Each day the Moon is brightening, shining its radiance upon the night sky. We gaze upward to marvel at her beauty and witness this astral mirror, as we too are feeling our inner light strengthen. For us menstruators, this waxing Moon compliments the internal phase of uterine growth and increased ovarian activity. We are in a phase of building, preparing for the ovarian splendor that a Full Moon will grace upon us in due time.
This lunar evolution of light is slow and methodic. Each day the sliver of shine grows a wee bit more. It is like this within us too. After all, once a seed sprouts in Spring, it takes love and nurturance for it to develop its flower. The beginning of this waxing phase is naturally more tender. The bleeding phase has only just commenced and the stretch out of your internal cocoon is a vulnerable experience. This is a powerful time for integration of the insights that blessed your bleeding phase. In the efforts of building a new foundation, you have the opportunity to learn from the strengths and weaknesses of your last cycle. This listening, learning, and application component is key. Mental, emotional, and physiological shifts are awakened by this integration step.
Physiological Exploration of the Follicular Phase
The Follicular phase of your cycle lasts from Day 1 of Bleeding until Ovulation, which is typically around Day 14 (with individual variance). The uterine shedding aspect of this phase was fully explored in our ‘New Being’ Blog, which explained the usefulness of the large hormonal dip during the inner Winter season. It is in this Waxing phase that growth of your uterine wall, ovarian follicle, and reproductive hormonal pool ensues. This phase is termed “Follicular” because it represents the new ovarian follicle that is being primed during this time. All of the nutrients needed and processes that are required for a happy-healthy egg to be released in your Ovulation phase are now being summoned. As you can imagine, self care is an important aspect of ensuring that you are able to build a strong ovarian follicle each cycle, as this is the building block of what future fertilization depends upon.
The dominant hormone during your Follicular Phase is Estrogen. Estrogen is the menstruator’s hormone of vitality. It signals your recently shed uterus to begin to grow. The endometrium layer of the uterus, which waxes and wanes with the Moon is now in the phase of building. This is essential for the possibility of embryo implantation later on in your cycle. Further, increasing levels of estrogen serve to strengthen and energize your body and mind. This vital hormone is predominantly secreted by your ovaries, with additional help from your adrenal glands and fat tissue. It is important to highlight that the menopausal shift silences the production of estrogen from the ovaries. The Adrenal glands then become the predominant secretory organ of estrogen. The adrenal glands are also responsible for producing the body’s main stress hormone, Cortisol. It is integral to keep stress low during the entirety of your life, to your best ability, in order to preserve adrenal function for this important responsibility it takes on later in life.
Each cycle is blessed with the liberation of one follicle from a single ovary. Each menstruator is born with a finite pool of ovarian follicles. Each month, one is chosen to mature and becomes responsible for that months hormone production. The two most dominant reproductive hormones, estrogen and progesterone, are both released from specialized cells within each ovarian follicle. During the Follicular phase, a communication loop ensues between regions of the brain and these specialized follicles, ensuring that an appropriate amount of hormones are being released from the ovaries, in relation to what is needed in the body. The most intimate hormone that communicates with the ovaries, during this phase, is Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). FSH is released from the Pituitary Gland and sends a message to the ovarian follicle to produce estrogen. The effects of estrogen expands beyond the reproductive system, as it interacts within the cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, immune, and central nervous systems. As you may imagine, the downstream effect of this hormone’s balance is vast.
Contributors to a Challenging Spring
Spring is often romanticized. The morning dew upon the newly sprouted plants embodies an energy of peace and potential. While this remains true, Spring comes along with its own challenges and emotions. Many find themselves reaching to the blaring Sun too soon, scorching themselves with a busy-ness they are not quite ready for. Spring energy beckons for an intentional stretch, an honoring of the remaining shadows of the Winter, and a respect for the pinnacle of growth ahead. Remove rushing from your routine. The river will bring you to where you need to be, all you need to do is listen and respond to the current. Allow the past Winter to instill a sense of grounding into your essence & carry this on your journey ahead. Remember the waterfall of ovulation will come and fullness of energy will accompany it. Witness the gradual growth within you, as the shimmering light of the Moon grows in intensity.
We know Spring follows Winter. In nature, enrichment of the soil during the Winter season provides the nutrients and essentials for Spring growth. Our physiology mirrors this. The restoration of Winter is absolutely essential for peaceful growth in Spring. In the case that the bleeding phase was not honored with rest and introspection, this Spring phase can be challenging. The sensation of budding may feel like it came too soon. You may find yourself fatigued, depleted, and emotionally sensitive. If you find this to be your experience, know that you can extend your Winter. You can choose rest now. Building up your reserves is a necessary and foundational aspect of each cycle.
Some menstruators find their energy levels particularly low during their Follicular Phase. Two of the most common causes of this imbalance are nutrient deficiencies and low estrogen levels. Because you are in the building phase, you may find yourself particularly sensitive to disruptions in your vitality. Because your body is sequestering nutrients for growth, your dietary intake of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients is highlighted. If you find yourself deficient in these building blocks, your body will likely speak to you. Most commonly, the body speaks with fatigue. For example, those that experience heavy bleeding during their Winter phase are particularly sensitive to developing iron deficiency anemia. Due to blood loss, iron stores may become depleted and require additional support in order to adequately enrich your cells. When this is the case, fatigue is often paramount.
While imbalances in estrogen levels were highlighted in our “Waning Being” and “Full Being” blogs, there is a particular estrogen imbalance that may become more obvious during the follicular phase. This is estrogen deficiency. Although it is less common than estrogen excess, it can be a culprit of low vitally during this time of growth. Menstruators with low estrogen levels may find their bleeding phase to be particularly scanty and may experience spotting throughout the cycle. When estrogen is too low, it cannot sufficiently lead the growth process of the endometrial lining. When the fullness of uterine lining growth doesn’t occur, you can imagine that less blood would be present for shedding purposes. Further, since dropping estrogen levels is a messenger to initiate bleeding, spotting may occur at suboptimal times.
Ways to Support yourself during this Inner Spring Season
As you embark into this phase of growth, we invite you to explore what aspects of your life fill you with nourishment. Consider components of your lifestyle that fill your inner well verse depleting it. Choose to build your inner terrain with nutrient dense foods and soul fulfilling rituals. Remember to take the space to integrate the lessons and understandings that came through during your bleeding phase. Carve time out for yourself in your schedule in relation to your expected vitality. We often find that spacing out your schedule in the beginning of the follicular phase can be supportive, while filling up your schedule in the later part can feel empowering. Remember and honor the process of energetic growth.
When you consider nutrient fulfillment, keep in mind that you are transitioning from your bleeding phase. The bleeding phase can sometimes deplete nutrients like iron, and requires a greater amount of B vitamins to build new blood. Create and explore meals rich in these nutrients, like organic grass fed organ meats, raw dairy, dark green leafy vegetables, and nutritional yeast. Awareness of your protein intake can help you to build a strong nutritional foundation for the current cycle to grow upon. Fortifying your diet with foods rich in omega-3s can also help to create an anti-inflammatory terrain and balance out reproductive hormones. Some of our favorite omega 3s are enjoyed through flaxseeds, seaweed, walnuts, and anchovies. Listening to your own body’s needs is key, however, as each menstruator’s requirements have a unique hue. The most important aspect within the dietary realm is to birth awareness of your body’s needs, responses, and cravings from one phase of the cycle to the next. This is where true growth and strength in dietary medicine lives.
Engaging with rituals that feel expansive and self nurturing throughout your follicular phase can serve as a beautiful foundation for growth. It is these daily rituals that can help to keep a grounded element intact as your energy expands outward. These are so many different creative expressions of ritual. Breathwork, Meditation, Journaling, Poetry readings, Tea ceremonies, self massage and facial steams are some of our personal favorites. We invite you to choose a single ritual to commit to in this upcoming cycle & notice how it feels to have this thread of consistency. Consider Monthly Rituals’ salves, botanical teas, and steaming blends as allies for this exploration.
Authored By Caileen Vermilyea N.D.