5 Nutrients That Support Your Menstrual Phase

5 Nutrients That Support Your Menstrual Phase

Let me be clear. All nutrients are beneficial and serve their purpose at different times. I am also a big proponent of individualized nutrition based on what a person’s specific needs are. With that said, these 5 nutrients are my personal findings and round up of what can help most women with various symptoms during their menstrual phase.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that has been shown to reduce symptoms for both PMS and menopause. During your luteal and menstrual phases, a magnesium supplement, foods rich in magnesium, and even magnesium oil or lotion can help relax the smooth muscles of your uterus, decrease inflammatory prostaglandins (the hormone-like lipids that cause contractions and cramps), reduce headaches and breast tenderness, and even help curb sugar cravings.

In terms of hormonal balance, magnesium is needed for the production of TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone, which is responsible for your body’s metabolism. In addition, it aids in blood sugar balance and estrogen detoxification. Women with PCOS are 19 times more likely to be magnesium-deficient, and those with diabetes or an autoimmune disease are also at high risk for deficiency.

Women want to aim for 400mg of magnesium per day.

Here are some food sources rich in magnesium: 

  • pumpkin seeds
  • almonds
  • spinach
  • cashews
  • soymilk
  • black beans
  • edamame
  • dark chocolate

As for supplements, magnesium in the forms of aspartate, citrate, lactate, and chloride are more bioavailable and readily absorbed than magnesium oxide and sulfate. I was just recommended magnesium oil from Ancient Minerals and will report back after a few months of using it.

Omega 3s

Omega 3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that can help with bloating, uterine inflammation, migraines, and even mood swings. In a study of women with polycystic ovary syndrome and irregular periods, an omega 3 supplement was given at 3g/day for 8 weeks. This resulted in decreased elevated testosterone and androgen levels with a regulation of menses in the omega 3 group.

In another study, women took 1,000mg of fish oil/day. The experimental group reported less menstrual pain than the comparative group who took the pain reliever, ibuprofen.

Here are some food sources rich in omega-3s: 

  • fish (salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, and mackerel)
  • nuts and seeds
  • fortified foods (I have been using this Silk oat, almond, and pea milk blend infused with DHA omega-3s!)

Zinc

Supplementing with 30mg of zinc 1-3x daily during your luteal and menstrual phases can significantly reduce (if not manage or eradicate dysmenorrhea- period pain!). Zinc can also block androgen production, such as testosterone, which helps in treating acne and reducing excess facial hair.

Here are some food sources rich in zinc: 

  • oysters
  • shellfish (crab and lobster)
  • red meat (I recommend organic, grass fed and pasture-raised)
  • legumes
  • nuts and seeds- especially pumpkin seeds!
  • eggs
  • whole grains

B vitamins, specifically B6 and B12

It’s a toss up between which B vitamin is more important to focus on. Both B6 (pyridoxine) and B12 (cobalamin) can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, which as we know can be rampant during our luteal and menstrual phases. Here are the main contributors of each.

B6 can help regulate periods, so if your cycle is irregular, I would recommend incorporating foods that contain more of this B vitamin. B6 also helps minimize bloating and has the ability to produce amino acids, which is needed more during your bleed for replenishment and to avoid muscle catabolism.

Here are some food sources rich in B6: 

  • pork.
  • poultry, such as¬†chicken¬†or turkey
  • some fish (cod, salmon, halibut, trout, tuna and snapper)
  • peanuts
  • soy¬†beans
  • wheatgerm
  • oats
  • bananas

B12 largely contributes to red blood cell formation, which is also crucial during this time.Since we are losing blood and iron, new red blood cells are needed to help carry oxygen throughout the body and keep energy levels high.

Here are some food sources rich in B12: 

  • meat
  • poultry
  • fish
  • eggs milk

Iron

Last but not least is iron. About 70% of our body’s iron is found in red blood cells. When we bleed during menses, we lose blood and, therefore, red blood cells and iron. It is important to replenish this mineral, as to avoid iron depletion or anemia. Women need approximately 1.8 mg of iron/day. If you donate blood, you lose about 200 mg of iron, and those breastfeeding and postpartum can lose up to 700 mg. Breastfeeding mamas need to increase their iron intake by 0.5-1mg/day.

P.S. Iron is better absorbed in the company of vitamin C, so add peppers, citrus juice, broccoli or tomatoes to your meals with iron-containing foods. Using iron pots can also increase iron levels! We only absorbed 10-30% of iron, so keep that in mind when measuring and accounting for your food. 

Here are some food sources rich in iron: 

  • lean beef
  • veal
  • poultry
  • pork
  • lamb
  • liver
  • fish and shellfish
  • greens
  • tofu
  • lima beans
  • legumes and lentils

Summary

Upping your nutrient consumption game is a great strategy in preventing or treating PMS and menstrual symptoms. From the abundance of research I’ve been doing lately on women’s health (specifically nutrition and phases of the cycle), I found magnesium, omega 3s, zinc, B vitamins (B6 + B12), and iron to be some of the most crucial in alleviating unwanted cramps, headaches, lethargy, acne and more while also replenishing the body with the fuel it needs to process and recover best.

If you have basic nutrition questions, I can answer those for you, but hang on tight for when I become licensed in February to better serve your personal needs. Xo Danielle

Disclaimer: The medical/health information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind of medical/health advice. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITE OR OUR MOBILE APPLICATION IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

 

How to Start Cycle Syncing

I discussed what cycle syncing was in my last post, but now I’m sure you’re wondering how to get started. Here are my top 5 tips on how to live according to your cycle without overcomplicating things.

  1. Read Alisa Vitti’s “In the Flo” book. This book is what sparked my interest in women’s health and biohacking your hormones .It’s a fairly easy read and account of how women are neglected in terms of diet and exercise advice compared to men (which many studies are based on). *hard eye roll*
  2. Take up seed cycling. Seed cycling is eating sunflower seeds and sesame seeds during your luteal and menstrual phases (the week before and of your period) and eating pumpkin and flax seeds during your follicular and ovulatory phases. These seeds contain phytoestrogens and other specific micronutrients that support your hormones during these phases. It is recommended to eat these seeds raw and to consume 1-2 Tbsp/day. *more on this in an upcoming post
  3. Exercise according to each phase.
    • Follicular phase: cardio
    • Ovulatory phase: HIIT, weight lifting, circuits
    • Luteal phase: pilates, yoga
    • Menstruation: walking, restorative yoga (Yoga With Adrienne on YouTube has a killer Yoga for Women sequence that helps ease cramps!)

*Each phase fluctuates in estrogen and progesterone levels, ultimately providing different levels of energy. This guide can help you give your body the grace and movement it thrives off of during each phase. Note: afternoon workouts are best as to avoid spiking cortisol levels.

4.¬†Eat more whole foods in general. If you read “In the Flo”, you’ll notice that nearly all of the foods recommended are whole foods. Whole foods contain more fiber, active enzymes, antioxidants, and micronutrients that support your reproductive and overall health. Aim to consume 2-3 fruits per day and 3-4 veggies/day, along with whole food proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains. *Those with PCOS or endometriosis should consult with a Registered Dietitian to set up a plan specific to their needs.

5. Eat or drink 1 fermented food per day! Good gut health impacts nearly every other bodily system. 80% of our immune cells are found within the GI tract. Eating healthy fats can result in glowing skin for our integumentary system, and a diverse microbiome encourages regular bowel movements. The list goes on and on. In relation to reproductive health, when gut health is rich in diversity, the estorbolome (what regulates estrogen) is also balanced and can maintain normal levels of this sex hormone. If the estrobolome is disrupted with dysbiosis (microbial imbalance) and inflammation, it strains its efficiency to maintain estrogen homeostasis.

Summary

Cycle syncing can be as simple or complex as you make it. I started out with these 5 changes listed above before diving into eating specific foods for each phase. With the stresses of everyday life, it can be difficult to take on new challenges and create new habits. Believe me, I know. Take on what amount is right for you, and remember, small changes add up!

What questions do you have? Leave a comment or message me on Instagram to discuss if you’d like. Happy syncing!

5 Nutrients to Support Your Period

Premenstrual and menstrual symptoms can be less than manageable. Heck, I know plenty of women who have such debilitating symptoms, they’ve taken off school or work at some point. That’s crazy. We should be able to use those days for a mental health reset or when we’re actually sick with other illnesses. So, how can we begin to minimize and alleviate these symptoms to save our sick and PTO days?¬†Nutrition is one of the large pieces to completing this puzzle. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Water

Did you know that water is a nutrient? It sure is! It’s okay if you didn’t, but is it that much of a surprise? We NEED water to survive, and our bodies are made of 60-70% of the stuff! When we are properly hydrated during our periods, we decrease our chances of cramping. This is because we aren’t retaining water and decrease bloating. Water can also help with muscle function, which the uterus is! (well, partly).

2. Omega-3s

Consuming foods high in omega 3s (fatty fish like salmon and tuna, flaxseeds, chia seeds, soybeans, etc.) has been proven to reduce menstrual pain, help with depression and mood swings, and is a great support for brain health which may help with lessening the incidence of headaches!¬Ļ

3. Turmeric

Turmeric is a bright yellow spice known for its unique flavor in Middle Eastern dishes, its anti-inflammatory properties, and its ability to be used as a clothing dye. Ya, it stained my nails from dinner last night…the only downside, but I digress. The antioxidant compound in turmeric is called curcumin. In larger doses, curcumin has been shown to reduce oxidative muscle damage and aid in healing and recovery by decreasing inflammation. This can help with period cramps since the uterus is a muscular organ.

*HOT TIPS* If you don’t like the taste of turmeric, you can purchase a turmeric supplement. Just make sure that black pepper (pepperdine) is present in the formula because it makes it more bioavailable and easier to absorb for us! Same goes for when you are cooking with turmeric or even make a turmeric “golden” latte- add a pinch of pepper!

4. Iron

Iron is the number one nutrient women are deficient in, partially because we lose iron when we menstruate through blood. Here are some great food sources to add to your diet to receive proper amounts of iron:

  • grass-fed beef
  • lentils & legumes
  • shellfish
  • liver & organ meats
  • turkey
  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • dark chocolate
  • tofu¬Ļ

**HOT TIP** consuming vitamin C increases iron bioavailability. Example: bell peppers with tofu- yum!

5. Magnesium

Studies have shown that magnesium both eases period cramps and decreases the prostaglandins (lipids that act like hormones) that cause those contractions and cramping. So not only does magnesium alleviate the symptoms, but it addresses one of the root causes.

Foods high in magnesium include:

  • pumpkin seeds
  • almonds
  • spinach
  • cashews
  • dark chocolate
  • avocado
  • nuts and seeds
  • tofu
  • whole grains¬≤

Nutrition can greatly influence how our body operates and feels, with menstrual symptoms being no exception. Water, omega 3s, turmeric, iron, and magnesium are nutrients that can aid in cramp and unfavorable symptom reduction. Please consult with your doctor if you are currently taking any medications to avoid food/drug interactions, and feel free to reach out with questions with how to incorporate these into your diet!

Disclaimer: The medical/health information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind of medical/health advice. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITE OR OUR MOBILE APPLICATION IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Resources

1.Ferguson, S. (2019, July 16). What to Eat During Your Period: Fish, Leafy Greens, Yogurt, and More. Retrieved August 04, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/what-to-eat-during-period

2. Spritzler, F. (n.d.). 10 Magnesium-Rich Foods That Are Super Healthy. Retrieved August 04, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-foods-high-in-magnesium

Estrogen Dominance: What Is It, and What Can I Do About It?

Estrogen dominance. It’s a term used to describe elevated estrogen levels within the body, for females or males. Estrogen dominance can also imply normal levels of estrogen in comparison to lower levels of progesterone at times throughout the menstrual cycle when progesterone is supposed to be the dominant sex hormone.

Signs and Symptoms of High Estrogen (for women):

  • irregular periods
  • bloating
  • weight gain
  • fatigue
  • difficulty sleeping
  • breast tenderness
  • mood swings
  • anxiety
  • hair loss
  • low libido
  • benign cysts¬†development in breasts
  • heightened PMS symptoms
  • headaches
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • cold hand or feet
  • memory issues ¬Ļ

Signs and Symptoms of High Estrogen (for men):

  • breast tenderness
  • breast enlargement
  • infertility
  • erectile dysfunction¬Ļ

These symptoms, especially a collection of them, are indicative of elevated estrogen. I always suggest contacting you primary care physician or OB to get a hormone analysis done to confirm this, but you can also tackle this issue with holistic approaches.

Holistic Approaches:

  1. Move more! Exercise aids in estrogen metabolism by releasing it from fat cells. Don’t worry. It’s not necessary to partake in vigorous exercise if that isn’t your style. Simply adding steps to your day (a common goal is 10,000 steps) works wonders in the long run.
  2. Try to avoid xenoestrogens, chemical compounds that mimic estrogen and cause endocrine disruption. Endocrines are glands that release these hormones, so if you have chemicals in your body that block or impair endocrine gland function, then your hormones will surely be out of wack. Xenoestrogens are found in plastic water bottles and food containers, beauty and cleaning products, and sunscreen (just to name a few). Do some research and buy brands with labels that say non-toxic and plant-based on them. Decreasing your toxic-load can do wonders!
  3. Chill out! Find things that help you relax and works for you. A sheet mask might sound idyllic to one person, while it sounds like a claustrophobic, goopy mess to another. Stress-management will help decrease cortisol production. In order for your body to make cortisol, progesterone is compromised in the process. If you engage in stress-reducing activities and some R&R, you will help save some of your progesterone.
  4. Catch enough Zzzz’s. Getting enough sleep will also lower your cortisol levels and keep your body regulated and in homeostasis. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep/night, with no one being an exception to how they operate or seem to succeed off less. Sleep is when our brains detoxify, our muscles recover, and our body rests and resets for the following day.

Foods For Estrogen Metabolism:

Here is a list of foods that can help metabolize estrogen and balance out your levels with progesterone. Estrogen is mainly metabolized in the liver and is then excreted through urine and feces.

  • Cruciferous vegetables (Wait a minute…I thought this was on the list for foods to eat for LOW ESTROGEN. Interestingly enough, cruciferous veggies can help those with low estrogen and those with high estrogen, as they act as both phytoestrogens and help estrogen metabolizers. Crazy paradox, right?). Here are some examples of cruciferous veggies.
    • broccoli
    • cauliflower
    • kale
    • arugula
    • watercress
    • cabbage
    • Brussel sprouts
  • ¬†Mushrooms
  • Red grapes
  • Red wine!
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Green tea
  • Pomegrantes¬†¬≤
  • Seaweed (nori) ¬≥
  • Shellfish
  • Coffee ‚Āī

Still confused whether you have low or high levels of estrogen? I get it, the signs and symptoms are very similar. Once again, it’s a great idea to get checked out before assuming; However, positive lifestyle changes such as getting more sleep, stress reduction and management, avoiding xenoestrogens, and exercising more can’t hurt. ūüėČ and don’t forget my favorite part- the foods you can add to your diet! I want you to focus on what you can add to benefit your health and energy levels rather than restricting anything. Let me know if you have any general questions.

P.S. I started my internship today, so only 952 hours until I’m through! haha and that much closer to being able to counsel you on a personal and customized level. Woohoo!

Next Up…

“Women Produce Testosterone Too”

References

  1. Healthline. 2020. Signs And Symptoms Of High Estrogen: Diagnosis, Treatment, And More. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/high-estrogen#causes&gt; [Accessed 20 July 2020].
  2. Healthline. 2020. 7 Foods For Lowering Estrogen Levels In Men. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/low-testosterone/anti-estrogen-diet-men&gt; [Accessed 20 July 2020].
  3. Jane Teas, Thomas G. Hurley, James R. Hebert, Adrian A. Franke, Daniel W. Sepkovic, Mindy S. Kurzer, Dietary Seaweed Modifies Estrogen and Phytoestrogen Metabolism in Healthy Postmenopausal Women,¬†The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 139, Issue 5, May 2009, Pages 939‚Äď944,¬†https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.108.100834
  4. Sisti JS, Hankinson SE, Caporaso NE, et al. Caffeine, coffee, and tea intake and urinary estrogens and estrogen metabolites in premenopausal women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2015;24(8):1174-1183. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0246

Signs of Low Estrogen and What You Can Do About It!

Low estrogen levels can display in a number of ways. Not only can irritating symptoms such as fatigue and headaches present themselves, but serious health repercussions can result from long-term estrogen deficits.

As mentioned in my previous post, estrogen is a major female sex hormone that is mainly produced and secreted by the ovaries. Estrogen naturally increases during puberty and maintains levels during your reproductive years. As perimenopause approaches, levels begin to decline, but some women experience low estrogen symptoms well before this.

Signs and symptoms of low estrogen:

  • irregular periods
  • pain during sex
  • hot flashes
  • depression
  • headaches
  • recurring UTIs
  • incontinence
  • weight gain
  • fatigue
  • mood swings¬†¬Ļ

Please note that just because you identify with some of these symptoms, that doesn’t automatically mean you have low estrogen. This is not WebMD and you are not a doctor! If you suspect you may have low estrogen, schedule an appointment with your doctor for a blood draw and hormone analysis.

Some causes of low estrogen during your reproductive years include:

  • ovarian cysts
  • thyroid disorders
  • being underweight (if you don’t have enough body fat, your reproductive system cannot function properly)
  • excessive, intense exercise
  • chemotherapy
  • other endocrine disorders¬†

*genetics can also be a risk factor¬†¬Ļ

What can I do?

This is where I can come in to help! If you verify with your doctor that you have low estrogen levels, hormone therapy and estrogen doses are available. However, if you could raise your estrogen levels naturally, I recommend doing so with the following:

  • Consult with a dietitian to gain a healthy amount of weight to support your reproductive organs and system. (I will be offering this service as early as next March!).
  • Ease up on the exercise. To reset and regulate the body, I know many women who had to completely take a break from exercise. If you absolutely need to move for the sake of your mental health, I suggest going on walks or hikes with friends. ūüôā Light yoga can also be beneficial for the mind and body.
  • Reduce stress and cortisol levels by any means necessary,
  • Consume more phytoestrogens (plants that mimic the chemical structure of estrogen in the body by binding to estrogen-receptors).

Phytoestrogens

Here is a list of phytoestrogens that may help raise low estrogen levels and provide other protective, health benefits as well (against breast cancer, CVD, diabetes, obesity and more).

  • Seeds! Flaxseed meal, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds
  • Fruits, such as strawberries, apricots, and oranges
  • Vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and kale
  • Lentils and legumes
  • Chickpeas
  • Olives and olive oil¬†¬≤

Foods High in Magnesium & Zinc

Foods high in magnesium and zinc have been proven to be supportive of reproductive health.

  • Avocados
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Shellfish
  • Wheatgerm
  • Oatmeal
  • Kidney beans
  • Dark, leafy greens
  • Bananas
  • Yogurt¬†¬≤

Low estrogen levels can exist and plague women in their reproductive years for a number of reasons. Please seek medical advice and analysis if you suspect you have low estrogen before consulting with a dietitian and using your diet to balance hormones.

 

Resources

1. Medicalnewstoday.com. 2020. Low Estrogen: Causes, Effects, And Treatment Options. [online] Available at: <https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321064&gt; [Accessed 12 July 2020].

2. Mdvip.com. 2020. Foods That Boost Estrogen & Testosterone РLiving Well РMDVIP. [online] Available at: <https://www.mdvip.com/about-mdvip/blog/foods-to-boost-estrogen-testosterone-levels#:~:text=Eating%20foods%20that%20can%20help,help%20women%20raise%20estrogen%20levels.&gt; [Accessed 12 July 2020].