An Optimal Follicular Phase
Your follicular phase is the first half of your cycle – from cycle day 1 (the first day of real period bleeding) up to ovulation. It’s called the proliferative phase, which means growing and multiplying – and this happens in your uterus and ovaries. Here we dive into what grows during your follicular phase and how to support the process for optimal fertility and a healthy cycle.
These contain follicles which are fluid-filled egg sacs. Each ovary ripens multiple follicles, and then about halfway through the follicular phase (~ day 7), the largest follicle becomes dominant and is selected for ovulation. This dominant follicle produces estrogen as it grows, which peaks just before ovulation. Things to know about your ovaries during this phase:
- This process of maturing follicles for ovulation starts right when your period starts!
- Your temperature should be 97.2º to 97.4º – if it’s higher, your ovaries get too hot, and your fluids too dry.
- Often you ovulate early with higher temps, with an immature dominant follicle.
- This process is directed by FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) which your pituitary secretes.
- In Chinese medicine, growing follicles is akin to building “yin” substances, and your follicular phase is your yin phase.
- Yin needs coolness, so again, a BBT under 97.5º
Your uterus responds to the estrogen your dominant follicle produces, by rebuilding a thick inner uterine lining (endometrium) This is to create a place where a potential fertilized egg can implant and grow. Things to know about your uterus:
- You need plenty of blood plus robust circulation to build a good uterine lining.
- Many women are anemic (due to iron, folate or vitamin B12 deficiencies) which affects their lining.
- Like follicles, blood is also a yin substance.
- In Chinese medicine, blood deficiency includes insomnia, disturbing dreams, anxiety, palpitations, dizziness, low blood pressure, hair thinning and loss, and pale skin and tongue.
- Useful markers to check on bloodwork are iron, ferritin, B12, Folate, B6, and a CBC.
- Ferritin represents stored iron and is low for many menstruators – it should be at least 70.
How to optimize your follicular phase
Test ferritin and if it’s under 70:
- Eat liver.
- Take a food-based iron supplement that includes liver.
- Take a chelated iron supplement (easy on the gut).
- Eat vitamin C-rich foods with your iron, or take a vitamin C supplement.
- Use Chinese herbs to build blood, from a licensed herbalist.
- Eat these blood-building foods.
Test B12, B6, and Folate and if they are at the low end of the lab ranges:
- Eat dark leafy greens.
- Eat red meat, poultry and fist.
- Take a good quality B complex.
If you ovulate early and have a BBT over 97.4 during your follicular phase, identify the source of the heat and inflammation. You can also:
- Eat these cooling foods.
- Get a customized Chinese herbal formula to clear your type of heat.
To support follicle development and maturation in cases of trying to conceive, or for late or early ovulation:
- CoQ10 helps the energy (mitochondria) of your follicles. 600 mg/day
- Fish oil (omega 3) increases blood flow to the pelvis and reduces excess inflammation in uterus and ovaries. 2000 mg/day at a minimum.
- Test DHEA and melatonin and supplement if needed, under guidance. Both improve egg quality.
- Test zinc and selenium and supplement to get them in the mid-upper lab range. Take a high-quality multi for these.
- Support “yin” with Chinese “yin-building” herbs.
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