Sweets. Takeaways. Cakes, ice cream, crisps, bubbles… What are we talking about? Well, aside from being a kickass shopping list, this is the sort of thing high levels of Progesterone can make you crave. Yup, turns out your hormones really are forcing you to open that second carton of Dulce de Leche… Welcome to the wonderful world of Progesterone and food.
What is Progesterone anyway?
As you may already know, Progesterone is a female sex hormone produced in your ovaries. Levels generally reach their peak during the Luteal phase of your Menstrual cycle, when Ovulation occurs.
And that’s because Progesterone is responsible for making sure your uterus is ready should an egg get fertilized. If it doesn’t, the levels drop, kick-starting the shedding of your uterus lining and, in turn, your period.
What do high levels of Progesterone do?
As part of your menstrual cycle, higher Progesterone levels can cause symptoms associated with PMS.
- Tender breasts
- Low libido
High Progesterone can also make you feel more hungry, more often.
Hungrier than usual? It could be Progesterone
Have you ever noticed your need for all things chocolate in the run-up to your period? Does the thought of an empty fridge cause Elton John-level histrionics? Chances are, high levels of progesterone are to blame.
Progesterone and Estrogen are in charge of your entire Menstrual cycle. When Estrogen is in control during the first half, or the Follicular phase, you’ll be less hungry. But these levels drop during the Luteal phase, or second half, and high levels of Progesterone take over. That increases your hunger and even causes you to feel less full after that giant bar of chocolate.
High levels of progesterone can also stimulate another hormone. Grehlin, the “hunger hormone,” which is produced in your stomach. And guess what? It also makes you eat more.
Progesterone and food: What am I craving and why?
Simple – everything! High levels of Progesterone seem to increase hunger in general. However, lots of us find ourselves drawn to carb-heavy, salty or sugary food. And here’s why: Sweet and starchy food causes your body to release mood-boosting Serotonin.
And there’s no such thing as too much Serotonin during your period, you know? Whatever you’re craving, from chocolate to chips and everything in between, do us a favor. Don’t feel guilty about giving in to the cravings. Remember, it’s just your hormones!
Now, where’s that spoon…
That said, there’s also a downside to Progesterone fluctuations and ingesting as much salt and sugar as you can find.
Progesterone and your, er, bowels.
Gang, forgive us, but we need to talk… Bowels. Sort of. No, we haven’t lost our collective marbles, honest. Do you ever feel a bit bloated before your period or in the second half of your cycle? Well, there’s a reason for that. And you won’t be surprised to learn that it’s hormonal. Welcome to Progesterone’s bloating effects.
What does Progesterone have to do with bloating?
As regular Hormonas will know, Progesterone is most famous for its role in the menstrual cycle and coordinating your periods.
It can, though, can also affect other parts of your body. And that’s because it slows the movement of smooth muscles. Smooth muscles are the muscles in your internal organs over which you have no control. Think heartbeat, digestion, and the like.
As your Progesterone levels rise during the second half of your cycle, it can slow down the movement of your gut. And that in turn can lead to feelings of reflux, bloating, constipation, and other super-uncomfortable digestive symptoms.
What if I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, affects up to 15% of the population. Not only it is more common in women than men, women are twice as likely to experience it. And perhaps unsurprisingly, symptoms include cramps, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, and abdominal pain.
And here’s why it’s not-so-surprising that IBS affects more women than men. There’s evidence that both Estrogen and Progesterone play a role in the condition. Which might explain why you’re more likely to experience bloating, constipation, or diarrhea during the Luteal phase of your cycle. Yes, Progesterone and food can be a real pain in the, er, stomach.
Is increased Progesterone normal?
Absolutely. During the second half of your menstrual cycle, your Progesterone level should start to climb. One of its jobs is making sure your uterus is ready should a fertilized egg appear, and it needs higher levels for that. On the flip side, if it doesn’t ebb and flow with your cycle, then you might have trouble with irregular periods or other symptoms.
Stop gas and bloating caused by Progesterone and food
Fear not, gang, there’s plenty you can do to help combat Progesterone-related bloating and such. First and foremost, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. That’s super important if you struggle with constipation before your period.
Next up: Fiber, and lots of it. Luckily, there’s a literal ton of conveniently delicious foodstuff packed with it. Get yourself some wholewheat cereal, porridge, wholemeal bread, beans, lentils, chickpeas, and, of course, vegetables.
But, as always, if your symptoms are interfering with your daily life, please tell someone. You don’t need to suffer, and you certainly don’t need to do any of it alone.
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