A lot changes in a month, including the level of progesterone in your body.
So what is progesterone and why does it fluctuate?
Progesterone is a sex hormone made by your body, and a super important ingredient for healthy fertility, menstruation and pregnancy. Bodies that bleed make different levels of progesterone across different phases of a cycle.
Progesterone is released into your body from a temporary gland in your ovary called the corpus luteum. You’ll have higher levels of progesterone during ovulation (preparing your body for a possible pregnancy), and, if you don’t become pregnant levels start to drop, letting your body know it’s period time!
Pretty clever, hey?
How do changing progesterone levels affect me?
While researchers aren't 100% sure how Progesterone affects people, there is research to show that it interacts with other systems in your body such as serotonin production (the happy chemical), and estrogen. Together, it's thought that the changing balance between these chemicals in the luteal phase causes premenstrual symptoms like:
- Feeling sad or depressed (like when that beautiful sunset suddenly makes you cry)
- Feeling anxious (why do I feel like I have achieved nothing and am no one? This isn't true, its just the hormones talking - trust us, you're great!)
- Carb and sugar cravings
- Bloating and / or weight gain (don't throw out your wardrobe just yet)
- Having a short fuse
- Mood swings (feeling on top of the world and then super sad in the same 5 minutes)
- Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
- Pain and inflammation
- Heavy and painful periods
Some folks experience really tough PMS, sometimes called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). If you think this might be you, we encourage you to start a conversation with your doctor.
How can I support my body throughout my cycle?
Everyone’s a little different, but there’s some happy, healthy routines that can make progesterone changes a little easier on your mind and body. You might even want to check out cycle-syncing to plan around your energy and mood.
Days 1-5 - Menstruation
During the first 5 days after your period begins:
- Rest is key - your body is working hard.
- Focus on gentle exercise like stretching or yoga.
- Drink soothing herbal tea and save the wine and chips for later
- Practice some slow deep breaths and focus on reducing stress.
- Did you know orgasms can reduce cramps? Food for thought :)
Days 6-14 - Follicular phase
Hormone levels are still low and you may find your energy levels are also low - keep exercise light (walks or other gentle cardio).
Eating fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi can help your body to digest excess estrogen.
Days 15-17 Ovulation
As your energy levels go up, this is your time to break out the Hiit workout or get back into your full exercise routine.
Curb those sugar cravings with yummy on-the-go snacks like dark chocolate, fruits and yoghurt. Eating lots of fibre (fresh fruit and veg, whole grains) can help to reduce bloating.
Days 14-28 Luteal phase
Your body is preparing for your next period. It’s a good time for some strength training.
Add in foods that help your body to make serotonin (happy hormone). Leafy greens are great, and magnesium rich foods like dark chocolate, and pumpkin seeds will give you a mood and energy booster.
Track your PMS symptoms
Keeping a record of your symptoms can help you to better understand any patterns across your cycle. Use Your Cycle to keep track of which foods and exercises work best for you. Keep it simple, and have some fun with it.
Did you find this article helpful?