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Something people are always surprised to learn is that we can eat our way to better periods and healthier fertility.
In health class and the doctor’s office we’re often taught that our periods are just the way they are. If your periods are painful, that’s just your body’s way of having periods. If they’re heavy or long or irregular, that’s just your body’s way of having periods and there’s not much that you can do about it.
Yeah, that’s just not true.
And when it comes time to try to conceive we’re told to just start trying and if it doesn’t happen within 12 months to start pursuing fertility drugs and treatment at the doctor’s office. We’re not given much support in between, but the truth is that there’s SO much more we can do besides keep trying and keep waiting.
The easiest thing we can do for better periods and healthy fertility is change the way we eat - what we eat & when we eat.
If the foods we eat are the building blocks of our bodies, then the foods we eat are also the building blocks of our periods and our fertility.
In today’s blog post we’re going to talk all about how to eat in a way that nourishes your menstrual cycle, supports healthier periods, and optimizes our fertility.
How to Eat for Better Periods & Healthy Fertility
#1 - Eat breakfast every day within 1 hour of waking up
The reason why breakfast is so important comes down to the role that blood sugar balance plays in a healthy menstrual cycle and fertility. When blood sugar spikes or dips it can trigger a series of reactions in the body including activating the stress response system and destabilizing the menstrual cycle. One way in which blood sugar can easily dip is if we skip breakfast or go too long between meals.
Skipping breakfast and/or other meals can send the signal to the brain that there’s not enough nutrients coming in to support a pregnancy - aka there’s a food shortage. This messaging to the brain can halt or hinder regular ovulation because the brain and body does not want us to ovulate and risk getting pregnant if we do not have access to enough nutrients to support the increased nutritional needs of pregnancy. (source)
If we don’t ovulate regularly, we don’t bleed regularly, and getting pregnant becomes much more challenging. One of the key drivers of the irregular cycles that accompany PCOS is, in fact, blood sugar dysregulation. (source)
Blood sugar dysregulation can also lead to heavier, longer, more painful periods due to the stress response and hormonal imbalances that tend to coincide with poorly balanced blood sugar levels.
Every client I’ve ever worked with who started eating breakfast within 1 hour of waking up has gone on to have easier, more regular menstrual cycles. And, easier, more regular menstrual cycles means more optimized fertility!
My favorite balanced breakfasts include oats with sheep’s milk yogurt and nut butter, egg sandwiches with goat cheese, and smoothies with nut butter, organic berries, and sheep’s milk yogurt.
#2 - Eat protein at every meal, especially breakfast
Again, this one comes down to balancing blood sugar. In fact, this nugget of wisdom is often prescribed by naturopaths to help their clients who are struggling with anxiety. (I know because it was prescribed to me when I was struggling with anxiety in my 20s.) Why? Because as we learned above poorly balanced blood sugar levels can trigger a stress response which can go on to trigger a larger anxiety response.
Eating protein with our meals helps to keep us sustained for longer and can help prevent the spikes and dips that happen when we eat primarily carbohydrate or sugar-based meals. If you want balanced blood sugar, ya gots to eat your protein!
My favorite sources of protein are free-range eggs, goat & sheep dairy, organic chicken & turkey, and grass-fed beef.
#3. Don’t fear fats
As a 90s kid I cannot tell you the grasp that fat-free foods had on America when I was growing up. They were making everything fat-free - cookies, processed snacks, even dairy products had their fat removed.
Here’s the deal though, our bodies need fats in order to make our hormones. Did you know that our fat cells can literally make estrogen? It’s true!
We need healthy fats to nourish the brain, ovulate better, and make our menstrual hormones. In fact, cholesterol is a precursor to making our reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone. (source)
Fat and cholesterol are not the villains we’ve been led to believe that they are - as long as we get them from healthy sources. So, before you go out and fill up on ice cream, cream cheese, and potato chips press pause and take a look at some of my favorite healthy fats for menstrual health and fertility.
My favorite healthy fat sources include extra virgin olive oil, goat & sheep dairy, grass-fed butter, free-range eggs, fatty fish, coconut, nuts & seeds, and grass-fed beef in moderation.
Here’s a great article if you’re looking for more info on healthy fats for the menstrual cycle.
#4. Prioritize nutrient-dense meals
Your menstrual cycle and fertility need adequate levels of many key nutrients in order to function optimally. Vitamins and minerals like zinc, magnesium, vitamin D, B vitamins, iodine, vitamin C, iron, and more are needed in order for our menstrual cycles to really flourish.
While we can take multivitamins to boost these nutrient levels it’s important to recognize what vitamin supplements really are… SUPPLEMENTS. That means that they exist to supplement something, and that something is your diet.
The best way to get all the nutrients that your menstrual cycle needs is to eat your vitamins. This is a phrase I use all the time with my clients - Eat your vitamins. Whole, natural foods are filled with vital nutrients that our cycles need without the additives and fillers of vitamin supplements and are generally more bioavailable than man-made mega vitamins.
I challenge each of my clients to ask themselves one question as they sit down to eat each meal - “Is this a nutrient-dense meal?”
If the answer is no, they have to add in more nutrients.
Here’s what this looks like in real life…
You’re about to sit down to a big bowl of pasta with red sauce. You ask yourself, “Is this a nutrient-dense meal?” The answer is no. It’s a big bowl of carbs, grain, and tomatoes. It’s lacking fat, protein, more vegetables, and potentially whole grains if the noodles are white flour based. To make this a more nutrient-dense meal one might consider swapping in brown rice noodles for a whole grain and adding ground turkey for protein, goat cheese or olive oil for fat, and a side of steamed broccoli and carrots. Because this is a meal that I make for myself often, I can assure you that it only takes an extra 6 to 10 minutes to saute up some turkey and steam the veggies.
#5. Limit inflammatory foods
Inflammation can wreak havoc on our menstrual cycles, reproductive hormones, and fertility. In fact, inflammation is thought to be a driving factor in many menstrual cycle issues including menstrual cramps, heavy periods, ovulation issues, endometriosis, and certain types of PCOS.
You most likely already know which foods are inflammatory, but they tend to be delicious so most of us try to ignore what we know deep down. #beenthere!
Some of the inflammatory foods that I limit in order to have easy periods and healthy fertility include sugary treats, processed snack foods (think things that come in boxes and bags), alcohol, caffeine, and cow’s dairy.
Notice I said *limit* not avoid. That’s because complete avoidance doesn’t work for me. It just leads to a shitstorm of guilt and anxiety. I live a more peaceful life when the mindset is limiting rather than avoiding. If you have a healthy relationship with food avoidance, you’re welcome to explore completely avoiding these types of inflammatory foods. Do you, girl.
These are the first 5 steps that I use with every client who is looking to have better periods or improve their fertility. While these are powerful first steps, they are not ALL that we need to be doing to improve our cycle health and fertility.
Disclaimer: Brandy Oswald, Sauvage Wellness LLC, and her employees are not doctors, nurses, physicians, psychotherapists, or in anyway licensed medical practitioners and information presented here is to serve as an educational resource and not to be interpreted as: (1) medical advice; (2) a 100% effective birth control or pregnancy achievement options or (3) nutrition or health guidelines. By reading this you acknowledge that you understand that as a specialized form of consulting, fertility awareness education is not the same as professional or licensed therapy or medical advice and intervention; and recognize that it is your responsibility to seek such services from a licensed professional. Brandy Oswald is not a medical provider and cannot give medical advice. All information provided by Sauvage Wellness LLC and Brandy Oswald is of a general nature and is intended only for educational purposes to help with your personal health improvement goals and should not be relied on as medical advice. Always consult a physician with any health concerns and prior to changing your diet, lifestyle, supplements, birth control, fitness, or prescription medicine routine. Should you choose to use the information provided by Brandy Oswald it is of your own volition and you recognize that neither Brandy nor Sauvage Wellness LLC is not held liable for any intended or unintended outcomes.
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