Progesterone

Progesterone is produced mostly by the ovaries but is also made in the adrenal glands, peripheral nerves, and brain cells. This hormone is an important player in female reproductive tract development, regulating the menstrual cycle, maintaining the early stages of pregnancy and breastfeeding.

 I know this sounds like progesterone is only important in a young woman’s system but, that is false. Itis also very important in aging women as well as men. Aging women tend to produce less of this hormone after menopause, which can cause insomnia and anxiety. Men produce small amounts of progesterone to aide in sperm development, which in turn helps with testosterone production and fertility.  

Symptoms of Low Progesterone:

When progesterone levels become to low it can cause:

  • Insomnia and/or anxiety
    • Progesterone binds to certain receptors in the brain that releases GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter that has calming effects on the brain.
  • Anovulation
    • When progesterone is to low this can mean the ovary failed to release an egg during ovulation.
  • Fertilityand/ or menstrual irregularities.
    • Progesterone prepares the body for pregnancy as it stimulates and sustains the uterine lining to nourish the embryo for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (until the placenta is fully developed). If too low this built up lining will shed too early and miscarriages or menstrual problems can occur.
  • Estrogen Dominance
    • Progesterone and estrogen have a balancing relationship, which means when estrogen gets too high and becomes unchecked progesterone levels start to get low causing an imbalance.
  • High Cholesterol, Osteoporosis, and/or Cardiovascular risk
    • Progesterone builds bone (along with estrogen) and benefits the cardiovascular system by blocking plaque formation in the blood vessels and lowering the levels of triglycerides
  • Weight gain, cellulite and/or sagging skin:
    • Progesterone is a natural diuretic (prevents swelling/weight gain), helps the production of collagen and has an anti-catabolic (protects muscle mass in the body from being broken down by stress) benefit.
  • Thyroid and/or blood sugar dysfunctions:
    • Progesterone is able to enhance the body’s sensitivity to insulin and the function of the thyroid hormones.  

How to get tested:

If you believe you are suffering from a progesterone deficiency a simple blood test would confirm your suspicions. A “normal” progesterone level depends on a person’s age and gender. For example in women, progesterone levels differ if you’re pregnant, if you’ve gone through menopause, or where you are in your menstrual cycle. In a perfect menstrual cycle, levels peak around seven days before your period and can fluctuate significantly during a single day.

Treatment Options:

Progesterone supplementation comes in many forms such as:

  • Creams (topically or vaginally)
  • Gels (topically or vaginally)
  • Suppositories (vaginally)
  • Oral medications

 For women with menopausal symptoms, progesterone alone is generally not supplemented. This is because menopausal symptoms are caused by an imbalance and deficiency of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. For these individuals a combination hormone therapy would be best.

Alternative ways to treat low progesterone levels:

  • Increasing Zinc,
    • Zinc aides in the release of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH is a key factor in stimulation of ovulation. In case of pregnancy, FSH also tells your ovaries to produce more progesterone.
  • Stress Reduction.
    •  Your body releases cortisol when stressed and in turn blocks the production of progesterone. This phenomenon is called the “pregnenolone steal” and it’s the leading cause of low progesterone problems.
  • Vitamins B and C,
    • These vitamins help combat stress and are essential in maintaining progesterone levels.

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