Low Progesterone Symptoms – How to boost your progesterone levels naturally
Low Progesterone Symptoms – How to boost your progesterone levels naturally
- What is progesterone?
- Low progesterone symptoms
- Reasons you might have low progesterone
- How to boost your progesterone levels naturally
Low progesterone can cause different symptoms for both premenopausal and post-menopausal women. The good news is that there are plenty of natural ways to increase natural progesterone.
For some women, using natural therapies alone will help them eliminate unwanted symptoms and increase progesterone. Other women may need additional support, choosing to use a progesterone cream or other forms of bioidentical progesterone.
What is progesterone? And why is it so important?
Progesterone is a female sex hormone. It’s produced mainly in the ovaries following ovulation each month. It’s a crucial part of the menstrual cycle and maintenance of pregnancy.
Progesterone helps to regulate your cycle. But its main job is to get your uterus ready for pregnancy. After you ovulate each month, progesterone helps thicken the lining of the uterus to prepare for a fertilized egg. If there is no fertilized egg, progesterone levels drop, and menstruation begins. If a fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall, progesterone helps maintain the uterine lining throughout pregnancy.
When progesterone is insufficient, maintaining a pregnancy may not be possible and a miscarriage may occur.
Progesterone is necessary for breast development and breastfeeding. It complements some effects of estrogen, another female hormone. It also works with testosterone, the precursor for adrenal hormones. Men produce a small amount of progesterone to help in sperm development.
However, progesterone is far more than a gestational agent. Research is now surfacing which shows that the benefits of progesterone reach to breast health, cardiovascular health, and nervous system health, most importantly brain function. (1)
Without sufficient progesterone, your estrogen levels go unchecked and you can end up with estrogen dominance. Many low progesterone symptoms are due to estrogen dominance.
Plus, without progesterone, you may also develop issues using your thyroid hormones.
Low progesterone symptoms
There are a wide-ranging number of symptoms of low progesterone including:
- insomnia or sleep disturbance
- low libido
- mood changes, anxiety and irritability
- breast tenderness, fibrocystic breasts
- headaches and migraines
- weight gain
- irregular menstrual cycle
- short cycles
- mid-cycle spotting
- PMS, irregular menstrual cycle, heavy bleeding
- gallbladder problems
Reasons you might have low progesterone
Stress depletes your levels of serotonin and dopamine that are two neurotransmitters responsible for mood-enhancement. These neurotransmitters are responsible for alleviating PMS and hormonal symptoms such as breast pain, digestive upset, cravings, depression, insomnia, anxiety, poor concentration and lack of motivation. Stress also raises the hormone aldosterone which contributes to water retention and magnesium loss. (2)
Your body will always choose survival over procreation. This means you will preferentially make cortisol over progesterone when exposed to chronic stress. In times of stress, the brain signals to the glands to prioritize cortisol production over progesterone.
Progesterone has both antidepressant and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) actions, due to its metabolites – 5α- and 5β-allopregnanolone. These help to increase levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter which has calming effect on the brain. (3)
Pregnenolone is a building block hormone that goes into making other hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and the stress hormone cortisol. Without pregnenolone, we can’t make progesterone. (4)
Pregnenolone synthesis requires thyroid hormone. To even make the molecule you need to create progesterone you must first have adequate thyroid hormone.
In addition, the brain signalling when we have too little thyroid hormone can be problematic for healthy menstrual cycles.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
A hallmark sign of PCOS is anovulatory cycles or lack of ovulation. You may ovulate, but it is irregular. Ovulation is when the ovary releases an egg, which is generally only once in the menstrual cycle.
Following ovulation there is a structure that form in the ovary called the corpus luteum. It produces progesterone. You cannot produce sufficient progesterone without ovulation.⠀
Rises in testosterone mean lower levels of progesterone. Making sure you’re producing adequate progesterone is essential in order to ovulate. Without ovulation, not only is it difficult for your body to adequately clear the uterine lining during menses, but it’s impossible to get pregnant.
After 35, progesterone levels decline.
As we approach menopause, we ovulate less frequently and without ovulation, we can’t produce sufficient progesterone.
Prolactin is the hormone that triggers lactation but can rise in non-lactating women as well. This is a problem because high levels of prolactin can interfere with progesterone production and inhibit ovulation.
High prolactin can be the result of a poor diet, stressful lifestyle or something more serious it’s important to get this checked.
Estrogen dominance occurs whenever a woman produces too much estrogen relative to her progesterone levels. Estrogen dominance can occur during perimenopause or menopause due to lack of ovulation. This is a relative estrogen dominance.
In a frank estrogen dominance, you may have normal progesterone, but because of the high amount of estrogen, it still feels like you don’t have enough.
Excess body fat, chronic stress, and a diet high in sugar and processed starchy carbs can contribute to blood sugar imbalance and hormone dysregulation. When low progesterone symptoms present due to estrogen dominance, you’ll likely experience other symptoms like fluid retention, breast tenderness, and irritability. (5)
How to boost your low progesterone levels naturally
There are many ways to boost your progesterone levels, including:
Eat more progesterone-stimulating foods
While foods don’t necessarily contain progesterone, some foods may help stimulate the body’s production of progesterone. These include:
- Brussels sprouts
- whole grains
Some foods are also associated with lowering the amount of estrogen in the body, which could increase the ratio of progesterone to estrogen. These include:
Incorporating these foods into your diet could help boost natural progesterone levels. (6)
Chronic stress increases the secretion of cortisol and adrenaline at the expense of sex hormones like progesterone. Find a stress management practice that works for you, whether it’s taking walks, deep breathing or meditation.
Include healthy dietary fats
Cholesterol is necessary for the synthesis of pregnenolone which in turn makes progesterone. Cholesterol is also necessary for the production of thyroid hormone.
Fat will also help to balance blood sugar. Insulin sensitivity or blood sugar imbalance has deleterious effects on your hormones. Studies suggest that improving insulin sensitivity can dramatically increase progesterone levels in those with luteal phase defects.
Fat from trusted sources of grass-fed meat, fatty fish, and plant-derived fats like coconut oil, olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, and avocado are all good progesterone food choices. Women wanting to improve their hormones should aim to eat at 1-2 tablespoons of fat at every meal to support natural hormone balance.
Alcohol intake is associated with premenstrual anxiety, mood problems, headaches, increased risk of breast cancer and increased belly fat. (7)
Fibre can help reduce estrogen levels which in turn can help progesterone work more effectively. Your body absorbs estrogen from certain foods and therefore the longer these foods take to get through your digestive system the more estrogen is absorbed. Fibre helps improve your bowel movements and makes sure there is less time for estrogen to be absorbed into your system. (8)
Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste tree berry)
Vitex has been shown to reduce prolactin secretion while raising progesterone levels. Vitex has also been shown to support healthy progesterone levels and may even be beneficial for PMS.
Green tea helps with estrogen metabolism, which is critical when dealing with estrogen dominance and lowered estrogen levels are associated with fewer incidences of cancer, especially breast cancer. In one study, Japanese women who drank green tea daily had up to 40% urinary estrogen levels as compared to women who drank green tea only once per week.
Often, more green tea is needed to initially correct estrogen dominance, making a supplement a nice addition to your tea ritual.
This amino acid is found in high protein foods and is important in the production of nitric acid which aids blood circulation. Increased circulation makes sure that your corpus luteum (which produces progesterone following ovulation) and your ovaries can work effectively.
Foods which are high in L-Arginine include:
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Lean Beef
Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb that helps to balance cortisol output, which indirectly supports healthy progesterone production.
Zinc increases follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which supports healthy ovulation, which triggers the ovaries to produce progesterone.
Get plenty of zinc-rich foods like oysters, herring, beef, lamb, pork, liver, egg yolks, oats, pecans, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, ginger root, mustard, chilli powder, peas, carrots, beets and cabbage.
Magnesium is involved in many of the body’s reactions and is essential to adrenal health, which is essential for healthy hormone production.
Aim to eat plenty dark green vegetables, almonds, pecans, cashews, brazil nuts, seeds, legumes, brown rice, avocado, and dried apricots as these are all sources of magnesium. If you’re in need of more support, consider 150-300 mg magnesium nightly.
Vitamin B6 is involved in estrogen metabolism and can easily become depleted if estrogen dominance is a problem. Vitamin B6 has been shown to reduce estrogen while increasing progesterone levels.
Aim to eat some of the following B6-rich foods: liver and other organ meats, fish, poultry, egg yolk, dried beans, peanuts, walnuts, banana, prunes, potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage and avocado.
Antioxidants like vitamin C may increase and intensify the effects of progesterone. Vitamin C has also been shown to raise progesterone levels and resolve luteal phase defects, resulting in improved fertility.
You can try high-vitamin C foods such as citrus fruits, strawberries, mango, papaya, watermelon, tomatoes, broccoli. Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and spinach.
How we can help
Progesterone is one of the key hormones in our bodies, playing an essential role in the everyday function of our bodies, yet many women don’t realise that low progesterone may be the cause of their hormone imbalance. Progesterone levels can impact women who are menstruating and also women in menopause.
At Advanced Functional Medicine, a hormone test will tell us if your progesterone levels are too low. We have a variety of hormone testing options from basic hormone profiles to advanced hormone profiles and the well regarded DUTCH hormone test.
From here, we can start to work out a plan to boost your progesterone and ease the symptoms you may be experiencing. In conjunction with a tailored diet, healthy lifestyle, supplements and herbs, we will support you to live life well, no matter your stage of life.
Book an appointment with our female hormone Specialist Shiree Walker. Shiree is a Nurse Practitioner and Functional Medicine Practitioner, she is able to prescribe bioidentical hormones and as well and natural supplements, treating all patients with a functional and holistic approach. Shiree’s patients at Advanced Functional Medicine are also able to claim a portion of the consultation fee’s back on Medicare. Book online now to get your hormones tested.