This is my open letter to every clinician, personal trainer, and blogger who offers health advice without thinking about the importance of ovulation and natural ovulatory menstrual cycles.
Your restrictive dietary advice may cause young women to stop ovulating which is a problem because ovulation is how women make hormones.
That makes ovulation an essential part of human physiology and not just for making babies. Ovulation is not optional. Thank you.
Please share this message far and wide with every doctor, personal trainer, and health blogger you know. If they need a basic primer on ovulation, direct them here.
Benefits of ovulation
Yes, ovulation is important. As endocrinology professor Jerilynn Prior puts it,
“Ovulatory cycles are both an indicator and a creator of health.”
By “indicator of health,” Professor Prior means that regular ovulation is a sign that all is well with the body. In particular, it’s a sign that there’s enough food (and enough carbohydrate) and not too much stress.
By “creator of health,” Professor Prior means that ovulation is how we make our much-needed monthly dose of progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone are as important for women as testosterone is for men.
Each and every monthly dose of progesterone is like a deposit into the bank account of long-term health. It builds bone and metabolic reserve to carry us through all the decades after menopause. That’s why it’s so important to ovulate while we can during our reproductive decades, and not shut it down with hormonal birth control.
👉 Tip: Hormonal birth control is not a substitute for regular ovulation for the simple reason that progestins are not progesterone. Read The crucial difference between progesterone and progestins.
It’s true that our ancestors didn’t ovulate as often but they did have more pregnancies, and so built their metabolic reserve that way. Read Do women need periods?
How to detect ovulation
Signs of possible ovulation include:
- fertile mucus
- regular period.
Signs of definite ovulation include:
- A luteal phase rise in temperature, which means two weeks of higher temperatures followed by a bleed.
- A luteal phase increase in progesterone as measured by a blood test. To get the timing right, read The right way to test progesterone.
A regular period is not a sign of definite ovulation because it’s possible to have an anovulatory cycle.
👉 Tip: Cycle-tracking is the original “bio-hacking.”
Three causes of no ovulation
Hormonal birth control
Most types of hormonal contraception work by switching off ovulation and hormones and inducing a drug-withdrawal bleed which is not a real menstrual cycle.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition of androgen excess and sometimes amenorrhea (lack of periods) or anovulatory cycles. For treatment ideas, read The 4 types of PCOS.
Hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA) is the loss of periods due to undereating or undereating carbohydrate. It’s not a dysfunction but is better characterized as a normal, adaptive response to an insufficient food supply. The solution is to eat more.
Is it PCOS or hypothalamic amenorrhea?
In many ways, HA and PCOS are quite different (almost opposite), but, unfortunately, HA is routinely misdiagnosed as “lean” PCOS. Which means you might be told to further reduce carbs when you are already in the situation of not eating enough carbs! Read Do you have PCOS or hypothalamic amenorrhea?
Ask me in the comments.