After ovulation, the ovary begins to secrete progesterone. The luteal phase is a progesterone dominant phase. During this phase, appetite increases quite noticeably. Studies have shown it is completely normal for the body to require an extra 200-300 calories a day during the luteal phase. Nutrients most needed in this phase are magnesium, calcium vitamin b6, vitamin b5, vitamin c, and selenium this helps build healthy progesterone levels. There are also studies that suggest beta carotene is beneficial for progesterone production. Blood sugar balance becomes a little more unstable during this phase, however, this can easily be fixed by eating enough and not depriving the body of the extra calories it is asking for. During the first part of the luteal phase, energy can remain high but energy will slowly start tapering off especially the few days before the period is about to begin. Because estrogen rises again in the second part of the luteal phase (before dropping) histamine problems can arise again and have been associated with PMS symptoms. During this time it is important to focus on building foods with an emphasis on more calorie-dense foods, complex carbohydrates, and healthy plant-based protein and fat as well as lots of magnesium, calcium, and b6 to help manage PMS symptoms. Water retention is also common in the luteal phase which is why it’s important to drink lots of water to help ease water retention. Digestion is naturally more sluggish in the luteal phase as well so focusing on adequate water intake and lots of fiber to help the digestion do its job. If you suffer from period pain, most studies suggest adding pain and inflammation relieving foods and nutrients at least 3 days prior to menstruation for maximum effects. Read my foods for period pain article here:https://hazelandcacao.com/the-best-plant-based-foods-to-help-with-period-pain/
Of all the nutrients, magnesium may be difficult to get through food alone. Although food can provide us with a fair share of magnesium it is difficult to get enough because our soils are very depleted and there just isn’t as much magnesium in our food as there should be. Magnesium is a large macro mineral used in over 300 bodily functions. Because of this, we lose our magnesium stores very quickly. Magnesium is especially easily depleted by stress. Although foods rich in magnesium are essential, I also find using a topical magnesium oil spray and taking Epsom salt baths necessary to keep magnesium at optimal levels. Having enough magnesium will greatly diminish mood-related PMS symptoms as well as help with blood sugar regulation and water retention. We lose magnesium as we move through our menstrual cycle. Highest levels are seen after the end of our period and we gradually lose magnesium as the cycle moves along. Lowest levels of magnesium occur 3-4 days before the arrival of the next period. This may be a reason why women crave chocolate before their period is chocolate (especially dark chocolate or raw cacao) is a high source of magnesium. Magnesium is so crucial for feeling good in the luteal phase that some people argue that PMS is less of a hormonal issue and more of a magnesium issue. In my opinion, it’s a little bit of both.
I love my luteal phase. It is my favourite of all the phases. During my major food anxiety days post antidepressants, I used to leverage my luteal phase. It was the only time of the month where I had a noticeable increase in appetite and for the first time in the month, it was easier for me to eat food. This was a good thing for an underweight girl that was desperately trying to put on weight but couldn’t. I also love the calm that progesterone gives. Progesterone is a calming hormone that keeps you feeling in control and for someone that used to suffer from pretty extreme anxiety, my progesterone secreting phase was one of the only times in the month where I would feel more in control. This is a pattern that has continued to this day even though I no longer have appetite or food anxiety issues and I no longer have an anxiety disorder, I still love my luteal phase because it helps me feel calm, helps me thoroughly enjoy my food and helps me get stuff done!