Phase Two – The Follicular Phase
Tuesday, 5th November 2013
The second phase of the menstrual cycle is all about yin essence in Chinese Medicine. The feminine, cool, moistening energy. It is when the follicles are growing, oestrogen is being produced and the endometrial lining is slowly thickening, getting ready to receive an embryo in the luteal phase of the cycle. It is interesting to stop and think about the process that is happening at this point. As we all know women are born with a set number of eggs. These eggs reside in individual ovarian follicles which, when ‘initiated’, will grow over the course of about a year until they are mature enough to be selected for ovulation.
Each menstrual cycle approximately 5-7 follicles are recruited to compete for the honour of being released at ovulation. The first follicle to reach a certain stage of development will become dominant, the rest die away leaving the dominant follicle to mature and release its egg into a fallopian tube where it will hopefully be met by healthy sperm and create an embryo. As you get closer to ovulation fertile cervical mucus starts to be produced reducing the naturally acidic or ‘hostile’ environment of the cervix, providing a safe pathway up to the fallopian tubes.
Cervical mucus is the clear stretchy ‘egg white’ vaginal discharge many women experience for up to a week before ovulation occurs as opposed to the thicker tacky discharge present after menstruation. It aids in lubrication during intercourse and contains the nutrients and trace elements needed to keep sperm alive for days while they wait for the egg to enter the fallopian tubes. If you don’t notice these changes or if you feel particularly dry during intercourse not to worry, evening primrose oil is excellent for improving your fertile mucus. Taking it as a supplement orally plus using it as a internal “daily moisturiser” on the vaginal walls and cervix will make a big difference. You can also use it as a natural lubricant. Following the diet recommendations below will also help, as will your herbs and acupuncture treatment.
If we want good quality eggs at ovulation we must nourish the environment the follicles are developing in.
In Chinese Medicine terms this means nourishing the Yin and fluids. Yin nourishing foods include pork, eggs, honey, tofu, seaweeds, apples, pineapple, kidney beans and black sesame seeds. Blood nourishing foods will also continue to be beneficial at this time so don’t forget the bone broths, soups and stews. As we need extra hydration to help produce the slippery cervical mucus soups and stews are fabulous meal choices.
Here is a link to a ham hock soup that ticks all the boxes for the follicular phase of the cycle: For the vegetarians floridix is a beneficial supplement during the whole of the follicular phase, while spirulina smoothies can be a great addition during these summer months for those with strong digestive systems. Miso soup is another great option, fill it up with plenty of tofu, nori and buckwheat noodles for a nourishing meal.
Here’s a bit of a treat recipe from River Cottage. Its an apple crumble with the added goodness of walnuts and almonds. Heat tends to dry Yin up, as such anything that creates too much heat in the body is worth avoiding. This includes things like coffee, alcohol, chilli, greasy foods, smoking, emotional and physical stress that is not released and of course ‘burning the candle’. So while warmth is super important, heat will reduce the amount of cervical mucus and potential cause an early ovulation with an immature egg.
To sum all this up, if you want your egg to be the best quality it can you need to nourish in the days leading up to ovulation. Look after yourself, do things that make you feel happy ‘open the heart’ and the rest will follow.