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Read an extract from Leeanne O’Donnell’s debut novel, Sparks of Bright Matter
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How TikTok is teaching us to hack the menstrual cycle

How TikTok is teaching us to hack the menstrual cycle


by Sarah Gill
02nd Mar 2024

Keep seeing the words 'follicular phase' and 'luteal phase' on TikTok? Here's how TikTok is teaching us to biohack the menstrual cycle and reorganise our lives around it.

It’s long since been established that there’s a heightened sense of expectation associated with existing as a woman in the modern world. Women have historically been held to an impossible standard of ‘having it all’ in an environment that just does not bend to our will.

From the ‘second shift’ of unpaid labour for working mothers to the ever-infuriating wage gap, the lack of parity between men and women in the workplace is well-documented. However, if we broaden the scope a little wider and examine the way we conduct our day-to-day lives around a traditional 9-5 schedule, and dig a little deeper into a little something called ‘infradian rhythm’, our lives *could* become a whole lot easier.

Though the fact women operate off a secondary body clock is no new discovery, the inquiring minds of TikTok are spreading the good word in the hopes that those who menstruate can plan for the month ahead with a new awareness of what their mind, body, and spirit will need at the various phases of their menstrual cycle.

As we know, all human beings have a body clock that runs off a circadian rhythm, which is responsible for regulating our daily functions so that we can sleep and wake up, eat and digest food, and so on. This 24-hour cycle makes sure that we’re optimised at peak times throughout the day in line with our hormonal fluctuation, which conveniently enough, aligns with the way the working world has been designed, modelled very much on testosterone and cortisol levels.

For those among us who consider ourselves truly in tune with the movement of the moon, the fact that a woman’s secondary body clock — our infradian rhythm — runs on a 28-day cycle will be quite unsurprising. Our menstrual cycle spans 28 days and passes through the four phases of menstruation you keep seeing on your TikTok FYP; follicular, ovulatory, luteal and menstruation.

Based on where we find ourselves in our menstrual cycle, energy levels may be lower, which makes waking up early and prioritising productivity that little bit more difficult. Other times, our immune system and metabolism may fluctuate, and as we know, our mood can be extremely sensitive depending on the given day.

Just as men’s energy and hormone levels rise and fall throughout the day, women experience those same fluctuations throughout the month. Research has suggested that female brain chemistry can vary up to 25% over these 28 days. Yet somehow, when we do it, it’s branded PMS, being highly strung, or just plain old bitchiness. Make it make sense.

Currently trending as a way to hack into your needs throughout the month and live in line with our infradian rhythm, the hashtag #lutealphase has 32.3 million views and counting on TikTok. Here’s a quick crash course on the breakdown:

The follicular phase: Spans 7-10 days / Oestrogen and follicle stimulating hormone rise

Ovulation: Spans 3-4 days / Oestrogen, testosterone, and lutenising hormones spike

The luteal phase: Spans 10-14 days / Progesterone spikes, and cortisol levels increase

Menstruation: Spans 3-7 days / Hormones are at their lowest

In terms of tapping into how you can use this information about your menstrual cycle to your advantage, think of food and nutrition, energy and physical activity, sleep, socialising, and mental well-being. Take the luteal phase, for example: In the 10-14 days after ovulation, incorporating some slower-paced movement exercises such as yoga and pilates into your routine will serve you better than pushing yourself with excessive amounts of cardio or weight lifting.

@nicole.bendayan

Foods for your Luteal Phase #cyclesyncing #youdontknow #learnhow #happyhormones #greenscreen

? r&b loop – Official Sound Studio

One TikTok user — a menstrual cycle-syncing nutritionist by trade — posted a video about how certain foods can help level out hormones throughout your menstrual cycle. When in the luteal phase, she recommends chickpeas, because they contain vitamin B6 to aid progesterone production, while garlic and leeks have sulphur containing compounds that help detoxify the liver. The more you know! Now tell me, how did we get to a point where we’re all learning this in adulthood, from, of all places, TikTok?

Photography via TikTok.

This article was originally published in March 2023.

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