We live in a culture that values speed. We want quick answers to emails, coffee at the push of a button, and the subway to arrive right as we step on the platform. But meaningful change, especially when correcting hormonal imbalances, requires a little more patience, though not as much as you might suspect.
Research shows that 28 days, or one menstrual cycle, is the time it takes to start making a noticeable difference in your health. To make long-term changes that stick, the timeline is closer to three cycles, or approximately three months.
With the help of two of Veracity’s advisors – Dr. Gabrielle Francis, naturopathic doctor and founder of the Herban Alchemist, and Gretchen DePalma, MS, CNS, CDN and founder of Gretchen DePalma Nutrition – we break down why 28 days is the magic number when it comes to seeing if something new like a dietary tweak, a supplement, or a variation in your workout routine is working for you.
What’s the Deal With 28 Days?
Most people, even those whose hormones are generally well balanced, will feel slightly different at different parts of their cycle. This is because the menstrual cycle follows a hormonal rhythm: estrogen rises in the first 14 (or so) days pre-ovulation, then you ovulate and progesterone rises for the second half of the cycle. After that, “you have your period, and it starts over again,” Dr. Francis says. “When people have hormonal imbalances, they can often experience extreme symptoms in certain parts of the cycle.”
You’re probably familiar with classic PMS symptoms: bloating, moodiness, food cravings, and fatigue. What you may not realize is that these symptoms can also be signs that your hormones aren’t humming along optimally. If you have a hormone imbalance or if you’re just trying to feel better and healthier, you and your doctor may be interested in making certain lifestyle tweaks, like changing up your diet or trying a new supplement.
“You might feel more energy or more clarity within days, but to really see a consistent change, you'll have to look at at least 28 days,” Dr. Francis says. For example, you may naturally feel a surge of energy around the time of ovulation due to an increase in estrogen. This could wrongly be attributed to your recent efforts to cut out sugar or switch up your workout routine if you don’t give it enough time to see how you feel later in the month. On the flipside, you may think these changes aren’t working if you feel a bit more sluggish, when really you’re just in the luteal phase and your progesterone has dropped.
28 Days Is a Start, But 3 Months Is the Sweet Spot
Think of changes as long-term solutions rather than quick fixes. “Giving an intervention at least one cycle to look for changes is key. However, given how complex the biochemistry of the body is, it’s going to take more than just one cycle to see real improvement,” DePalma says.
Dr. Francis says to think of making changes as filling up the gas tank. “If you fill up the gas tank only a quarter full you'll still run better, but you won't run at a hundred percent,” she says, adding that the endocrine system is a very intricate balance between not just your ovaries, but your adrenal glands, blood sugar, stress levels, and more. “All of these things that are part of our endocrine system, they feed into each other. You're rewiring circuits when you change what you're eating and what supplements you're taking,” she says.
Some supplements like probiotics or multivitamins can be taken indefinitely, while others that address specific hormone imbalances may be designed to only be taken for a certain period of time. Before you take the more targeted supplements, you should have your hormones tested so that you know which formula is right for you. Three to six months later, you should test again to reassess how the changes are working and if you need to continue them.