S2 E7: How to Boost Progesterone Levels Naturally

One of the most common questions we get is how to naturally increase progesterone. And to be honest, this is a loaded question. Often people are looking for a magical food or supplement to boost their progesterone levels, but in reality, there’s a lot more at play. 
There are 3 main areas we want to look at when supporting progesterone levels naturally that we will focus on in this episode:

1. Metabolism: this is how your body makes energy–in order to make enough progesterone, we need to have enough energy. 
2. Nourishment: both macronutrients (protein, fat, & carb) and micronutrients (vitamins & minerals)
3. Stress: this is a blanket term meant to cover many areas such as mental, emotional, and physical stressors

Let’s dig into each of these areas and teach you how to support healthy progesterone levels. 
Free Training: Optimizing Hormone Health with Mineral Balance
Mineral Imbalance Quiz
Metabolic Type Episode
Nourishing Nutrition Foundation Episode
Rewiring Your Brain Episode 
Free HeartMath Video Course

Amanda Montalvo 0:00
Hey, this is Amanda Women’s Health dietitian.

Emily 0:03
And I’m Emily nutritional therapy practitioner.

Amanda Montalvo 0:05
And this is the RU menstrual podcast where we help you navigate the confusing world of women’s hormones in teach you how to have healthy periods.

Emily 0:12
Each week we will be diving into a different topic on women’s health and sharing our perspective using nutrition, female physiology and metabolic health.

Amanda Montalvo 0:20
Our goal is to help you wade through conflicting health information and empower you on your healing journey. We hope you enjoy it.

In this episode, we are answering a very commonly asked question that we get about progesterone. But before we dive into all that, I just want to welcome Emily back to the podcast, she has been away for her maternity leave after she had her baby girl. And I’m just I’m happy to have her back. We’ve done a ton of interviews, and I love the interviews. But I have to say I am partial to our deep dive educational episodes. So you guys are gonna get a lot more of those.

Emily 1:05
Thank you so much, Amanda, I’m super excited to be back. It was a great couple of months. But I’m ready to dive back in and just show up for all the women listening because I’ve missed this and I hope they have to. So that said, we like Amanda said we’re going to be diving into a an episode on progesterone levels, which I know is a big topic for a lot of women, it was for me personally. And it’s one of those things that I feel like most of us just want this kind of miracle supplement or food that we can use in order to boost our progesterone levels. Unfortunately, like everything else, it just is not that simple. When it comes to progesterone, we really have to take like a bigger picture approach and look at the whole body and how we got to levels of lower progesterone in the first place and really ask ourselves that question. So that said, there are three main areas that we usually look at when it comes to supporting our progesterone levels. And we’re gonna go into those three in this episode. But just to give you a little bit of a summary, we’re going to look at metabolism. Once again, we’ve talked about this and many of our episodes in this podcast. But specifically, it’s how your body makes energy from the food you eat. And in order to make enough progesterone, we have to be able to make enough energy. It’s just plain and simple. So where does that energy come from? The food we eat or nourishment. So that’s number two that we’re going to be talking about is proper nourishment, both with macros, so protein, fat, and carbs, as well as micronutrients, which are your vitamins and minerals. And lastly, number three, no big surprise is going to be stress, which is pretty much an all encompassing term for any kind of stressors that we’re experiencing in our lives, whether it be emotional, physical, mental, etc, etc. So those are the three big topics that we’re going to be talking about today, where it kind of goes hand in hand with progesterone production and fertility health in general. So let’s dive in. Amanda, are you ready? Yeah. So

Amanda Montalvo 3:09
before we get too deep into those, we want to talk more about ovulation in general. So we can’t start the conversation without covering ovulation. And I think just like having a strong ovulation that if you’re looking at okay, how can I boost my progesterone levels naturally? Good. The main focus should be on ovulation. What are you actually ovulating? Because that’s the only way that we make progesterone. And then too, are you having a strong ovulation and producing adequate progesterone. So first, we’ll go into what happens to our in our bodies when we’re ovulating. I think that most women honestly don’t know this. I didn’t know it for a very long time. I remember taking birth control not even knowing that it was stopping my ovulation. I don’t know how I thought it was working. But I didn’t like fully grasp that concept for a really long time. So when we’re ovulating basically what’s happening is we have this big estrogen surge leads to leads to one of our follicles becomes the dominant follicle and that releases an egg. Now, there’s a lot of brain ovary connection happening leading up to that, but we’re not we’re not going to focus on that today. So that we have this big main event the egg is released. What happens next is this we have the emptied sack where the egg was right that then becomes a gland. So it’s not like exactly like a thyroid gland or anything like that. But it forms a gland called the corpus luteum. And that corpus luteum is what releases progesterone really. And at that it’ll do that for your whole luteal phase and then if you end up if you’re trying to conceive and you get pregnant, it will then do that for the first trimester as well. So very important, right that corpus luteum and I think the details with how quickly develops are what really helps people connect the dots of like, Oh, so that’s why energy and micronutrients and stress can have such a big impact because this gland that’s making all of your progesterone, it develops over 24 hours. So that’s really fast. And this is why I’m a big proponent of focusing on the foundations all the time, and like not getting into like the super sexy supplements and stuff like that, that aren’t necessarily going to move that needle. Because if you think about it, what is that corpus luteum really need energy from the food that we’re eating, it needs plenty of vitamins and minerals. Even if we just think about, like some of the vitamins and minerals, it’s, it’s a lot, it’s almost all our fat soluble vitamins, or it is all the fat ones, A, D, E, and K, we need all of those with a corpus luteum we need vitamin C, we need certain B vitamins. We need copper, of course, because we need energy, zinc, selenium, magnesium, and potassium like those are all some of the biggest hitters, I would say for needing adequate levels to help this corpus luteum develop quickly. And if it doesn’t develop as fully as we want, we’re not going to make as much progesterone. But if we can build a really healthy gland, then that’s when we’re going to have adequate progesterone levels that will help us feel good during our luteal phase and balance out that estrogen and if you’re looking to conceive can help improve the chances of that as well when we’re not building up this gland quite as well. That’s when we’re gonna make less progesterone. And so this is when you can ovulate every cycle. I hear this all the time I ovulate every cycle but my progesterone is still low. Or they still have lots of symptoms, maybe they haven’t actually tested their hormones, but they’re like I’m dealing with things like lots of PMS, maybe they’re having some mood changes, some headaches, spotting acne, digestive issues, painful periods, that sort of thing. So those are the big ones you want to think about. And then even if we just look at the energy piece, like we covered the micronutrients, things like protein are very important for the development of that corpus luteum, we need those amino acids to help build that structure. We need carbs for energy, and then we need fat for the actual hormone production. So all having an area and impact in any of those areas. And then of course, if we add stress to the equation that increases our energy needs, and it’s going to use up certain minerals, and vitamins. So that’s our corpus luteum. That’s how it develops. And that’s how we actually make progesterone. So glad

Emily 7:27
that you covered that because like you, just a couple years ago, I had no idea how pedestrian was created or that it was so intimately tied to ovulation. So I just thought, Oh, well, if I’m ovulating every month, obviously I’m making enough progesterone. That’s like you said not always accurate. Ovulation does help though. You need ovulation in order to make progesterone. And again did not understand that. For a long time. I was not tracking my ovulation. And this is the big thing that we recommend to women is if you have no idea if you’re just experiencing symptoms, like estrogen dominance symptoms, but you don’t even know if you’re ovulating, that’s going to be your first step to figuring out if you’re even producing enough or any pedestrian at all. So how do you track ovulation? The best way, in our opinion, my opinion, there are several ways to do this. But we really like using the basal body temperature. So taking your temperature every morning, and not just with a regular thermometer, you really need to get one that has two places past the decimal point. So it’s, for example 98.67, rather than just 98.6. That makes sense, because that’s going to tell you if your basal body temperature is rising or decreasing over time, and it’s very miniscule. Like the amounts that it does that but it all it all matters in this case when you’re tracking your ovulation. So you can find these thermometers at places like CVS or Amazon or anything like that. But definitely get yourself one of those, because what you’re going to look for is a very slight increase, it’s about half of a degree Fahrenheit, that’s going to go up right after you ovulate. So this will be basically the next morning after you’ve ovulated. You’ll notice that slight increase in your basal body temperature and you’re looking for that increase to stay to maintain over the course of at least three days you want to see that that higher temperature maintain for at least three days in order to confirm ovulation. So this is something that we have all of our women in the membership and who who’ve done Amanda’s courses, make sure that they do because you really need to confirm ovulation in order to see kind of the status of your progesterone levels and how that goes hand in hand with any symptoms you’re experiencing to get a better picture of your your fertility and your overall health. So that’s kind of just a little summary of how we we check to make sure we’re ovulating. Amanda can you go into more of the tip that you have for taking your temperature because I feel like it’s a little bit of troubleshooting once you get started,

Amanda Montalvo 10:06
yes, so I know people are gonna ask what thermometer you like it, I use a cheap basal body thermometer that I got at CVS like you don’t have to, there are some that you could get a fancy one if you want, I just don’t think it’s necessary. And I’ve had issues where, like, if you get a very simple one, you can hold it in your mouth for as long as you want. There’s one, I don’t want to say the name because I’m not 100%. Sure. And I know they made like a newer version that isn’t like this. But there’s one that I had a lot of clients that used to use, as soon as you opened it, took it out of the thing, put it in your mouth, it started calculating. So the issue with that is that it’s a cold thermometer. And then if it’s only in your mouth for a minute, you might see like a very low body temperature and be like, oh my goodness, like, why is my basal body temperature 96 You know, this doesn’t look right. Or you if you listen to our metabolism episode, then you’ll think this is that means I have a slow metabolism. But you really best practices holding the thermometer in your mouth for at least five minutes. Technically, it’s 10. Now, I, I have never done 10 minutes because I just don’t feel like it’s necessary. But I remember when I first started taking my temperature, I would like see some lower temps or it would feel like it was all over the place. And I’m like I’m taking this at the same time, pretty much the same time most mornings. And I had a similar schedule. So I was like what’s going on. And it was because I wasn’t holding it in my mouth long enough. So if you’re seeing weird temps, low temps, or if it’s feels like it’s all over the place, hold it in your mouth longer, then hit the button. And then it will start calculating because if you put it in, hit the button, it’s not going to give you enough time to like warm up that thermometer and get a good reading. I will also say like we’re talking about confirming ovulation. So you confirm we feel it’s best to confirm with your basal body temperature. There are methods that just use cervical mucus, but we’re trying to give you that better understanding of your metabolism and like progesterone production, which if you have great temps in your luteal phase, like say you’re in the 90 eights the whole time. That’s a great sign of progesterone production. If you’re just looking at cervical mucus, you know you can look at it ahead of time. That’s how you predict ovulation your cervical mucus is going to change leading up and then you’re going to have like your most fertile mucus right when you ovulate, and then it will typically dry up and now some women do use that if they don’t do their temps. And that is an accurate method for fertility awareness method. We like the simple thermal method that combines both of them but for specifically confirming ovulation, which is what this episode is about. We think basal body temperature is really important. There are a ton of resources that we like for learning more about this topic. I love the fifth vital sign by Lisa Hendrickson Jack. She’s also known as fertility Friday. She’s got a great podcast, tons of free information. She’s a fertility awareness method instructor, but her book is amazing. And if you’re wanting to just learn more about that stuff, I think it’s the easiest to digest and understand and apply if of all the fertility awareness books. Taking charge of your fertility is another one. It’s, it’s like a textbook. It’s a huge book. It’s a lot. And I don’t know how many women are gonna get through all of it. I personally for me, like I like to learn it, hear it. I’m a visual person. So I love courses. My friend Nina nourish with Lena, she has a great course called Luna. And it teaches you fertility awareness method. And it’s got two tracks, it’s got one for using it for birth control, one for fertility, they’re both very different. They’re different rules. And I feel like people don’t talk about that enough. She does a great, great job of that. So I’ll put the link for that in the show notes. plenty of places to learn more. But step one before we even dig into like all the nutrition stuff and everything is trying to confirm ovulation is that happening for you. Even if you’re having a regular cycle, I can’t tell you how many women I’ve seen that aren’t ovulating every cycle. So that is like your first piece of homework for boosting your progesterone naturally. So

Emily 14:12
getting into how we support a strong ovulation once you once you know you’re ovulating or knots. These are the tips that you can take to make sure that you’re having a strong ovulation to support that strong progesterone production. And the first one is going to be understanding your metabolism and really supporting your metabolism. So to go back to the very basics, our metabolism is the basic process our body goes through to convert food to energy. So if this process is slowed, that means that everything slows down because we’re not converting that food to the proper nutrients. We need to keep every system in the body running properly. So that’s digestion that’s hormones. That’s immune system. So if you’re getting sick really often, you know that’s a big sign as well. All of these different systems rely on them. capitalism to function. And it’s kind of like, well, if we’re not keeping our metabolism up to speed, our body is not going to prioritize things like digestion or fertility, because it’s trying to keep us alive, right? So metabolism needs to be the first area that we really work on. And how are we going to work on that through food through nourishment. That’s the second big topic I said, we’re going to talk about today because that when it comes to supporting the metabolism, your nourishment is hands down, the biggest tool, you have to strengthen your metabolism and to support it. So that’s all of the food that you eat, how often you eat, your macro breakdown, all of that goes into nourishing your body and supporting your metabolism, frankly, I mean, that’s kind of the big picture right there.

Amanda Montalvo 15:47
And nutrition is definitely the biggest key like stress, and everything else plays a role, which we’re going to talk about. And again, we have the full episode, it’s episode one of the first season it’s a first ever episode, we did a podcast because that’s how important metabolism is. If you’re kind of like, how is this connecting to my hormone health, it’s a waterfall effect, like Emily said, right? If your metabolism slows, whether that’s from nutrition related, some chronic stress, whatever the factors are, and it’s usually more than one, then that’s going to slow down thyroid function. And that slows down digestive juices breaking down, or food that slows down motility can lead to constipation affects the liver. And then of course, everything’s going to eventually affect your hormones, hormonal changes, always the last stop on the train. So that’s why we focus so much on this and then remember that corpus luteum needs energy. So if we don’t have that energy, because we have a slower metabolism, then we can lead to having the poor development over that 24 hour period, because no matter what it’s gonna develop over 24 hours. So some of the signs of a slow metabolism, any digestive issues, constipation, bloating, diarrhea, huge fatigue, especially if you’re feeling it all the time. And it’s not being relieved by sleep. Any periods symptoms like PMS, painful, heavy periods, sleep is a big one. So if you can’t fall asleep, or more commonly, what we see is women waking up throughout the night, especially because their blood sugar is low, and it forces them to wake up. If you don’t have a good appetite, especially first thing in the morning, another big sign feeling cold all the time. That’s this is why we want to encourage you to take your basal body temperature, because the goal is that you’re going to have a better understanding of how your metabolism is that basal body temperature is really showing what is your metabolism doing at rest, and then a low pulse. If it’s below like 70 to 75, then I’m like, Okay, that’s a big red flag for basal body temperature, if it’s below 97.4 to eight, in that follicular phase, especially a big red flag to the that shows like you’re not producing as much energy which is converted to heat. So that’s why the temps are so important. Hair loss is big, poor skin or nail health. And sometimes people asked me what this means it’s like poor growth, right? Like say like your hair takes for it’s not like growing well, you have lots of split ends, your nails break easily. That’s like a really common one, they take a long time to grow. Acne, depression, anxiety, these are all signs of a slow metabolism. Again, it’s kind of like oh, that’s like all encompassing of everything. But if you think about it, our metabolism impacts every system in the body so that this would make sense. And if you’re someone that’s done a hair test with us, or just in general, then you’re going to know your metabolic type. And that’s going to tell you if you’re a fast or slow oxidizer, and slow oxidation, which is very common, I think 80% of people are so oxidizers on a hair test, that means you’re having a slow metabolism of nutrients. So it’s taking your body longer and requires more energy for your cells to take the nutrients from your food from your food and extract them and then turn them into energy. So basically, what’s occurring physiology physiologically like and you’ll see this on your hair test is usually not for all slow types. But for the kind of classic slow metabolic type, you’re gonna see lower levels of sodium and potassium. And this is due to having adrenal and thyroid weakness because everything slowed down, right, so those processes have also slowed down, generally lower energy production. And what’s going to happen is typically you’re going to see higher calcium and magnesium, lower sodium and potassium. And it’s just like a poor retention, you need a lot more of it. But that’s kind of like the basics of slow metabolic types on the hair test. Hey, Amanda here, just giving you a quick break, hopefully a break for your brain in the middle of this podcast episode to remind you that if you haven’t gone through our free training, optimizing hormone health or mineral balance, we really do recommend starting there and the main reason for that is You’re going to hear us say things like mineral foundation, having a solid foundation are you putting the foundations in place, especially what as we get deeper and deeper into different hormonal topics and specific imbalances in the body, though, the mineral foundation is always going to be so essential. So if you haven’t watched the free training, you can find it in our show notes. Or you can go to hormone healing rd.com. And it’s going to be right on that front page there. But we really recommend starting there so you can understand how is your current mineral status, how do you assess this, and how to get started with all that just so you can get as much as you possibly can out of the rest of the podcast episodes. But that’s it, I hope you enjoy the rest of this episode.

Emily 20:43
And like I said, not all so metabolic types will fall into this category. It depends on the number next your metabolic type as well. So that plays a role. But this is a classic, slow type. So a lot of subtypes are going to see this sort of pattern. And if you want to learn more about your metabolic type, please give episode five of the first season either a listen or re listen because there’s a lot of good info on that if you’re interested. But we’re gonna move on to how to support a healthy metabolism now that we know that that’s basically your foundation for overall healthy fertility healthy ovulation healthy progesterone. And we’re gonna start with of course, you’ve heard it 1000 times, but we got to say it eating regularly throughout the day. Okay, so avoid skipping meals, avoid the fasting. I know it can be very tempting to eat breakfast at 11 noon, every day, just because it makes you feel great get your cortisol pump in. But that’s exactly the wrong approach we want to use when we’re supporting our metabolism, especially if we have low progesterone, or we’re already not ovulating. Okay, so fasting does not get the seal of approval from Amanda or MLA, not for this and not for a lot of things, actually. But make sure you’re including breakfast at a reasonable hour, we want to make sure we’re eating within an hour of waking up. And if you’re someone that doesn’t want a huge breakfast, that’s okay, start with something small, maybe get those gummies out. Don’t drink coffee on an empty stomach. Don’t start with caffeine, make sure you’re nourishing yourself within 60 minutes of waking out waking up and getting out of bed. So combining protein, fat and carbs at every meal and snack, this is not just for your meals, we really want to make sure that you’re also having this this good ratio throughout every snack as well. So treat your I like to say, treat your snacks like mini meals, basically you’re you’re getting the protein, fat and the carb with everything you eat. And then lastly, of course eating nutrient dense foods. So this is gonna be a combination of animal and plant foods, we do not subscribe to one way or the other. We love animal and plant foods. And we think that they should go together in combination for a healthy and optimal diet. So that’s going to bring us to our our second topic, nourishment. So eating enough food is the only way to give your body enough energy just as a recap. So it needs that energy to perform those functions like ovulation that are required for optimal hormone health. Okay, so we’ve talked about compensation in previous episodes, and this is going to be when that metabolism is really slowing down and your body is compensating to keep up with these everyday functions. And it’s not going to prioritize things like fertility because it’s compensating, right. So it’s it’s definitely weak, it’s trying to keep up with the big things that are keeping you alive. So the other way that eating regularly and eating breakfast are going to help is by reducing that stress on your body so that it doesn’t have to compensate so much. And we’re going to talk about stress a little bit later on the episode. Continue with the protein, fat and carb and keeping it balanced. There’s another way that this helps out. And it all has to do with blood sugar balance as well. Amanda, do you want to get into that a

Amanda Montalvo 23:58
little bit? Yeah. And I know like so we kind of through the bullet points for like the metabolism check section of like eating enough eating regularly balancing your meals, we’re going to go a little bit deeper now because usually people have questions around that when it comes to balancing your meals. I like what Emily said about the protein, fat and carbs, I would say snacks, just protein and carbs. You do not have to like force this out in there. I would say it’s pretty hard not to have that in there naturally occurring anyway depending on what you’re eating. So the biggest focus is protein and carb. Most of the time people can end up overdoing fat and then that can lead to issues as well like faster weight gain. Typically when you’re coming from a place of under eating or stress or if your metabolism is slow, meaning that you have a hard time extracting those nutrients from food, it takes more energy it takes longer, then you do want to be mindful of that and take that’s probably the biggest mistake I see people make when they start eating more nutrient dense foods is an in Whole Foods in general, and, and they’re like, Oh, I was going from this low carb approach, which we’ve all been there, okay, we’ve all been there no shade on the low carb approaches, I think it’s good to experiment with your diet and find what works for you. But as you’re transitioning, then you’re like, Oh, yes, I can eat carbs again. And carbs are good for me, like I’m going to add them in. And people usually go too hard too fast. And if depending on your health history, what you have going on like that probably isn’t going to feel great. Some people it’s like, they feel like their brain just turns on and everything is great. Their cycles, great. Some people, it’s like I’m gaining weight really quickly, I don’t feel as good. It’s usually if you have some level of insulin resistance, this can happen, PCOS, that sort of thing. That’s why we always say like, in for everything, like food supplements, all that stuff, like go slow. If you have any concerns of insulin resistance, that’s when I would be more mindful of, I’m going to slowly add more carbs to each meal and snack in smaller portions so that your body can adapt and adjust. Because if you have been burning a certain fuel source for a very long time, like eating low carb, and you’re burning more ketones, you’re turning protein, and carbs, that’s an alternative fuel source. It’s way less efficient, but your body’s still going to do it because it’s like I need the glucose. So go slowly be mindful of your fat and carb intake. And if you’re worried about anything like weight gain or stuff like that, I would look at how much fat you’re eating? Are you adding a lot of fat to meals? Can you reduce that a little bit? That is going to help your body use those carbs better when we have a lot of fat and a lot of carbs, it’s confusing. Your body’s like what fuel source Do you want me to use, and then you put insulin resistance on top of that. It’s like a recipe for disaster. So if you’re listening, and you’re like, I feel like that’s been eating is not working for me, I would really look back at your macros and see. And then for snacks, I see a lot of people just doing carbs. Even people that are pretty well versed with eating more nutrient dense foods, they’ve read all the books on pro metabolic eating. And I’m like, okay, but we need to add a protein to that is the goal. Because whether you’re eating fat or protein alone, it can cause blood sugar issues. So if you are having just protein, your body is going to turn that into carbohydrates via gluconeogenesis. Again, not efficient takes a lot of energy. It’s an alternative fuel source, but our bodies want to survive, and they need to keep your blood sugar balance, so they’re going to do it. And then you have a high blood sugar that then drops. And if you are going to do carbs by themselves, it’s a high blood sugar that then drops and the whole point of what we’re trying to teach you is to keep consistent blood sugar throughout the day. Because it’s one less stressor, right, your blood sugar drops, you make cortisol, and it’s a whole stress response. You’re using minerals, you’re using energy, you’re increasing the energy needs in your body, that further puts you in that compensation where you’re not prioritizing hormone health. So balanced meals, avoid eating the protein and carbs on their own. And that is like pretty pretty makes pretty big changes for most people.

Emily 28:05
Thank you for pointing that thing out about the fat because as someone who was on a low carb diet and was eating a lot of fat, I would just you know, add on lots of butter, lots of high fat foods because I had to replace the carbs with something right. And so that’s that was really a learning curve for me when I started adding back more carbs, because I realized, okay, I don’t need to pile on the fat as much, it was actually easier not to the great thing about most proteins too is that it has a healthy amount of fat with it, you don’t necessarily need to just like find fat anywhere you can get it like it almost a lot of times comes with the protein. So that’s a really great point that Amanda made about the protein and carbs, keeping those balance and maybe not prioritizing fat, so so much. But then the next thing too, is eating every three to five hours, we normally tell women who are really struggling with their hormones, and they’re kind of at that place where they’re just having a lot of symptoms, they don’t think they’re ovulating. Maybe they don’t have periods, things like that. Maybe you try to start off with smaller spaces and gaps in between your meals. So maybe start on the lower end, like three hours, go, don’t go more than three hours without eating, whether it’s a meal or a snack. Now if you’re someone that’s been on a healing journey for a while, you’ve kind of gotten to a better place, you can maybe stretch it out to a little bit longer four or five hours. I think it really depends on where you’ve been and where you’re currently at. But the main takeaway here is that we don’t want our blood sugar to drop too low before we reach for that meal or snack because again, that’s just going to be another stress and

Amanda Montalvo 29:44
one thing I do want to add to that is I think the other big thing that I see women do that doesn’t always serve them blood sugar wise is they’re eating like very snacky and small meals. So if you are eating like yogurt and fruit like To me that’s Next, that’s not really like a meal, it’s not going to be as filling and keep your blood sugar quite as stable. Something like an animal protein, like I think, like I’ve used leftovers, I’m gonna have for lunch, it’s like chili, it’s got black beans in there. And then I’ll probably have plantains or something on the side as well. And like that’s a dense meal, it’s got protein, there’s some cooked veggies, it’s got fiber and carbs from the beans in the plantains. And that’s gonna keep me full for a good amount of time, it’s also going to break down slower in my body, so it’ll keep my blood sugar stable longer, I tend to see like, especially when you first get into like, oh my gosh, I’m going to I’m eating like dairy again. So I’m going to almost make like a snacky type of lunch. Which is doesn’t mean you can never do that. Right? If that’s the only way you’re eating, like, just eat, don’t stress about if it’s like dense enough. But if you’re struggling, and you feel like your blood sugar is all over the place, you’re like I’m eating every three hours, I still feel like hangry between those meals. That’s a big red flag to look at. What are you eating enough protein would be my first question, recommend like point eight to one gram per pound of body weight. For most people, 100 grams minimum a day would be like, the minimum and I would say that’s not optimal. That’s minimum. And so if we’re asking hard, it’s

Emily 31:17
gonna be hard to do. Sometimes you don’t realize, like, if you’re not tracking how much you’re eating, so it’s something to keep in mind,

Amanda Montalvo 31:23
even just tracking your food for like, two, three days. Like, that’ll give you some insight into like, how much protein are you getting, if you say like you’re eating like more snacky meals, or you’re like I’m eating regular meals, but I’m still getting that kind of blood sugar swing. First I would up protein, if you are not meeting that 100 grams, or if you’re only getting 100 grams, see how you feel. And then you might need to eat carbs. That’s the other thing like you can eat frequently, and still be not eating enough depending on like what your meals are composed of. So keep that in mind. Like yes, we we still want you to eat like regular meals with just some snacks kind of built in there, too, for sure.

Emily 32:02
And then prioritizing the nutrient dense foods. So not only do we need the macronutrients to develop that corpus luteum, we also need those micronutrients. And even though we need these in small amounts, they are still so important for this development of a strong corpus luteum. So make sure that you’re eating those foods that really just drive those micronutrients in and are, are dense in that way. And we go through this, I’m not going to just like lists out foods, because we have so many episodes where we talk about these foods, one of the biggest ones is the nourishing nutrition foundations, I believe it’s episode two of the first season. So go back and listen to that if you’re kind of confused on which foods are going to give you the most bang for your buck. Because if you have a and I don’t even want to use the word diet, but if you just have this nutrition foundation of these foods every single day, you are going to be well off when it comes to getting in those micronutrients that you

Amanda Montalvo 33:01
know, like how you were taught with the nutritional therapy Association. But in school, like when we use the word nutrient dense, it was like a food that had little calories, but a lot of nutrients. And like that’s how it was taught in dietetics. Wow. And I but now the way that I look at nutrient dense, so like vegetables, right? Like that was kind of what they’re getting across. But now like the way I look at nutrient dense foods now is that they don’t just have micronutrients, but they’re also easy to absorb. And they’re gonna give us energy, right? It’s like a nutrient dense food is going to have all the things energy, vitamins and minerals, easy for your body to break down. And we mentioned this specifically, because we know that plant based diets are very popular, and especially for hormone health, which makes my head hurt, honestly, because I’m like, where do you getting your fat soluble vitamins from, which are so important for building the backbones of all of our hormones. So plants can be very rich in minerals and certain vitamins. Like we’re not saying that they’re not. But it’s hard to absorb 100% of what’s in a plant food, and in animal foods, but it’s like 80 to 90% in the animal of for the absorption rate in animal foods. And it’s closer to like 40 to 50% in plant foods, depending on the food and what the nutrient is you’re trying to absorb. And a lot of that has to do with phytic acid. So phytic acid, it binds to minerals and plants. It’s a protective mechanism. It’s there for a reason for the plants survival. And that just means that we’re not going to absorb it all. There are ways to get around this like cooking like for example leafy greens. People are often worried about the anti nutrients or phytic acid and leafy greens. If you cook them, a lot of that is greatly reduced and it’s a lot easier to absorb the minerals like I think of like magnesium is a great one and calcium or if we look Get things like beans, for example, like if you for if you sprout beans like if you soak them at least overnight, ideally like 24 hours, then that’s going to break down a lot of the that phytic acid. And then it’ll make it so that when you do cook them, like there’s a ton of potassium, and beans, there’s also a good amount of fully. And so it’s one of those foods that I’m like, it’s great, it’s very nourishing, but you want to prepare it properly so that you can actually get the nutrients. So plants are great for certain things. animal foods are also great for certain things like I think of vitamin A, right? If we have vitamin A, in the, in an animal food, it’s called preformed vitamin A meaning it’s in its active form, and a plant food, it’s going to be beta carotene. And that’s that’s really it, they’re just carotenoids. And they’ll say vitamin A, but I’m like it’s not really vitamin A because you still have to convert and 80% or more of natural vitamin A from animal sources is absorbed easily, but only 3% or less is of the plant forms like the carotenoids. So it’s a big one to keep an eye on vitamin A is really, really important. And then another big one is B vitamins. So animal based foods are definitely the best source of most B vitamins. If we think of vitamin B 12, that’s going to be exclusively in animal foods. I mentioned folate, that’s also a B vitamin, you can find that in mostly plant foods. But it’s also in some animal foods like liver as well, vitamin A vitamin B, I would definitely say plant foods. Vitamin C, I would say this is definitely one for plant foods, for sure. And that’s because it’s the only essential vitamin that’s not found in useful amounts in cooked animal foods. And most of the animal foods we’re eating are cooked, if not all, so for this reason, I would definitely say vitamin C, that’s when we would look at Citrus bell peppers, berries, like stuff like that, that’s when a plant foods going to be more of your source.

Emily 36:58
So we’re going to talk about vitamin D, because everyone loves talking about vitamin D, we’re not going to get a lot of it from plants, they don’t contain vitamin d3, which is the form that our body needs, you’re gonna get that from the sun. So go out in the sun for 20 minutes a day. Without sunblock on that’s your best bet. But also foods like fatty fish and dairy has some vitamin D as well. Vitamin E is only from plant based foods. But that is, it’s for good reason, actually, because a plant based diet requires additional protection from that oxidation that is caused by polyunsaturated fatty acids. So that’s going to be where Vitamin E is really helpful to kind of combat that oxidation because it has really high antioxidant properties. It still found a little bit in meat but and a little bit in goats dairy as well, but your main source is going to be plant based. And then lastly, Vitamin K is found in both plant and animal foods they have well k one is the k one version. But plants don’t have k two and that is going to be vital for us. So k two has numerous forms. And the essential kind we need is called MK four. And this is only found in animal food. So we can convert some k one to m k four. But it’s it’s really not enough to meet our needs. And again, why would we want to put that extra stress of that conversion on our bodies, and we can just eat it straight from the source and it already be what we need, if that makes sense. So that said, we need a balance of these animal and plant foods. We are 100% about the combination. And Amanda to answer your question about the so called nutrient dense foods. I love the NTA because they very much teach bioavailability like we’re talking about and very much your most nutrient dense foods are going to be the ones that your body can absorb very easily and it doesn’t have to do a lot of work in order to get to those micronutrients. So things like grass fed beef and wild caught seafood, the eggs, the organ meats, the bone broth, gelatin, all of that good stuff is going to be found in a nutrient dense diet. But then we also like things like raw carrots, which is a really great plant food to add for estrogen detox. We like the starchy veggies like squash and the sweet potatoes, the potatoes, we like cooked greens, we love coconut, and basically every form you can think of and then grass fed butter, grass fed dairy, so on and so on. So I personally believe that the best diet is going to include both plant and animal foods for optimal health. And then

Amanda Montalvo 39:33
just being mindful of your timing right. When are you eating these foods? How are you eating them? Are you relaxed at your meals? Are you stressed out at your meals all things we’ve talked about in that nourishing nutrition foundations episode. Okay, let’s do cover the last section stress and why it matters for progesterone. We can’t ignore it. And this was kind of the third thing that could impact that corpus luteum development over that quick 24 hour period. So it stress has a huge impact on progesterone levels. And there’s a few different ways So one, when your body’s in the stress state, we’re going to have elevated stress hormones like cortisol, that’s going to inhibit certain functions in the body, especially hormone production, it’s no longer prioritized, right? It’s your body’s looking for survival, that compensation state. Stress is also going to deplete certain vitamins and minerals that we need for hormone production for thyroid health, things like magnesium, vitamin C’s, sodium, potassium, those are like the big hitters. And then we need all these things plus so much more to build up that healthy corpus luteum. Like, if you think about when I was listing off, like the vitamins and minerals needed, like those were all ones that were included. And then of course, that stress is going to that compensation in the body. So it doesn’t matter. Like if you were eating perfectly, whatever that means, you know, I feel like that’s going to look different for each person. But if you have the best intentions, but your needs are still not being met, maybe it’s an issue with sleep, maybe it’s a lack of getting outside in the sunlight, maybe your mental emotionally stressed and not addressing that, it’s still going to have a huge impact on stress overall. And it’s the same stress like It’s like under eating isn’t great for you. But having mental emotional stress is going to lead to same stress response. And it’s all going to impact your metabolism in the same way, which is going to make sure that we are just surviving and not necessarily thriving for hormone health. And I think it’s

Emily 41:23
also important to remember that you can’t just look at your current stress, you also have to look at past stress, because it plays a huge role in how your current state is of your body and your health. So a really good quote that me and Amanda both like by Hans Celie, I hope I’m saying his name, right. He was the original creator of the term stress. And he was a stress free researcher. And what he said stress was is the nonspecific response of the body to any demand for change. So that is a perfect definition. Because it’s basically what is it’s anything that causes our body to adapt or change. Okay, that is a stressor. And it’s not always a bad thing. Like we really do need stress in our lives to be functioning human beings, right. But what happens is that when we have unresolved or like a long term, chronic stress, a build up of these everyday stressors that are just kind of depleting us over and over and over again, this can turn into a ton of chronic conditions, it can halt your metabolism, it can really dampen your fertility, all of that stuff that we’ve been talking about. And it can begin a long time before you even think something’s wrong, if that makes sense. So what helps is evaluating what past stressors you’ve been through, and then making a timeline of like how you’ve dealt or manage the stress over time, or how you’re doing that currently, in order to figure out where your body is, is at right now. So I think that’s a really big piece of the puzzle, just asking yourself questions like, do you have past trauma, emotional trauma, physical trauma, anything that’s been kind of still affecting your health today? And how are you going to work through that one

Amanda Montalvo 43:03
of the ways we have people do this inside the master minerals course is we have like a little timeline for them. And it’s like, birth, childhood, teenage years high school, college, and then you know, like, adulthood and beyond. And it just forces you to think about like, oh, like, let me think back to that time when I was a kid. And there’s so many things that we might not even have thought about them that maybe we remember now as adults. And it’s, it’s just important to write those down. Because if you’re someone that is working towards making these changes, you’re trying to eat really nourishing foods, you’re eating regularly, you’re mad, maybe you’re managing your stress now, which we see a lot like women come to us and they’re like, we’re good. Like, I’ve gotten rid of all my stressors. And I’m like, okay, but that’s one that’s not possible for the most part, unless you’re living like in a very remote place with no like internet connection or anything like that. And then to it’s like, what about everything that’s happened in your past, your body doesn’t forget it, like there’s a great book called Your Body Keeps the Score. And that talks about like that trauma and how it gets stored in the body, all those stressors that we’ve had in the past. And so we just, we can’t express enough how important it is to make note of it, recognize it and build your awareness. And then that kind of converts to this exercise that we like to have people do on a daily basis because it’s like, okay, look at your path dresser, look at your timeline. What is your body been through? And how did you get here? And then looking at your day to day and building your awareness around like, how am I feeling in my body? That’s a huge one that I think is so important that people don’t pay attention to because so many times we can be looking for outside sources for like, how should I eat? You know, what should what type of exercise should I do? How often should I do these things? Like what should my macro breakdown be? But in reality, if you can make that make a better connection and build that relationship with yourself. You’ll know you’ll know what you need, because your body’s going to tell you that it’s going to give you those signs But for the most part, we’re just kind of like I have a goal I have something I’m focusing on this is or if we really like rules and like black and white and stuff, which I know a lot of people do, then you can kind of like put your head down and ignore all those things that your body’s trying to tell you. And just be so focused on moving forward, that you’re not getting all those signals. And there’s just there’s so much in our day to day that interferes with our brain getting these messages from ourselves. So it’s important to set those strict boundaries to slow down, put it in your schedule, take breaks, and like not breaks and like listen to a podcast, although thanks for listening to ours, but like, check in with yourself, I had to really stop and do this, especially if any, I think of like anyone that has a business or a really demanding job, or moms or just anyone that has a lot going on in their day to day like maybe they just juggle a lot of different things. And they have like lots of hobbies, that they like a job that they like whatever it all those things like it’s it’s easy to just get away from yourself and get disconnected. So take a few minutes, check in with yourself. How does your body feel? How do you How are you feeling that day? Is there anything that you need, because when we just kind of go, go go, you’re not going to have an appetite, you’re not going to want to eat food and prioritize that you’re not going to want to go outside, you’re going to be glued to your phone, constantly checking your email, checking things off your to do list. And it’s not going to help you also reach those hormone health goals. And we have a we have some resources for you for stress stuff. I did a great podcast with Theresa from living roots wellness, it’s called rewiring your brain. I remember the episode but we linked to in the show notes. And then HeartMath is a great resource. You don’t have to they have like a little device that clips to your ear that you can measure your HRV it’s neat. It’s great if you’re nerdy and you want data, but they have a free course that does not include the ear device. It’s just teaching you about connecting with yourself. And this heart focus breathing technique that I really like those are some great places to kind of get started with understanding your stress and building that connection with your body.

Emily 47:02
I love that what you said about just like turning in and focusing on what how you’re you feel in your body. I feel like that’s so important and something we all forget to do. So that’s it you guys for this episode. We know we’ve covered a lot as we usually do. But we hope we’ve been able to give you a little bit more insight into the holistic approach to boosting those progesterone levels and not just you know some quick fixes which never worked anyway, but we hope you enjoyed it. As I said before, I’m so glad to be back and I really appreciate you guys tuning in and I know Amanda does as well.

Amanda Montalvo 47:40
Thank you for listening to the RU menstrual podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please consider leaving us a review and sharing the podcast with someone you think it will help. If you are new here, we can’t recommend enough to start with our mineral imbalance quiz. This is going to give you an idea if you are at low, moderate or high risk for mineral imbalances. And then of course, make sure you follow us on Instagram at hormone healing rd. And consider signing up for our newsletter if you like nerding out and you’re just loving these podcasts but maybe you’re a little bit more visual and you want to see things too. We go into a ton of detail in our weekly newsletter. So we would love to have you join us there. All right, thank you and we will see you in the next episode.

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

Master Your Minerals

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Hormone Healing RD