Join us this week on the AWWA blog for a series of Q&As with Holistic Nutritionist Jess from Wellness by Jessica.
Sounds too good to be true, right? No, I am not about to give you 10 BS reasons of how coconut oil is going to change your life. The magic ingredient is a hormone only you can make yourself - no food, pill or potion comes close to giving you these kinds of benefits.
The secret is ovulation. The process of ovulation is what triggers the magic ingredient to be produced - progesterone is the wonderous hormone so many women are missing out on.
For years we have been taught that the purpose of ovulation is to make a baby, we are not taught about all the non-reproductive magic that comes with ovulation. It blows my mind that for years women (including myself!) have been lining up for medication which stops ovulation, as well as a whole bunch of important chemical processes in the body, just to avoid pregnancy.
If the situation was reversed I doubt that men would be lining up to stop testosterone production, reduce muscle growth, lower sex drive, and weaken bones in order to stop sperm production.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation is the release of a mature oocyte (egg) from a follicle inside one of your ovaries. Once the egg is released the follicle transforms into what is known as the corpus luteum - which is a hormone-secreting gland. This is where the magic happens because the gland produces the much-needed hormone progesterone for 10-12 days (small amounts of progesterone are also made by the adrenal glands, but not enough for fantastic health).
What are the benefits of ovulation?
- Progesterone produces a calming effect by binding to (GABA) receptors in the brain which decrease depression and anxiety and assist with sleep. We already know that some kinds of hormonal contraceptives increase your risk of depression, while your normal hormones actually work to prevent these issues.
- Progesterone relaxes the muscles in the uterus and has an anti-inflammatory effect resulting in fewer and less painful period cramps (Yay!!).
- Progesterone slows down the rate of bone breakdown and stimulates new bone growth. This is vital for bone health in your later years, as after 30 years of age you stop making new bone mass and by 40 years old you begin to slowly lose bone mass. Progesterone helps to make sure you have the strongest bones possible to carry you through old age.
- Progesterone increases the activity of some thyroid hormones helping to regulate your metabolism and the utilisation of stored fat. In a nutshell, low progesterone can contribute to weight gain, while normal progesterone levels help you maintain a healthy weight.
- Progesterone balances the effects of oestrogen and keeps breast cell growth in check - this is important in order to reduce your risk of breast cancer.
- Sufficient progesterone levels help to reduce acne, which can happen when there is too much oestrogen in relation to progesterone.
- Low progesterone levels can cause heavy periods due to the fact that progesterone helps to keep uterine thickening oestrogen in check.
How do I know if I'm ovulating?
Ovulation can be checked using these two methods:
- Blood test on day 21-23 (7 days before the first day of your next expected period) of your cycle, to test your serum progesterone levels.
- A rise in waking body temperature which you will notice if you track your waking temperature each day.
Changes in cervical mucus and a regular period are not absolute proof of ovulation but do give you a good indication it has happened.
Help! I’m not ovulating
Ovulation ceases in women for many reasons;
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Recently stopping hormonal birth control
- Side effects from some medication
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Low carbohydrate intake
- Intense physical activity
How do I restart ovulation and progesterone production?
Often all your body needs in order to ovulate is a bit of time and to be supported with nourishing foods. Remember, your body needs to make the hormones out of nutrients, and if the nutrients aren’t present in your diet your body can’t make progesterone or the hormones needed to trigger ovulation.
Five things you can start right now to support ovulation:
1 - Get more sleep- aim for 8 hours a night to ensure your body is well rested and to help lower your stress levels - which can hinder ovulation.
2 - Eat real food- leave out processed food and fill up of lots of nutrient-dense fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, oily fish and lean meat.
3 - Supplement with the nutrients essential for ovulation- zinc, B6 and vitamin D are essential for healthy hormone production and ovulation. Supplementing with these nutrients is a helpful way to ensure you are getting enough of them, but does not replace a diet full of nutrient-rich foods!
4 - Remove hormone interfering chemicals- chemicals which interfere with your hormones are found everywhere; in makeup, skin care, and home cleaning products.Click here to find out more on these products and chemicals.
5 - Include whole food carbohydrates - the low carb phase of dieting is upon us and I see too many women get sucked into this fad. Yes, low carb diets are a great option for many people, but women need some carbohydrates in order to function optimally. A few servings a day of whole grains, root vegetables or beans and legumes go a long way towards supporting ovulation. If you are eating very little carbohydrate your body assumes that you are struggling to find food and does not want to give you a baby to take care of if there isn’t enough food - so you won’t ovulation and consequently won’t produce progesterone. Don't forget your body is still running off the same software cavewomen had!
If you think that you might be missing out on the benefits of progesterone then I suggest you take a look at your overall health. Start by tracking your periods and ideally, your waking body temperature. Look at where you can improve your diet and add in some hormone boosting nutrients. If you are still stuck and feel your progesterone levels are too low then we can work together to get your hormones back on track again. Nutritional medicine is a powerful tool and can be used to solve even the trickiest of hormonal issues.