If you’re a woman reading this, chances are you’ve experienced symptoms of PMS at some point in your life (bloating, cramping, moodiness, headaches, fatigue, increased hunger, cravings, etc.)
For years, the week before my period was something I’d absolutely dread (as well as those around me). FUN FACT — before we were married, my husband was so convinced I had an evil PMS alter ego that he legitimately documented my symptoms for six months to convince me to get help. LOL.
Fast forward to today, as a Nutrition + Hormone Health Coach, and I can confidently say that I actually somewhat enjoy the week leading up to my period. Sure, I’m still a bit more tired, reserved and withdrawn, but I’m able to lean into those feelings and support my body in ways to optimize this phase of my cycle and empower me to feel my best.
So, if you’re looking to do the same, then this post (along with this insane Maple Banana Walnut Oat Bake) is for you my lady love!
The week before your period is also know as the luteal phase (what I like to refer to as the fall phase) of your cycle.
It takes place immediately after ovulation occurs, and typically lasts 10-12 days, which is especially important if you’re trying to get pregnant, as it typically takes a fertilized egg 10 days to travel from your fallopian tube and implant into the uterine lining.
After ovulation (aka your summer phase), FSH and LH levels sharply decline and remain low for the rest of the cycle. Estrogen and testosterone decline as well, while progesterone rises and stimulates the growth of the lining of the uterus in preparation for pregnancy. If there’s no pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone will drop and cause the uterine lining to shed during the bleeding, or menstruation, phase.
Emotionally, during the first half of the luteal phase, you are often still riding high off of the effects of the ovulatory, or “summer phase” caused by confidence, energy and libido-boosting hormones estrogen and testosterone. However, as progesterone production increases (aka your calm and relaxation hormone), you’ll find yourself starting to wind down and wanting to avoid the social scene you were seeking the first half of the cycle.
During this phase our feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine tend to decrease, which can not only lead to feelings of stress or sadness, but major cravings for sweets and carbohydrates that give us a temporary dopamine fix but leave us feeling worse in the long run.
Progesterone can also cause blood sugar to dip lower than what’s normal in the follicular phase. This dip could partially explain why so many women struggle with emotional PMS symptoms, like moodiness and anxiety. It also increases water retention, which can cause bloating and puffiness.
Lastly, if you already have a hormone imbalance (such as high cortisol or estrogen dominance) this can disrupt the feedback loop with your hormones, causing an increase in uncomfortable PMS-related symptoms.
It’s important to eat foods that support progesterone production, so that it can rise enough to stimulate a healthy growth of your uterine lining. Foods high in zinc and magnesium (nuts, seeds, oysters, beans, etc.) vitamin C (citrus, leafy greens, bell pepper) as well as foods high in vitamin B6 (salmon, bananas, walnuts) are all helpful for boosting progesterone levels.
You’ll also want to keep blood sugar as stable as possible in the luteal phase, as progesterone can cause blood sugar to dip lower than what’s normal in the follicular phase. Try eating consistent, nutrient- dense meals balanced with protein, fat and fiber for optimal blood sugar balance.
Water retention increases during this time, which can cause bloating and puffiness, so make sure you’re drinking enough water (minimum half of your body weight in ounces) and consuming hydrating fruits and vegetables.
As mentioned earlier, our feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine tend to decrease during this phase, which can not only lead to feelings of stress or sadness, but major cravings for sweets and carbohydrates that give us a temporary dopamine fix but leave us feeling worse in the long run. Make sure to reach for treats or carbohydrate-rich options that also have plenty of nutrients, protein, fat and fiber to help you get your sweet fix without the subsequent sugar crash. **NOTE — every single recipe outlined for your luteal phase in the Hormone Balance Reset Guide applies.
+ Make sure to increase protein and healthy fat intake as well as warming, nourishing foods as your body gets prepared to do a lot of work
+ Eat a variety of hydrating fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water (at least half of your body weight in ounces) to help with water retention and bloat
+ Do your best to minimize alcohol and caffeine during this phase, as they tend to increase PMS symptoms and drain the body of much-needed nutrients for the upcoming bleeding phase
As you transition into your luteal phase, your body craves foods that support progesterone production so that it can rise enough to stimulate a healthy growth of your uterine lining. Luckily, this recipe’s primary ingredients (b6-vitamin-rich bananas and walnuts) do just that.
Bananas are also loaded with potassium, which help to flush out bloat and excess salt, as well as magnesium, which works to reduce anxiety and stress.
The oats also boost your feel-good hormone serotonin, which tends to drop during this phase, leading to feelings of stress or sadness (hi, pms). Because of this dip, you also tend to crave sweets or carbs that give you a temporary boost, but mess with blood sugar in the long run. Thus working in this bowl of complex carbohydrates (along with plenty of quality fat, fiber and protein) helps to satisfy cravings without the subsequent sugar crash.
Additionally, while you can’t taste the cauliflower rice (I PROMISE) it adds in a mega-boost of phytonutrients that work to disarm harmful estrogen metabolites that can cause heavy cramping and bleeding, as well as disrupt a healthy menstrual cycle.
This easy, delicious, cozy + comforting Maple Banana Walnut Bake also happens to be loaded with ingredients that reduce PMS & optimize your menstrual cycle.
Author: Lauren Chambers
Recipe Type: breakfast, dessert, treat, snack
I’m honored to support you on your journey to optimal hormone health + happiness. Thanks for being here babe.