timing, and healthy detox

Why I wrote WomanCode

I wrote WomanCode to tell my story. When I was younger, I struggled with PCOS. I weighed 200 lbs. My face, chest, and back were covered in cystic acne. I got my period twice a year. I was exhausted, depressed, and couldn’t concentrate or think clearly. And that wasn’t the worst of it, according to my doctors. I was told that as I aged, I would suffer from obesity, infertility, diabetes, and possibly cancer and heart disease. They could give me drugs, my doctor said, but it would only help with symptoms — maybe — and it would never cure me. I refused to accept this.

I knew there had to be a different way. I dove into the research and discovered that food was the most powerful drug I could use to balance my hormones and ease my symptoms. I also discovered the importance of eating and living in a cyclical pattern, or shifting what I eat and how I exercise and organize my calendar in line with my hormonal shifts throughout the month.

When I figured out the cyclical piece of the puzzle, everything fell into place. I got my period. I lost 50 pounds. My cystic acne went away. My brain fog disappeared. I had energy and less anxiety. I wrote WomanCode to tell this story and, most importantly, to share everything I learned about hormonal healing with you. Whether you have PCOS, another clinical hormonal imbalance, or chronic period problems like PMS, cramps, heavy bleeding, bloating or acne, you can use the same strategy I used to heal and remain symptom-free for the last 15 years.

IF YOU ARE BETWEEN THE AGES OF 18 AND 45

Start with my book In the Flo: Unlock Your Hormonal Advantage and Revolutionize Your Life if…

  • You want to deepen your understanding of your female biochemistry and your infradian rhythm, or the innate 28-day hormone cycle that regulates six key systems of the body
  • You eat a healthy diet, but you don’t seem to be getting results or what used to work for you has stopped working
  • You maintain a rigorous exercise routine but you don’t see results
  • You feel rushed, anxious, or exhausted much of the time
  • You feel like you aren’t as productive at work as you could be (despite putting in a LOT of effort)
  • Your libido has disappeared
  • You want to have more energy
  • You want to improve your interpersonal relationship
  • You want to have a healthier period
  • You want to biohack like a woman

Why I wrote In the Flo

I wrote In the Flo to introduce people with female biochemistry to the infradian rhythm. The infradian rhythm is an internal timekeeper, much like the 24-hour circadian rhythm, that is linked to the menstrual cycle. Here is just some of what the infradian rhythm does in the body:

  • The infradian rhythm creates a 25% change in your brain chemistry over the course of the month
  • Your metabolism speeds up and slows down predictably across the month and that you need to change what you eat and the intensity of your workouts each week in order to optimize your metabolism
  • Your cortisol levels are higher in one part of your infradian cycle, so pushing yourself through an intense workout bumps up cortisol levels even further, adding to your stress and inflammation, disrupting your hormones, and making you feel anxious and unfocused
  • People with female biochemistry need more sleep than men because we have a more complex brain and it needs 20 minutes longer to clean itself and reset for the cognitive day
  • People with female physiology tend to need less in the way of extreme self-care practices because we have more efficient biology.

One of my most significant discoveries over the past 15 years has been that women in their reproductive years have cyclical needs — and those needs shift as your hormones shift throughout your infradian rhythm. Our bodies and brains are different during each phase of our cycle, so our food, exercise, and self-care should be different each week, too. If you’ve been living in a ‘same-thing-everyday’ way, you’re not alone. There is a widespread cultural belief that we are supposed to repeat the same rituals every 24 hours — have the same morning routine, for example, or exercise the same way each week. But this insistence on doing the same thing day-in and day-out caters to the male hormonal biological rhythm.

Men follow the same predictable pattern everyday: the 24-hour circadian clock and only the 24-hour circadian clock. People with female physiology have two clocks, the circadian rhythm and the infradian rhythm.In the Flo is all about the infradian rhythm — understanding it, living in line with it, and optimizing your self care, including your food, exercise, and time management, to leverage your unique strengths during each phase of your infradian rhythm.If you want to heal your hormones, erase period problems, and get more out of your health — and your life — read In the Flo.

Both books complement each other and you will gain that much more by reading both. But if one appeals to you more than another at this moment, start there. You can also have me read to you with the audio books.  And if books aren't your cup of tea, that’s a-okay. Check out one of our other programs, memberships, or resources. If you are suffering from period problems or hormone imbalances, we can help.

My new book In the Flo will help you achieve all this — and more

If you’re ready to harness the power of your unique female biochemistry to look and feel your best, grab a copy of In the Flo and get to look, feel, and perform your best.

Where to go from here?

In The FLO Reviews

Cia⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑

"If you are a human with a womb cycle you need to read this! This book has changed my life completely, for the better. Did you know that you can only get pregnant 5-7 days out of the entire month!? This book taught me more about my female body than any health class ever has... I am so so so grateful!"

Kristen Dwyer ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑

"This book is blowing my mind. Amazing, science backed information and already helping my body so much. This book should be a mandatory reading in high school!"

Jessie ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑

"Total game changer in life, work, relationships and health. I love how the book is broken up into sections so that you can focus on different aspects from health to motherhood to sex, relationships, and more."

What is N-Acetyl Cysteine? NAC Benefits for Fertility, PCOS, & More

Whether you’re struggling with acne, bloating, PMS, or even PCOS or trying to conceive, hormonal imbalances can create all sorts of complications and painful symptoms. The good news is that identifying and supporting the root causes of hormone-related conditions may not be as mysterious an endeavor as you’d think. One of our favorite supplements for empowering women against their struggles with issues like heavy bleeding, fertility struggles, and other hormone-related conditions, is N-acetyl cysteine (NAC).

NAC is the supplement form of an amino acid called cysteine which has been used for decades to support functions that are linked to hormonal health. It is also the precursor to glutathione, and glutathione is essential for boosting liver detox. This is critical to helping us to break down estrogen which, when in excess, is often a root cause of many hormonal symptoms.

NAC benefits your hormonal health by supporting:

  • Ovulation and fertility
  • Liver and kidney detoxification
  • Healthy hormone balance
  • Insulin resistance

Intrigued? Let’s learn more about how NAC can support your journey.

NAC for fertility

Making a baby is hard work ... yeah, we said it! It may start off fun and flirty, but as you continue on your fertility journey you might learn that there’s more to it than you thought. And that’s not just a “you problem.” In fact, approximately 12% of US women between the ages of 15 and 44 have reported using infertility services, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Incorporating NAC into your wellness practice can be a really useful way to help calibrate your fertile factors. NAC has been shown to support the growth of healthy eggs and promote ovulation. It’s also been linked to increased ovarian function. A recent analysis of 15 randomized controlled trials found that NAC can be an effective adjuvant in unexplained female infertility (so, a therapy that follows the primary treatment), especially for women with high BMI, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress. (However, the authors did note that they’d like to see additional research.)

NAC for PCOS

If Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is behind your fertility struggles, know that you’re not alone—PCOS is one of the most common causes of female infertility in the US.In addition to causing irregular periods, weight gain, and acne, PCOS can lead to serious health complications, ranging from type 2 diabetes to hypertension to stroke. In short, it can feel like a crushing diagnosis if you’re struggling to get pregnant or regulate your hormones.

But that's where NAC comes in.Clomiphene citrate is a commonly prescribed medication for PCOS-related infertility, but alone, it doesn’t address the root hormonal imbalances that give rise to PCOS. A recent randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study of women with PCOS found that a combination of NAC and clomiphene citrate significantly increased ovulation and pregnancy rates among women with medication-resistant PCOS.

Another small study suggested that NAC’s antioxidant properties contributed to improving the level of circulating insulin and insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS and hyperinsulinemia (high levels of insulin in blood).And that’s not all you need to know if you’re living with PCOS. A prospective trial following 100 women with PCOS who received NAC or metformin for 24 weeks found that NAC produced a significant decrease in BMI, excess facial hair, and menstrual irregularity, as well as a drop in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels.

NAC for heavy bleeding & fibroids

Another common hormonal woe is heavy menstrual bleeding, or menorrhagia. During the first half of your cycle, estrogen rises and reaches its peak level when you ovulate. Your liver is responsible for breaking down estrogen, but things don’t always go as planned when you’re micronutrient deficient. Without proper nutrients—such as enough NAC or cysteine—your liver might struggle with detoxification, which causes the excess estrogen to circulate in your system. Again, this is where NAC is a valuable supplement in your wellness kit. NAC has been shown to support the liver’s detoxification process. This is essential because when the liver is overburdened, it can have trouble sweeping out excess estrogen from your system.This surplus of estrogen leads to two problems: a chance of the lining of the endometrium to grow back too thick, and the growth of fibroid tumors. NAC has been shown to help reduce the size of fibroids—common benign tumors that are found in the uterus and affect 70–80% of women by the end of their reproductive years.

8 Proven Ways to Regulate Your Period

Period problems take many shapes. Here are some of the most common:

Heavy periods
Light periods
Missing periods
Irregular or unpredictable periods
Severe PMS
Weight gain and/or weight loss resistance
Bloating
Fatigue
Moodiness
Acne

No matter how period problems show up for you, they disrupt your quality of life. And they point to an underlying hormone imbalance—one that can be addressed with food and lifestyle strategies. 

That’s right. There are specific, scientifically-backed strategies that will bring your hormones into harmony and erase your symptoms. You can think of it as a form of biohacking. Biohacking is the practice of using food, lifestyle, exercise, and targeted supplementation to enhance health, and you might have noticed that a lot of the people who are talking about biohacking are men. And that’s just fine… for men! Women can biohack, too, but we need strategies designed for our unique female physiology. 

Today, I’ve gathered up the best strategies for women who want to optimize their hormone health, and their overall health. Here’s what I recommend:

Proven Strategies to Erase Period Problems

If you take the following steps, you will notice an improvement in your symptoms within three to six months. (If you don’t feel better, consult a trusted healthcare practitioner to rule out a clinical condition. 

Healing Strategy #1: Practice The Cycle Syncing Method™ with food

Eating to ease period problems requires aligning your weekly meal plans with your 28-day cycle. Women have unique nutritional and energetic needs during each week of the month—unlike men, who can thrive by eating more or less the same way everyday—and you will look and feel your best when you match the vegetables, meats, plant proteins, fruits, and legumes you eat to your shifting hormonal needs. Think of it this way: as your hormones change, so does your menu!

If the idea of switching up what you eat each week feels challenging, start with my 4-Week Flo Food Challenge. And if you’re scratching your head (and maybe freaking out a little) because you don’t know what your hormones do or when, don’t panic! Use the MyFLO app to track your cycle and start eating cyclically.

Healing Strategy #2: Practice The Cycle Syncing Method™ with movement

To really optimize your hormonal health, you need to shift your workouts to fit your cycle in much the same way as you do your diet. Your body is primed for different kinds of activity across your cycle, just as its looking for different kinds of nutrition through each of the four phases. Ready to get started? Learn what type of exercise is right for each phase of your cycle here.  

Healing Strategy #3: Detox the RIGHT way

If you suffer from hormone imbalances and period problems, it can be tempting to do an extreme detox. The severe restrictions and big promises (Lose 20 pounds overnight! Eliminate all the toxins from your body!) sound like a relief after suffering with hormone-related symptoms for so long. But deprivation plans and strict detoxes backfire for the vast majority of women. Severe calorie restrictions tax our already overburdened adrenal and endocrine systems—and make our hormone problems worse.

Don’t get me wrong: a detox can help, but it must be the right kind of detox, one that focuses on clearing the body of excess estrogen. Excess estrogen in the body (relative to progesterone) contributes to everything from severe PMS to PCOS.

If you want to detox estrogen, don’t do a juice fast or a cleanse. Do a gentle detox that supports the body’s elimination process by giving it all the nutrients it needs. If you want even more support in doing a safe, nourishing detox, I designed a 4-day Hormone Detox to kickstart your hormonal healing.

Healing Strategy #4: Be very careful with intermittent fasting (if you do it at all)

Most studies on fasting have been done on men and/or have shown mixed results for women. One study found that intermittent fasting helped improve insulin sensitivity in men, but women didn’t get the same benefit. (Good insulin sensitivity is essential for balanced hormones.) At the same time, the study showed that women’s ability to tolerate glucose actually got worse during intermittent fasting. Other research shows that fasting can have a negative effect on cortisol, insulin, estrogen, and progesterone— all the major hormonal players in your body!

Studies suggest that intermittent fasting can be very helpful for women (and men) with compromised cellular health (individuals with cancer and/or those going through chemotherapy), but for women in generally good health who are working to balance hormones and heal hormone-related symptoms, I don’t recommend fasting.

Healing Strategy #5: Don’t default to the ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet, which is a high fat-low carbohydrate diet, is all the rage these days, but research suggests that it can mess with thyroid function— and thyroid health is absolutely essential for healthy hormone balance. Here’s where this biohack becomes sex specific: thyroid problems disproportionately affect women. It’s estimated that one in five women have a thyroid issue, and many of those cases are undiagnosed. If you’re trying to bring your hormones into balance, your best bet is to eat in line with your cycle—and leave the ketogenic diet for individuals with other health issues.

Healing Strategy #6: Ditch coffee

Upgraded coffee can work well for those who are efficient metabolizers of caffeine, but if you have period problems chances are more than good that you are not an efficient metabolizer.  In my experience, caffeine is a no-go for women who want to optimize hormone health.

Caffeine can increase the development of benign breast disease. For women with PCOS, fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and fibrocystic breasts, caffeine is a guaranteed way to make more cysts. Plus, caffeine mucks up hormone health in other ways, too. If you’re trying to solve your period problems, it helps to break this habit.

Healing Strategy #7: Ditch sugar

Sugar is bad for hormone health and bad for overall health. Say goodbye to sugary and high-glycemic foods and stick to high-fiber, high-phytonutrient whole foods that are rich in healthy proteins, fats, and complex carbs. 

Healing Strategy #8: Supplement like a girl

Women have unique micronutrient needs, and we can’t expect optimal hormonal health—or optimal overall health—when we follow blanket supplement prescriptions. We need supplements tailored to our unique female physiology. Specifically:

While every woman should be supplementing with B vitamins, if you’re suffering from hormone imbalances, you’ll need to be extra aware of your intake. Research suggests that intake of vitamins like thiamine (B1) is inversely related to endometriosis. Another important type of B vitamin, folic acid, is known to be important in managing PCOS.

Magnesium is a must for women with hormone imbalances since it improves insulin sensitivity, which has widespread implications for the entire hormone system. And if you’ve ever suffered from hot flashes (whether you’re menopausal or not even close) magnesium has been shown to significantly reduce the symptoms.

If you’re suffering with fibroids or any hormone-related health condition, vitamin D is an absolute must. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that supplementing with vitamin D reduced the size of uterine fibroids. This may be especially essential for African American women since they’re 3-4 times more likely to develop fibroids and 10 times more likely to be deficient in vitamin D than white women. More generally, vitamin D acts like a master hormone in the body, which is what makes it so critical for all women with hormone imbalances.

Probiotics are a must: one study found that in just 12 weeks, probiotics helped significantly reduced endometriosis pain. I designed my FLO Balance supplements with women’s unique micronutrient needs in mind. They contain everything you need to supplement strategically for optimal hormonal health.

Always remember that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you! You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!

Is Your Period Healthy?

How do you know if your hormones are healthy? The answer is in your 5th vital sign – your period.

The color of your flow, frequency of your period, and symptoms you have each month can tell you a lot about your health. There are 5 different V-SIGN TYPES, and knowing which one you have will help you get healthy now and prevent disease in the future.

Click here to take The V-SIGN TYPE™ Quiz NOW

A Functional Medicine Approach to Endometriosis

If you or a loved one suffers from endometriosis, you don’t need me to tell you how painful and debilitating the condition can be, and that conventional medical interventions for endometriosis are limited—and far from ideal. The condition involves inflammation, estrogen excess, and an abnormal immune response—but one of the things science doesn’t know about endometriosis is the best way to treat it.

To date, Western medicine’s best tools for dealing with endometriosis are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, or surgery. Both strategies are for pain control; neither one addresses the root causes of the condition. But no woman with endometriosis needs to live without hope. Lifestyle strategies for reducing inflammation, strengthening the immune system, supporting the liver, and balancing hormones can make a huge difference in reducing symptoms and improving quality of life.

What is Endometriosis?

It is a painful, sometimes debilitating condition that affects as many as one in 15 percent of women ages 15 to 44 in the United States. Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue, which is normally found in the uterus, grows in places outside the uterus—places where it shouldn’t be. Most of the time this misplaced endometrial tissue lands on the ovaries or fallopian tubes or, painfully, on the abdomen. Because endometrial tissue responds to the same hormonal shifts that trigger the menstrual cycle, the pain associated with endometriosis will follow the same 28-day cycle as your period.

Astonishingly, and tragically, many women with endometriosis aren’t diagnosed right away. The average delay in diagnosis is almost seven years. Seven years! This means many women suffer with terrible, sometimes crippling, endometriosis-related pain for the better part of a decade, thinking that it is just severe period problems.Endometriosis can happen to any menstruating women. But why the condition strikes some women and not others is not entirely clear. Some women may be genetically predisposed. Three other factors fuel endometriosis:

1. A faulty immune system response

In women with endometriosis, the immune system fails to destroy the endometrial tissue that lands outside the uterus.

2. Excess estrogen in the body

Unfortunately, and simply by virtue of the world we live in today, excess estrogen in women (and many men) is more the norm than the exception. This overload of estrogen can fuel endometriosis in some women

3. Inflammation

Inflammation, like estrogen excess, is driven by lifestyle. What we eat and the toxins we are exposed to (and how well our bodies can detox them) drive inflammation and fuel endometriosis.While you can’t control your genetics, you can reduce inflammation in your body, help your liver flush out excess estrogen, and support your immune system with the nutrition, targeted supplementation, and lifestyle.In the next several sections, I outline my favorite strategies for easing the symptoms of endometriosis. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

The Best Foods for Endometriosis

Think of food as your best weapon in the fight against the painful symptoms of endometriosis. When it comes to hormone conditions like PCOS, fibroids, and endo, food is medicine. I’ve broken down the list of foods I recommend into four important categories (1) immune-boosting foods, (2) detox-support foods, (3) liver-support foods, and (4) healthy protein sources (for healing).[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/2"][vc_column_text]

Foods to help boost immune function

These foods will help boost immune function:

  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Beans, peas & lentils
  • Green tea
  • Rooibos tea
  • Yogurt with live cultures and other fermented foods like kim chi and sauerkraut
  • Rhubarb
  • Berries
  • Seeds (like flax, chia, and pumpkin)

Food for Healthy Protein

I recommend these healthy protein sources:

  • Salmon
  • Beans
  • Chicken or turkey

Note:You can maximize your benefit by emphasizing these foods.

Fiber-Rich Food for Hormone Detox

I recommend these fiber-rich foods for helping your body detox excess hormones:

  • Beans, peas and legumes
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Low-glycemic fruits, like berries; citrus fruits; apples
  • Vegetables, especially dark leafy greens like kale; cruciferous vegetables, broccoli, and cauliflower; carrots and beets
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole grains (but NOT wheat or rye; it is important to avoid gluten)

Foods for Liver Support

I recommend these foods for liver support. The liver is the body’s main organ of detoxification and it plays a central role in helping the body detox from excess estrogen:

  • Artichokes
  • Beets
  • Burdock
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Lemon & Lime
  • Dandelion & mustard greens
  • Watercress

The Worst Foods for Endometriosis

As with any health-supportive diet, it’s as much about what you take out of your body as what you put in. If you have endometriosis, you’ll want to cut out or dramatically reduce the following foods:

Alcohol

Alcohol Is immunosuppressive and hard on the liver.

Caffeine

Some research has linked the intake of caffeine with endometriosis. Play it safe and avoid caffeinated beverages.

Refined and highly processed carbs

This includes pasta, white bread, candy, cookies, and other baked goods. These foods are inflammatory and high-glycemic, hence bad for any inflammatory condition, including endometriosis.

Dairy

Dairy is inflammatory and skim options are high-glycemic. Avoid all dairy if you have endometriosis, opting instead for coconut yogurt and kefir, and delicious non-dairy creamers made from nuts and seeds.

Fried foods and fast foods

Most fried foods and almost all fast food is prepared in unhealthy, inflammation-promoting cooking oils.

Red meat

Studies have linked red meat consumption to increased risk of endometriosis.

Sugar

Foods with a high-glycemic-index drive up inflammation, suppress the immune system and offer no phytonutrient support. If dark leafy greens are the win-win-win food of hormonal healing (because they address inflammation, immune function, and have fiber), sugar is the lose-lose-lose because it helps with none of those things — and actively interferes with your efforts to heal.

Processed foods with additives and preservatives

These foods introduce chemicals into the body that it neither needs or wants — and that it has to work very hard to detox from. Don’t force your body to use up precious resources getting rid of avoidable preservatives (when it could spend that time processing and eliminating estrogen). [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

The Best Supplements for Endometriosis

Food comes first when fighting endometriosis (or any hormonal imbalance). But using targeted, high-quality supplements is a close second. Here are the supplements I recommend for women with endometriosis:

Milk thistle

This herb contains the antioxidant silymarin, which helps repair the cells in the liver and protects liver cells from damage. It is also anti-inflammatory.

Evening primrose oil

Studies suggest that Evening primrose oil offers powerful support for a variety of hormonal imbalances related to female reproductive hormones. Evening primrose oil may help with pain management in endometriosis.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 helps balance excess estrogen by boosting progesterone production in the body. B6 is also liver supportive.

Probiotics

A healthy microbiome is essential for the management of endometriosis. That’s because there is a colony of bacteria in the gut that helps process and eliminate excess estrogen from the body, according to research. It’s called the estrobolome and you can support by taking a high-quality probiotic.

DIM

Diindolylmethane supports the body in eliminating excess estrogen. DIM is derived from cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli and it metabolizes estrogen into smaller components that are more easily assimilated and removed by the body.

The Emotional Aspects of Endometriosis

Research into the mind-body connection is gaining ground in mainstream science, no longer relegated to “alternative” medicine. We are coming to understand – in a deeper and more detailed way – how thoughts and feelings can directly impact our physical health and well-being. We are seeing the empirical evidence mounting when it comes to how physical symptoms can manifest in connection to emotions. This is a concept I think we all understand instinctively and often relate to in our own lives. It’s good to see the science supporting a shared experience.

When a woman comes to me at FLO Living with endometriosis I explain that endometriosis is a complex condition that needs a comprehensive strategy for management, tackling the ecosystem of the microbiome, liver health, inflammation in the body, and excess estrogen. For women with endometriosis it’s vital that we work together to prevent symptoms as soon as possible, and shifts in diet, adding supplements, and removing certain triggers can be very effective, very quickly.I also work with women to explore the emotional components of endometriosis.

Addressing the emotional aspect of health issues like ovarian cysts, endometriosis, fibroids, and PCOS can be an important part of the healing process. While these problems and their symptoms create their own emotions in women — depression, anxiety, stress, worry, to name a few — they can also be connected to existing emotions and experiences. A closer look at the emotional aspects of endometriosis (or other hormone condition) won’t solve the symptoms, but understanding the emotional components can lead to more compassion for ourselves, for other women, and an individual and collective recovery.

This is something I see often with the women I work with through FLO Living, we will be in the process of working on her health issue from a functional medicine standpoint and eventually we’ll organically reach a point of discussing her life, her past experiences, her feelings about herself, and about the things that have happened to her. It’s not all that surprising, it’s intimate work, and when women work with women outside of the doctor’s office, there’s a tendency for the mind-body connection to come up in a way that you might not see happening elsewhere.

The Feminist Mind-Body Connection

Think about your female reproductive organs — uterus, ovaries, a vagina — acting as a “low heart” and as such holding many of your unconscious, deeper emotions that the “high heart” is not yet ready to process. The emotions are held here, only to be released once a person has processed the source of these held feelings.

There’s actually a deeply feminist history to the mind-body connection and how it relates to the female experience. A student of psychologist Carl Jung, Marion Woodman, developed a concept of “feminine psychology.” Her work details how unconsciously held emotions, feelings, and thoughts can affect the female body. It’s important to note that as science progresses we are seeing more and more empirical evidence to support and back up this perspective. Woodman investigated how women feel about their bodies. Many of us are brought up to be fearful and distrustful of our bodies, and she believed this has a significant impact on our health. She believed that the unprocessed trauma experienced by many women – as the result of individually experienced acts of abuse and violence, and as the result of cultural oppression – could manifest itself in physical symptoms, especially those relating specifically to female biology.

Endometriosis: Time to Prioritize Your Needs?

One theory about the emotional component of endometriosis is that it may reflect — if even symbolically — a physical manifestation of putting others needs before your own. The uterus, by design, exists to put another person’s needs first. The material of the womb, the endometrium, is the first maternal embrace an embryo receives. So it has been interpreted by some that when endometrial tissue grows outside the womb, it is the body’s attempt to mother a woman who isn’t mothering herself, who isn’t putting her own needs first.

By creating a symptom you have no choice but to pay attention to, you must, necessarily, put your own needs first — and set aside that outward (overly) mothering behavior that leaves you feeling depleted. It’s wonderful to care for others and support them in their lives, but when we do it in such a way that puts our own needs last on the list we can become depleted. We might feel frustrated, angry, resentful, or just plain stressed and exhausted by the practical requirements of living that life. The expectations put on all women to be the care-providers, to put others first always, to do the “emotional labor” of supporting those around them can be oppressive.

Does this resonate with you? Do you ever feel like you’re keeping everyone else happy, stable, and cared-for, but that you’re not attending to your own needs and desires? Do you long for someone to take care of you? There’s a burning desire there for self-nurturance as well as connection with other women and community-centered support.These pressures can come out in the body and manifest as symptoms.

The emotional theory of endometriosis is by no means the sole root cause of the disease, but it’s an element that I have seen over and over again in my work with women at FLO Living. As I’ve said before, this has nothing to do with your personal choices in your life, and everything to do with the position of women in society, and how we are conditioned to organize our lives and act towards ourselves.  Your uterus is offering you a gift, an opportunity to reflect on your patterns and revise them for not only better health, but a happier life.  

Your 13-Step Guide to Addressing Endometriosis with Lifestyle & Diet

You can work to reduce inflammation, balance hormones, and support your immune system with food and lifestyle in a systematic way. Here’s my step-by-step guide for helping ease endometriosis symptoms. You’ll see some of the key pieces of advice that I outlined above, fleshed out with even more essential lifestyle strategies for curbing the symptoms of endometriosis:

Step 1

Start by limiting—and eventually eliminating—exposure to toxic forms of estrogen found in household cleaners, cosmetics, and bathroom products. Go through your house with a fine tooth comb and:

  • Replace cosmetic and body care products with natural alternatives, this includes, soap, shampoo, hair styling products, deodorant, lotions, cosmetics, and perfumes
  • Replace standard laundry soap with green alternatives. You can now find many clean alternatives on the shelves of big box stores, sitting side by side with the old (toxic) standbys. Clean alternatives are comparable in price and work just as well. You can opt for unscented products or products that have been scented with natural fragrance.
  • Replace household cleaning products with clean alternatives. You can buy effective products at almost all big box stores or you can make your own, which is cheaper and healthier. The main ingredients in most DIY cleaning products are vinegar and baking soda.
  • Take off your shoes at the door (and ask your guests to do the same). A lot of pesticides and other hormone-disrupting chemicals are tracked in on the bottom of shoes. Stopping those chemicals in their tracks is a great way to protect yourself.

Step 2

Just say no to pesticides and other chemicals in your food. Shop organic exclusively if you can. If you are on a budget, avoid the dirty dozen (or buy them organic) and feel okay about buying the clean 15 even when not organic.

Step 3

Emphasize dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, low-glycemic fruits like berries and other high-fiber foods to support gut health and help your liver carry out important detox functions. The liver is responsible for breaking down and eliminating excess estrogen, and cruciferous vegetables directly support that detox process.

Step 4

Eat more healthy fats like those found in olive oil, coconut oil, and avocados. Healthy fats help support healthy hormone ratios in the body.

Step 5

Emphasize lean animal protein over other kinds of meat. They are less inflammatory.

Step 6

Limit red meat. Studies have linked red meat consumption with increased risk for endometriosis.

Step 7

Help kick your immune system into high gear with immune-supportive foods like carrots, kale, cabbage, broccoli, beets, artichokes, lemons, onions, garlic, and leeks.

Step 8

Limit sugar. Sugar fuels inflammation.

Step 9

Use targeted herbal support to further support liver detox and speed up estrogen metabolism. Think milk thistle, flax seeds, DIM, and dandelion root.

Step 10

Take evening primrose oil to decrease inflammation.

Step 11

Reduce or eliminate dairy, wheat, alcohol, and caffeine to improve your immune response.

Step 12

Take a probiotic to rebalance gut flora and support estrogen metabolism.

Step 13

Use Vitex and a B6 supplement daily to balance out excess estrogen.If you’re reading this article because your friend, sister, or family member is struggling with this condition, share this article with her. Too many women believe the myth that endometriosis has to ruin your life every month.

The Ovulatory Phase: Support Your Body with The Cycle Syncing Method®

This is the second blog post in a 4-part series on The Cycle Syncing Method®: micronutrient and botanical support for the four phases of the infradian rhythm, or hormonal cycle.At Flo Living, our goal is to help women balance their hormones and resolve period problems with food, supplements, and lifestyle changes. We take a functional nutrition and systems medicine approach to achieving optimal hormone health. The first step for any woman* in balancing her hormones is learning about the 28-day hormone cycle, which is governed by a special biological rhythm called the infradian rhythm.

The infradian rhythm plays a vital role in female health and wellness. Knowing what your body needs during each phase of  your cycle is key not only to hormonal healing but to your health overall. To get more familiar with the infradian rhythm, see the first post in this series or check out my new book In the Flo. This is the second blog post in our four-part series on micronutrient and botanical support to help better support the infradian rhythm. In this post, we will explore supplement needs during the ovulatory phase.

The 4 Phases of the Infradian Rhythm

The infradian rhythm tracks with the menstrual cycle and has four distinct phases. They are:

  1. The follicular phase
  2. The ovulatory phase
  3. The luteal phase
  4. The menstrual phase

For women in their reproductive years, the key to optimal health is to eat, move, and supplement in ways that support each phase of the infradian rhythm. Our bodies require different types of self care during each phase.The ovulatory phase occurs for 3 to 4 days in the middle of your cycle, when your body produces an egg and releases it into the fallopian tube. To learn more about micronutrient needs in the first phase of the cycle (the follicular phase), click here. To learn more about micronutrient support for the ovulatory phase, keep reading!

Meet the Ovulatory Phase

When: The 3 to 4 days in the middle of your cycle, right after the follicular phase (which lasts for 7 to 10 days) and before the luteal phase (which is the phase just before your period).What’s happening in your body:

  • Estrogen surges and luteinizing hormone (LH) arrives on the scene to spark the release of an egg
  • The lining of the uterus gets thicker
  • Testosterone surges and then quickly goes back down

What’s happening in your brain:The hormone shifts during this phase activate the verbal and social areas of the brain. You’re apt to feel your most social and communicative during this phase, and it is a good time to plan conversations with friends and significant others.

Food, Exercise, and Lifestyle Strategies for the Ovulatory Phase

Achieving optimal hormone health and easing period problems like PMS, cramps, bloating, acne, heavy or irregular periods and missing periods requires a multipronged approach that includes food, movement, and lifestyle strategies implemented in a cyclical way. I encourage women to eat in a cyclical pattern, exercise in line with their cycle, and plan their schedules with their infradian rhythm in mind.

During the ovulatory phase, specifically, your testosterone is high and you will have more energy, so you can go all out with your workouts. This is a great time for high-intensity interval training and bodyweight circuits. However, if you have issues breaking down estrogen in your liver and gut, you may experience ovarian pain or acne.  Eating cruciferous vegetables during this time helps flush excess estrogen from your body. It’s also important to prioritize fiber from whole foods during this time, which will help keep excess hormones moving toward the exit!Supplements are important, too. I recommend key micronutrients for every woman in her reproductive years; These should be taken daily. I also recommend taking phase-specific supplements to further support and optimize hormone health during each phase. For phase-based support during the ovulatory phase, I recommend a supplement to help with estrogen metabolism.

Key Supplement for the Ovulatory Phase

DIM stands for 3,3′-diindolylmethane, and it is a powerful health-promoting compound derived from cruciferous vegetables. One of its key functions in the body is to help moderate and enhance estrogen metabolism. In other words, it helps the body efficiently process and eliminate used-up estrogen, which is important during the ovulatory phase when estrogen is high. Estrogen dominance is a condition in which levels of estrogen are high relative to the amount of progesterone in the body, and it is one of the most common conditions in women with hormone imbalances and period problems.

The liver is the body’s main organ of elimination and it processes and eliminates excess estrogen. DIM helps the liver do its job more effectively, which helps prevent estrogen dominance and related symptoms like acne, PMS, and heavy or irregular periods. Research also suggests that DIM may help protect against certain estrogen-fuelled cancers. DIM is found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, and rutabaga, and prioritizing these foods in the diet is profoundly good for hormone health and overall health. DIM can be taken as a supplement as well, and it may be especially beneficial to take as a  supplement during ovulation, when the liver is working hard to eliminate the high volume of estrogen produced during this time. Like all the phase-based supplements I recommend, there is no wrong time to take DIM, but you may get the most benefit by taking it during the three or four days in the middle of your cycle when ovulation occurs.

I created The Cycle Syncing Ⓡ Supplement Kit to help women feel energized, calm, focused and pain-free throughout each phase of their cycle. Taking these targeted supplements can help reduce or eliminate the need for ibuprofen for pain and cramps, acne medications for cyclical breakouts, birth control pills for regular periods, and caffeine for an energy boost — all of which only mask symptoms anyway. The Flo Living Cycle Syncing Ⓡ Supplements helps you exactly when and how your body needs it during each distinct phase of your cycle.  Since your hormones change each phase, it makes sense to change the way you target certain supplements each phase too.I carefully curated the key nutrients you need to help you look and feel your best throughout your cycle. And you simply take the one for the phase you’re in - period.At FloLiving, we are building a future where it’s easy and simple to get targeted support for your hormonal symptoms from your first period to your last. With the right support, women in their reproductive years can ease their symptoms, live with less pain, and look and feel their best — which is what every woman deserves.

*We use the words “woman” and “women” and she/her pronouns throughout these posts for ease of writing, but the principles and advice apply to any person, regardless of gender identity, who was born with female physiology. At the same time, if you are a person born with male physiology and you identify as non-binary or you are transitioning to identify as female, using a cyclical support system can help you feel more in sync with your female energy.

Your Guide to The Cycle Syncing® Method

In the past 10 years there’s been an explosion in online wellness content — new diet protocols, new fitness programs, new ‘extreme’ bio-hacks like cryotherapy and infrared saunas — but women’s hormone and autoimmune conditions have jumped nearly 50% in that same time period.

What’s going on with women's health?

I needed to figure out why wellness protocols are everywhere, but women are sicker than ever before. So I dove into the research and it led me to two answers:

  • First, that women are being left out of most medical research.
  • Second, people with female physiology have a second biological rhythm that impacts the performance of six key systems of your body, and it has a name — the infradian rhythm.

Meet your Infradian Rhythm (your secondary clock!)

In my book In the FLO, I’m introducing the wellness world to the infradian rhythm, which is one of two internal timekeepers experienced by people with female biochemistry.

The infradian rhythm powerfully affects six different systems of the body — brain, metabolism, immune system, microbiome, stress response system and reproductive system — and women benefit when they eat, exercise, and work in ways that support their infradian rhythm, as opposed to following diet, fitness, and work trends that disrupt it.

It’s precisely because so many women try to follow the ‘same-thing-everyday’ plans that work for men that 50% of women are suffering with hormonal imbalances. Men don’t suffer them at the same rate.  

You’ve probably heard of the circadian clock, or the 24-hour biological rhythm that is inherent to all of us, men and women, old and young. This internal timekeeper directs many of the body’s internal processes, from when we get our deepest sleep (around 2:00am) and when we’re at our most alert (around 10:00am), to when we’re the most coordinated (2:30pm) and when we have the fastest reaction time (3:30pm).

The circadian clock also helps regulate our body temperature and metabolism. Men's testosterone production is organized around the circadian rhythm (and so is the vast majority of fitness and nutrition research and advice; more on that below.) But people who menstruate also follow the infradian rhythm, which is linked to the menstrual cycle. And when you understand your infradian rhythm and how it informs your unique female biochemistry, you can become calmer, happier, and healthier, as well as more productive at work and more satisfied in your relationships. Your hormones will stay balanced and you can live symptom-free.

How does your cycle affect your body and brain?

Did you know...?

  • The infradian rhythm creates a 25% change in your brain chemistry over the course of the month
  • Your metabolism speeds up and slows down predictably across the month and you need to change what you eat and the intensity of your workouts each week in order to optimize your metabolism
  • Your cortisol levels are higher in one part of your infradian cycle, so pushing yourself through an intense workout bumps up cortisol levels even further, adding to your stress and inflammation, disrupting your hormones, and making you feel anxious and unfocused
  • People with female biochemistry need more sleep than men because we have a more complex brain, and it needs 20 minutes longer to clean itself and reset for the cognitive day
  • People with female physiology tend to need less in the way of extreme self-care practices because we have more efficient biology

As this list shows, your body and brain change significantly throughout the course of a month. Specifically, we move through four distinct phases within the course of 28-days. They are:

  • Phase 1: Follicular (the 7 to 10 days after your period)
  • Phase 2: Ovulatory (the 4 days in the middle of your cycle)
  • Phase 3: Luteal (the 10 to 14 days between ovulation and your period)
  • Phase 4: Menstrual (the 3 to 7 days of your period)

During each of these four phases, you experience normal hormonal fluctuations that influence your body temperature, skin elasticity, sleep cycle, energy, emotions, and cognitive function. What’s more, your 28-day cycle (infradian rhythm) works in close concert with your 24-hour cycle. A dysregulated infradian rhythm will mess with your circadian cycle—and a wonky circadian cycle will negatively influence your infradian cycle. In this way, using phase-based self-care not only supports your month-long hormone cycle, but also your 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. This makes practicing The Cycle Syncing® Method even more powerful in promoting hormone health and overall health.

Why doing the same thing everyday disrupts your infradian rhythm and hurts your hormones

Our bodies and brains are different during each phase of our cycle, so our food, exercise, and self-care should be different each week, too. If you’ve been living in a ‘same-thing-everyday’ way, you’re not alone. There is a widespread cultural belief that we are supposed to repeat the same rituals every 24 hours — have the same morning routine, for example, or exercise the same way each week. But this insistence on doing the same thing day-in and day-out caters to the male hormonal biological rhythm. Men follow the same predictable pattern everyday: the 24-hour circadian clock and only the 24-hour circadian clock.

People with female biochemistry have shifting hormones and shifting needs all month long. This manifests in a lot of different ways, but you can get a good sense of what I mean if we look at one specific example.

Take exercise. During your follicular and ovulatory phase, your metabolism is SLOWER and cortisol levels are LOWER. As such, you need fewer calories during these two phases, and when you couple that lower caloric intake with cardio and HIIT workouts—30 minutes is sufficient, but you can go longer if you are healthy— it creates a metabolic situation in which you use your glucose stores for energy, fat burning, and building more lean muscle without disrupting blood sugar or increasing cortisol, which would trigger inflammation and fat gain—the exact opposite of what you want to happen. You don't have to avoid any specific workouts during this phase, but the ones that will net you the results are cardio and HIIT.

During the luteal and menstrual phase, your metabolism is FASTER and cortisol levels are HIGHER. So you’ll need MORE overall calories each day (around 250 extra calories), and when you eat carbs they must be complex carbs to keep blood sugar levels stable. If you don’t increase your calories during this time, it will interfere with hormone balance and trigger fat storage. What’s more, because cortisol levels are higher, you need to limit workouts to 30 minutes only and stick to simple strength training, pilates, or yoga without a high intensity cardio component.

Why isn’t Cycle Syncing® and the Infradian Rhythm widespread knowledge?

Historically, medical research has deprioritized women’s health issues and/or not included women in medical research. Why? Precisely because of our unique 28-day hormone cycle.

When putting together clinical trials, many researchers have decided it is simply too complicated to include women as subjects because our monthly hormone cycle is too complicated. It’s hard to control for all the hormonal shifts women go through every 28-days, so instead of trying to account for those fluctuations, researchers have just left women out and focused on men, whose predictable 24-hour circadian cycles do not vary from day to day.

Another reason? When women go to the doctor, women’s concerns about their health are often dismissed as psychological. Women are told that their symptoms are in their head, or that they are imagining their pain, or that they’re overly concerned about their physical well-being.

Studies back-up this theory: one report found that almost half of those who went on to be diagnosed with an autoimmune condition (the majority of people who experience autoimmune conditions are women) were originally told that they were too worried about their health. This is all to say that when medical professionals have the chance to explore women’s symptoms in more detail and understand the root cause of their symptoms, they often don’t.

Medicine doesn’t know a lot about women’s health, explains author Maya Dusenbery in the book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick, and it doesn’t pay serious attention to their symptoms. There is a gender bias in medicine and if you have experienced period problems like acne, bloating, cramps, heavy or irregular periods, missing periods, PMS or other hormone-related symptoms and have not been helped by traditional interventions, you know this firsthand. But you can break the cycle of symptoms, and look and feel your best, when you ditch the idea that you are supposed to live the same way everyday and start living in sync with your cycle.

The Cycle Syncing® Method 101

Once I uncovered all of this about the infradian rhythm and our specific needs, it was clear that we needed a diet, fitness and lifestyle program that would help us support our biological rhythm.  This is why I created The Cycle Syncing® Method. Practicing The Cycle Syncing® Method is easy. It starts with deepening your familiarity with your 28-day hormone cycle—something you can do with the MyFlo app—and then tailoring your food, movement, supplements, and lifestyle choices to your unique strengths, weaknesses, and needs during each phase of your cycle.

That might sound daunting, but it’s not. Before long, you will develop an intuitive sense of how your body feels during each phase of your cycle and what it needs to maintain hormone balance. You will begin to naturally shift your food, movement, and schedule as your hormones fluctuate. With time, making phase-based self-care choices will be second nature. What type of phase-based choices am I talking about? Here’s a closer look at the different ways The Cycle Syncing® Method is used in practice:

Food

Do you have certain cravings during different weeks of the month? Do you feel hungrier at different stages of your cycle? If so, you already have an embodied sense of your shifting needs each month. Practicing The Cycle Syncing® Method with food starts by choosing specific foods that will support optimal hormone balance in each phase. I go into more detail here, and I do a deep dive in my book In the Flo, which is packed with biohacking advice and meal plans.

Supplements

Sometimes, even if you’re eating perfectly, supplements are necessary to deepen your phase-based self-care plan, erase your period problems, and feel your best. If you are deficient in any of the five essential micronutrients required for hormone health, you will never fully resolve symptoms like acne, bloating, PMS, cramps, menstrual migraines, missing or irregular periods, or cyclical fatigue and moodiness.

Exercise

Planning your workouts in sync with your cycle will allow you to achieve your fitness goals with less effort. It also makes your workouts easier because you are not trying to do a workout that is ill-matched for your hormones during a specific time. Using The Cycle Syncing® Method for exercise is a win-win.

Productivity  

Let me be clear, and the research confirms, you as a woman can do ANYTHING, ANYTIME. The research also shows that as hormones stimulate the brain in different ways throughout the month, you are more interested and more naturally at ease with certain tasks at different times of the month. The same is true of men of course, their brains are stimulated over the course of one day and they do arrange their work to be optimally productive. So when we plan our schedules accordingly— scheduling important meetings or interviews when we are primed for communication—we may find even more success, and more importantly, experience less overall stress on our bodies.

Sex Drive

Sixty percent of women are sexually unsatisfied because we don't understand how our infradian rhythm affects our sexual desire and changes our requirements for physical stimulation in each phase. Once you get the right key, the ignition will work every time and you don't ever have to think something's wrong with you again.

Relationships

Nurturing a healthy, balanced relationship takes work, and using your infradian rhythm to organize the activities you might want to do with your partner can be a helpful way to bring in a wider variety of experiences. From trying new things, to going out with friends, to romantic date nights, to Netflix and chill nights at home — timing these according to your biological rhythm increases pleasure, positive connection, and decreases stress!

Motherhood

You can use your infradian rhythm to organize your approach to motherhood, too. With your cycle as your guide, you can plan to do the things that matter most to you as a parent, at times of the month when your interest in those activities is highest and when you will naturally be your best at those things. By planning out your parent-child time in this way, you will prevent burnout, be less susceptible to the cult of perfectionism around motherhood, and create more quality time with your children.

Simply put, The Cycle Syncing® Method can help you:

  • Get more time back in your day to take care of yourself
  • Stop dieting every day of your life and getting little or no results
  • Accomplish everything on your to-do list without feeling overwhelmed and burned out
  • Have a more satisfying relationship and sex life without the drama and frustration
  • Maximize the right workouts for your energy levels, so you have energy to spare
  • Spring out of bed in the morning and maintain your energy throughout the day

My book In the Flo will help you achieve all this — and more

If you’re ready to harness the power of your unique female biochemistry to look and feel your best, grab a copy of In the Flo and get to look, feel, and perform your best.

5 Uses for Coconut Oil that will Benefit Your Hormonal Balance

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As spring fast approaches us, I wanted to share a fun and functional list with you that will come in handy as you start to detox this season, and beyond!Coconut oil is one of my favorite gifts from Mama Nature – anti-bacterial, anti-viral, blood-sugar-balancing, and detoxifying – and if you haven’t yet, I think you’ll fall in love with it too after reading this.Coconut oil isn’t just great for your skin and hair, it can also help you to heal your thyroid, lose weight, have more energy, and fix your periods. It only takes two to three tablespoons per day for coconut oil to have these wondrous effects on your health.Coconut oil is the ultimate “good fat” as it contains medium chain triglycerides or fatty acids that are hormonal health warriors. Over the years, we’ve all been educated to fear oils and see them as fattening and unhealthy. Well, some are – like vegetable oils, canola, safflower – but coconut oil is actually completely unique and has many health benefits.

The health benefits of coconut oil

  • Hormone balancing – the fatty acids in coconut oil actually help the hormones get to where they want and need to go in the body, and so support the creation, processing and elimination of estrogen and progesterone, leading to hormonal balance.
  • Weight loss-promotingstudies show that coconut oil increases the metabolism and prevents hunger, allowing for successful weight loss.
  • Thyroid-supportive – coconut oil has the ability to transform cholesterol into pregnenolone, which is one of the essential building blocks for thyroid hormone-creation. When you add more coconut oil to your diet, you’re increasing the saturated fats made up primarily of medium-chain fatty acids that aren’t found in many other oils. These medium-chain fatty acids increase metabolism and promote weight loss, which is a big part of your healthy thyroid function. In addition, coconut oil can increase basal body temperatures, which is super important for women with low thyroid function.
  • Gut-healing – coconut oil repairs gut tissue and encourages the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Like breast milk, coconut oil is powerfully antimicrobial and antibacterial. The high levels of lauric acid in coconut oil protects against infection from viruses, bacteria, yeast, parasites and fungi. Lauric acid inactivates harmful microbes in your gut that can lead to hormonal imbalance.

So, now you know how great coconut oil is for your health, how do you get more of it? I have some ideas for easy, simple ways to add coconut oil to your every day life.

5 ways to eat more coconut oil

  1. Stir a tablespoon into your favorite hot drink.
  2. Add it into kale-based or date-based smoothies (or mix all three!).
  3. Use it to cook your eggs and greens in the morning – it takes away that bitter taste of collards or spinach.
  4. Substitute butter for coconut oil when baking breads and desserts, or spread on gluten free toast.
  5. Just take a tablespoon straight from the jar when you’re short on time, like you might with a nut butter.

I keep three jars in my house - one in the kitchen, one in the bathroom, and one in my daughter’s room! Coconut oil is so versatile.

4 other uses for coconut oil

  1. As a moisturizer. Ditch the store-bought moisturizers that are usually loaded with hormone-disrupting chemicals, and swap them for coconut oil. Not only does it provide lasting moisture to your skin, but it’s antibacterial properties can help fight acne and other skin conditions.
  2. As a mouthwash. More specifically called an “oil pull,” 1 teaspoon full of coconut oil can be swished through your mouth for 5 to 20 minutes and it will literally pull away the plaque and bacteria in your mouth. This is obviously great news for your oral health, but did you know that our oral health also has a huge effect on our heart health and hormonal health? It’s true. In fact, gum disease can add on an extra 2 months for the time it takes to get pregnant, according to Australian research in 2011.
  3. As an eye make-up remover. Instead of spending top dollar for pricing eye-makeup removers that most likely contain harmful chemicals, let coconut oil take care of it for you! Using a tissue or pad of cotton, wipe coconut oil across your raccoon eyes or other old makeup at the end of the day and watch it clear away everything fast!
  4. As a natural deodorant. Yet another way to avoid harmful chemicals from skin care products! Skip the anti-perspirants and roll on something that is effective and not harmful to your hormones. Coconut oil is an ingredient in quite a few natural deodorants, and you can also make up your own potion – either use it plain or mix it together in one of these DIY recipes.

The best coconut oil to use

If you’re like me, you also care deeply about the quality of the food you eat. That means organic, non-GMO food, which unfortunately usually mean high price tags and giant weekly grocery bills. Coconut oil can be expensive, especially if you want it to be organic, ethically-sourced and of the virgin variety, which is important for the quality and taste, but it also means it will definitely have all the health benefits promised in this post.That’s why I can’t stop sharing Thrive Market - a online site that makes healthy living a whole lot easier and more affordable than ever (becoming a member costs less than $5 a month!). Think Whole Foods products at Costco prices, with the convenience of Amazon. Thrive is not only cheaper than upscale markets like Whole Foods, but it often matches or even beats prices at discount online retailers like Amazon and Vitacost.I’ve partnered with Thrive Market to bring you a great deal. You’ll get a free jar of the best brand of Coconut Oil that I use at home, as well as a month’s free trial and 15% off your next order. Always remember, that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you! You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!To your FLO,Alisa

Do You Know the Easiest Way to Fix Your Period Symptoms?

You don’t need to keep suffering with annoying symptoms that drain your energy for 1-2 weeks every single month. In fact, you can start having a better period as soon as your next period.MyFLO is the first-ever functional medicine period tracker that ALSO helps you fix your symptoms. MyFLO will help you understand why you have symptoms and what to do to improve them with food. It will also teach you how to Cycle Sync™ the 5 main areas of your life: food, exercise, work, relationships, and sex.Have a Better Period with MyFLOWhen you follow MyFLO’s weekly recommendations, you’ll get rid of frustrating symptoms and learn how to optimize your energy to be more productive and have better relationships.Click here to get MyFLO for iPhoneClick here to get MyFLO for Android

A Woman’s Guide to PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, affects as many as five million women in the United States and it is one of the most common causes of infertility among women of childbearing age. PCOS symptoms—including weight gain, weight loss resistance, acne, missing or irregular periods, thinning hair on the top of the head and excess hair on the face and chest—can be annoying at best and debilitating at worst.

As if that weren’t enough, PCOS can come with long-term consequences. The condition can set the stage for other chronic conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and stroke. PCOS has also been associated with increased risk of anxiety and depression.

What is PCOS?

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PCOS Questions word cloud

PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that affects women of reproductive age. Specifically, the condition is characterized by having too many androgens, or male hormones, in the body, and this imbalance interferes with regular menstrual cycles. Women with PCOS experience missed or irregular periods.

(Don’t let the term “male hormones” mislead you, however. Androgens are produced in both women and men and play subtle but important roles in the female body. It’s only when they become out of balance that they can cause problems.)

How is PCOS diagnosed?

PCOS is diagnosed when high androgens are present and all other possible causes of androgen overload have been ruled out. (Other causes of high androgens can be a history of taking certain types of birth control pills and a condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia.)

photo courtesy of PCOS Journal

A physician can diagnose PCOS based on several criteria (1) symptoms that indicate higher than normal androgen levels, including acne along the jawline, chest, and back; unwanted hair growth on the chin and/or chest, loss of hair on the head; weight loss resistance; and waist-to-hip ratio (women with PCOS tend to store unwanted weight around the waistline, (2) blood tests, including blood glucose, HbA1c, insulin, and circulating androgens, and (3) physical exam and pelvic exam to look for enlarged ovaries or other signs of increased androgens.

Some doctors may do an ultrasound of the ovaries, but PCOS cannot be definitively diagnosed by ultrasound, as is often reported, because it is normal for ovaries to have ovarian follicles (cysts). Healthy women—especially young women—very often have multiple ovarian follicles at once. That makes an ultrasound finding of multiple cysts meaningless when it comes to diagnosing PCOS.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

  • Missing or irregular periods (not ovulating regularly)
  • Unwanted face and chest hair
  • Loss of hair on the head
  • Acne (specifically on the jawline, chest, and back)
  • Carrying extra weight around the waistline
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Insulin resistance and dysregulated blood sugar (though not in every case. Most women with PCOS have dysregulated insulin, but not all)

Potential long-term consequences of PCOS

PCOS may have long-term consequences. The condition can set the stage for other chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and stroke. PCOS has also been associated with increased risk of anxiety and depression. It is the most common cause of infertility in women.

What causes PCOS?

The exact cause (or causes) are unknown, but researchers believe that genetics play a role and that environmental factors can contribute to the condition. High androgens and dysregulated insulin are almost always involved.

Different Types of PCOS

There are three types of PCOS and knowing which type you have is key to choosing the right treatment protocol. (In mainstream medicine, of course, each type of PCOS is managed with the same suggested treatments, even though these treatments only work for some women some of the time.)

Different types of PCOS also have different symptoms – not all women with PCOS are overweight, for example – and this confusion can delay diagnosis and proper treatment. Irregular cycles and missing period affect all women with PCOS, no matter which type of PCOS is present.

Here are the three different types of PCOS:

Insulin-resistant PCOS – This is the most common PCOS type. High insulin levels interfere with ovulation, causing irregular cycles and other symptoms like weight gain, weight loss resistance, acne, hirsutism, mood swings, and thinning hair on the head. Women with this kind of PCOS usually have blood sugar and insulin levels that suggest diabetes or prediabetes.

Inflammation-based PCOS – This type of PCOS is most often seen in women who are not overweight and who don’t present with the classic symptoms of PCOS. Inflammation can be caused by a variety of factors, including food intolerances, exposure to environmental toxins, chronic viruses and/or chronic low-level injuries, and an over-reliance on sweeteners and high-glycemic foods (a generally poor diet).

Synthetic Hormone-Induced PCOS – This kind of PCOS is common for women who have been on the pill or other hormonal birth control like the implant, shot, or ring, for a long time. They will come off and their periods do not return. The synthetic hormones shut down communication between the pituitary gland and the ovaries in order to prevent pregnancy and it can take work to bring this communication channel back online.

It’s possible to have a combination of these three types of PCOS, or for the root cause of your PCOS to evolve over time.

Why drugs don’t work for PCOS

Two pharmaceutical drugs are often prescribed to women with PCOS. The first is Metformin. It is so commonly prescribed for PCOS that it is worth doing a deep dive on the basics of this drug:

What is Metformin?

Metformin is a first-line medication for those suffering with type 2 diabetes. It is also presented as a treatment for PCOS sufferers who are also overweight or obese. (Not all PCOS sufferers have weight gain as a symptom. Weight gain and weight loss resistance primarily affect women with insulin-resistant PCOS.)

Metformin works by reducing overall insulin levels. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the cells of your body become resistant to the hormone insulin. And when your cells stop hearing insulin’s important chemical message, glucose can no longer enter your cells to be used for energy. Instead, glucose stays in the bloodstream and blood sugar stability goes out the window. This process is associated with diabetes, prediabetes, and insulin-resistant PCOS.

What does poor insulin and blood sugar control have to do with PCOS? Unstable blood sugar interferes with ovulation. Because metformin helps regulate blood sugar it is thought to help ease symptoms of PCOS.

Should I take Metformin?

Most of the research studies that have examined Metformin as a treatment for PCOS show differing and conflicting results. This is probably because Metformin is given to women with a PCOS diagnosis regardless of the kind of PCOS they have. Insulin-resistant PCOS is very common, but it’s not what every woman has.

What can I expect if I take Metformin?

Metformin is not a miracle medication. If you take it, you will not instantly see an end to your symptoms and drop all the weight you have gained. If you have been diagnosed as prediabetic and you want to move away from this diagnosis as quickly as possible, then you could decide to take Metformin. This might be the case if you are hoping to get pregnant. Entering pregnancy with insulin-resistant PCOS and pre-diabetes sets you up for increased risk for gestational diabetes and increased weight gain during pregnancy.

Guidelines if you choose to take Metformin

I recommend these guidelines if you choose to take Metformin.

  • Take Metformin as a short-term triage for a pre-diabetes diagnosis
  • Know your exit plan from this treatment before starting the drug
  • Simultaneously change your diet and lifestyle to improve insulin resistance (including strictly managing your blood sugar levels and sugar intake, and increasing exercise).
  • Start the Flo Living protocol. The Flo Living protocol will alleviate symptoms of PCOS long-term and support regular ovulation and regular periods. It will also prevent sugar cravings, manage your blood sugar levels, and help you to lose the weight.

I have worked with many women for whom Metformin has not worked at all. They’ve taken it, experienced the side effects, and seen no improvement in their condition.

The other drug that is often given to women with PCOS is hormonal birth control. The pill is prescribed to help manage symptoms, but it is only a band-aid solution — just like metformin — that ignores root causes. So while things might seem better on the surface, the root causes of your PCOS go unaddressed, and often get worse, which means that when you stop the pill, your symptoms can return with a vengeance. The pill comes with a raft of side effects, too, both short term and long term. The better route is to address PCOS with food and lifestyle changes.

The Birth Control Pill and PCOS

Birth Control Side Effects: What you don't know could hurt you

What it does: The hormones in the birth control mask your natural hormonal patterns to prevent ovulation from happening, and therefore prevent pregnancy. The period you experience on the pill is not an acutal period, but rather a “break-through bleed” that occurs from the drop in estrogen. So even though it might be regulating your cycle, once you get off the pill chances are your period will return to the same state is was before.

Side effects:  We’ve spoken about significant side effects of the pill before, but the one side effect most relevant to PCOS is that it increases testosterone uptake, which can make your androgenic symptoms worse. This means if you’re experiencing hirsutism (hair growth in unwanted places), head-hair loss, or acne, it could potentially get worse with the pill.

Alternative solutions:  Re-establish your monthly ovulation and menstruation through restoring key micronutrients and helping your body to eliminate excess estrogen or other hormones that could be impeding your natural flow. Addressing adrenal fatigue and thyroid issues is also key here. And the great news is – all of these can be achieved through your diet and lifestyle!

Emerging Drug Therapies for PCOS

A recent study suggests a pharmaceutical cure for PCOS. Researchers at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research hypothesized that PCOS might be triggered in utero by overexposure to a specific hormone (called anti-Müllerian hormone). They tested their theory by injecting anti-Müllerian hormone into pregnant mice and observing symptoms in their female offspring.

Indeed, the daughters of the mice injected with anti-Müllerian hormone showed many of the same symptoms as women with PCOS: irregular ovulation, delayed pregnancy, and fewer offspring. Then the researchers treated the symptomatic mice with cetrorelix, a drug that is commonly used during IVF, and the symptoms reversed.

Naturally, the idea that a drug could reverse PCOS generated a lot of excitement. But treatment in humans is a long way off, the side effects and long-term consequences of the drug require more research, and the body’s intricate hormone system is unlikely to be thrown off balance—and brought back into balance—by one single intervention.

But the best news of all? You don’t need drugs to feel better. You can find the answers to easing your symptoms in your home, on your plate, and in your supplement drawer. Best of all, when you make lifestyle and nutrition modifications, you address the root hormonal imbalances that give rise to PCOS, something a drug can’t do.

How to Resolve Your PCOS Symptoms

Whenever I’m working with a client who has been diagnosed with PCOS, the first changes I recommend are food and nutrition. Food is medicine when it comes to PCOS.

One important nutrition piece? Blood sugar and insulin balance. Whether you have insulin-resistant PCOS or another type of PCOS, getting your blood sugar and insulin under control is critically important for regulating ovulation—and the best way to manage blood sugar is with food. A diet high in processed carbs and simple sugars will send your blood sugar and insulin surging. A diet high in healthy fats, phytonutrient-rich vegetables and other complex carbohydrates, and high-quality protein will keep blood sugar stable.

When you eat certain foods makes a difference, too. I call the concept of matching your nutrition with your unique hormonal needs each week “Cycle Syncing®,” and it is one of the most important parts of any diet plan for women with hormone imbalances. If you don’t currently track your cycle and match your food with your shifting hormonal needs, get the MyFlo app and start tracking your 28-day cycle and aligning your food with your hormones.

PCOS and Sex Drive

When it comes to libido, women with PCOS have one of two experiences: they have a relatively high sex drive or a very low sex drive.

Here are the strategies I use in my own life and those I recommend to the women I work with:

If you have low libido with PCOS...

Low libido with PCOS means you likely have low testosterone levels. That said, your testosterone production will still peak when you’re in the ovulation phase. So start by tracking your cycle so that you know when you’re ovulating and can plan ahead. Make the most of that time. Clear your calendar. Plan a few date nights with your partner. Then make sure you focus on the foreplay, because it might take you a little longer to feel ready. Spend some time getting to know what feels good for you and then teach your partner what you need.

You can also work to boost your testosterone levels by taking zinc supplements and making sure you have enough healthy fats in your diet (think avocados!).

If you have high libido with PCOS...

Practice receiving pleasure. It’s not fun or pleasurable to always be the one who is leading, initiating, and dominating in a relationship. It can bring about resentment if you’re never in “receiving” mode in your relationship – being pursued, wooed and adored by your partner. Getting into the mode of receiving pleasure from your partner can boost your mood and health.

You can also work to lower your testosterone levels by taking saw palmetto extract.

10 Natural Remedies for PCOS

PCOS is best addressed with food and lifestyle modifications. Here are my top recommendations for resolving the hormone imbalances associated with PCOS and erasing your symptoms:

(1) Have healthy protein and healthy fat at breakfast. Try to eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up to help keep blood sugar steady and keep you feeling full until lunch. Eggs and avocado make a good combo. Consider adding some leafy greens or other veggies so your plate is brimming with inflammation-fighting phytonutrients.

(2) Don’t overdo animal protein. A Harvard study showed that women improved their chances of fertility when they got more of their protein from vegetable sources than animal sources. For the absolute best sources of protein for your hormones, click here. (Spoiler alert: eggs are okay! They appear to be the exception to the rule when it comes to animal protein.)

(3) Embrace the RIGHT kind of carbs. Not all carbs are created equal. While some carbs are notoriously bad for health—think baked goods, white bread, pasta—others are important for hormonal harmony. Most women with PCOS struggle on a low-carb diet, like Atkins or Paleo. I recommend making rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and millet part of your regular diet.

(4) Ditch caffeine. Caffeine is catastrophic for your hormones. Numerous studies link caffeine with impaired fertility (which is a hallmark of PCOS) and general hormonal discord. Research shows that drinking 3 cups of coffee a day (consumed by either men or women) increases the risk of miscarriage by 74%. Coffee depletes B vitamins, which are necessary for healthy ovulation and hormone balance. If you suspect you’re low on B vitamins, you can find the formula I recommend in my Balance Supplement Kit.

(5) Tiptoe around toxins (and try to avoid them altogether). Many of the everyday chemicals we’re exposed to through cleaning products, conventional health and body care products, lawn care products and household pesticides are endocrine disruptors and have negative reproductive, neurological, and immune system effects. The Environmental Working Group lists twelve of the worst endocrine offenders. Read labels on cleaning products carefully or, better yet, make your own products with vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils.

(6) Sync your life to your cycle. When you live your life in accordance with your natural hormonal rhythms, your hormones are happier—and so are you. It’s as simple as that. Sync your life with my MyFLO Period tracker App, the first ever hormone balancing app.

(7) Tend your microbiome. A healthy microbiome, the group of bacteria that lives in your gut, means a healthy estrobolome, the colony of bacteria in the microbiome that help metabolize estrogen. Hormonal healing is impossible if your gut is out of balance. The best way to bring your microbiome into balance is to supplement with probiotics.

(8) Patch up nutrient deficiencies. Micronutrient support is critical for women with PCOS. Our bodies need the B vitamins that can help with mood and progesterone production; the liver support that helps detox estrogen; the magnesium that helps balance the production of progesterone, estrogen and testosterone; the probiotics that help heal the gut; and vitamins D, K1, and K2 to support healthy immune function and regular ovulation. You can find all these supplements together in the Balance Supplement Kit I created specifically to bring hormones back into balance.

(9) Focus on strength training. Some research suggests that resistance training may have a therapeutic effect for women with PCOS.

(10) Get some sleep. Sleep helps pretty much everything, including hormone regulation. Make getting more sleep a priority!

Why Most Women with PCOS Shouldn’t Use Vitex

Vitex increases progesterone levels by increasing LH (luteinizing hormone) levels, and it suppresses prolactin levels – the result is increased ovulatory cycles. This sounds like a perfect scenario for PCOS sufferers, but there’s a problem. Vitex can actually worsen PCOS for some because their LH levels are already high. If you know your LH level is high (if you don’t know – ask for a hormonal panel blood test from your doctor), you should not use Vitex.

If you have PCOS with normal LH levels and high prolactin levels, you might consider using Vitex. You can have your prolactin levels tested by your doctor. This kind of PCOS has a different root cause, usually inflammation from allergens like dairy and gluten or as the result of using the birth control pill. Vitex can help to suppress prolactin levels and increase ovulatory cycles in these cases.

Vitex is a slow-acting herb. You will need to commit to taking it for up to 3 months to see any change in your cycles or improvement of symptoms. Be sure to purchase Vitex from a reputable, long-standing supplement company like Gaia so you know you are getting a potent formulation, without fillers.

Should Women with PCOS Use Progesterone Cream?

The idea behind using natural progesterone cream to treat your PCOS is that you will increase your progesterone levels and rebalance your estrogen levels. You make progesterone after you ovulate, if you ovulate, in the second half of your cycle. If you don’t ovulate regularly, as is common with PCOS, progesterone deficiency can cause many unwanted symptoms. Progesterone cream is one of the ways to help your body deal with this lack of progesterone, but it’s not an ideal treatment and I have some caveats about progesterone cream if you choose to use it as a natural treatment for your PCOS.

If you’re in a place where your PCOS symptoms are acute, natural progesterone cream can offer some immediate relief. If I meet a woman in a critical state with her PCOS-related health issues, then I believe that natural progesterone cream can be a good choice for her, for one to three cycles.

That said, using natural progesterone cream only adds plant-based progesterone to your body (to replace the progesterone your body is lacking). It doesn’t help you create more of your own progesterone, which is ultimately what you want your body to do. This is why Cycle-Syncing™ is so effective because it balances out estrogen and boosts progesterone throughout your cycle.  

The 5 Best Supplements for PCOS

I recommend these supplements to address the root causes of PCOS

Cinnamon – Taking this warming spice as a supplement helps stabilize blood sugar, which is essential for all hormonally-sensitive women, but especially those with PCOS. I recommend New Chapter for a cinnamon supplement, but you can additionally shake cinnamon on oatmeal, eggs, or enjoy cinnamon tea, like Tazo’s Cinnamon Apple Baked.

Magnesium –  Magnesium is vital for hormonal balance, and most women are deficient in this essential micronutrient. Magnesium improves insulin resistance, reduces inflammation, and supports adrenal function — all essential actions for managing PCOS symptoms and treating the root causes of PCOS.

B6 – A condition called estrogen dominance, in which estrogen levels are high relative to progesterone, fuels PCOS. Taking vitamin B6 helps increase progesterone production. I encourage women with PCOS to eat B6-rich foods like bananas, grass-fed beef, and garlic, but a daily supplement is also important.

Selenium – Selenium is essential for supporting liver function. The liver’s job is to help the body detox excess estrogen and environmental estrogens (phytoestrogens). When the liver gets the support it needs, estrogen dominance is less of an issue.

Zinc – This mineral balances testosterone. Whether your testosterone levels are high or low (both possible with PCOS), zinc will have a positive, balancing effect. Studies have shown how beneficial zinc supplementation can be for women suffering with PCOS, with relatively rapid results.

In the FLO Protocol, food comes first. What you eat and when you eat it are the single best ways to heal your hormones and erase the symptoms of PCOS.

After that, taking high-quality, targeted supplements is the best way to help yourself recover lost nutrients and restore hormone balance. Supplements can help undo the havoc caused by caffeine, stress, hormonal birth control, and environmental toxins — and they are especially important when you are trying to heal PCOS. They help support your body and balance your hormones as your body works to restore a new, healthy baseline.  

It’s easy to feel protected by a virtuous diet. But that is often not enough to erase PCOS symptoms. What’s more, you don’t want to take a slapdash approach to supplements, trying one thing you read about in a magazine here or another highly lauded supplement there. Real relief from hormone-related symptoms requires a systemic approach. That’s why I’m proud to be able to offer you the essential micronutrients you need to support hormone health and keep your periods symptom free. I’ve spent years researching the targeted supplements women need to heal their hormones and the result is the Balance Supplements by Flo Living. These supplements take the guesswork out of shopping for high-quality supplements that meet a woman’s unique physiological needs.

Always remember that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you! You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!

The Best Food and Supplements for PMS

We grow into womanhood believing that PMS is an inevitable part of being female. Then so many of us experience it, we believe that must be true. We just accept that once a month for a few days, a week — or even longer — we feel crabby, angry, low, anxious, lacking in confidence, frustrated, as well as bloated, ravenously hungry, craving sugar, and covered in acne.

But PMS is not normal. Menstruating women are not destined to suffer before their period. You know what else? The solution isn’t drugs. The Pill may seem to help, but it only masks symptoms — all while the root causes of PMS continue to simmer under the surface. It’s the same story with over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and painkillers, like ibuprofen. These drugs mask the pain.

They don’t treat the deeper root causes.It’s a myth that women have to suffer every month, and it’s a myth that drugs address the deeper hormone imbalances that contribute to premenstrual syndrome and period pain.So what causes PMS? What helps erase the symptoms? Here is everything you need to know about PMS and natural strategies for easing premenstrual symptoms.

What is PMS?

PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome, but it can strike anytime after ovulation, which occurs in the middle of your 28-day cycle, also known as the infradian rhythm, and the start of your period. The time between ovulation and the start of your period is known as the luteal phase.PMS refers to a group of physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms that menstruating women experience during the luteal phase. Symptoms include:

  • Acne
  • Bloating/retaining fluid
  • Breast tenderness
  • Food cravings and/or increased appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling irritable, cranky, and/or depressed
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches and/or migraines
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low back pain
  • Cramps

What causes PMS?

Experts believe PMS is triggered (in part) by cyclical changes in sex hormones each month. And while it is true that our sex hormones naturally shift in a cyclical pattern each month, problems crop up only when our hormones are out of balance — when, for example, we have too much estrogen in our bodies relative to progesterone (a condition known as estrogen dominance), or when we have too little progesterone overall. In other words, monthly hormone shifts are normal and expected. They happen! But they are not the root cause of the problem.

The root cause of the problem is when we have more or less estrogen and progesterone than we need. As our bodies move through the 28-day hormone cycle in this hormonally imbalanced environment, that is when we experience symptoms.If you address the underlying hormone imbalance with food and lifestyle, you can erase the symptoms of PMS.

You will still be cycling through the four phases of your menstrual cycle — as you should be! — but without all the symptoms you experienced before. Experts also believe that nutrient deficiencies play a role in PMS symptoms. Research has shown a connection between low levels of vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium and PMS symptoms. Studies also suggest that supplementing with magnesium and vitamin B6 can make a significant difference in the severity of PMS.

Why the Pill Make PMS worse

Women with severe PMS are sometimes prescribed hormonal birth control to help ease symptoms. The pill stops ovulation and that can lead to reduced symptoms throughout one’s cycle. But not ovulating causes its own problems. Research has shown that consistent ovulation protects women’s long term health, especially when it comes to avoiding issues like osteoporosis, heart disease, heart attacks, and breast cancer (all top killers of women). Hormonal birth control (except, sometimes, the hormonal IUD) suppresses ovulation.

Suppressing ovulation for years, decades even, has long term consequences, even if ovulation returns shortly after you come off the medication. Exposure to synthetic hormones plus a lack of exposure to the body’s own hormone cycles, is the root cause. In short: ovulation is important — and not just for when you want to conceive.

The pill poses other problems, too. It’s been shown to disturb the microbiome, increase inflammation, and drain the body of essential micronutrients, among other things.Finally, the pill paves over the root causes of hormone imbalance without directly addressing root causes. That means that whenever you come off the pill, your symptoms are likely to come roaring back, often worse than before.

Lifestyle factors that make PMS worse

Modern life brings together a perfect storm of factors that undermine hormone balance and make PMS worse. Here are some of the habits and lifestyle factors that conspire to throw your hormones out of alignment:

1. Stress

We live in a society that places a high value on always being busy. If you ask someone how they’re doing or what’s new and they reply, “I’ve been SO busy,” it often sounds as much like a point of pride as it does a complaint. But we need to reverse our stance on stress. Research shows that the higher the level of our perceived stress, the worse our PMS—and that stress reduction techniques might be effective non-pharmaceutical interventions for easing PMS. So grab your yoga mat, download that meditation app, or make more time for the leisure activity that relaxes you.

2. Inflammation

Inflammation is a system-wide response to injury or stress, and it can be brought on by a large number of environmental factors, from eating unhealthy foods and being too sedentary to using toxic health and body care products. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that control the body’s inflammatory response and experts believe they can trigger many of the symptoms of PMS. (Prostaglandin overproduction is why some women get relief by taking NSAIDs like ibuprofen. NSAIDs block the synthesis of prostaglandins.)

3. Eating too much sugar

Sugar is one of the most inflammatory foods you can eat — and more inflammation means more PMS (see #2, above). Cutting down on sugar is a must when you’re trying to tame PMS.

4. Smoking

Smoking is bad for overall health, of course, including hormone balance. Women who smoke are twice as likely to develop PMS. Just say no to cigarettes.

5. Drinking coffee

Coffee fuels prostaglandin production, and increases the risk of cysts, fibroids, and period pain. Coffee also depletes the body of key hormone-balancing nutrients like magnesium.

6. Carrying HIDDEN weight

When I say this, I’m not talking about overweight and obesity per se. While being overweight is associated with a greater risk of PMS, the real problem is how ‘fat’ you are on the inside, which is not reflected in how much you weigh. You can be skinny on the outside and overweight on the inside — this is known in medical literature as being a “medically obese, normal-weight individual,” though a lot of practitioners refer this condition as being “skinny fat” — so you can’t just look in the mirror or step on the scale to know what’s happening on the inside. Your PMS might be telling you to address internal obesity.

7. You’re not living in sync with your cycle.

You’ve probably read about the importance of the 24-hour circadian cycle—how important it is to get high-quality, consecutive hours of sleep during the night, for example, and to get some safe sun exposure during the day, etc. But you probably haven’t heard about the importance of living in sync with your 28-day cycle—and, for women, that cycle is just as important to tend to as the circadian cycle. Research shows that our 28-day menstrual cycle affects our brain function, emotions, mood, sensory processing, appetite, and even our perception of pain. If you’re not supporting your body’s unique hormonal needs during each of the four phases of the 28-day cycle, you won’t have healthy, pain-free periods.

How to Erase PMS symptoms: Lifestyle Strategies for PMS

You can take a multi-pronged approach to ease the symptoms of PMS. Here are some of my top food, supplement, and lifestyle strategies. Let’s start with lifestyle. Here’s how to arrange your environment to help defeat PMS:

1. Stomp out inflammation.

Eat low inflammatory foods, like cruciferous vegetables, pastured eggs and pastured animal proteins, and nuts and seeds. Reduce the amount of sugar you eat or eliminate it altogether. A high-sugar diet drives up the production of advanced-glycation end products, which contribute to inflammation. Two foods that have been shown to help specifically with prostaglandin reduction are pomegranate and small, oily fish that contain high levels of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids.

2. Make “organic” and “clean” the main part of your life.

When you’re standing in the grocery aisle or at the makeup counter and the clean products and organic foods are more expensive than the conventional option, it can be easy to make the wallet-friendly choice. But what you need to keep in mind in these moments is the true cost of the choice you’re making. The toxins in these foods and products come into direct contact with the body and alter endocrine function, making period problems like PMS worse. You may save at check-out, but you are ultimately paying with your health. Eat organic and clean whenever possible.

3. Give up coffee.

This piece of advice is self-explanatory and, after the first week of withdrawal, not nearly as hard as you think. Within a month you won’t even miss it. Skip caffeinated tea, too. In case you’re tempted to skip tip #3, allow me to repeat myself: no more caffeine!

4. Improve your health from the inside out.  

You might look lean in the mirror, but if you don’t exercise (hence, you don’t have much lean muscle mass), and if you eat a high-sugar diet and/or you don’t have enough phytonutrient-rich vegetables on your plate, you might have the bloodwork profile of someone with overweight or obesity—and being overweight or obese is strongly correlated with PMS. When you start correcting what’s going on internally, you can see a reduction in symptoms.

5. Find what relaxes you… and make it a regular part of your life.

In the medical literature, high levels of stress are associated with more severe PMS. The time for stress reduction is now, not when you finish this big project or after that big presentation. Because guess what? When you finish those things there will just be more to do. The time is now. Your health depends on it.

6. Start Cycle Syncing

All of the biohacks I just mentioned will only get you so far if you don’t start to live in accordance with your cycle. Eating and exercising for each week-long phase of your 28-day cycle is the foundation of feeling better and having a symptom-free period. For too long, we’ve been living the same way day in and day out. This works for men, but not for women. Syncing your cycle will not only fix your period problems, it will help you find more happiness, energy, and success in life. Simply put, tending to your 28-day cycle is as important as tending to your 24-hour circadian cycle. If the idea of syncing with your cycle is new to you, I have an app and a treasure trove of articles on the blog to help you get started.

How to Tame PMS-Related Food Cravings

Before I get to my recommended list of foods for PMS, I want to tackle a very important topic: food cravings.Many of the women I’ve worked with over the years have struggled to maintain their otherwise healthy eating habits when they’re in their premenstrual or luteal phase. It’s then that their resolve is weakest. I get it – the intense cravings that PMS brings can derail the best of us.I help women address the root causes of cravings. I also know it’s important to have healthy alternatives on hand when cravings strike! Here are the most common food cravings during the luteal phase, along with healthy alternatives that won’t make your hormone imbalances worse.

PMS food craving #1: Coffee

A coffee habit can be a sign of  imbalanced cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) and not having enough internal oomph to get through the day. You’re searching for a quick hit of energy that you can’t generate on your own. What’s the alternative? Try kukicha tea, which has a nutty, non-herbal flavor profile as it’s made from roasting the twigs that grow right below tea leaves. Kukicha still contains some caffeine, but not enough to negatively impact your health. Mixing kukicha with Oatstraw and Holy Basil tea will help support your adrenals and bring them back in balance.

PMS food craving #2: Chocolate

Chocolate cravings can signal a magnesium deficiency. It may also indicate an overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeast in your gut, which makes you crave sugar. Taking a high-quality magnesium supplement can help curb sugar cravings. So can taking a high-quality probiotic.What’s the alternative? The great news here is that chocolate is a superfood and I eat a little chocolate most days myself, BUT it’s all about what kind of chocolate you have. Chocolate with dairy and sugar is a no-go, but good quality, organic, dark chocolate with minimal or, even better, no sugar or dairy is a healthy, hormone-supportive choice. Try adding raw cacao powder to smoothies or sprinkling on fruit salad, or try a high-quality dark chocolate bar. One of my favorite brands is Endangered Species.

PMS food craving #3: Pasta

When only white carbs will do – be that a big pile of spaghetti or a loaf of white bread – it’s usually blood sugar instability and/or a vitamin B deficiency that’s causing your cravings. Skipping meals, or eating too little or too sporadically throughout the day, can lead to blood sugar imbalances. So can eating meals high in simple carbs — simple carbs beget more carbs!What’s the alternative? You can break the cycle of blood sugar imbalance with meals that are high in healthy protein, healthy fat, and complex carbs from whole food sources. You will get a steady release of energy from a well-balanced meal and you won’t find yourself craving a candy bar 45 minutes after dinner. The takeaway? Don’t eat carbs in isolation (and don’t eat too many, if any, simple carbs, like those found in white bread or pasta). Instead, focus on integrating some  carbs into each meal. And try to eat regularly, before you get so hungry that you will eat anything in front of you. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Taking a high-quality vitamin B supplement can also help.

PMS food craving #4: Soda

If you find yourself craving soda, your blood sugar might be off and you need to re-set with whole-food-based meals that have enough healthy fat and healthy protein to stabilize your blood sugar. You might also be dehydrated. Soda contains salt (along with a bunch of sugar), and that salty-sweet combo gives soda the allure of a hydrating beverage while actually dehydrating you (the salt makes you thirsty all over again).What’s the alternative? Increasing electrolytes is a great way to combat dehydration. Try coconut water, which has a sweet and salty flavor, or plain carbonated water with a touch of 100-percent fruit juice mixed in. The classic choice — a big glass of water (!) — is a great option, too.

PMS food craving #5: Steak

If you find yourself craving red meat, you may have an iron deficiency. And if the only thing that will satisfy you during your luteal phase is a big, juicy steak, go ahead! If it is grass-fed, organic meat, there is nothing wrong with that. If you’re open to what meat you eat, the healthier choice is organic, grass-fed bison or lamb. If you don’t eat red meat, you might need to supplement with iron.What’s the alternative? Take liquid chlorophyll. It’s only one molecule different from hemoglobin and it is high in magnesium, which helps erase the symptoms of PMS.

The Best Foods for PMS

What specific foods can help ease the symptoms of PMS? Here are my favorites:

Chickpeas

Chickpeas are a great source of magnesium. They also contain vitamin B6. Both of these compounds, especially when taken together, help reduce symptoms of PMS.

Kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and other dark leafy greens

All brassica vegetables contain indole-3 carbinol, which helps the liver metabolize excess estrogen and prevent estrogen dominance (which is a common hormone imbalance that gives rise to a bunch of period problems, including PMS).

Coconut yogurt

Coconut yogurt contains probiotics in the form of live cultures (which helps the gut metabolize estrogen and keep hormones balanced) and it is rich in healthy fats, which help keep blood sugar stable.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet and can help satisfy your sweet cravings. The vitamin A in sweet potatoes supports the liver as it metabolizes excess estrogen.

Bone broth

Bone broth can be a good source of magnesium and calcium, both of which can help alleviate the symptoms of PMS.

The Best Natural Supplements to Prevent PMS

You can’t spot treat PMS. You have to address the root causes to get rid of it. In order for your body to produce adequate amounts of the right hormones at the right times, you need several key micronutrients:

Magnesium

Research suggests that magnesium helps alleviate symptoms of PMS, including weight gain, breast tenderness, and bloating. Magnesium is also great for promoting relaxation, reducing anxiety and stress, and encouraging good sleep. A high-quality magnesium supplement makes a great addition to your PMS-fighting arsenal.

Vitamin B6

Supplementing with up to 100mg/day of vitamin B6 is likely to help treat premenstrual symptoms, and premenstrual depression, according to research.

Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D3

Both of these nutrients help promote hormone balance. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with reproductive hormone imbalances in both men and women. Omega-3s help protect against anxiety and depression and may help reduce cramps.

Vitamin E

Vitamin helps reduce breast premenstrual breast tenderness, according to research. (So does vitamin B6!).

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)

ALA offers powerful antioxidant support for the liver as it works to metabolize excess estrogen — remember: too much estrogen relative to progesterone can trigger PMS symptoms — and also supports stable blood sugar.

Calcium

Calcium supplements have been shown to help with mood swings during the luteal phase.Taking targeted, high-quality supplements can fast track your hormonal healing. I created the Balance by FLO Living supplement kit to give you the essential micronutrient support you need to have a symptom-free cycle. With Balance by FLO Living, you can start feeling better in just one month.

Additional Natural Supplement Support to Prevent PMS

I recommend that women who are experiencing PMS start with the micronutrients I outlined above. These are essential micronutrients you need to support your endocrine system and erase symptoms. But if you incorporate these micronutrients and still experience PMS and other problems, I recommend specific herbs. In most cases, you will only need the micronutrients (and not the herbs), but if you do opt for herbs, remember that these are powerful compounds. Use them only in specific situations and always consult a trusted healthcare practitioner on dosage and timing.

Vitex

Vitex supports the production of progesterone and luteinizing hormone — both of which are necessary for your body to ovulate, for regular menstrual cycles, and for you to avoid symptoms of hormonal imbalance like PMS. Vitex is well-researched and It is an effective and often successful natural treatment for cycle-related problems. But I believe that should be used as a short-term, not a long term, solution. Vitex alone will not address the root causes of PMS and other period problems.

Dong Quai

This herb has muscle-relaxing effects and helps relieve pre-period cramps and aches. Important note! This powerful supplement should not be used during pregnancy, breastfeeding, or if you have a family history of female cancers.

Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose oil can help with cramps, aches and pains, and headaches in the luteal phase.Always remember that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you. You can do this – the science of your body is on your side.

Balance Supplements

I designed my Balance Supplements specifically to help women address these key deficiencies, balance their hormones, and reclaim their energy.You don’t need to feel listless and exhausted for 1-2 weeks every month. You can reclaim your energy in as little as one 28-day hormone cycle. BALANCE by FLO Living is the FIRST supplement kit for happier periods that supports balancing your hormones. Balance Supplements include five formulations that provide essential micronutrients to balance your hormones. Think of them as your personal “insurance policy” against environmental factors that are (knowingly or unknowingly) zapping your energy every month. Balance Supplements can help you have more energy within a few weeks!

The Menstrual Phase: Support Your Body with The Cycle Syncing Method®

This is the fourth blog post in a 4-part series on The Cycle Syncing Method®: micronutrient and botanical support for the four phases of the infradian rhythm, or hormonal cycle.At Flo Living, our goal is to help women balance their hormones and resolve period problems with food, supplements, and lifestyle changes. We take a functional nutrition and systems medicine approach to achieving optimal hormone health. The first step for any woman* in balancing her hormones is learning about the 28-day hormone cycle, which is governed by a special biological rhythm called the infradian rhythm. The infradian rhythm plays a vital role in female health and wellness. Knowing what your body needs during each phase of your cycle is key not only to hormonal healing but to your health overall.To learn more about the infradian rhythm, you can check out the in-depth post I wrote on the infradian rhythm here, and more about The Cycle Syncing Method® here. For a deep dive, grab a copy of my new book In The Flo, which is all about the unique rhythms of our 28-day hormone cycle, The Cycle Syncing Method®, and the specific supports we can offer our bodies during each phase.

This is the fourth blog post in our four-part series on micronutrient and botanical support to help better support the infradian rhythm. To read In this post, we will explore supplement needs during the menstrual phase of the 28-day hormone cycle.

The 4-Phases of the Infradian Rhythm

The infradian rhythm tracks with the menstrual cycle and has four distinct phases. They are:

  1. The follicular phase
  2. The ovulatory phase
  3. The luteal phase
  4. The menstrual phase

For women in their reproductive years, the key to optimal health is to eat, move, and supplement in ways that support each phase of the infradian rhythm. Our bodies require different types of self care during each phase.The menstrual phase is the 3 to 7 days during your bleed. You can learn more about micronutrient needs in the first phase (follicular) of your cycle here, the second phase (ovulatory) here, and the third phase (luteal) here. In today’s post, we’re going to do a deep dive on micronutrient support for the menstrual phase.

Meet the Menstrual Phase

When: The 3 to 7 days during your bleed.What’s happening in your body:

  • The corpus luteum gets reabsorbed by the body
  • Progesterone levels decline
  • Your uterus sheds the thick endometrial lining that it has built up in the luteal phase
  • Estrogen hits its lowest point just before your bleed

What’s happening in your brain:The left (analytical) and right (feeling) hemispheres of your brain communicate the most during this time, which means it's a great time to integrate how you feel about situations in your life and make decisions about how to proceed. This is an ideal time to reflect and journal. Food, Exercise, and Lifestyle Strategies for the Menstrual Phase

To achieve optimal hormone health and to ease period problems like PMS, cramps, bloating, acne, heavy or irregular periods and missing periods, it requires a multipronged approach that includes food, movement, and lifestyle strategies implemented in a cyclical way. I encourage women to eat in a cyclical pattern, exercise in line with their cycle, and plan their schedules with their infradian rhythm in mind. During the menstrual phase, specifically, your hormone levels are at their lowest, so it’s important to eat adequate calories and focus on restorative workouts. Keep your workouts relaxed, even if you’re not feeling discomfort. It’s a time to take things slowly and prioritize rest. Gentle walking or very light yoga is perfect during this phase. Make sure to get plenty of protein and healthy fat during your bleed, which will help with hormone production. (Your hormones are at their lowest levels during this phase.) Foods that help keep up your iron, like red meat and kidney beans, are helpful now, too. Adding in some seafood or mineral-rich seaweed helps replenish mineral levels in your body.Supplements are important, too. I recommend key micronutrients for every woman in her reproductive years—supplements that are important to take daily. I also recommend taking phase-specific supplements to further support and optimize hormone health during each phase. For phase-based support during the menstrual phase, I recommend taking a combination to help ease cramps and boost immune function.

Key Supplements for the Menstrual Phase

Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant that is good for hormone health and overall health. Studies show it helps reduce cramps and it may inhibit growth of endometrial tissue for people with endometriosis. An extensive body of research shows that quercetin has antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-Alzheimer’s, antiarthritic, cardiovascular, and wound-healing properties. It may also help protect against certain types of cancer. According to research, quercetin helps modulate inflammation and regulate blood sugar, two factors that are essential for balanced hormones and a healthy cycle. And studies suggest it may help reduce symptoms of PCOS. Quercetin is a type of plant compound known as a phytoestrogen, and studies suggest that it may help protect and support the ovaries from oxidative stress. As a phytoestrogen, quercetin may mimic some of the same actions as estrogen in the body, which is one reason to consider taking quercetin during your period, when estrogen levels are at their lowest levels all month. Quercetin and other antioxidants may also help prevent urinary tract infections, according to some research. I recommend taking quercetin during the menstrual phase to support healthy estrogen levels and keep inflammation levels low. Nettles help replenish magnesium in the body, which may help reduce PMS and other symptoms. Nettles may also help with heavy flow, and they are a good source of iron, which can help build up the blood after during and after menstruation. Taking these targeted supplements can help reduce or eliminate the need for ibuprofen for pain and cramps, acne medications for cyclical breakouts, birth control pills for regular periods, and caffeine for an energy boost — all of which only mask symptoms anyway. The Flo Living Cycle Syncing Ⓡ Supplements helps you exactly when and how your body needs it during each distinct phase of your cycle.  Since your hormones change each phase, it makes sense to change the way you target certain supplements each phase too.I carefully curated the key nutrients you need to help you look and feel your best throughout your cycle. And you simply take the one for the phase you’re in - period.At FloLiving, we are building a future where it’s easy and simple to get targeted support for your hormonal symptoms from your first period to your last. With the right support, women in their reproductive years can ease their symptoms, live with less pain, and look and feel their best — which is what every woman deserves.

*We use the words “woman” and “women” and she/her pronouns throughout these posts for ease of writing, but the principles and advice apply to any person, regardless of gender identity, who was born with female physiology. At the same time, if you are a person born with male physiology and you identify as non-binary or you are transitioning to identify as female, using a cyclical support system can help you feel more in sync with your female energy.

The Cycle Syncing® Supplement Kit

Targeted Nutraceuticals to help you optimize each phase of your cycle

Since your hormones change each phase of your cycle and you have different symptoms from those hormonal ratios each phase, you need targeted supplements for each phase to ease those specific symptoms during that phase.This kit will help relieve your period symptoms so you can stay energized and focused all month long.\

The Luteal Phase: Support Your Body with The Cycle Syncing Method®

This is the third blog post in a 4-part series on The Cycle Syncing Method®: micronutrient and botanical support for the four phases of the infradian rhythm, or hormonal cycle. At Flo Living, our goal is to help women balance their hormones and resolve period problems with food, supplements, and lifestyle changes. We take a functional nutrition and systems medicine approach to achieving optimal hormone health. The first step for any woman* in balancing her hormones is learning about the 28-day hormone cycle, which is governed by a special biological rhythm called the infradian rhythm. The infradian rhythm plays a vital role in female health and wellness. Knowing what your body needs during each phase of your cycle is key not only to hormonal healing but to your health overall. To learn more about the infradian rhythm, you can check out the in-depth post I wrote on the infradian rhythm here, and more about The Cycle Syncing Method® here. For a deep dive, grab a copy of my new book In The Flo, which is all about the unique rhythms of our 28-day hormone cycle, The Cycle Syncing Method®, and the specific supports we can offer our bodies during each phase.This is the third blog post in our four-part series on micronutrient and botanical support to help better support the infradian rhythm. In this post, we will explore supplement needs during the luteal phase of the 28-day hormone cycle.

The 4-Phases of the Infradian Rhythm

The infradian rhythm tracks with the menstrual cycle and has four distinct phases. They are:

  1. The follicular phase
  2. The ovulatory phase
  3. The luteal phase
  4. The menstrual phase

For women in their reproductive years, the key to optimal health is to eat, move, and supplement in ways that support each phase of the infradian rhythm. Our bodies require different types of self care during each phase.The luteal phase is the 10 to 14 days after ovulation and before your period. You can learn more about micronutrient needs in the first phase (follicular) of your cycle here and in the second phase (ovulatory) here. In today’s post, we’re going to do a deep dive on micronutrient support for the luteal phase.

Meet the Luteal Phase

When: The 10 to 14 days after ovulation and before your bleed.What’s happening in your body:

  • Estrogen levels continue to rise and the uterine lining continues to thicken
  • Progesterone levels start to rise
  • Toward the end of the luteal phase, estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone peak and then begin to drop, hitting their lowest levels just before your period.
  • PMS during this phase is caused by too much estrogen in the body relative to progesterone, or estrogen dominance
  • Metabolism speeds up

What’s happening in your brain:

Hormone levels during this phase prime your brain to be good at focusing on details and wrapping up projects. Toward the end of this phase, as your hormone levels plummet, you will have less energy and feel more inclined to focus inward rather than on socializing.

Food, Exercise, and Lifestyle Strategies for the Ovulatory Phase

To achieve optimal hormone health and to ease period problems like PMS, cramps, bloating, acne, heavy or irregular periods and missing periods, it requires a multipronged approach that includes food, movement, and lifestyle strategies implemented in a cyclical way. I encourage women to eat in a cyclical pattern, exercise in line with their cycle, and plan their schedules with their infradian rhythm in mind.

During the luteal phase, specifically, your metabolism speeds up, and your resting cortisol levels are higher. You must eat more calories daily to maintain stable blood sugar, which helps balance insulin — a critical hormone that greatly affects the degree of PMS you will experience.  In addition, don’t engage in HIIT workouts during this time. Opt for gentler movement, like Pilates and other non-cardio strength training. How much PMS you have is totally in your control and directly related to how much or how little you support your infradian rhythm during this phase. Continue to emphasize cruciferous vegetables during this phase and add in some complex carbohydrates like those found in sweet potatoes, which are nutrient-dense.

Supplements are important, too. I recommend key micronutrients for every woman in her reproductive years—supplements that are important to take daily. I also recommend taking phase-specific supplements to further support and optimize hormone health during each phase. For phase-based support during the luteal phase, I recommend women take a blend to balance blood sugar.

Key Supplement for the Luteal Phase

The luteal phase is marked by a natural increase in metabolism, which means your body needs more calories. However, if you don’t get that caloric level dialed in, you will experience sugar cravings during this phase. To keep those cravings at bay, it’s important to emphasize complex carbs, like sweet potato and brown rice, during this phase. You’ll want to continue to eat natural sugars and complex carbs throughout the entire luteal phase, because they help boost neurochemicals like serotonin and dopamine to keep your mood stable. As your need for calories and complex carbs goes up in the luteal phase, it’s essential to keep your blood sugar stable — and that’s where chromium and cinnamon come in.

Cinnamon is associated with a statistically significant decrease in fasting glucose levels, according to research, and has the potential to reduce blood sugar after eating a meal. Cinnamon has also been shown to help reduce insulin resistance, which can happen when blood sugar levels remain too high for a long period of time and which is a precursor to other, more serious conditions.

Chromium is an essential mineral that helps regulate insulin activity in the body and enhance the metabolism of carbs, proteins, and fats. Studies show that chromium can help reduce insulin resistance, which sets the stage for clinical conditions like PCOS and gestational diabetes, and keep blood glucose stable. Keeping blood sugar stable throughout all the phases of the infradian rhythm is important for hormone balance and a symptom-free cycle, so I encourage women to pay special attention to blood sugar across their entire infradian by eating low-glycemic foods in a phase-based pattern. For extra support during the luteal phase, I recommend taking a high-quality chromium-cinnamon supplement. There is no harm in taking chromium and cinnamon at other times during the infradian rhythm, but it can be especially helpful when you are naturally eating more complex carbs and natural sugars.

Taking these targeted supplements can help reduce or eliminate the need for ibuprofen for pain and cramps, acne medications for cyclical breakouts, birth control pills for regular periods, and caffeine for an energy boost — all of which only mask symptoms anyway.The Flo Living Cycle Syncing Ⓡ Supplements helps you exactly when and how your body needs it during each distinct phase of your cycle.  Since your hormones change each phase, it makes sense to change the way you target certain supplements each phase too.I carefully curated the key nutrients you need to help you look and feel your best throughout your cycle. And you simply take the one for the phase you’re in - period.

At Flo Living, we are building a future where it’s easy and simple to get targeted support for your hormonal symptoms from your first period to your last. With the right support, women in their reproductive years can ease their symptoms, live with less pain, and look and feel their best — which is what every woman deserves.*

We use the words “woman” and “women” and she/her pronouns throughout these posts for ease of writing, but the principles and advice apply to any person, regardless of gender identity, who was born with female physiology. At the same time, if you are a person born with male physiology and you identify as non-binary or you are transitioning to identify as female, using a cyclical support system can help you feel more in sync with your feminine energy.

The Cycle Syncing® Supplement Kit

Targeted Nutraceuticals to help you optimize each phase of your cycle

Since your hormones change each phase of your cycle and you have different symptoms from those hormonal ratios each phase, you need targeted supplements for each phase to ease those specific symptoms during that phase.This kit will help relieve your period symptoms so you can stay energized and focused all month long.

Why Summer is the Best Time to Boost Your Fertility

If you’re ready for a baby, you’re in luck: the best time of year to boost your fertility is…right now.Summer is the ideal season for improving fertility and getting pregnant—and that’s not just folklore. The case for focusing on fertility during the summer months is backed by science.What makes summer so great for making babies? First, there’s more opportunity for your body to make vitamin D naturally (thanks to more sunshine), and vitamin D is the essential fertility nutrient. There’s also more opportunities to move in fertility-supportive ways during the summer. Plus, some of the key fertility-boosting foods are in season right now. There’s also the research that suggests that children conceived between June and August tend to weigh more at birth, and may have better health outcomes throughout their lives.Let’s dig into the science and see exactly why summer is so brilliant for boosting fertility.

The Science of Summer and Fertility

Here’s the case for boosting your fertility during the summer months:

  1. It’s easier to stock up on vitamin D. Vitamin D, which the skin synthesizes from sunlight,  is absolutely essential if you are trying to conceive. It’s important to patch up all micronutrient gaps, of course, but getting enough D is the most critical when it comes to fertility. 

Why?The reproductive tissue in both women and men have vitamin D receptors and vitamin D-metabolizing enzymes. Animal studies have shown that, when those receptors are blocked, the animals experience abnormal development of the testes, ovaries, and uterus.In women with PCOS, which is one of the leading causes of infertility, healthy levels of vitamin D are associated with significantly higher pregnancy rates and improvement in embryo quality. Research shows that women undergoing IVF are “significantly more likely” to get pregnant with higher vitamin D levels.A sufficient supply of vitamin D, either through sunlight or supplementation, when trying to conceive and during pregnancy is important for preventing health risks for both mother and baby. Adequate vitamin D during gestation “favorably impacts the epigenome of the fetus, and in turn, long term health.” The same researchers note that there’s “urgency based on emerging research to correct [vitamin D] deficiency and maintain optimal vitamin D status” during pre-conception, conception, and gestation.Get Enough Vitamin D: The most important source of vitamin D is the sun, which is synthesized in the body when skin is exposed to sunlight—and there is no better time to get out in the sun than summer. In fact, in most areas of the northern hemisphere, the sun’s rays aren’t bright enough during winter to trigger vitamin D synthesis.So I recommend getting 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure (without sunscreen) each day during summer to boost and maintain vitamin D levels. If you’re worried about skin cancer, accelerated skin aging, and the benefits and dangers of sunscreen, I cover the topic in depth here.Even still, and for unknown reasons, many people are unable to make enough vitamin D in the summer to support overall health and fertility. For this reason, I recommend that women take a high-quality vitamin D supplement year round, in addition to getting outside for 10 to 15 minutes a day in the sunlight.

  1. Your immune system may be stronger in the summer. Robust immunity during the summer months may be a result of all that vitamin D, which helps modulate and support the immune system. The incidence of getting the flu goes down in the summer, too. Conception during flu season is correlated with shorter gestation time and that can have long-term consequences for babies. 

Boost your immunity: Make sure to maximize all your micronutrients, not just vitamin D; prioritize sleep; and take stress management seriously. All these factors influence immunity. What’s more, stress sends messages to the body that it is not an ideal time to get pregnant, so this is an especially important factor in boosting fertility.

  1. The summer months provide more opportunity for lymph-supportive exercise. With its long days and warm weather, summer provides more opportunity for almost all types of movement. I recommend low-impact, lymph system-supportive movement for women who want to boost fertility.

Get moving: Spending five to 10 minutes jumping on a mini trampoline is great. So is skipping down the street (which is great for getting vitamin D, too). Any gentle, circulation-improving movement will support fertility.

  1. Guacamole tastes better in the summer. Okay, okay. Guacamole tastes good all year round, but the ingredients are in season during summer, so they’re fresh, delicious, and cheap(er). But, wait, you might be wondering, what does guacamole have to do with fertility? The answer is in the avocado. Avocados contain the exact type of fat you want to eat when you’re trying to conceive (and even when you’re not). A diet high in healthy fats is essential for boosting fertility. 

Eat some avocado: Guac makes a great choice because the avocados are paired with other high-phytonutrients whole foods and inflammation-fighting herbs. But the truly important factor here is getting more avocados, so any way you eat them is just fine! Make a avocado-based tzatziki sauce to dip veggies in, eat mashed avocado on gluten-free toast, or cut an avocado in half, drizzle with salt and olive oil (which is also rich in the kind of fat you want to have) and it eat it with a spoon.

  1. It is cheaper and easier to make green green smoothies in summer. I recommend drinking green drinks year round, but these estrogen-balancing, liver-supporting drinks can be stuffed full of summer’s bountiful greens (which are cheaper because they are in season or, better yet, you can grow your own if you have a yard)—and they taste refreshing and cooling in the heat. A whole foods-based, primarily greens-filled smoothie supports fertility by helping eliminate used-up estrogen from the body and promoting healthy hormone balance.

Go green: One of the beautiful things about blending up a green drink is all the different variations you can make. Pull out your blender, grab some greens, and start mixing!

Fertility Challenges in the Summer

Summer IS the best season to boost fertility and get your body ready to conceive. But the season brings some fertility challenges, too.Sunscreen use goes up in the summer, as I mentioned, and many conventional sunscreens pose health risks to mother and baby. (For more on sunscreen safety, go here.) There’s also more exposure to herbicides and pesticides which end up on lawns, parks in suburban areas, and sprayed overhead, if you live in an agricultural area. The toxins in these products are especially hard on the body’s endocrine system, which regulates reproductive hormones.The summers also bring their fair share of heavy smog days. And the number of air quality alert (especially for us city dwellers) has gone up in recent years with the wildfires in Canada and out West. To protect yourself from these fertility-disrupting toxins and air particles, practice sun safety and avoid lawns and other garden areas that have been treated with chemicals. And when you return home, leave your shoes at the front door. Shoes come into contact with pesticides and herbicides that run off onto sidewalks or that linger in grassy spots, and when we wear our shoes at home, the chemicals get tracked through our house and leave us vulnerable to exposure.Pay attention to weather reports and air quality alerts and take precautions to avoid outdoor air on the heaviest smog days.Always remember that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you! You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!

What to Do When Acne Affects More Than the Skin

If you have acne, you don’t need me to tell you that breakouts affect more than your skin. Acne can bring emotional consequences, like low self-esteem, social anxiety, and depression.Now, a new study has confirmed what you already know: Researchers looked at close to 2 million people over the course of 15 years and found that having acne increases the risk of depression by 63 percent. The study also found that individuals with acne are more likely to be younger and female.It’s easy to understand the emotional fallout of acne. When you don’t feel confident in your skin—literally—you can experience a cascade of unwelcome symptoms and emotions, from anxiety and loneliness to diminished quality of life. But acne and depression are connected in more ways than one: they share many of the same root causes. Yes, the appearance of acne can have an emotional impact. But acne, like depression, can be a sign of underlying imbalances, including impaired gut health, inflammation, and hormone imbalances. Another connection? Both acne and depression are associated with taking the pill...which is often prescribed to “treat” acne. But there’s good news: You can help heal the underlying imbalances that fuel both acne and depression with lifestyle strategies and natural remedies. Here’s how.

Why Conventional Acne Treatments Make Acne Worse

Acne has multiple root causes. So does depression. Intriguingly, several of those root causes are the same. In some sense, this is old news. Over 70 years ago, two pioneering dermatologists proposed an overlap between anxiety, depression, and skin conditions like acne. They believed impaired gut health was a key factor in these conditions, and they dubbed the connection the gut-brain-skin axis. Contemporary research has proven these early experts right. Poor gut health is a factor in the development of both acne and depression. Other root factors, like inflammation and hormone imbalances, contribute to both conditions, too… And that is why topical acne creams don’t work. They don’t address the root causes. Same with going on the pill and taking antibiotics, These treatments only address the symptom (acne) and ignore the root causes. And, ultimately, these treatments make both conditions worse. Taking hormonal birth control (the pill) is a risk factor for developing depression. And while the pill may stop breakouts while you’re on it, your acne is likely to flare up with even more intensity when you stop taking it. That’s because the pill paves over symptoms, all while the root causes simmer under the surface. Many antibiotics are hard on the gut microbiome (because they wipe out the good and bad bugs in the gut)—and a less diverse microbiome is a risk factor for skin conditions and mental health conditions. To help ease acne, and to help support good mental health, it’s important to heal the root causes that fuel them both.

Root Causes of Acne

To heal the root causes of acne, it’s important first to understand them. It’s also helpful to know which root causes overlap with depression.

  1. Your detoxification system is sluggish. If you experience acne as part of your 28-day hormone cycle—for example, if you notice breakouts around ovulation (mid-cycle) and/or right before your period—it’s a sign that your body isn’t processing and eliminating excess hormones. Here’s what happens: during the second half of your cycle, estrogen and testosterone peak. If your detox system is congested and can’t get rid of these excess hormones quickly enough, estrogen builds up in your body (estrogen dominance) and causes problems (like skin inflammation). The extra testosterone sends signals to your sebaceous glands to produce more oil. Acne is the result.

Women are at greater risk for depression throughout their lifetimes than men, and research suggests that this may have to do with hormones. Neurotransmitters and hormones share several common pathways in areas of the brain associated with mood, and when hormones are imbalanced—or when women go through natural, hormone-shifting events (like giving birth or going through menopause)—it may affect these pathways and increase the risk of depression.

  1. Your microbiome is imbalanced. The gut microbiome influences the skin microbiome through the gut-skin axis, so if your gut flora is off balance, your skin can be thrown off balance, too. Gut flora also plays a role in inflammation and oxidative stress, factors that fuel both acne and depression. So addressing gut health is a top priority when you’re working to heal both the dermatological and emotional consequences of acne.
  2. You have a micronutrient deficiency. If you’re deficient in key micronutrients—like vitamin B, magnesium, and zinc—your skin health will suffer. Studies suggest that zinc is a promising alternative to conventional acne treatments. Other nutrients, like magnesium and vitamins B and C, promote optimal hormone balance. And omega-3 fatty acids help decrease inflammation, which fuels both acne and depression. If you’re deficient in any of these nutrients, that deficiency will be reflected in your skin. (Even if you’re getting enough essential micronutrients, if your gut microbiome is imbalanced, your body may not be able to absorb them. This makes addressing gut health even more important when it comes to easing acne.)
  3. You’re (unintentionally) eating pro-inflammatory foods. Inflammation is a root cause of acne and depression...and some foods promote inflammation. These foods include dairy, sugar, refined flour (baked goods), soy, gluten, caffeine, non-pastured and non-organic animal protein, and unhealthy fats (like the fats found in canola, sunflower, safflower, and vegetable oils). Foods that have been grown conventionally (non-organic foods) also contribute to inflammation.
  4. You live in an (unintentionally) inflammatory environment. Exposure to everyday toxins fuels inflammation...and you can be exposed to harmful, acne-promoting toxins almost everywhere you turn in your daily life. Hormone-disrupting and skin-damaging hormones hide in health and body care products, home cleaning products, lawn and garden chemicals, and furniture upholstery.
  5. You have a heavy, irregular, or otherwise problematic period. If you suffer period problems like bloating, PMS, severe cramps, heavy periods, irregular periods, or moodiness and irritability, it’s a sign that your reproductive hormones are imbalanced...and that those imbalances are playing a part in your skin issues.
  6. You’re sedentary. Sweating helps the body eliminate toxins and clear the skin. Not getting enough exercise can be one factor in persistent acne.

Natural Remedies for Curing Acne

Here’s how to address the root causes of acne and, in some cases, depression:Support your detoxification system. Your liver is one of the body’s main organs of detoxification (so is the skin, of course, which is one reason that sweating is so good for skin health!). The liver can’t do its job properly without support—and the best way to nourish your liver is by eating organic leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, and by taking a high-quality liver-support supplement. I like supplements like turmeric and green tea extract for liver support. Nurture the good bugs in your gut. Ditch sugar, caffeine, dairy, and other inflammatory foods, which are hard on the microbiome. Take a high-quality probiotic and incorporate foods rich in good bacteria, like coconut yogurt and sauerkraut. Patch up micronutrient gaps. Your first goal here is to stop micronutrients from leaching out of your body. Coffee is one thing that speeds up the loss of micronutrients. So is over-excercise. I recommend giving up caffeine and bringing exercise back into balance. But stopping the leaks is only the first step. I recommend targeted supplements to replace lost nutrients and help balance your hormones. Supplements are absolutely essential if you have a history of taking the pill or drinking caffeine. Reduce inflammation. Give up or greatly cut down on pro-inflammatory foods. Focus on eating foods that reduce inflammation, including spices, cruciferous vegetables, and foods full of healthy fats, like avocados and pumpkin seeds. Try to eat organic (especially vegetables, fruit, and animal protein) whenever possible. Take a high-quality omega-3 supplement. Omega-3 fatty acids are powerful inflammation fighters. And make it a priority to avoid everyday chemicals that harm the body’s delicate hormone system. Practice The Cycle Syncing Method™. This might sound complicated, but it’s easy and intuitive. Practicing The Cycle Syncing Method™ simply means tuning into the rhythms of your 28-day hormone cycle and then eating, moving, and engaging in self-care that is the hormone-supportive during each phase of your cycle. The first step in the process is to track your cycle, which you can do with the MyFLO app. Get moving. Move your body in healthy, hormone-supportive ways...which can include getting your heart rate up by having sex!Always remember that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you! You can do this—the science of your body is on your side!

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Alisha A   /  46 years old

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Alisha A   /  46 years old

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Alisha A   /  46 years old

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Alisha A   /  46 years old

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  • Cycle Syncing® Food & Workouts

  • Micronutrients to boost egg quality

  • Reduce inflammation

Alisha A   /  46 years old

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  • Cycle Syncing® Food & Workouts

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