Estrogen is described as the primary sex hormone in women and as such was labelled as responsible for the plethora of hormonal related symptoms that plague women. But it turns out that progesterone is far more crucial than scientists once believed. In fact, most of the period symptoms that afflict women are due to low progesterone. In this blog, I discuss the symptoms, causes and proven natural ways of helping low progesterone.
Symptoms of Low Progesterone
In my practice, I find that many women exhibit some of the typical symptoms of reduced progesterone:
- Cyclical Headaches
- Painful breasts
- Irregular periods
- Heavy or painful periods
- Cyclical bloating and water retention, particularly around the ankles and belly
- Restless legs, especially at night
- Cyclical clumsiness or poor coordination
Four other, more dangerous conditions related to reduced progesterone include endometriosis, endometrial precancers and cancer, anxiety and insomnia.
The top 5 reasons for low progesterone
From 35 years onwards as you move towards menopause, age is associated with reduced progesterone.
When you are under stress, your adrenal glands produce cortisol. If this stress becomes chronic, cortisol blocks your progesterone receptors, and your body will produce cortisol at the expense of progesterone and pregnenolone. This process is known as “pregnenolone steal”.
Proper thyroid function is essential to hormone production. If you have low thyroid hormone production, your body will not make adequate amounts of progesterone. Furthermore, if you have low progesterone, it raises your thyroid hormone requirements, so making your thyroid work harder. If you are already low thyroid, it will worsen your low progesterone symptoms.
Prolactin is a hormone, produced by your pituitary gland, that controls lactation. Some women produce too much prolactin, which can interfere with the secretion of progesterone.
Scientifically proven natural ways to help low progesterone
If you have 3 or more of the common symptoms of low progesterone, I suggest you consider implementing some or all of the lifestyle and supplementation and herbal therapy recommendations described below.
Lifestyle changes and supplementation
Vitamin C is the only over the counter treatment for low progesterone scientifically proven to be effective. In a high-level study, a vitamin C dosage of 750mg/day was shown to raise progesterone in women with low progesterone.
Connect with people. “Closeness” exercises with a partner have been shown in a study to raise progesterone levels.
Hold the coffee. Caffeine increases energy in the body by increasing cortisol, but as I have already explained, cortisol lowers progesterone.
Drink alcohol in moderation. Research shows that alcohol consumption is associated with reduced progesterone symptoms such as premenstrual anxiety, mood problems, and headache.
Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus). Several herbs have been used to increase progesterone, such as bladderwrack and saffron, but Chasteberry is the most efficient and safe. Also known by the names, chaste tree, chaste tree berry and vitex, this herb is available in capsule and tincture form. The average dosage is 500 – 1000mg/day. A Standford School of Medicine study shows that women with low progesterone, fertility rates were higher among those taking chasteberry compared to placebo.
If you have implemented the lifestyle, supplementation and herbal therapies without any significant remission of your symptoms I recommend you investigate the possibility of taking bioidentical progesterone with your family physician or other trusted naturopathic doctor.
This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.