Let’s talk about the luteal phase—the unsung hero of your menstrual cycle. This often-overlooked phase occurs between ovulation and menstruation, during which your body undergoes significant hormonal changes. Thinking about your own luteal phase, you probably associate this time of the month with PMS symptoms, craving chocolate, and feeling sluggish. But what if I told you the luteal phase can be a period of energy and focus? It’s all about working in tandem with your body, not against it. Today, we’re diving into how to support luteal phase hormones, specifically. Say hello to happier, more balanced hormones in the second half of your cycle!
Hormonal balance is the goal
Ever feel like your energy, mood, and cravings fluctuate throughout your menstrual cycle? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, these fluctuations are normal. As menstruating women, our hormones are like an orchestra—each hormone plays a specific role. And they work together in a complex yet harmonious way. Just like an orchestra, if one hormone is out of balance, it impacts the entire symphony. For example, if estrogen is too high, it can cause bloating and breast tenderness. On the flip side, low levels of progesterone can contribute to PMS and fatigue. Speaking of progesterone, proper progesterone levels are key for a balanced luteal phase.
What is the luteal phase?
The luteal phase occurs after ovulation and before menstruation. It typically lasts for around 10-14 days, although this can vary! During the luteal phase, the body produces higher levels of progesterone, which helps to prepare the uterus for pregnancy. Because of this, the luteal phase is often considered one of the most important phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Reason being? It plays a critical role in preparing the body for pregnancy. During this window of time, the ovary releases an egg, which is then fertilized by sperm to form an embryo. If all goes well, it implants in the uterus. However, if conception doesn’t happen, progesterone levels decrease and menstruation begins.
Why is the luteal phase important?
Beyond its role in reproduction, the luteal phase impacts many other aspects of a woman’s health—i.e. energy levels, mood, and appetite. And if hormones are imbalanced during this phase, it can contribute to symptoms like fatigue, mood swings, bloating, and food cravings. Which, in turn, can be both uncomfortable and disruptive to daily life. Eventually, these hormonal abnormalities can lead to conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Overall, the luteal phase plays a crucial role in the menstrual cycle and reproductive health.
support luteal phase hormones
When it comes to supporting your body during the luteal phase, habits like regular exercise, stress management techniques, and a balanced diet—rich in nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and B vitamins—make a difference. Additionally, some women may benefit from supplements or natural remedies to support hormonal balance. All of that said, how can you align your lifestyle and diet with this part of your menstrual cycle? Without further ado, let’s dive into how to support luteal phase hormones.
sync with your body’s natural rhythms
Ready to feel more energized, balanced, and in tune with your body? Enter: syncing your diet and lifestyle with the ebbs and flows of your hormones. More on how to sync with your luteal phase, below. For context, the luteal phase will begin energetically—thanks to fluctuating progesterone—then wane. Therefore, you may notice yourself feeling more inward during this time. In fact, you may become agitated by excessive demands! Keep this mind and set boundaries when possible. This phase is a wonderful time to nurture your creative insights, write poetry, draw, or come up with strategic ideas for your business.
How to shift your lifestyle during the luteal phase
First and foremost, start paying attention to your body’s needs. Get into the habit of tapping in first thing in the morning, as well as mid-afternoon and before bed. How is your energy? How are you feeling in your body? Are you cold? Hungry? In need of fresh air? By tapping into your body’s feedback, you can make dietary and lifestyle adjustments to support your mental and physical health. Here are a few tips on how to support your body’s needs during the luteal phase:
Focus on nutrient-dense foods
During the luteal phase, the body requires more nutrients to support the potential implantation of a fertilized egg. Focus on eating a balanced diet rich in protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates, as well as plenty of fruits and vegetables. Aim to start your day with a blood sugar-friendly breakfast!
Increase fiber intake
Progesterone can cause constipation, so it’s best to increase fiber intake during the luteal phase. This will help keep digestion regular. Foods like ground flax and non-starchy vegetables can help with this.
Reduce caffeine and alcohol
Both caffeine and alcohol can disrupt hormonal balance and increase symptoms like mood swings and breast tenderness. Consider reducing or eliminating them from your diet during the luteal phase. If you need your coffee fix, be sure to drink it after you’ve had a nourishing breakfast.
Drinking plenty of water can help alleviate symptoms like bloating and headaches that may occur during the luteal phase. Stay hydrated with no-sugar-added electrolytes.
This goes without saying, but getting proper rest is always important. But particularly during the luteal phase, progesterone can cause extra fatigue. Neglecting rest can lead to burnout, decreased productivity, and intensified PMS. Remember, rest is not a luxury—it’s a necessity!
Incorporate gentle exercise
When it comes to exercise, the luteal phase is a wonderful time for low-intensity workouts—such as yoga, pilates, or walking. These activities can help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation, which can be beneficial during this phase when we may feel more emotional and fatigued.
Do you need more calories during the luteal phase?
Yes! While it’s always beneficial to honoring your hunger, it’s especially key during the luteal phase. Studies show that women require 100-300 more calories, every day, during this phase. Why? Because our basal metabolic rate (the number of daily calories required to stay alive) increases by 10-20%. Additionally, as progesterone rises during this phase, it signals the body to consume more energy. As a result, many women notice an increase in appetite. This is no coincidence. We need more fuel before bleeding begins—an energy-intensive phase. During the luteal phase, hone in on increasing your intake of complex carbohydrates. Foods such as basmati rice, oats, and sweet potatoes are excellent sources of glucose. Aim to pair your carbs with protein (poultry, eggs, Greek yogurt, tempeh, etc.) and healthy fats (avocado, nut butter, full-fat dairy, olives, etc.) for steady blood sugar.
focus on magnesium
In addition to carbs, it’s also essential to focus on foods that contain magnesium, vitamin B6, and calcium. These nutrients can help alleviate luteal phase symptoms, like cramps, bloating, and mood swings. Foods such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and dairy products are excellent sources of these nutrients. Magnesium, in particular, is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, including muscle and nerve function and blood sugar control. For menstruators, magnesium can be particularly beneficial because of its ability to alleviate PMS. Thanks to its ability to relax muscles in the uterus and reduce the production of prostaglandins (hormones that cause menstrual cramps), it’s a must-have nutrient before your period starts. Magnesium is also known to increase energy and libido!
A few magnesium favorites: avocados, pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, and dark chocolate. Make a lentil soup with sautéed leafy greens and top your bowl with pumpkin seeds! For dessert, enjoy dark chocolate and a handful of walnuts for omega-3 fatty acids.
Luteal Phase meditation
No matter which cycle phase you’re in, it’s always important to give your body the energy and nutrients it needs. That said, remember that nourishment comes in many forms—beyond what’s on your plate. Given that you may start to feel more anxious and tired during the luteal phase, use this time period as an opportunity to engage in grounding activities, like yoga, pilates, or meditation. Speaking of meditation, I’ve been loving InsightTimer’s phase-specific meditations, like these for the luteal phase. These meditations help honor this part of your cycle and support your emotional well-being during time.
HORMONE BALANCE EBOOK
Ready to take the next step in your hormone-healing journey? Grab your copy of Master Your Menstrual Cycle—my holistic guide to balancing your hormones with ease. Available for only $10!
Images courtesy of Unsplash. This article contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Wellness with Edie! This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider.