Goddess Power

Goddess Power
The Estrogen Phase
STARTS: The week following your period; begins close to Day 7. (Day 1 is the first day of your period.)
LASTS: 7 to 11 days; ends with ovulation around Day 14.
FUNCTION: Triggers the ripening of the egg in preparation for peak fertility.
BENEFITS: Estrogen is stimulating and elevating; you'll feel sociable and confident.
RED FLAGS: You'll be uninhibited and at your most vulnerable—for good and bad.

WHAT HAPPENS: About three to six days into your period, estrogen levels begin to rise in anticipation of ovulation. "This is the time when the body is preparing itself for pregnancy— that's the biological imperative," says Booth, who names this weeklong phase after Venus, the goddess of love. Nature's main objective now is to help you find a mate, and get busy making babies. This will result in an energized, romanticized, glowing, beautiful you. "Your interest in your spouse or partner may increase," says Booth. "And as your skin clears and your hair looks glossier, and you feel less hungry and bloated, you feel more attractive as well. Neurochemical changes in the brain facilitate a strong sense of wellbeing and boosts self-esteem—all of which enhances your confidence."

STRENGTHS TO HARNESS: "Your mood is at its best, your thinking is sharpest and clearest, and your verbal abilities are at a peak," says Louann Brizendine, M.D., founder of the Women's Mood and Hormone Clinic in San Francisco and author of The Female Brain (Broadway, 2007). She often counsels graduate students to schedule their oral exams now—it's the best time to make a presentation, ask for a promotion, or motivate friends, family, or co-workers. You're also at your most sexual. "The uterine lining becomes more plush, cervical fluid starts to flow, and the cervix itself opens and softens like an emerging tulip. We feel so magnetic—and magnetized—because the entire body is in symphony with this process," says Randine Lewis, L.Ac., Ph.D., author of The Way of the Fertile Soul (Atria Books, 2007).

PITFALLS TO AVOID: With all that come-hither energy emanating, it pays to take a little extra care about how and with whom you're socializing. "You'll be much more vulnerable to romantic attraction now," Booth says. "I tell my clients that what usually takes two glasses of wine takes only one, since you are much less inhibited."

FOODS TO EAT: The Venus week is the perfect time to introduce new habits; since you're feeling good, it's easy to find the motivation to eat right. Your best bet is to skip processed foods and focus on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, says Ronald Stram, M.D., founder of the Center for Integrated Health and Healing in Delmar, N.Y. "You're not having the carb cravings so common later in the cycle," he notes. To help your body find the best estrogen balance, Stram suggests eating more flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds. These have weak estrogenic properties," Stram explains. "If there is not enough estrogen, they act as estrogenic compounds; if there is too much estrogen, they act as competitive inhibitors. It's like having a steady hand on the wheel," he says. Finally, if you feel like indulging yourself a little, go ahead. "You're starting to burn more calories, and you're more insulin-resistant during your Venus week," explains Booth.

GAMES TO PLAY: Take advantage of your natural Venus energy with vigorous exercise like running or kickboxing, says Ellen Barrett, M.S., a holistic fitness trainer in New Haven, Conn., and author of Zodiaction (Bantam, 2007). In the sociable estrogen phase, consider dancing lessons, tennis, or exercise classes with friends. Strength training is especially effective, says Stram. "You'll feel stronger now, and you'll build muscle more efficiently."

SUPPLEMENTS TO TAKE: The Chinese herb dong quai (Angelica sinsesis) is one of the best female tonics to take in this phase, says Lewis. "It's been found to be mildly estrogenic," she explains, and will "support the body in what it's already doing during the growth phase." Take one to two grams a day in capsule form. Be sure you're also taking a multivitamin all cycle long, advises Booth. Choose one with at least 400 mg of folic acid to reduce your risk of heart disease and prevent birth defects should you ever become pregnant. To modulate any premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms down the line and protect bone health, take at least 1,000 mg of calcium and 1,000 IU of vitamin D every day.