My Girl Crush: Hormone Specialist, Carolina Salazar
We synced up (pun intended) with fellow wellness-junkie Carolina Salazar to talk about all things Cycle Syncing, living in balance, loving your body and so much more. A certified holistic health coach, hormone specialist and host of the Inner Growth podcast, Carolina is your go-to gal for cycle health, body love, hormone-happy recipes and so much more!
My Girl: Let’s start from the top! Can you tell us about your journey and how you discovered the world of holistic and hormone health? How has knowing more about your hormones helped you?
Carolina: Around 6 years ago, I struggled with a disordered relationship to food and my body – I was trying to shrink myself and thinking that it would make me more loved. Amidst that, I also lost my period, which led me to go on birth control as a “band-aid” solution for ‘regulating it’ - when it reality I was just in denial of the true root cause for the amenorrhea (period loss).
In 2020, I went through a massive awakening and started to realize that our health goes way beyond food and exercise - it ties into our mindset, our relationships, our beliefs, our spirituality, and so much more. I began to see health holistically, got certified at IIN as a Health Coach, and throughout that journey, also came across Cycle Syncing. I wanted to feel connected to my body and my cycle, so I decided to go off of birth control but for months after that, I still felt SO confused on how the cycle worked and how to make the right lifestyle shifts to align with it. So, I began to learn as much as I could from books, research and a hormone specialization from NCI.
Knowing more about hormones and my cycle has helped me work WITH my body instead of against it, has greatly deepened my body awareness, improved my self love, increased my energy levels and heightened my intuition!
My Girl: For anyone new to Cycle Syncing, how would you best describe what it is?
Carolina: Cycle Syncing is the process of optimizing your lifestyle, schedule, everyday routines, and mindset, based on the phases of your menstrual cycle. While a lot of content online makes it seem like Cycle Syncing is only about making changes to food and exercise, it actually goes WAY beyond that! It starts with understanding how the cycle actually works, which hormones play a part into it, and the phases that we go through from one period to the next. After that, you can start incorporating lifestyle factors that can help you feel your best!
My Girl: Now that we have the basics down, what are the 4 cycle phases and what should we know about each one? You’ve described cycle phases as “seasons”. Can you tell us more about that?
Carolina: We live in a cyclical world - a day has 24 hours, weeks have 7 days, months have 4 weeks, we have 4 seasons across each year, etc. As menstruators, the beautiful thing about our cycle phases is that they are an energetic mirror to the seasons we observe in nature! Just like nature, we also go through regular ebbs and flows, and thinking about the cycle phases as our inner seasons also makes them way easier to remember!
- Our cycle begins with our period/menstrual phase - AKA our inner winter. This typically lasts 3-7 days and is a time where our body is experiencing a physical and emotional shedding. Think of winter - we tend to crave warmer foods, tea, nourishing meals and watching movies under a cozy blanket - our period is the same!
- After that, we enter our Follicular Phase, AKA Our Inner Spring. This is when the egg-producing follicles in the ovaries start to mature as the ovary prepares to release an egg. Estrogen - which I like to nickname as our Inner Badass - begins to rise, which makes us feel energized again! Think of spring - it’s like a fresh start where we want to spring clean our homes, and brainstorm new ideas. The same applies to this phase, which lasts ~7-10 days.
- The first half of our cycle culminates in Ovulation - our Inner Summer - which is the shortest phase of the cycle, lasting ~3-5 days. This is when our ovaries release an egg, which is ready to be fertilized - AKA this is when we are fertile AF! Think of summer, everyone wants to be out and about, go on adventures, eat refreshing meals, dance… our ovulation is a time where our hormones peak, and we feel our most magnetic - time to let yourself shine, get the word out for your projects & have fun!
- After ovulation ends, we enter the second half of our cycle - our Luteal Phase AKA the Inner Autumn. This is the longest phase of the cycle, spanning ~7-14 days, and is a time where we start to go inwards again. It’s a moment for anchoring in, editing and finishing up anything that needs to get done. This is also a time where we are sensitive like the bare trees in autumn … a simple comment might feel like criticism, so be mindful of your Inner Critic and show yourself extra compassion if you ‘snap’ at someone else!
My Girl: What is the impact of stress on the cycle?
Carolina: Stress is one of the #1 things that can deeply affect your cycle. Typically, when we experience a stressor, our sympathetic nervous system triggers the Fight or Flight Response, causing our adrenals to secrete adrenaline into our bloodstream, and then, our HPA Axis gets activated to release cortisol. Ideally, the stressor is eventually gone, cortisol falls, and the parasympathetic nervous system activates the Rest and Digest response.
However, in our day and age where we are exposed to constant stressors (mental/physical/emotional), information, notifications and stimulation, this can lead to chronic stress activation, where the parasympathetic nervous system doesn’t even get to kick into gear. Chronic or persistent stress affects the production of menstrual cycle hormones - and I’m a big proponent of stress management as one of the MOST important things you can do for your cycle.
Reducing our cortisol and stress doesn’t have to be so complicated - some things you can do are: avoid drinking coffee on an empty stomach and aim for less than 2 caffeinated drinks/day, aim to sleep before 11 PM each night and get 7-8 hours of sleep, stay hydrated, eat regular meals (especially breakfast!), practice meditation and prioritize alone time.
My Girl: As an expert, how do you support your hormones daily?
Carolina: I support my hormones daily by going to bed before 11PM and sleeping at least 7 hours, having fiber, healthy fats and high quality protein in all of my meals, being mindful of caffeine, meditating with high vibrational frequencies first thing in the morning, drinking enough water and using as many toxic-free beauty and home products as possible. Some other things I love to do for my hormones occasionally are: dry brushing a couple times per week, epsom salt baths, and acupuncture!
My Girl: Okay, all of the recipes you share are SO drool-worthy! What’s your favorite hormone-supporting recipe right now?
Carolina: As the Taurus that I am, cooking is one of my favorite things in this world. My current favorite hormone supportive is a chocolate ‘mousse’ I’ve been having for breakfast daily!
I mix ½ cup of greek yogurt (usually Fage or Skyr) + 1 scoop of Chocolate Protein (my fave is the one from Be Well By Kelly) + 1 tbsp chia seeds + 1 tbsp oats + blueberries or raspberries!
Literally takes 5 minutes to make, is filled with fiber (which helps with regularity) and is SO DELISH.
My Girl: Showing love for your body and self is such a key focus for you. What are practices you incorporate for body love?
Carolina: Yes – helping women love their bodies is HUGE for me, and truly a big driver behind the content I make.
For me, keeping my mindset in check is one of the most important things I do for my body love. I always remind myself that my body is the vessel that allows my soul to experience life – that it’s on my side and that I should be on its side too. I also often come back to the fact that my worth is in my essence, not in my appearance.
Beyond that, I focus on practicing gratitude for my health daily, saying affirmations during meditation, and picking outfits that make me feel empowered and confident in my own skin.
My Girl: Name a few women in the wellness space that add value to your life (a.k.a. who should we all be following)?
My Girl: What’s a quote you live by each and every day?
Carolina: “The first step to change is personal responsibility ” – it’s only when you truly take ownership for all the ways in which you are contributing to outcomes in your life that you’re able to start changing them!
My Girl: How can the My Girl Community connect with you to learn more about their Cycle Syncing and supporting their hormones?
Carolina: I have a Cycle Syncing Course that has helped lots of women align their life with their cycle – it gives all the info you need: from how the cycle is structured, to cycle hormones, the ins and outs of cycle tracking and the lifestyle shifts that support your hormone health (basically everything I wish I knew when I went off the BC pill!).