Health

Why Cycle Syncing Can Change the World for the Better With Alisa Vitti

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Katie: Hello and welcome to the Wellness Mama podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com, and this episode is with Alisa Vitti, who’s a dear friend of mine. And it’s all about why cycle syncing can change the world for the better. And just a note before we jump in. This one does touch on some adult topics like libido and sexual health and some other aspects relating to women’s monthly cycle. It’s more applicable to to women and people who are still having a monthly cycle. So just a note if you’re listening with kiddos, this might not be the best kid-friendly episode, but there’s so much valuable information in this one.

We talk about things like reconnecting with feminine energy, what cycle syncing is and how to use it to our advantage, why we actually need more calories in certain phases of our cycle, how to use food strategically, how fitness is different in different levels of our cycle. A reason to avoid excessive cardio in the second half of your cycle. Why she doesn’t recommend women do fasted workouts, some biohacks and best times for specific biohacks relating to your hormones, the downside of early morning wake-ups at certain points of your cycle, why women need more sleep on average, and understanding libido and what to learn from our libido shifts, along with much, much more. There’s also a lot of resources for this one available in the show notes at wellnessmama.fm, so make sure to check those out as well. And without further ado, let’s join Alisa Vitti. Alisa. Welcome back.

Alisa: Oh my goodness Katie, always a pleasure. We’ve known each other for so long now.

Katie: It has been so long. And I think the work you continue to do is so helpful to women. And I feel like this topic is more timely than it’s ever been. And we’re at such a cool point where I feel like this information is entering the mainstream a lot more and women are really taking ownership of their own health in really cool and unique ways. And we’re going to to go deep on that topic today. But before we do, I have a personal interest in something I found in your bio, which is that you’ve lived in India with one of the only female Zen masters. And I would love to hear what led to that and what that experience was like. I’m tentatively planning actually to go to Thailand later this year to sit with some Buddhist masters there and to just to experience other cultures. I would love to hear what that experience was like.

Alisa: I love that I get the chance to talk about this. I never do. So in my early to mid twenty’s, I decided that I wanted to do whatever I could to reclaim my feminine energy. Because I had identified that I had somewhere along the way in the course of my life and dealing with PCOS somehow become very disconnected from what that was and had what I would call an overly developed sense of masculine energy. And so I had this little group of women that I was spending a lot of time with and we decided that we would make a formal study of this. And so every month we’d get together in my little tiny apartment in New York and we would have like a read like it was like a book club. And we were reading all of these different books and talking about what it meant to live in our feminine energy. And through that process we somehow found this woman who was living in India, who at the time was one of the only female Zen masters that we were aware of.

And we decided that we would go to India and sit with her and sit in Satsang, which translates roughly to sitting in truth. And it was quite a process. I’ll never forget buying my airplane ticket to go to India. It was like my entire month’s rent to buy the ticket. And you’d have to and this is back when you’d have to go to an airline like a travel agency to do this. So it was quite a journey and it was a whole process of every other day. We would sit with her for about 3 hours at a time and she would teach on different subjects. And then there were sometimes Q and A, but often times she would sort of just intuit what it was that people needed. And it was very interesting process. Very interesting I would say life changing.

We essentially discussed the nature of the mind and the nature of reality and duality and where a person is in that experience and how to navigate that. There was a moment where I contemplated maybe not coming back to the States and staying and sort of staying there, but I decided that it would be fun to continue the sort of commitment to building a platform instead that would help women. And so I came back. But yeah, what an experience on coming home.

The other thing you probably read in my bio is that I’ve run to catch a moving train on the way home. There was a whole thing in Milan, our connecting flight, and there was a strike, and so we couldn’t get taxis back from city center to get to the airport. So we had to catch a train to get back to the airport on time to get our connecting flight to New York. And if we missed it, like, that was it, and we were going to just miss it, and who knows how we were going to get home. So we found this one train. We ran from City Center to the train station in Milan, and then as we’re getting there and buying our tickets, we’re running to the train, but the train is now pulling out of the station. I’ve got my backpack on and all the things that I had bought from India and all this stuff. And I’m not like a sprinter. I’m not somebody who runs for fun at all. But it turns out when I have to run to catch a moving train, that I can book it. And so I ended up running and hopping on this moving train and catching my flight home. And so, quite an eventful journey the whole way through.

Katie: Well, that sounds incredible. And actually, you touched on something that I think is a perfect springboard into the rest of this conversation, which is reconnecting with your femininity. And this is something I’ve been on a journey the last few years as well, and something I can see now. It was much easier earlier in life, especially with trauma-based compulsion to be very much in the masculine energy. It felt safer and more protected, and I think was not helpful in a lot of relationships, actually, for a lone time. And so it’s something I’m now learning to reintegrate all the parts of me. And it, I think, lines up with what we’re going to talk about today, which is a part of our femininity, which is our natural hormone cycles and all that comes with that. And I’m learning to embrace the beauty of that and what I believe you’ve called the superpower of that.

Alisa: Well, for me, that was really the thing that came out of this whole journey for me, was that I actually needed a practice not only to take care of this biological rhythm, but to also make sure that I could tangibly logically connect with my feminine energy on a daily basis as I was architecting my life. Because it is just almost impossible without using the cycle syncing method to navigate a male-oriented time construct with your feminine energy and masculine energetic balance intact. And so for me, this practice has been more than just a health practice, but definitely one that was also paid many, many dividends on that side as well.

Katie: Well, let’s delve into that. I would guess, like I said, because this is becoming so popular on social media that people have maybe heard this term, although some might not have. So define for us what Cycle Syncing is and how this relates to so much more of our life than just our menstrual cycle.

Alisa: Yeah, so Cycle Syncing is the term that I created to encapsulate this practice that we can do when we have our cycles active to take care of them from a physical point of view. And so that looks at synchronizing your food, your fitness and your lifestyle with each of the four phases of the cycle. And yes, it’s become very popular. When I’ve published my book on the subject called In the FLO back in 2020, there were like 15,000 hashtag iterations of cycle syncing. Today in 2023, there are over 130,000,000 hashtag iterations of cycle syncing. So people are, I think, resonating with this concept because they’ve told me for a number of reasons.

One, it validates the ways that they’ve been feeling intuitively at different times of the cycle. Like oh yes, I am hungrier here or yes, I don’t want to necessarily be doing this type of work out there. Oh, I am naturally more interested in this type of project at this time of the month. So that’s quite the opposite of the experience that so many of us have when we are dealing with our cycles and dealing with the medical community where we feel a little bit more gaslit like oh no, it’s maybe all in your head, or that can’t be true. And the message really comes down to you should despite the fact that your hormones are changing day over day, you should strive to function the same every day, which is completely illogical and at odds with your biology and is the source of so much physiological stress and psychological stress for women. Right?

Because if you’re trying to eat the same calories day in and day out, do the same workouts day in and day out, work in the same way, wake up at the same time, do everything the same based on a 24 hours clock, which is not how your body works, then of course, we’re going to start to see symptoms. So the method really is about protecting this special biological rhythm that I uncovered in the course of my research called the Infradian Rhythm which is super, super important for women to know about. And it provides a structure for a practice. It’s not a diet, it’s not like a regime. It’s sort of a practice that you come to and whatever extent that you can practice it, that day is beneficial. You don’t have to get it perfect. You don’t have to be obsessive about getting it right. You can just do as much as you can and your body will be able to use that and support itself.

Katie: And can you explain the infradian rhythm a little bit more? Because I think this concept is so valuable and I also love this distinction of understanding and operating within our hormone cycles versus, like you said, because from what I understand, the male hormone cycle is more of a 24 hours cycle. It lines up perfectly with a 24 hours day. And ours is much, much different.

Alisa: Ours is both/and.

Katie: Exactly. And I think just understanding that gives you so much more peace about the process versus feeling like you’re losing a battle because it’s not, you’re not a man. But I think there’s so many beautiful layers here. So walk us through infradian rhythm and the connection to our hormones.

Alisa: So your infradian rhythm is this biological rhythm that you have active from your first bleed to your last. It definitely governs the timing of your menstrual cycle. But just like it’s too simplistic to look at the circadian rhythm as only governing your sleep wake cycles because we know it affects the timing of so many different functions of the body. It’s also too simplistic to say, oh, the infraredian rhythm is just when you’re ovulating and menstruating. That’s not true. It really is affecting major systems of the body from your brain to your metabolism, to your stress response system, your immune response system, your sexual response, all of these things and your menstrual cycle, right.

So it’s important for us to understand that there is this clock that’s at play that we have to take care of. Right. Because we do know from studying so intently the circadian clock that the caring of that is essential for your well-being. But we’ve been trying to take care of ourselves as women for decades. If you look at the diet and fitness and wellness culture of the past several decades, women are being fed so many different studies and trends and this and try that. And none of them have ever included women in their reproductive years in these studies for the most part, right? And yet women are the first ones often to try them and to see that they end up disrupting something new, right?

So you maybe will start because you have a weight issue or something off with your energy and you try a new diet, you try a new fitness program, next thing you know, this was very true when women were doing all the Paleo and Keto. You’d see them all in their Facebook group saying I don’t understand, I’m doing everything right, but I lost my period. I’m not sure if that’s okay or now my thyroid is off, right? So we’re disrupting our hormones more profoundly by trying all of these different things that none of which put our cyclical biological needs at its center and because we have this huge cultural blind spot around having an infrared rhythm in the first place. Right? And so we do have to factor that in. And yes, you do also still have a circadian clock as well. So you do have to still do good sleep hygiene, get sun exposure in the morning, all those things that help with these master regulating hormonal functions. But you also have to care for your cycle as well. It’s a both/and situation.

Katie: So let’s talk about some of the ways to both care for our cycle and to, I would say, like harness that superpower that is our cycle. Because I’ve learned this, I feel like very much the hard way in what you just mentioned with trying different diets that were not really supportive of my hormones at all and probably actually stressed me out a lot more. Even things like just undereating for so many years that my body was in a complete state of stress, even though I didn’t feel stressed. And then now, on the flip side, trying to embrace the benefits of actually these hormone shifts and seeing how if I do that in my workouts, for instance, I see improvement over time versus if I try to just fight and do my heaviest workouts while I’m on my period, I get frustrated that it’s just not going to happen. So talk about that. What are some of the factors that go into this and how can we harness it?

Alisa: So there’s food, there’s fitness, there’s lifestyle. So we can start with just understanding some of the basics about metabolism and how you can support yourself with diet because it is so true, when you work smarter around your cycle and not harder, you do get results. And I’m living proof in the sense that when I first had my PCOS symptoms, weight was a big component of that. And using the Cycle Syncing Method has not only helped me initially lose that 50 pounds that I needed to lose, but I’ve maintained that weight loss for, I don’t know, now over 20 years, right? And that includes a pregnancy where I gained the same amount of weight and lost that again. Right? So it is something that you can use to really support yourself without having to do anything in an extreme fashion.

So with the metabolic piece, you have to understand that in these different phases of the cycle, the metabolic rate changes. So you don’t actually want to strive for the same calorie intake every day. And I just want to pause on that because I know that you’re thinking, wait, but that’s what everybody tells me to do and it’s not applicable to you depending on where you are in the cycle, it really does change. In the luteal phase, studies show that a woman, relative to what she is normally taking in, needs 279 more calories per day in the luteal phase. And why is that? Well, no big deal. You’re just 3D printing an organ during that phase, right. The endometrium is a very specialized organ full of stem, I mean, it’s like an incredible organ. And you manufacture that from the micronutrients that you eat and that you have stored every month, in addition to manufacturing higher levels of progesterone at that time. This does not just come out of thin air. You have to have nutrients to do that. And so you definitely need more of that. Plus, your blood sugar is more unstable at this time. So you need to use carbohydrates strategically.

So in the first half of the cycle, follicular and ovulatory metabolic rate is slower. You can eat lighter. You could play with a little more extended fasting if you’re in a place where that’s okay for you to do. If you’re dealing with anything with thyroid or anything else, I wouldn’t do that at all. And then in the luteal phase, you got to eat more about 280 calories more per day, and you want to eat more slow burning carbohydrates. So you want to eat much more savory breakfast, root vegetables, whole grains, things that are whatever you can eat, legumes, whatever’s good for your digestion, that’s going to help you navigate your blood sugar throughout the day. So that’s kind of the first pass. That first level is just knowing that you have to change your caloric intake across the cycle if you’re doing anything to stay the same. That’s old information.

And it’s information that was based on excluding women from the fitness and nutrition research and a very unscientific assumption. Which was? Well, we’re not actively studying women, but they’re smaller versions of men, so let’s just assume that they need fewer calories and more working out to compensate for their slower metabolisms, which is just not accurate. So you got to let that go. That’s an outdated understanding.

And then you also can use food, specific food strategically to deal with all the estrogen fluctuations throughout your cycle. Right? Because during Ovulation, for example, you have this super surge of estrogen, which is great, has wonderful effects on brain chemistry, and we’ll talk about that in a second. But if you have any difficulty metabolizing that estrogen, you may notice it with breakouts on your chin or breast tenderness or headaches or just other funky sort of symptoms, right? So you want to use some more raw food, salads, smoothies, cruciferous, vegetables, things that are going to help your body break that estrogen down and get it out of the gut as quickly as possible. So there’s a guidance in terms of a food chart in Chapter four of In the FLO that is now pretty well known, the FLO food chart. And you can kind of look to see what foods might be strategically helpful for you at that particular phase. The same is true of every phase. In the luteal phase, like I already mentioned, you’ll use more nutrient dense foods, slow burning carbohydrate foods. You’ll cook your vegetables at this phase to make it easier because digestion slows down a little bit. So you want to make sure that you can extract the most nutrients from your food by cooking them a little bit differently in this phase, but also bulking up on the fiber quantity so that you can address the slower transit time in the gut because of that rise in progesterone. So you’re continuously processing out hormones in that way.

So it’s really about understanding that you have two things to really care about here. Both calorie intake to keep blood sugar stable, but also food type to sort of strategically interact with all the hormone shifts that are happening throughout the cycle.

So that’s the food piece then on the fitness piece. There’s so much here to talk about. But the idea is that you want to understand that you can train intensely in each phase, but you just want to have a different focus. So in the first half of the cycle, because metabolism is slightly slower and resting cortisol levels are slightly lower, you can do all sorts of cardio alongside strength training in the first half of the cycle. In the second half of the cycle, specifically the luteal phase, because we have a shift with basal body temperature, with metabolism, right. The metabolism speeds up, resting cortisol levels are higher, and you have this more sensitivity in blood sugar levels. You definitely want to avoid excessive amounts of cardio in this phase, right? So if you’re an athlete, of course you can still do some of these things, but you want to focus more on strength training if you’re not an athlete and you can just sort of pick your workouts, strength training is great. And if you do cardio, keep it to things like walking or limiting the time in which you’re doing cardio, something like 30 minutes or less to help you not burn into any of that sort of Adrenal reserve.

Katie: That makes sense. I’ve definitely noticed that in myself of like the cardiology and especially in the second half of my cycle, is more short, intense sprints, but not a lot of them, and with rest in between. So I feel like I can then get the benefits of growth hormone and stimulating the muscles, but without, like you said, the stress on the Adrenals or that extended cardio that seems like it really just taxes my nervous system even.

Alisa: Well, what it does is it starts to tank your blood sugar and then also affects sort of that cortisol level. And yeah, you just aren’t going to feel good after that. If you do an experiment where you sort of pick your ideal workout from the first half of the cycle and do it in your peak luteal phase, you’re going to feel extremely different doing that same workout in those two phases of the cycle. And I encourage every woman to do that just so you can see for yourself that actually it isn’t your willpower or you’re having an off-day. It’s just that you have to use the right workout in the right phase to get the results that you’re looking for.

And this is true, for example, women who are competitive runners, I’ve advised on sort of how can you do this, how can you use cycle syncing if you’re competing in different races and things? So I always say it’s ideal if you can pick doing a competition sort of like between day five and twelve of your cycle, maybe just at the start of the luteal phase, day 17 through 20, because estrogen and progesterone are kind of at their lowest. So your body is using stored sugar for energy more efficiently. So that’s a great time to plan a race or to do any sort of cardio, right? But if you have to compete or do any sort of extensive cardio during the luteal phase, then you have to really use some things to help you manage your temperature, like ice baths before you go on your race, or eating ice during the competition and cooling down after and also refueling with carbohydrates.

Now, if you’re not a competitive athlete, how can you apply this to your own practice? First of all, no woman should be doing a fasted workout, right? Because that’s just in any phase of the cycle that’s going to disrupt your blood sugar and then that’s really the end of the game right there. Because once that goes off, then everything else goes off track. So making sure you’re fueling properly and then making sure you’re eating after you work out strategically to make sure you’re refueling with carbohydrates in the second half of the cycle, especially so that you are not having any dips in that blood sugar. You want to avoid that because once your blood sugar dips, then what happens? Ghrelin takes over. And especially in the luteal phase, you’re going to be binge eating things or eating more of something than you wish you had and derailing your goals as a whole.

So it is really about understanding how your biology works and just working with it. There is no logic that I have found that at all adds up to you sort of fighting what the reality is, right? And I think as women, we’ve been so conditioned to fight our bodies that that’s the biggest hurdle is to get over this habit of, well, no, I think I should be able to do this at this time, or whatever, and doing it anyway. Whereas men have been conditioned for a long time to understand, hey, your body works like this. This is when testosterone is peaking. This is what’s happening with your cortisol. They take that as very matter of fact. And they just incorporate that into their eating plan, their training program and their work schedule and they do not like to deviate from that. Whereas we have sort of adopted this stance of, well, maybe I should push through it or I should push through it and work against my body, but it really just yields no dividends, for sure.

Katie: Yeah, I think something you just said is so important, and it was a hard learned lesson for me. But that idea of learning to not fight our bodies not even related to our cycle. But I remember when I had thyroid, stuff still going on, and I couldn’t lose weight. And I felt like I was trying to will my body and force it and punish it into doing what I wanted. And it was so much more effective when I learned to shift a little bit into more self-love and paying attention to my body and nourishing it. And ironically, all those same things I was trying to force it into doing happen naturally when I just sort of listened to it and embraced what it needed at different times and for all the reasons you just talked about. Now I’m even learning if I’m going to do strength training, which I do throughout the month. But I’m going to do my heaviest lifts in that phase of my cycle when I know I’m going to probably see the biggest results and also going to feel the best about it versus trying to force it in the luteal phase and then feel like I’ve lost strength, which isn’t actually true. It’s just my body is naturally in that phase. And so I think having this aware helps us in so many areas of life and also with that really key mindset piece that is often not talked about nearly enough.

Alisa: When you step back and you look at female physiology versus males and how our cycle sort of mandates that we sort of do our self-care, it really sort of sticks out quite quickly at how efficient the female body is. Right. And I spoke about this, I wrote about this in one of the earlier chapters of In the FLO. We extract nutrients more efficiently from our food, right. We retain nutrients for longer in our bodies, but also when it comes to making strength gains, right. You as a woman don’t have to do the day in and day out grind because your body is just oriented differently and it’s much more efficiency. So you can actually go farther by pedaling, let’s say less frequently. Right. You can do a couple of big pushes at the right time, strategically throughout the month and you can get huge results, but you don’t have to go through this sort of daily struggle that I think we have been putting ourselves through again, because this had the wrong information. And we’ve been trying to operate as if we had that male biological reality, which we don’t.

So just also just keep that perspective. Not only are Katie and I here to attest that you can achieve results by aligning with your cycle, but the truth is your body’s super efficient and the less you stress it, the more it will perform for you.

Katie: Such an important point. And I want to make sure we also get to touch on the fertility side of cycle syncing, because this is something I’ve been using. I’ve been using your app actually since 2017. And before that I was charting every month on paper. So I learned NFP when I was probably 19, and I’ve been using it in some form since then and using it to track my fertility and use that knowledge in whatever way I wanted at different times. And I know that this is also now much more talked about. I love that this conversation is happening more and more and people are choosing because of understanding this, choosing non-hormonal options for choosing when they’re fertile, when they’re, understanding when they’re fertile, when they’re not, and using that to their advantage.

I would love for you to break down some of the data behind that and how accurate it can be because this blew my mind. You hear the rates of all the contraceptives and realizing that actually this can be extremely effective. Plus you’re getting so much more knowledge about your body that, like we’ve already talked about, is beneficial in all these other areas as well.

Alisa: Well, I mean, charting with basal body temperature is extremely accurate way for you to sort of manage where you are in your cycle. I think there is even an app that has some sort of FDA clearance around accuracy or equivalent birth control, protection as condoms, right? And so it is a pretty powerful tool for women to be using to understand where they are in the cycle, the why that’s true. I think we also have to take a step back and understand that we’ve also been fed a narrative of fear about our fertilities, which is that you could get pregnant at any month, at any day of the month, right. And for anybody who has ever tried to conceive and knows how challenging that can be, your egg is only viable for 48 hours. And sperm can only live in the body for five days. So that means you’ve got about a seven day window where you have to be worried about if you’re trying to prevent a pregnancy, some sort of barrier method that you would need to factor into your planning.

The rest of the month, there is no viable egg. It’s just not possible. So you can really use this information to your advantage like you were talking about. And the reason why you want to do that is because it would allow you the opportunity to not use this very old technology, in my opinion, of synthetic hormonal birth control, right? And I call that old technology because when it was created, there were no tracking devices, there was no understanding of all of this sort of behind the scenes of when the viability was and all of that. And it was just sort of like the idea shutting down all the hormones every day of production so that there was no possibility of conception at any time, right?

Now we have a much more nuanced understanding and so we should use the new tools that we have at our disposal to navigate that. And the new ways in which these medications are being prescribed to treat menstrual problems are not even effective. Right? That taking birth control to fix your PCOS or your fibroids. Your endometriosis is not a fix. It’s just a temporary band aid robbing you of precious time to be feeling the symptoms that would motivate you to take the action that you need to address these issues from a functional medicine point of view to get actual results and actual resolution to those issues, which we do every day at FLO Living. And that’s why we have our company dedicated to being a hormonal health care platform that really changes what hormonal health care should look like.

But I think that thinking about cycle syncing and birth control is also important because if you’re on synthetic birth control, you don’t have a cycle. You cannot use the cycle syncing method. You are basically taking synthetic hormones in a daily dose every day to shut off your own hormonal production and dose yourself with something that is a semi-menopausal level of hormones, right? So you’re not ovulating, you’re not menstruating. You kind of are having occasionally a breakthrough bleed, which is not a real period. And a lot of women don’t know that. They don’t know that they’re not having a cycle. That’s always a surprise still to this day when I teach about it.

And then the other thing that they don’t know is what it’s costing them to do that, right? So without ovulation, every month, every ovulation confers massive brain, heart and bone protection to you today, but also puts that sort of in your health bank account for when you are eventually postmenopausal and continues to protect your brain, heart and bone density long after you’ve stopped menstruating.

But if you’re not ovulating because you’re on synthetic birth control for 10,15,20,30 years, you’ve missed all that time to do that. And then, of course, the medication itself, it’s not a direct match to your own hormones. It has excipients, it has other things. It depletes certain key micronutrients in your body, like Vitamin D3, which, by the way, is essential for fertility. Turns out that 90% of idiopathic infertility has a Vitamin D3 deficiency in common, right? And so B Vitamins are depleted. It disrupts your gut microbiome, creating inflammation, any level of inflammation or something to that effect in your system is going to communicate to the endometrium that it might not be an optimal time for an implantation to take place. So you may be ready with the egg and the seed coming together at the right time of your cycle. But because you have this unaddressed fallout from being on this medication for years, because women are not told that they have to sort of help themselves after they get off of that medication, you may have some challenges with trying to start a family when you’re ready.

So there’s a lot to factor in when it comes to birth control and there’s a lot to learn. And I hope that there’s a whole chapter on it in The Flow to help you sort of navigate where you’re at and what you might need to do to take care of yourself. And at FLO Living, we have something called birth control rehab. If you’re someone who’s on the medication and you’re thinking about what to do next, there are steps you can take while you’re still on it and figuring out what to do next to help offset all that exposure to that medication. And the Balance supplements are something that I formulated specifically to help with that in particular.

Katie: Yeah. And I’ll make sure I include links to your books and to your website and the app as well in the show notes, because I know you have a tremendous amount of resources available on there, even beyond even what we’re talking about here, but for helping understand the dietary principles that come into play at different times or for different symptoms. Same with supplements, same with lifestyle factors. And the beauty of this and the fact that we do have these monthly fluctuations, it puts so much within our power to actually affect change. When we learn how to work with our body with that. And I love that I’ve heard from many women who have come off of hormonal birth control and kind of been through their own version of a rehab without even knowing they were doing that and then were able to gain so much wisdom about their bodies from just actually learning their own natural rhythms again.

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Another thing I hear about a decent amount from listeners and readers is the libido side of this. And it seems like there maybe are some natural fluctuations that happen in different phases of life. Certainly I know I saw those in postpartum, but also maybe at different ages of life or are those things caused by lifestyle factors that people have some control in changing?

Alisa: So I think every February, or at least for the past couple of years, I’ve run a biohacking your Orgasm Challenge for free in our community and on our website. It’s open to everybody because after I wrote In the FLO and there’s a whole section about understanding your libido across the cycle, I want women to understand that even it’s the same sort of pathology. Like we’re supposed to eat the same calories every day. We also have a belief that we’re supposed to feel the same in terms of desire every single day. And that’s just not what it is when we look at it through the lens of our reproductive hormones.

And so our libido follows this infradian rhythm just like our cycle does. And so there are times of the month where you’re definitely more interested in sex, where you’re lubricating more naturally. There are times of the month where you’re not lubricating at all, which is normal. And so that just means that you need to know what that is, so that you can bring lubricant to the scenario, so that you are not in any sort of danger of having any damage or discomfort, and then really giving yourself a lot of grace to know which times of the cycle are you in need of more support to achieve your orgasm, more stimulation, more whatever that is, more time with yourself or your partner, giving time to you and where you might need less. Right? And understanding that and just having the fluency of this language of libido in your own body and your own cycle is so, I think, essential because the self criticism that I have heard women express about this subject in particular, they feel so much pain and shame and stress about it.

Am I normal? Shouldn’t I be feeling differently? Shouldn’t I be getting to my climax faster? What’s wrong with me? We sort of internalize our lack of knowledge about this issue into something is wrong. I’m somehow deficient when that just couldn’t be further from the truth. For the vast majority of women, 63% of which are sexually unsatisfied, by the way, it really comes down to just not understanding which phase of the cycle they’re in and what those sexual parameters are for that phase.

And that’s something I invite every woman to really learn about. Because once you have that, you’re empowered, you feeling positive, you can communicate that with to your partner, they’re feeling more positive and empowered, and then that statistic can change. Now that’s sort of table stakes for everyone.

Libido also fluctuates across the lifespan, right? So you may have obviously, as your hormones are coming online in the teen years, there’s a lot of that for some people. For me, because I was having all of these hormonal issues as a teen, I did not experience that at all. There was no libido for me. I had no cycle. It was a mess, right? But when those hormones did finally come online in my twenty’s, I was like, oh, this is what everybody’s talking about. So it just depends on what’s going on. And that’s important because if you have a hormonal issue that you’re dealing with that will absolutely affect the degree to which you experience your libido, your sexual desire. And so you want to give yourself some grace if you’re dealing with Fibroids, if you’re dealing with PCOS, if you’re dealing with other issues that are causing you to have hormonal challenges that you may not sort of be feeling interested in, that all the time, and that’s okay. While you’re working on getting yourself hormonally balanced, just give yourself that period of grace, and then, yes, same thing applies postpartum.

I don’t understand this whole rush to get back to sex postpartum… you need to recover and heal, and then, you’ll know, when you’re ready and everyone should give you that grace period in the relationship to take the time that you need. And then I think the practice of doing this, especially if you’re in a partnered dynamic where you’re cycle syncing your sex life with your partner, for example, just the changes during the luteal phase every month, right? Of needing a little bit more foreplay, of needing a little bit more emphasis on making sure that everything’s lined up with the emotional intimacy really well before we move into the physical intimacy part. Right. That becomes very, very essential to healthy sexual response for women in the Luteal phase, let’s say compared to the ovulatory phase, where estrogen and testosterone are riding high and you’re just kind of like, I don’t even really care what we’re talking about right now. I’m just more interested in having this physical experience.

But in the Luteal phase, that emotional intimacy is so, so important. And for any woman who’s going through perimenopause, that is like the everyday experience, right, that emotional intimacy container needs to be really solid for you to feel comfortable moving into a physical space. And I think this is where a lot of relationships struggle because the container was not being practiced and nurtured once a month with cycle syncing, our sexuality in our partner dynamic, and then when we get to perimenopause, there can be sort of this breakdown. And I think that if we were to use cycle syncing to support the growth, the emotional growth of our romantic relationships, women would be much better served in perimenopause with their partners by the time they get there.

Katie: And I know in the app you guys even take this a step further and make it an easy conversation by allowing someone to include their partner in the app and get notifications, which I feel like I’ve heard this joked about by guys before, but you guys actually have made this a reality of like, oh, it would be so much easier if I just understood what was going on in her body at these different times. You really send them a cheat sheet of like, hey, just so you know, here’s what she’s experiencing. These things might help this week.

Alisa: That’s right. I mean, I launched that in 2017. I remember when we were beta testing the app, myflo back then, a lot of the women were really uncomfortable with doing that part of the beta test. They’re like, oh, I don’t think my husband or my male partner is going to be interested in receiving that. They were really feeling like the shame about their cycle and sharing that information. And I said, well, you have to do it. It’s part of the beta test. So they did it. And then we got flooded with emails from the guys saying, this is what thank you, this is what we wanted, because they operate that way with they understand their recipe for success, right? They know when their testosterone levels are highest. They know when their peak sexual experiences can occur. It’s not lining up with ours. Right? But they understand that there’s a formula for that and they would like the formula for ours. And so would we, by the way. So I think it’s just great that there’s so much opening for that kind of dialogue now. But yes, the MyFLO app, it’s called the Partner Sync Feature, and you just put in your partners. And also, just to be clear, this is also very inclusive. So if you’re not in a male-female dynamic, it’s an inclusive partner sync regardless of your orientation.

Katie: Yeah, and I think you’re right. It’s like such a valuable insight into someone who hasn’t experienced your body, obviously. And I’ve heard from women, close friends of mine even, whose husbands took that and were like, oh, this is great, I understand the code now, and literally got subscriptions for flowers and chocolate to show up right before her period, literally knew when to have the good conversations because they like, oh, she wants some emotional connection. Perfect. I’ll make sure I’m present.

And it’s helped people so much and it seems like it should be so foundational, but it hasn’t been until now. So I love that you guys include that and circling back to the libido a little bit, I love how you explained that it is somewhat cyclical and it can go in phases even within the month. Just understanding that is probably so freeing. But if someone is having and I know you have symptom quizzes in the app, but if someone’s having low libido for a long period of time, can that also be an insight into something hormonal going on that allows absolutely control over that?

Alisa: Absolutely. If you’re having low libido that it’s sort of like prolonged where you just are not feeling any fluctuations across the cycle and for months and months, then yes, there’s typically some sort of micronutrient depletion. There’s some sort of hormonal imbalance at play that you’ve got to get to the root cause of to address and no amount of forcing the issue is going to get the results. At the same time, you also have to look at, were you exposed to any synthetic hormones? Because it’s known that when you take oral contraception that it increases circulating sex hormone binding globulin. And that can bind to all your testosterone and suppress the levels that you have exposure to, which can decrease your libido. The problem is, again, this is not very well-known, but when you go off of that medication, off of birth control, those levels can stay elevated. So you may not ever regain the libido post-pill that you were designed to have because of that sort of disruption in sex hormone binding globulin. So it’s something to be aware of and there are things that you can do to support that. But mostly what we’ve seen over two decades of taking care of women at flow living is really micronutrient. Sort of reestablishment and replenishment is really a critical first step to getting your sex drive back on track, as well as some of the other practical things. Right?

A lot of us women don’t have a self-pleasuring practice that helps us to connect with our sense of desire. And that’s really important because having physical intimacy with your partner is great. But people always ask me on interviews, like, what’s the one thing you would take to a desert island? And I was like, probably just some lube. Because I know that if I’m having regular orgasmic, plateau, not even climax, then I’m conferring massive hormonal health benefits to myself from regulating ovulation to boosting my immune function, to supporting cellular health. I mean, just the list goes on and on. Reducing inflammation, flushing cortisol, boosting skin health. Your self-pleasuring practice 20 minutes, a couple of times a week without any devices can be an important part of your general commitment to biohacking.

And it’s something that I think, again, the men in the biohacking community are much more comfortable talking about this. A lot of them are talking about this practice for their side of the street and I don’t think we’re there yet as women talking about this. We think of it as sort of like something we do if we get a chance to, but I actually think it’s something that should be part of your general wellness practice on a continuous basis throughout your years.

Katie: Well, and on that note, are there any other recommendations for women, specifically of biohacking related things, supplements, lifestyle factors that are generally supportive? I know you guys give very specific tips, even on foods that are most supportive at different times and supplements that are specific to people. But are there any generally supporting ones that you find are helpful to a lot of women?

Alisa: I really think it comes down to supporting this infradian rhythm. The more that you do that, the more your blood sugar levels are stable, right? Like the goal of biohacking is to support the different functions or the key priority functions of the body. Blood sugar stability, cortisol management, right? These things that help with reducing inflammation, supporting longevity. So cycle syncing sort of touches all of that because we’re factoring in your biology and its hormonal needs. So you’re going to keep your blood sugar stable, you’re going to keep your cortisol levels balanced, you’re going to reduce inflammation, you’re going to be metabolizing toxins more efficiently. All of these things are really the key Biohacks, everything on top of that, I think some of them are essential.

I would say morning sunlight exposure is essential. Getting outside, putting your face in the sun for ten to 15 minutes, super essential. No blue light exposure, as much as you can throughout the day, but then definitely at night, eliminating all forms of that. I think, thinking about using your self pleasuring practice as a biohacking tool is important. I think for those people who have shift work, using red light therapy can be really helpful if you have other health issues. That one I really think is a really smart tool. Infrared saunas are interesting, cold plunging is interesting, but you have to do those things, I think, at specific times of the cycle if you’re going to do some cold plunging. I think that makes sense in the luteal phase, only maybe a little bit during Ovulation, but not the rest of the cycle. I wouldn’t have that be sort of a daily practice. And I know that we have to start to tease out what is appropriate for men from a biohacking point of view and what’s appropriate for women.

Early morning wake ups also need to be cyclically oriented and keep in mind that you as a woman need 20 minutes more of sleep per day compared to male brains because of the more densely networked system that we have in between our ears. So you should not be waking up at the same time as your male partner, if you have a male partner to go and do a morning workout, timing your workouts. All of these things have to be adjusted based on where you are in the cycle. And I think that’s really the ultimate biohack for women is really understanding that and starting to work with that and letting all the other things fall into place.

Katie: Yeah, this has been very much a lesson for me the last, I would say even ten years, and one I’m very grateful to be continually learning, especially with four daughters and hopefully being able to give them a better foundation into understanding their bodies from a younger age and all of the advantages that come with that. And like I said, I know there’s so much more related to this topic than we could possibly cover in an hour because our health is so fascinating and like you said in the beginning, is a superpower.

So I definitely will link to your books and to your website and your app in the show notes for you guys listening. Like I said, I’ve used your app since 2017 and it’s been in valuable in my own health and so I would definitely encourage you guys to try it.

A couple of questions I love to ask at the end of interviews though, the first being if there’s a book or number of books that have had a profound impact on you and if so, what they are and why.

Alisa: Yeah, so many I mean, my books are my prized possessions, but I would say a couple stand out because I just remember how I felt reading them The Daughters of the Earth when I was young. I read that for the first time and it was just the first time I’d ever heard about cultural traditions around menstruation. This is a book written by Native American women and talking about their experience of being women, women within the tribe. And just the rituals around menstruation were so fantastic and wonderful and I just thought, wow, what is missing here for me that we aren’t talking about? That just got me thinking.

And then, Woman and Intimate Geography was a great read in my 20’s. I really liked that as well. Just the pride around describing the female body was so in stark contrast to everything else that I had read, which was a little bit more indirect, just sort of like really spot on talking about things. Similarly with The Vagina Monologues, I thought that was really brazen in a very necessary way.

And then, The Path of the Priestess was a really interesting book too, just because it was something I was never exposed to this sort of idea that there were cultures and practices and rituals from ancient times that sort of incorporated feminine cycles into life in a way that we don’t today. And then the last book that I just recently, within the past, I don’t know, five or six years read that I really just really blew my hair back, was Circe by Madeline Miller. And the reason why I always put this one on the list and I talk about it all the time. I think it’s required reading for all women. And the reason why is because it’s the only book that I’ve seen that talks about the hero’s journey through the female lens and what that looks like. Instead of a journey of killing dragons, it’s a journey about slaying the inner demons. And so beautifully constructed but done in that ancient Greek mythological construct where you’re expecting someone to go kill a three-headed dog. You have this other journey and I just thought that there was a healing there in reading that book because you grew up reading all these other stories that are told through the male lens. And this one was so indirect contrast to that. I just loved it, loved it, loved it.

Katie: Well, I will link to all of those. Those are some new recommendations for me and I’m excited to check them out as well. Those will all be linked along with everything else we’ve talked about in the show notes for you guys listening on the go wellnessmama.fm has all of that. This has been such a fun conversation as it always is with you. I’m so grateful for your time and for all the resources you have for women. Thank you so much for being here.

Alisa: Oh, thanks for having me, Katie. Such a pleasure.

Katie: And thanks, as always, to all of you for listening and sharing your most valuable resources, your time, your energy and your attention with us today. We’re both so grateful that you did, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of The Wellness Mama Podcast.

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.


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