Our immune system is one of the most complex systems in our body, consisting of numerous cells in charge of the different conditions and reactions continually taking place in our body to protect us from external and internal threats to our health.
Menstrual Cycle and Immunity
Have you had the feeling of "I'm about to get the flu..." or that feverish sensation just before your period? Well, you are absolutely on it! There is a pattern. The cyclic nature expressed in hormonal levels and their effect has an impact on the different systems in our body, including the immune system.
There is a biological rationale for the different ways the immune system functions throughout the menstrual cycle. To understand the general idea behind the biomechanics of our menstrual cycle we need to divide it into two phases: (1) menstruation up to ovulation - or the 'low hormonal phase' and (2) after ovulation until the beginning of the next period-or the 'high hormonal phase'.
During the first phase, the body is preparing for a possible pregnancy, which means maintaining a healthy as possible state, especially alert for bacterial and viral infections that are running around outside. Actually, during menstruation, we are relatively more immune against bacterial and viral infections such as COVID-19, one more reason to love menstruation!
The hormonal shift around ovulation, and just after, marks the beginning of the 'high hormonal phase', which is characterized by elevated progesterone levels. This surge impacts specific cytokines that can drive fever, an immune response to fighting invaders, or a biological mechanism intended to protect the whole-body concern phenomenon - pregnancy. These elevated levels drop off towards the end of phase two.
Cycle Immunity Awareness
During the end of phase two, when we are most susceptible to viral infections, we should try and protect ourselves by taking the following actions:
- Ensuring we get sufficient sleep
- Maintaining physical activity that's adjusted to the luteal phase, such as a parasympathetic promoting activity (deep breathing, mindfulness, yin yoga)
- Maintaining a balanced diet containing fresh vegetables, fruits, and refraining from processed foods, which is good for you throughout life in general!
Biohacking Your Body
There are many ways to track body changes that reflect the proper or disturbed function of our body systems. I find that systematic tracking and charting biomarkers of the feminine reproductive system is a highly effective approach. Since tracking true sleep temperature (BBT) and identifying the temperature shift, points out that ovulation has occurred, it is a significantly useful parameter for drawing the important line of the beginning of the 'high hormonal phase'.
Knowing the phases of your cycle can have an immense impact on your health. Adopting habits and healthy practices that strengthen your immunity system, and taking extra precautions when at "risk" is the natural way to give your body the extra ammunition it needs to fight viral infections, and win!
Shirley Pavlik RN, MPH certified academic women’s health and public health nurse. Certified NFP instructor. Member of NFPTA UK. Founder of the WanderWomen Clinic – providing comprehensive fertility counseling for women and couples taking charge of their fertility, for nearly two decades. Expertise in hormone-free contraception and feminine barrier fitting (diaphragms and cervical caps). Professional consultant at Tempdrop Ltd.