We have over 50 different hormones that are secreted and circulated throughout our bodies. Most hormones are secreted by the endocrine system (a collection of internal glands) that tell the body to activate specific target cells. In other words, each hormone has a very specific purpose. Hormones are affected by things like stress, diet, and sleep. Three key hormones that affect a woman’s fertility are insulin, estrogen, and progesterone. These hormones are crucial for healthy menstrual cycles and conception, as well as for prenatal and postpartum periods.
Table of contents
- Estrogen: The Egg Maturer
- Progesterone: The Post-Ovulatory Hormone
- Insulin: The Blood Sugar Regulator
- The Link Between Morning Sickness and Blood Sugar Levels
- Estrogen Dominance + Tips
- How are Hormones Related to Blood Sugar Levels?
- Foods to Focus on to Keep Blood Sugar Levels in Balance
- Breakfast Ideas + Why You Should Incorporate More Eggs into Your Diet
Estrogen: The Egg Maturer
Estrogen is produced in your ovaries and is responsible for maturing your eggs and uterine lining during your menstrual cycle, as well as producing cervical fluid. During pregnancy, estrogen helps develop the female sex traits (if you’re having a girl). It also is made in the placenta to help maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Progesterone: The Post-Ovulatory Hormone
Progesterone is released by the corpus luteum post-ovulation during the menstrual cycle. This hormone causes the uterine lining to thicken for implantation of a fertilized egg, increases your body temperature, and changes your cervical position. It also is made by the placenta during pregnancy. During the postpartum period, both estrogen and progesterone drop significantly.
Insulin: The Blood Sugar Regulator
Insulin is produced and secreted by the pancreas. Insulin moves glucose in your blood to muscles, liver, and fat cells for absorption. When the body does not produce enough insulin, or use it efficiently, blood sugar levels build up. Overtime, insulin resistance can develop and lead to type 2 diabetes.
The hormones estrogen and progesterone affect how your cells respond to insulin. Low estrogen levels can cause insulin resistance – requiring more insulin to regulate sugar in your bloodstream. Conversely, high levels of progesterone can cause insulin resistance which may contribute to gestational diabetes in some pregnant women. Reflecting on your menstrual cycle, you can use this knowledge to “eat with your cycle”. Estrogen is highest right after ovulation, during our luteal phase, which means our blood sugars are naturally lower. Therefore, during the luteal phase, it is recommended to increase your daily caloric needs by 300 cals.
The Link Between Morning Sickness and Blood Sugar Levels
As estrogen levels rise during pregnancy, your blood sugar levels fall, which can contribute to morning sickness. Try your best to maintain your blood sugars by eating small frequent meals and protein-rich snacks, especially during the first trimester. The good news about morning sickness is that it’s a sign of a healthy, viable pregnancy!
Estrogen Dominance + Tips
Sometimes, estrogen levels can get too high and/or progesterone levels can get too low. Signs of estrogen dominance include decreased libido, irregular menses, mood swings, sluggish energy, weight gain, trouble sleeping, and hair loss. Supporting proper liver function will help eliminate excess estrogen: to help with liver detoxification, eat cruciferous veggies, and supplement with B vitamins, heme iron & magnesium.
Constipation is also linked to estrogen dominance, so make sure you’re having regular, daily bowel movements. If you are constipated, drink more water, take magnesium citrate (such as Natural CALM), and consume more fiber-rich foods (whole grains, fruits, and veggies)
How are Hormones Related to Blood Sugar Levels?
If our blood sugars are unstable, our hormones will follow suit. Our bodies want homeostasis – to be in balance! The following signs and symptoms are your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right and needs your attention. If you listen to your body’s cues, you’ll be more in tune with what foods & nutrients your body needs.
Signs of low blood sugar:
- An irregular or fast heartbeat
- Pale skin
- Tingling or numbness of the lips, tongue or cheek
Foods to Focus on to Keep Blood Sugar Levels in Balance
- Protein: Grass-fed dairy & beef, pasture-raised chicken, cold-water fish, collagen & other protein powders, eggs, beans, nuts/seeds
- Healthy Fats: Full-fat dairy, cold-water fish, avocado, olive oil, ghee/butter, nuts/seeds, coconut milk & coconut oil
- Complex carbohydrates: Whole grains, oats, beans, crunchy/starchy vegetables. Avoid naked carbs and refined carbohydrates (such as white flour and sugar); combine complex carbs with protein and fat. An example of this is toast with avocado and hemp seeds to slow down the absorption of glucose into our bloodstream.
- Fresh fruit & leafy greens. Ideally, half of your plate should be fresh/cooked veggies!
Breakfast Ideas + Why You Should Incorporate More Eggs into Your Diet
What we eat after fasting all night is crucial for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Start your day off right with a good source of protein, fat, and fiber. Some of my favorite things to eat right away in the morning include: green smoothies, overnight oats, 3-ingredient banana pancakes, and egg dishes. Speaking of eggs, eggs are a superfood for mommas and mommas-to-be! Not only are eggs a healthy source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and B-vitamins, eggs are also rich in choline. Choline is a B-vitamin-like compound that is involved in the transcription of DNA. It’s important for brain development, placenta function and nutrient transfer to the baby. Choline + folate work together to prevent neural tube defects. We all know how important folate is for fetal development, but choline deserves our attention too! Other rich sources of choline are beef, beef liver, soybeans, chicken, and fish.
Lunch & Snack Ideas
Some lunch options are: egg salad on whole-grain bread with sprouts or on a bead of lettuce, hearty stew or soup with beef bone broth, or salmon with veggies and rice. Snack ideas: liver pate or guacamole with whole grain crackers, crunchy veggies with hummus, fruit and nuts, homemade trail mix, bone broth, gelatin gummy snacks, cottage cheese or yogurt with fresh fruit. Work with your cravings instead of against them; if you are craving salty sweet things, try cashews with dried tart cherries. Are you famished only 1 hr after eating? Increase your fat & protein at meals.
Collagen: Another Superfood for Super Mommas!
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is a major component of connective tissue. Collagen is a key builder of healthy skin, muscle, tendons, joints, bones and other tissues. It’s easy to absorb and helps the skin stretch and become more elastic for growing a baby. Collagen is also crucial for healing tissue postpartum. Gelatin, collagen peptides, and bone broth are ways to incorporate more of this protein into your diet.
Some tasty dinner ideas to keep blood sugar levels regulated include: stir fry with chicken or beef, “zoodles” with shrimp, deconstructed tacos, polenta bowls, stuffed sweet potatoes with ground beef and all the fixings. Remember, our bodies want to be in balance! By supporting your blood sugar levels throughout the day and listening to your body’s hunger cues, you will most likely experience less morning sickness, have more energy, and, for those menstruating, have healthier menstrual cycles.