Did you know that you have a natural anti-anxiety and anti-stress hormone that is made by your body? For women this particular hormone is produced in the ovaries and the adrenal glands and is like bathing the female mind with pure calm and relaxation. Because it can help reduce anxiety, stress, and depression, it is sometimes called the peaceful hormone. One of its best attributes — the attribute most women notice quickly — is its ability to help you sleep soundly through the entire night. Let’s look at the common symptoms of low progesterone levels and the natural solutions than can help.
Nature has provided natural progesterone to both men and women alike to balance and offset the powerful effects of estrogen. In men, this same hormone prevents testosterone from becoming estrogen. Even though it seemingly never gets the attention estrogen does, in women progesterone acts to keep the ratio of estrogen to progesterone in balance. This is very important especially since many women, in both pre-menopause and post-menopause, are estrogen dominant.
The Happy Hormone – Progesterone
Progesterone has historically been called the “happy hormone”, and for good reason. Synthesized in the central nervous system, progesterone definitely affects nerve function. As a result, it promotes reduced feelings of anxiety and depression.
When a woman’s progesterone levels are in the correct ratio with her estrogen levels, her ability to successfully address life’s issues with focus, calm, and discernment — as well as her happiness and clarity of mind — begin to soar. ~Loretta Lanphier, NP, CN, CH, HHP
Progesterone promotes a natural calming effect by acting on the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. These are the very same receptors that sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medications and alcohols act upon. GABA is the key inhibitory transmitter in your brain. If you find yourself waking up between 2am and 4 am and are unable to go back to sleep, a progesterone deficiency could be the cause.
There are many things that progesterone affects such as memory and even the elasticity of our skin. Adequate progesterone levels act as an anti-inflammatory, a natural diuretic and can even help normalize blood sugar. Progesterone also stimulates cells that make new bone called osteoblasts. In other words, progesterone can help keep us looking and feeling our best.
Unfortunately it is progesterone that leaves our bodies first and leaves quickly. You can have low progesterone levels as early as your late 20’s. Many women believe that their increased irritability, loss of enjoyment of life and difficulty sleeping is from a 24/7 stressful lifestyle; however, it’s more often because of a progesterone deficiency.
Progesterone Is Important to Your Brain
Your brain is highly responsive to progesterone. In fact, progesterone concentrations in the brain have been shown to be 20 times higher than in the blood. Insomnia, anxiety, and migraine are just a few of the health issues connected to a progesterone and estrogen ratio imbalance. In the brain as elsewhere in the body, progesterone counterbalances the effects of estrogen. For instance, estrogen has an excitatory effect on the brain and progesterone’s effect is calming. Clinical and anecdotal experience suggests that women with estrogen dominance sleep restlessly, whereas progesterone replenishment enhances sleep.
16 Common Symptoms of Low Progesterone Levels
- Waking at night – Restless sleep
- Fibrocystic breasts and fibroids
- Bone loss
- Low libido
- Irregular or heavy periods
- Estrogen dominance
- High stress levels
- Decreased sex drive
- Post menopause vaginal bleeding
- Gallbladder issues
How Can My Body Naturally Produce More Progesterone?
According to a study published in Fertility and Sterility “A moderate amount of supplemental vitamin C improves progesterone levels and increases fertility.” 150 women with luteal phase defect were enrolled in the current study. The participants were given 750mg of vitamin C per day or no treatment at all. The group receiving vitamin C had an increase in progesterone levels, while the women receiving no treatment had no change in progesterone. Also, the pregnancy rate was significantly higher in the vitamin C group: 25% within six months, while only 11% of the untreated women became pregnant in the same time period.
200-400 mcg/day is shown to boost production of progesterone in an Italian study and it also helps with your thyroid.
Vitamin E (full spectrum)
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant to help protect sperm and egg DNA integrity. A study conducted at John Hopkins University showed that vitamin E (at a dose of 800 IU/day for 10 weeks) corrects the progesterone-estrogen ratio, increases a woman’s libido, and normalizes her menstrual cycle.
Adequate levels of magnesium are needed to help make hormones. Magnesium aids in the manufacture of steroid hormones including progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. This could be why magnesium has been shown to reduce hot flashes by 50 percent.
Some herbs “may” also increase your progesterone levels quite naturally. Chasteberry, which is also known as vitex, is believed to stimulate progesterone production and reduce the levels of estrogen in your blood by suppressing prolactin levels in the body which are known to cause irregular menstrual cycles.
It is very important to understand that the health benefits of Chaste tree berry work behind the scene to gently restore balance. Because of this it can take from three to seven months to experience full benefits. Although, some symptoms may be relieved within few weeks of use, patience is the key. As with all herbs, Chaste tree berry works best when it is combined with a healthy lifestyle that incorporates pure water, healthy organic foods, removal of environmental toxins, stress reduction, adequate sunshine and gentle exercise. References for chaste tree berry: https://oawhealth.com/2013/04/14/23-amazing-health-benefits-of-chaste-tree-berry/
Topical Bioidentical Progesterone Cream
Many women have experienced great success by using bioidentical progesterone cream. Natural (bioidentical) progesterone creams have been shown to be highly effective in helping to increase progesterone levels. Natural progesterone cream has the same molecular structure as the progesterone your body produces as and such is easily absorbed. Many progesterone creams on the market claim to be all natural, but often contain plant estrogens usually through herbal ingredients which is exactly what you are trying to counter-act. A high quality, bioidentical USP progesterone cream can be very beneficial in creating the hormone symphony your body needs.
Look for a bioidentical progesterone cream that contains USP progesterone from the Mexican Wild Yam Root. Some companies sell a diosgenin cream or supplement, which they label as “wild yam extract”, claiming that the body will then convert it into progesterone as needed. While this can be done in laboratory setting, there is absolutely no evidence that this conversion takes place in the human body. If the words “progesterone from wild yam extract” appear in the ingredient list, USP progesterone is not being used and results may not be the same as using USP progesterone.
Reduce Stress Levels
The role of stress in illness and in hormone imbalances cannot be emphasized enough. In fact, extreme stress levels can disturb hypothalamic function, which fuels and controls activities of other glands. There’s just no way around it, if you’re constantly stressed it’s going to negatively affect every cell in your body and over time it’s sure to create disease or illness. There’s much to be said for slowing down and simplifying your life. Lifestyle changes along with using a high quality bioidentical progesterone cream can help ease those stress levels.
Difference Between Bioidentical Progesterone and Synthetic Progestin
Many doctors and practitioners do not distinguish to their patients the difference between progesterone and progestins. This is often because they have been told by the pharmaceutical companies that progesterone and progestin acts the same way in the body. This is not factual. Controlled studies and most observational studies suggest that the addition of progestins (synthetic progesterone) to synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT), particularly in a continuous combined regimen, increases the risk of breast cancer compared to estrogen alone. While the results of clinical trials may accurately assess the risks associated with synthetic progestin compounds and estrogen/ progestin combinations, the data do not reflect what might have been the result had bioidentical progesterone been used with bioidentical estrogen instead of synthetic progesterone.
Progesterone, synthesized in the laboratory, either from soybeans or the Mexican wild yam (Dioscorea villosa), is identical to the progesterone made in the body. The process was discovered in the 1930s by Pennsylvania State University professor Russell Marker, who transformed diosgenin from wild yams into natural progesterone. Bioidentical hormones have a molecular structure identical to the hormones the body manufactures.
Unlike bioidentical progesterone, synthetic progestins are not molecularly identical to the progesterone that your body makes. Synthetic progestins were first developed for use as contraceptive agents. Because the half-life of bioidentical progesterone is very short, researchers sought an agent that would produce longer-lasting, more potent effects than bioidentical progesterone. Birth control pills usually contain a synthetic progestin and a synthetic estrogen. Synthetic progestins are very potent, with just a small dose preventing ovulation and thus functioning as birth control. A slight change in the chemical structure of progesterone has allowed pharmaceutical companies to create patentable and highly profitable birth control products.
One of the most common progestins, medroxyprogesterone acetate (Provera®), is linked to blood clots, fluid retention, acne, rashes, weight gain, depression, certain cancers, and other disorders. Synthetic progestins are also able to bind to glucocorticoid, androgen, and mineralocorticoid receptors, which may explain the wide range of adverse side effects many women experience while taking synthetic progestins. The vast majority of research studies were conducted using progestins rather than natural progesterone, which helps explain the disparity and negativity of the results.
Experience tells us that when the endocrine system is in balance, a woman’s overall health, mood and sense of well-being is maximized.
If you find that it takes a bit more energy to keep your cool, that you are no longer sleeping well or through the night, or just don’t feel on top-of-you-game, I encourage you to get your sex hormones and cortisol levels tested. The best way to find out if your progesterone to estrogen ratio is in balance is to perform a saliva test — ideally, before beginning any type of hormone replacement therapy.
Just feeling “okay” is something that women shouldn’t just accept as being normal or a part of aging. Find a knowledgeable practitioner that can help you get to the root cause of your health concerns. Recommendations should include making lifestyle changes such as cleansing and detox, eating a healthy organic diet, as well as addressing hormone imbalance. Listen…you can feel good again — it’s just a decision away.
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