Are you matching your nutrition with your hormones?

As we approach midlife, progesterone begins to decline. So women over 40 or going through their menopause years will inevitably experience an up and down roller coaster and subsequent decline in progesterone as you go into postmenopausal years. If this might be you, I also recommend grabbing my new book, The Menopause Reset for tips and tricks on how to navigate menopause years with grace and ease.

If not due to menopause, the other way progesterone gets out of balance is if you are fasting at the wrong times of your cycle. Women of any age need to be careful about this, saving longer fasts for Days 1-17. Doing too much fasting, at the wrong time in your cycle may lead to unknowingly depleting progesterone.

Dr. Mindy Pelz has so many amazing resources on her website and podcast as…

Between Day 1 and Day 17, you’re welcome to do all of the below types of fasting:

Between Day 21 and Day 28, the week before your period, you will want to avoid fasting so as not to deplete hormones. If you don’t have a cycle, timing may still matter. A Dutch Test hormone panel can help determine this. I love this test for all women because it helps give us insight into your unique hormonal state.

What to add & avoid when building progesterone

During the progesterone building timeframe, again Day 17 through Day 21, you will want to avoid the following:

  • Avoid fasting for more than 15 hours
  • Avoid ketosis
  • Avoid longer fasts
  • Avoid carb restricted diets
  • Avoid strenuous exercise, running a marathon or pushing yourself with a hard workout
  • Avoid stress

During this time you will also want to lean into foods that support progesterone, that might not be otherwise ketogenic foods:

  • Pumpkin
  • Beans
  • Squash
  • Tropical and citrus fruits
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Andreas Seed Oils, we love the Pumpkin Seed Oil for progesterone (use code PELZ for discount), Flax Seed Oil will help with estrogen
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts
  • Grass fed meat, we like ours from Grassland Beef or Crowd Cow
Nutritional Support for LOW progesterone – ideal on day
  • a steroid hormone that is made primarily in the ovaries of cycling women by the corpus luteum (the tissue left behind after an egg is released at ovulation).
  • It is also made by the adrenal glands of both men and women in lesser amounts.
  • In menopause, the adrenal glands become the primary source of progesterone for women.
  • After estrogen peaks around days 12-14 of the menstrual cycle to stimulate ovulation
  • progesterone should rise and be at its peak around days 19-21 of the cycle.
  • Eat healthy fats: coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, grass-fed/pasture raised meat, wild-caught fish, etc.
  • Foods that contain phytoprogestins: Foods with phytoprogestins (plant-based chemicals with progestogenic effects) are fairly rare (there are many more foods with phytoestrogens than phytoprogestins).
  • Herbs/spices include: oregano, verbena, turmeric, thyme, red clover, and damiana.
  • The flavonoids “naringenin” (found in grapefruit, oranges, and tomatoes – skin) and “kaempferol” (found in apples, grapes, peaches, blackberries, raspberries, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cucumbers) are also considered phytoprogestins.
  • Foods high in vitamin B6: sunflower seeds, walnuts, poultry, chickpeas, bananas.
  • Foods high in vitamin C: citrus fruits, bell peppers, guava, kiwi, broccoli, tomatoes, berries, leafy greens.
  • Foods high in zinc: beef, oysters, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chickpeas.
  • Foods high in magnesium: leafy greens, nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds, almonds), avocados, bananas, figs, dark chocolate.
  • Foods high in L-arginine: beef, poultry, salmon, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, peanuts.
  • L-arginine improves luteal function.
  • Foods high in fiber: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans/legumes. Fiber promotes the excretion of excess estrogen.
  • Seed Cycling: This may be done by women of all ages – whether they are premenopausal, peri-menopausal, or menopausal.
    • Day 1-14: Flax seeds & Pumpkin seeds (promote estrogen)
    • Day 15-28: Sesame seeds & Sunflower seeds (promote progesterone)
    • Directions: Consume 2 Tbsp of one seed or 1 Tbsp of each of the two seeds during each phase.
    • Premenopausal women with regular cycles can follow their cycle
Women with irregular or no cycles (including perimenopausal and post-menopausal women) can follow the moon cycle (Day 1-14 = New Moon to Full Moon; Day 15-28 = Full Moon to New Moon).

All steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol:

if cholesterol levels are too low, the body doesn’t have the raw materials it needs to produce hormones.
  • Fat is essential to building hormones.
    • Someone cannot make adequate hormones if they’re not including healthy fats in their diet.
    • Healthy fats would include things like coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and meat from grass-fed/pasture-raised animals.
  • Avoiding fat or purchasing “low-fat” products (which add more sugar to compensate for the lack of fat) are choices that do not promote healthy reproductive hormone production.
  • Having too low body fat can also cause low progesterone levels.
  • Body fat percentages can drop too low with excessive exercise, an eating disorder (such as anorexia or bulimia), or extreme dieting.
  • It’s common for women who are distance runners and training for their next marathon to stop having a period.
  • Chronic stress – whether it’s physical, emotional, or dietary stress – puts the body in fight or flight mode, where it’s thinking about survival and not about reproduction.
  • Making reproductive hormones is not a priority for the body when it is under stress.
  • Because progesterone is produced in small amounts by the adrenal glands (which is the primary source of progesterone for post-menopausal women), when there is HPA Axis Dysfunction, progesterone can be low. In women, progesterone balances estrogen.
  • As we age, progesterone is the 1st hormone to decline (which is why estrogen dominance is very common), then estrogen, then testosterone
Nutrient deficiencies can also cause progesterone levels to be low.
  • When nutrients are deficient, we always need to ask – why are they deficient? Is the individual eating a poor diet that lacks nutrient-dense food?
  • Does the individual have low levels of HCL or digestive enzymes, so they are unable to properly break down and absorb their food?
  • Are there pathogenic organisms in the GI tract that are “stealing” those nutrients or damaging the gut lining where those nutrients are absorbed?
  • Magnesium is involved in the manufacture of steroid hormones, including progesterone.
  • Vitamin B6 is said to possess “progesterone-like effects” and has been shown to increase progesterone levels while reducing estrogen levels.
  • A low level of B6 can also make estrogen dominance more pronounced.
  • Vitamin C has been shown to increase serum progesterone levels and can induce ovulation in some women.
  • Zinc increases FSH levels, which in turn causes ovulation, which triggers the ovaries to produce progesterone.
  • Vitamin A increases ovarian progesterone secretion as well. Vitamin E and L-arginine have been shown to improve luteal function and progesterone levels by increasing corpus luteum blood flow. AFDNP