**This post was originally written on June 20, 2017**
We have been honing in on hormones over here lately, and looking at all of the research. Hormones can determine your sleep, your mood, your weight, and everything in between. For those pre-menopausal women, taking action to chart your cycle and to properly seed cycle and supplement can be life changing. Let’s look at the major hormones that affect us throughout the cycle.
Progesterone is the pregnancy hormone, as it plays a major role in maintaining pregnancy, but it is also known as a calming hormone. Progesterone is higher during the first part of the cycle, leading up to a potential pregnancy, and if no egg is implanted, progesterone levels drop. When progesterone levels drop or are low, PMS symptoms are evident, including poor moods and lower motivation (1). Low progesterone is also connected with infertility, swollen breasts, heavy periods and insomnia.
Estrogen is the female sex hormone, produced in the ovaries. Estrogen is dominant in the second half of the cycle. It’s main roles are involvement in the menstrual cycle and reproduction. Many women have estrogen dominance, which can result in weight gain in the hip and butt area, mood swings, PMS, and irritability. High estrogen levels are also implicated with fibroids and endometriosis, as well as breast cancer. Xenoestrogens and exposure to plastics and other chemicals can affect estrogen levels, which is why we are seeing girls as young as 8 getting periods! Low estrogen levels are mainly seen after menopause and cause mood swings, lower motivation, and low libido.
The phases of the cycle
During the first half of the cycle, estrogen is high. When estrogen is high, serotonin levels are also high and serotonin is considered a feel good hormone. Women typically “go with the flow” during this part of the cycle, and are not bothered by much. Since the follicular phase leads up to ovulation, we are primed to be more resilient as we look to find a mate. Most women report that they are in good spirits with high motivation during this time. At the end of this phase, ovulation occurs, signaling the second half of the cycle, the luteal phase.
During the luteal phase, estrogen levels drop rapidly, along with serotonin, and progesterone levels rise. Feelings of nesting (as during pregnancy) and everything being in its place are typical during this time, as well as responding more sensitively to situations. This is the time when you might feel irritable, have little patience and snap at things that you don’t usually react to as severely. The symptoms experienced as you approach the start of a new cycle are known as PMS. PMS is considered a symptom of hormone imbalance. It IS important to note that thoughts and feelings during this time are warranted and real, they are more raw and you are more likely to be affected by them than to let them go as in the follicular phase. Once the cycle restarts, we cycle through again.
Seed cycling: During this phase of your cycle, eat hemp seeds or sesame seeds to help stimulate progesterone production. Aim for 2 Tablespoons daily.
Chart and write symptoms that you experience throughout your cycle and you can schedule things around the week that you are not your best self! Check out the chart above for what foods and exercise to focus on during each part of your cycle, as well as seed cycling. You can also each foods rich in magnesium and calcium and/or take supplements such as chasteberry extract (days 14-28) (2) and magnesium (daily).
Still struggling with moods?
Moods can be affected by serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is produced in the gut and brain, and plays a role in mood regulation. Higher levels of serotonin are correlated with better moods while lower levels are seen is depressed patients. Exercise, diet, and light among other things are known to increase serotonin production.
The science: 5-HTP or 5-hydroxy tryptophan, is made from from tryptophan, and then converted to serotonin. 5-HTP can be taken as a supplement and is able to cross the blood brain barrier, where it then is converted to serotonin. Trytophan or L-trytophan is an essential amino acid and a precursor to serotonin which can also be taken as a supplement to help with moods.
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