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Why Women Want Progesterone

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

Progesterone 101: Mood, stress, sleep, sex, and Menopause

I feel like progesterone is the mysterious and elusive hormone no one talks about until things start to go wrong. So, let’s talk about what it is and how it affects your health!

Your pituitary gland is responsible for making the hormones FSH, follicle-stimulating hormone, and LH, luteinizing hormone. These are responsible for producing estrogen and progesterone. This happens at the beginning of your cycle to prepare your body for pregnancy during your fertile years. Some women will start to see a decline in progesterone around 35 years old. This decline ushers in perimenopause and eventually menopause. This phase can last for months to years. In this season of life, you may notice you don’t handle stress well, you get overwhelmed easily, you are easily irritated and anxious, and have poor sleep.

Gaba supplementation can help with this, because progesterone acts on Gaba receptors in the brain, and Gaba gives our bodies peace and calm. You may also notice the level of drive you used to have is no longer there, along with low libido, and poor concentration.

Perimenopause starts with shorter cycles, you still have periods, but they are shorter in length. Then, they become irregular, you start skipping periods and stop ovulating. Symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, low libido, skipping periods months at a time, and painful sex may show up during this time of your life. In the final phase before menopause hits you may go 4-5 months without having a period until you stop having them completely.

Progesterone Imbalance: the lows and highs

Symptoms of low progesterone can manifest in the following ways. You may have ovulation issues, infertility, breast tenderness, depression, anxiety, fatigue, poor concentration, fibrocystic breasts, PMS, mood swings, PCOS, headaches, bloating, and weight gain.

On the flip side, excess progesterone can cause the loss of muscle tissue and muscle strength, decreased production of growth hormone, high cortisol levels in the blood, sugar cravings, lower calorie expenditure, weight gain, and estrogen deficiency.

Stress and thyroid dysfunction are the major drivers of low progesterone in women. Under stress, cortisol steals pregnenolone from DHEA and progesterone, to make cortisol. This results in a decrease in sex hormones. This is called the pregnenolone steal. Pregnenolone is a precursor to estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA.

Your body makes progesterone during the second half of your cycle, after ovulation. So, keeping in mind that progesterone goes down when cortisol is high, avoiding stress during this time of the month is important. The ketogenic diet, extended fasting, or any excessive low-carb/low-calorie diet will also drive down progesterone. Being aware of where you are in your cycle is a great tool to make sure progesterone gets what it needs to do its job in the last half of your cycle


Natural Solutions and Hormone Therapy

The second half of our cycle is when we need carbohydrates to make progesterone. I am talking about whole-food carbs. Root vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, sunflower, flax, sesame seeds, citrus fruits, chickpeas, kidney beans, and black beans if you can tolerate them.

Women who are experiencing severe symptoms or just want to prevent severe symptoms, need to get their bloodwork done and their levels checked first! Remember progesterone down-regulates estrogen, so if you are testing your labs to find out where your levels are it’s important that your doctor pay attention to where you are at in your cycle to get the proper picture of your hormones.

Bioidentical progesterone is a safe and effective hormone therapy if natural solutions aren’t helping enough. A bioidentical hormone can be taken to help improve sleep and mood if symptoms are severe. Vitex (chaste tree) is also a safe supplement to take that will improve your progesterone levels and balance.

None of this is medical advice and you should always consult with a medical practitioner before starting a supplement or hormone protocol!

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