We often hear the word ‘regular’ with reference to a woman’s ideal cycle. Medically speaking regular is any cycle that varies in length by no more than seven days month to month. If the cycle fluctuates more than this then it is said to be irregular.

It is likely that a major cause of irregular cycles is hormonal imbalances. As there is a strong link between diet and hormones the right nutrition at the right time of the month can make a big difference when it comes to getting your cycle into a healthier pattern.

I have come up with an ‘Eat Yourself Pregnant Diet Plan’ that encourages you to eat the right foods to balance your hormones so stabilising your cycle and making conception that little bit more likely.  Whilst concentrating on the foods that are good for your cycle it is important that you look at your diet as a whole, not just focussing on the requirements of your cycle.  So, whilst this plan provides a guide to specific nutrients for supporting regular ovulation, you should ensure that you have a broad spectrum of nutrients in your diet as a whole.

Eating Right for Your cycle

There are 4 phases to your cycle and each of these have important nutritional requirements to maintain stability.

Phase 1 of your cycle

Many women feel the hormonal shift on the very first day of their period – pent up tension falls away and a sense of relief and calm ensues. However, you could also feel a little lethargic. Try to enjoy some quiet time when this happens and avoid exercising, treating yourself to an early night or two if possible.
This is the time for warm, nourishing foods. Choose foods rich in iron and vitamin C as these will help to replenish the iron that you lose with your period. Vitamin B rich foods will help you to regain some energy.

Good sources of Vitamin C
• Fruits and vegetables

Good sources of iron
• Lean red meat
• Pumpkin seeds
• Beans and pulses
• Dreid apricots and raisins
• Shellfish
• Dark green leafy vegetables

Good sources of B-vitamins
• Whole grains
• Lamb, beef, poultry
• Shellfish
• Eggs and dairy
• Leafy Green vegetables
• Yeast extract

Phase 2 of your cycle

This phase can vary in length from month to month. Oestrogen is on the rise as your body prepares for ovulation and during this time many women feel great – attractive, flirty, full of libido and energy.

During this phase, stock up on your B-Vitamins which are important for hormonal balance and healthy cell division (a crucial part of baby making).

Lecithin will help to keep your cell membranes healthy. Keep eating Vitamin C rich foods as this is thought to increase the amount of water in your cervical mucus, making it more plentiful. Also eat foods rich in capsaicin, isoflavones and L-arginine which all help the body make nitric acid which dilates your blood vessels easing blood flow through your whole system – good news for your reproductive organs.

Important at this stage is to support your immune system as it needs be in optimum condition for a healthy implantation to occur. So ensure you are getting enough Vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, eating salmon and sardines or shitake mushrooms or top up with a vitamin D supplement.

Good sources of Lecithin
• Eggs
• Dairy
• Green leafy vegetables
• Legumes
• Seafood

Good sources of Capsaicin
• Hot peppers

Good sources of Isoflavones
• Soy beans and soy flour
• Tofu
• Tempeh
• Miso

Good sources of L-arginine
• Meats
• Fish
• Seafood
• Eggs and dairy
• Nuts, seeds, wheat-germ

Phase 3 of your cycle

This is the luteal phase of your cycle and betacarotene-rich foods are the important ingredient to include in your diet during this time. The corpus luteum (the ruptured ovarian follicle that produces progesterone to thicken the womb lining, close the cervix and maintain a pregnancy) contains a high level of betacarotene. This nutrient is a powerful anti-oxidant that helps protect your cells from damage.

Good sources of betacarotene
• Butternut squash
• Carrots
• Collards
• Kale
• Spinach
• Sweet Potato
• Mustard Greens

Phase 4 of your cycle

If no fertilization has occurred your hormone levels begin to fall and you may begin to feel lethargic again. Many women crave sweet foods at this time. Allow yourself the odd treat – An effective diet comes down to the 80:20 rule – allow yourself some leeway to enjoy treats up to 20% of the time. The important thing to remember in order to keep your hormones steady is to keep your blood sugar balance stable, so don’t go overboard on refined carbohydrates. Instead, stick to slow release carbohydrates

Good sources of Slow Release Carbohydrates
• Beans and pulses
• Vegetables
• Whole grains
• Berries and citrus fruits

The best option to maintain your blood sugar balance is to combine these with good protein sources along with good fats – polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats.

Following these recommendations should help in removing the uncertainty over when your ovulation occurs and also help mood and energy levels throughout your cycle by balancing your blood sugar levels and hormones. For more on ovulation, Fertility Nurse and Midwife at the Clinic, Jane Knight answers your questions on Ovulation in this blog post – Ovulation Facts.

My book Eat Yourself Pregnant contains many more hints and tips on getting your body baby ready and includes 80 delicious recipes to help provide you and your partner with the nutrients you need when you are trying to conceive.

Our Clinic offers nutritional consultations for couples looking to prepare for conception.  These can either be in person at our London Fertility Clinic or by video conference from the comfort of your own home. Find out more by visiting www.zitawest.com/nutrition_consulatations