Hormone levels within a woman’s body fluctuate throughout the monthly menstrual cycle, and nutrition during each phase can be targeted to support optimal hormone levels.  Below, each phase will be defined, along with nutrition recommendations throughout each one.  Since the average cycle is 28 days, we will use this as a guide.

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photo credit: Yale Medicine

MENSTRUAL PHASE (days 1-4)

This phase starts with day 1 of your period.  During this phase, the lining of the uterine wall is shed, and a new one is created. Typically energy levels are on the lower side, calorie needs and lower, and smaller more frequent meals are satisfying.

Hormone levels drop during this time, and foods rich in fatty acids can help with mood stabilization.  Try eating avocado, chia seeds, walnuts, and certain types of fish (salmon, mackerel, cod, tuna). 

Vitamin A foods can help the liver process estrogen so think of eating root veggies such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and beets.

Slow releasing carbohydrates, which help keep the blood sugar levels more stable and help with satiety, are also recommended during this time.  Some slow release carbohydrates are: non starchy vegetables (such as spinach, mushrooms, peppers, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, tomatoes and onions), fruits such as berries, melon, cherries, apples, and pears, nuts or nut butters, and grains such as oatmeal and quinoa.

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During this period, it is helpful to avoid alcohol, caffeine, refined sugars, and excess dairy which make the body feel sluggish.

NOTE: Right after the menstrual phase, some report having migraines for 1-2 days that have been linked to iron loss.  To replenish lost iron, try eating beets, greens, quinoa, lentils and beans.  Vitamin C foods along with these will help enhance iron absorption.

FOLLICULAR PHASE (Days 5-14)

During the follicular phase, energy levels start to increase.  A new lining is created during this phase, a follicle is grown facilitated by the FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone).  Estrogen levels are on the rise. Sprouted and fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and bean sprouts contain prebiotics and probiotics which help the body to metabolize estrogen.   Other food choices that are beneficial during this phase are nuts and seeds, flaxseed, berries, dates, figs and apricots.

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{OVULATORY PHASE (days 14-16)}

During this phase, estrogen levels surge, so the best choice for nutrition is for foods that help estrogen to leave your body. Two top choices are fiber and antioxidants, both of which can be found in fruits and vegetables. Fresh juices and fresh veggies and fruits are the top choice during this time.

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LUTEAL Phase(Days 16-28) 

Both progesterone and estrogen levels surge during this phase, and then decline. This change of hormones is linked to mood swings.  Foods rich in B Vitamins help boost serotonin, the feel good hormone.   Some ideas for foods rich in B Vitamins are leafy greens, garlic, cauliflower, and celery. 

“Studies have shown that, in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, women’s energy intakes and energy expenditures are increased, and women experience more frequent cravings for foods, particularly for foods that are high in carbohydrate and fat, than during the follicular phase.”  says Nina Geiker, PhD, a nutrition researcher with the University of Copenhagen’s Herlev and Gentofte Hospitals.

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While energy is typically still high, this is the phase where many cravings come into play as well as increased appetite. Fill the tank with healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil and nuts, and have a piece of dark chocolate during the few days leading up to the start of the cycle again.

 

 

Sources:
https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/104/1/15/4569669
https://thetomco.com/2017/01/20/eat-way-hormonal-balance-time-month/
http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/list-slowrelease-carbohydrate-foods-1677.html
https://www.glamour.com/story/what-foods-to-eat-during-each-week-of-your-cycle-for-less-annoying-periods
https://www.prevention.com/weight-loss/this-diet-tailored-to-your-menstrual-cycle-could-help-you-lose-weight
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0031938483902408

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