Biohacking is all the rage these days. The idea that we can optimize our physiology with lifestyle and nutrition gets talked about over and over in expert health blogs and on popular podcasts. But you might have noticed that the vast majority of people who talk about biohacking are men. You may also have noticed that most of the scientific research on nutrition and lifestyle is done on men and/or male lab animals.
And that’s just fine… for men. Biohacking is the practice of using food, lifestyle, exercise, and targeted supplementation to enhance health. But men and women have different needs based on their hormones. So what works for men won’t always work as well, or in the same way — or at all — for women.
If you suffer from hormone-related health concerns—like heavy periods, severe PMS, bloating, acne, fibroids, PCOS, irritability, insomnia, low libido, infertility, irregular or missing periods, and/or hormone-related migraines — you can biohack your way to fewer symptoms and better health. But to get the best results, you have biohack for your unique female physiology.
Here are my 7 top biohacks for women who want to solve their period problems and look and feel their best.
Biohack #1: Cycle sync your food
Eating to ease period problems requires synching 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.
Biohack #2: Cycle sync your exercise
To really optimize your hormonal health, you should 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.
Biohack #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 be helpful, 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.
Biohack #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.
Biohack #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.
Biohack #6: Ditch coffee
Bulletproof coffee can work well for men, but 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, don’t fall for the Bulletproof coffee craze.
Biohack #7: 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 has shown 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 s 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!
To your FLO,
* This article is a repost which originally appeared on Floliving.