All the ladies with terrible PMS, raise your hands. We’re here for you, and we come bearing some intel we wished we’d learned years ago. So you know about your cycle (duh), but have you heard of the specific part of your cycle known as “the luteal phase”? Us neither. After chatting with Alisa Vitti, nutritionist and best-selling author of WomanCode, we learned why this phase is so important and how eating certain foods during this time can make PMS much more manageable. Here’s the breakdown.
Basics first. What is this so-called luteal phase? As explained by Vitti, it’s the ten to 12 days before you start your period. Aka that time you’re PMS-ing. That’s because ovulation has occurred, and your body is prepping by building up estrogen and progesterone in the lining of your uterus. When you’re not pregnant, estrogen and progesterone decrease in concentration.
OK, so why would you want to “eat for” your luteal phase? You know those cravings, bad moods, acne and other symptoms you chalk up to PMS? Vitti explains that those stereotypical pitfalls are signaling that your ratio of estrogen to progesterone and other micronutrients are off balance. But if you proactively eat to nourish your body with the micronutrients your body needs, you can actually avoid typical PMS symptoms.
Best news ever. So what magical foods should you eat during the luteal phase?
Chickpeas: A great source of B6, which helps with progesterone production because low levels can mean stress and period issues.
Kale and leafy greens: All of the brassica family greens (but especially kale) contain indole-3-carbinol, a powerful hormone balancer that helps to prevent estrogen dominance.
Coconut yogurt: Probiotics and lots of good fats are both mood-stabilizing and thwart PMS food cravings. (Psst: Vitti’s fave is Anita’s Creamline Coconut Yogurt.)
Sweet potatoes: Rich in vitamin A, they help your liver break down excess estrogen, balance out your blood sugar level and your mood.
Bone broth: A fantastic source of the electrolytes magnesium and calcium, which will prevent the headaches, migraines and fuzzy-headedness that can come with PMS.
Hit us with the bad news. Which foods should we avoid?
Caffeine: It throws off your whole endocrine system, messing with your blood sugar and cortisol levels. It can also exacerbate the body’s propensity to produce cysts, so it’s especially bad news for women with PCOS, functional ovarian cysts, endometriosis, fibroids and fibrocystic breasts.
Soy: Processed soy (like soy milk, soy meat, soy cheese, soy yogurt) can lead to estrogen imbalance, especially among women who are sensitive to phytoestrogens.
White potatoes: Starchy foods act like sugar and can cause blood sugar levels to spike and crash quickly. This can ultimately affect your fertility and whether your body is able to ovulate regularly.
Pesticide-laden and GMO foods: Hello, synthetic hormones. Definitely something you want to avoid while your body’s dealing with its own hormonal crisis.
Artificial sweeteners: Like real sugar, they can also cause blood-sugar spikes and crashes. Also, the glycosides in certain sweeteners can be ovulation inhibiting.
Feeling a little overwhelmed? Go at your own pace. Even better, download Vitti's MyFLO app or start a food journal so you can keep track of how your body reacts to different foods during your luteal phase. Now go get 'em, you hormone-balanced warrior!