What Is Our Infradian Rhythm? We Break Down The New Health Buzzword
In terms of biological clocks, the circadian rhythm seems to gain the most recognition. After all, optimizing our circadian clocks carries much more weight than simply helping our sleeping patterns—a healthy circadian rhythm can ensure a healthy gut, boost our mood and memory, and protect our immune systems.
But there's another biological buzzword experts are beginning to talk about, and it's called the infradian rhythm. According to Alisa Vitti, women's hormone and functional nutrition expert and founder of The FLO Living Hormone Center, our infradian rhythm is just as—if not more—important to optimize as our circadian clocks. Here's why.
What is the infradian rhythm?
Similar to a circadian rhythm, our infradian rhythm measures a period of time. But while everyone experiences a circadian rhythm over the course of a day, this time period relates to women's menstrual cycles, which occur over the course of the month as well. In other words, a woman's menstrual cycle is considered a monthly infradian rhythm.
"Women from their first period to their very last have a second biological clock at play," Vitti explains. "And it affects their brain, metabolism, immune system, microbiome, stress response, and reproduction."
Just as how it's important to optimize our circadian rhythms each day to optimize our well-being, women's infradian rhythms similarly affect those aspects of health. That said, women have one more biological clock than men to take into account.
Why is it important?
According to Vitti, women's infradian rhythms affect many body processes: Women's metabolisms speed up and slow down periodically throughout the monthly cycle, and their cortisol levels are higher at some points than others.
"The infradian rhythm creates a 25% change in women's brain chemistry over the course of the month," Vitti adds.
We knew a woman's menstrual cycle can affect how certain eating plans work, but according to Vitti, there's a host of other differences women should look out for: not just what and when they eat, but also how they exercise, work productively, and cope with stress.
What can we do?
In order to truly optimize our health, according to Vitti, we need to place as much importance on our infradian rhythms as our everyday circadian clock. When scientists recognize this importance, we have the potential to tailor what women should eat during the cycle, how they should adjust their workout plans to metabolic and cortisol changes, and how they can use the predictable brain changes they experience to reduce stress.
In other words, "We need a radical new approach for women to eat, exercise, work, and live in a way that actually supports their female biology," Vitti says, who speaks to this process in her most recent book.
Although more research is needed (and not just on men and postmenopausal women!), it's exciting that people have already started to pay more attention to their infradian rhythms. The U.S. women's soccer team, for example, has trained according to their cycle in order to optimize their athletic performance.
In terms of what this means for the next up-and-coming eating plans and fitness regimens, we can expect some emphasis on how our biological clocks can alter our personal routines. Take it from Vitti, who says, "The future of wellness is biological rhythm specific," (and has pioneered a solution for how we can address it!).
To learn more, check out today's episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, where we sit down with Alisa Vitti and discuss exactly how to hack our infradian rhythms (and much more)!
Jamie Schneider is the Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.