You've come to the right place if you suffer from cyclical symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) or a possible hormone imbalance. The Cycle Diet is nutrition therapy for any woman looking to improve her well-being while living with the natural fluctuations of the female hormones.
The Cycle Diet was developed by Debra Hope-Riedesel, a licensed registered dietitian (RD) specializing in women's health. The diet is based on the latest nutrition and medical research available on PMS, PMDD, and reproductive health. The original PMS diet plan has been followed by thousands of women with very safe and satisfying results.
Due to the increasing numbers of women with gluten sensitivity, Celiac disease and PMDD a Gluten-Free Cycle Diet plan, is now available. Please contact the Cycle Diet Dietitian for more information and recommendations.
Individually tailored plans addressing unique nutritional needs are also available with confidential consultations. For more information on private consultations please follow the links to RD Services , Products, or by contacting the Cycle Diet dietitian.
The Original Cycle Diet Workbook is available as a single purchase item to help you with the details of the diet plan as well as charting and tracking symptoms. It contains all of the original menus, recipes along with much of the text from this website. Hit the Products link to order.
Find answers to frequently asked questions and encouragement while on the diet plan at The Cycle Diet Support Message Board and Forum. You'll find interesting discussions on several women's health topics and everyday life.
The Cycle Diet website contains a lot of helpful information with new information being added to the support board daily. You may want to bookmark it and comeback often. Be sure and read through the entire website and whatever you decide to do, do not let your symptoms get in the way of family relationships, career advancement or living the best life possible.
Introduction to Plan Basics
Reproductive health researchers are now more aware of the connection between PMS/PMDD, diet and stress however, with the heavy patient load many physicians carry, very little time is dedicated to nutrition education or stress management. General advice like eat a balanced diet is well intended, it does not take into account food intolerance, food sensitivities or underlying autoimmune conditions.
Women who present with PMS/PMDD symptoms or cyclical disorders are rarely tested for nutrient deficiencies from an inappropriate diet, lifestyle or malabsorption problem, although times are changing. More physicians are beginning to understand the gut-brain connection.
Many medical conditions also exacerbate PMS/PMDD as well as interfere with reproductive health. Some women go years living with undiagnosed autoimmune disease, food sensitivities or gluten intolerance misdiagnosed as IBS, or colitis. Gluten sensitivity (1 in 5) and celiac disease (1 in 133) are more common than once thought and may manifest into severe PMS/PMDD as well as affect fertility health.
It is always a good idea to check with your primary physician for any underlying medical conditions prior to the start of any self-help program. The Cycle Diet dietitian can help you advocate for the best possible health care outcome.
The Cycle Diet is based on the two phases of the female reproductive cycle. You will learn the specifics of the how, why and when to make simple dietary changes for improved reproductive health and PMS symptom relief.
The Cycle Diet spells out precisely:
- Foods to include all of the time
- Foods to avoid all of the time
- Foods OK during the Follicular phase
- Foods best during Luteal phase
- Menu suggestions for both phases
You will learn why popular ultra-processed foods, women with PMS seem to crave more often, may actually enhance food sensitivities. You will learn why dairy, even organic dairy, may not be the best foods for women who suffer from PMS, PMDD or irregular cycles. You will also learn why conventionally raised animal protein, typical in a U.S. diet and very low-carb diets are problematic for women who present with PMS/PMDD symptoms.
It is especially important for women who are lactose intolerant, or sensitivity to whey and/or casein, find other sources of calcium and dietary vitamin D for optimal fertility health as well as reduced PMS symptoms.
The Cycle Diet may benefit woman with luteal phase defect or a short luteal phase as well as any women planning to conceive. Basics to fertility health begins with the right nutrition long before planning a family. New studies suggest the overuse of pesticides, herbicides and antibiotic residues, common in conventionally raised foods, impact the developing fetus more than once thought.
Newer studies also point to nutrition and stress factors as a possible cause of postpartum depression. Women who are susceptible to PMS and PMDD may also be more vulnerable to postpartum depression.
You will learn why it's important to chart your monthly cycle and how to nourish your body according to the cycle phase you are in. There are exceptions of course, those who take oral contraceptives or hormone replacement due to surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries. If this is the case, you may have better results following the luteal phase diet plan for two months or cycles.
The original Cycle Diet plan is nutritionally balanced for all women between the ages of 15 and 55. Women who are younger or older have a few extra nutritional needs. If you are the main caretaker and food preparer for your family, the healthy changes you will be making will also benefit your family's health.
Reproductive Hormones 101
The female reproductive cycle typically follows a 28 day pattern. Some women have shorter or longer cycles. If your cycle is unpredictable or you skip periods and you have not been on a very restrictive diet, you should consult a physician for the cause. If you are between the ages of 13 and 24 and your physician tells you it is normal to skip periods during this time of your life, please see a new physician or, better yet, talk with an endocrinologist. Ask them to check for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a very common and under-diagnosed problem that is often missed. Women with polycystic ovaries should contact the Cycle Diet Dietitian for a diet specially designed for women with PCOS.
During the menstrual cycle, hormones that fluctuate significantly are:
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
- Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
There are two distinct phases of the menstrual cycle:
- Follicular Phase (proliferative) days 1-14
- Ovulation (Not a phase) usually day 13-14
- Luteal Phase (secretory)-Days 15-28
The Follicular Phase, begins Day 1, with the first day of your period, and lasts up to around Day 14 when ovulation occurs. During the follicular phase, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) stimulates the growth of the cells in the ovarian follicles, ovum, and surrounding layers of cells. Luteinizing hormone (LH) then increases sharply to stimulate the release of the mature follicle (egg) from the ovary at ovulation (Day 14)- and decreases just as fast.
Estrogen increases to peak at ovulation and for about a week into the Luteal Phase, the second half of the menstrual cycle. Progesterone begins to increase at ovulation and peaks between Days 21-23 of the Luteal Phase.
Although some women may feel some mild pain at ovulation, most PMS symptoms occur during the Luteal Phase. This is also when estrogen and progesterone are at their peak. In most cases, the majority of premenstrual symptoms present during Days 19-28, however every woman will experience this differently.
It is during the Luteal Phase that you will pay particularly close attention to your dietary intake. A diet full of saturated fat and excessive animal protein at this time can not only be hard on the liver and kidneys but also your well-being. Drinking alcohol during this time only adds to the problems. The liver is responsible for not only clearing toxins like alcohol out of your system, but the synthesis and degradation of amino acids (proteins) necessary for metabolism.
Chart Your Cycle Phases
It is important to estimate the times when estrogen and progesterone are at their highest levels in order to supply your body with the nutrients it needs when it needs them. On cycle day 14, estrogen and luteinizing hormone peak during ovulation. On cycle days 20-28 estrogen peaks a second time with progesterone. The majority of PMS symptoms arise when these hormones are at their peak during the Luteal Phase. It is also at this time the need for thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, B6 and B12 increase along with calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc. When estrogen increases, it also increases the excretion of many of these vitamins and minerals, especially calcium (Thys-Jacobs 1998). Many studies have also shown when estrogen levels are higher, estrogen increases the efficiency of insulin causing hypoglycemia in some women and sugar/carbohydrate cravings in others. High levels of estrogen also creates a negative feedback or a blunting affect on other metabolic reactions (thyroid activity and protein degradation). It is known that adipose (fat) tissue contributes between 10 to 25% of circulating estrogens. The higher percentage of adipose tissue you carry the more free estrogen you may produce aside from what you produce in your ovaries. In short:
When sex hormones are at their peak, cycle days 12-14 and 20-28, (luteal phase) the need for the B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, Vitamin D, zinc and other micro minerals also increase.
If you are deficient in any of the aforementioned nutrients, the probability of experiencing PMS symptoms will also increase. Single vitamin or mineral studies done on vitamin B6 or only magnesium have shown to be inconclusive because all of these nutrients work together. If any of these vitamins or minerals are out of balance (too much or to little) it causes inefficiencies in metabolic pathways. Many chemical reactions in our body that are necessary in metabolizing protein, fat and carbohydrates are slowed or stop until we supply these nutrients for completion. Think of your hormones as a symphony with perfect timing, all of the players need to be present performing perfectly together.
Most women with PMS feel great during their follicular phase or after the start of menses. This is the time when estrogen and progesterone along with luteinizing hormone are at their lowest levels. The stress hormone cortisol is naturally lower during this phase, unless you live a very stressful life. Cycle days 1-13 are the days when it is safer to eat or drink foods listed as stress foods. "Stress Foods" like red meat, soda made with high fructose corn sryup, alcohol, and highly processed-high glycemic food. They are called stress foods because your body goes through extremes to metabolize them.
Take wine, or beer as an example; in order to metabolize a 12 oz alcoholic beverage your liver uses many of the B vitamins along with C, A, D, zinc and selenium. Many of the same vitamins needed during the luteal phase. You need these nutrients all of the time, but more so during the 2nd half of your cycle.
The liver is not only responsible for clearing all of the toxins we ingest like alcohol, but the liver is also responsible for clearing and synthesizing cholesterol, the precursor to our sex hormones. The liver does a lot more than that but we won't get into that here, just know that the more work the liver has to do, the less efficient if becomes. The liver also clears the system of excess estrogens. If you eat a diet high in fat and animal protein and drink alcohol, your liver may become overloaded working to metabolize excess protein and toxins, so excess estrogen tends to build up in circulation. A lifestyle of fatty fast food, alcohol, sugar and little exercise over a period of time is a recipe for creating excess circulating estrogens, increased PMS symptoms and bad health.
During the first 2 full cycles on the diet it is highly recommended you avoid all stress foods until all PMS symptoms are under control. After 2 cycles you can experiment by slowly adding back a few foods from the stress foods list. Remember, nothing is ever forbidden, but knowing when not to over stress your system is the secret.
The luteal phase is the phase you need to become more in-tune to your body's needs. Balanced nutrition, sleep, exercise and stress management are most important during this time. You need to go through a couple PMS free menstrual cycles to know truly what it feels like to live a normal life symptom free. If you continue to have symptoms we will need to look at how closely you are following the diet and what types of symptoms you still have.
Follow the link to the next page to find out what types of PMS you may have along with possible causes. You may want to write or print them out as a reference against the symptom tracker both available in the New Cycle Diet Workbook.
Next page inside this section, Types of PMS
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Last revision 3/2014