Do you know in all of the Hormone Health Consultations I’ve done this year, I haven’t encountered one woman with high progesterone? Shocker!
If you know anything about what it takes to maintain healthy progesterone levels, that shouldn’t be a big surprise. Some of the things that put our progesterone production at risk include the most common things we deal with as women today:
Popping the pill (AKA taking hormonal birth control)
All of these things affect ovulation, and without regular ovulation it’s impossible to maintain strong levels of progesterone.
If you want to support your body’s production of progesterone, you have to support your body’s ability to ovulate.
1) Reduce stress: lately I’ve been banging my stress reduction drum pretty loudly for a reason. When we are under chronic stress, our body starts pumping out higher than normal amounts of cortisol. Since cortisol and progesterone share the same receptor sites, even if you are producing sufficient levels of progesterone, it won’t be able to enter the cell as it’s meant to because cortisol will have gotten there first. Also, cortisol and progesterone are produced from the same master hormone (pregnenalone) so when cortisol is in high demand the body dials down the production of progesterone to keep up. Deal with your stress and with your stressors.
2) Stop taking the pill: if you are taking a combined hormonal contraceptive that includes both estrogen and progestin, you are not ovulating. That, after all, is the point of taking it in the first place. No ovulation means no pregnancy. The trade off is that your body doesn’t produce progesterone and the bleeding you experience isn’t a real period. It’s a withdrawal bleed.
(Sidenote: Progestins are synthetic hormones that are produced from progesterone or testosterone, but have very different effects on the body).
3) Include foods in your diet that support progesterone production: especially those high in vitamin B6 and zinc. Think bananas, beans, whole grains, spinach, broccoli, and kale. This is also one of the reasons why seed cycling is all the rage because sunflower and sesame seeds are thought to have this effect when eaten every day in the second half of the menstrual cycle.
4) Get to sleep: Lack of sleep affects our bodies in so many ways, including raising levels of stress hormones. When we skimp on sleep, cortisol goes up. See point number 1 if you’re wondering why that’s a problem. One of the best things you can do to get better quality sleep is disconnect from all of your devices at least an hour before bed, stop drinking alcohol at least two hours before bed, and get your head on the pillow at the same time every night.
5) Try chasteberry: Chasteberry (or vitex) is an herb that increases progesterone by supporting the pituitary gland. One of the pituitary gland’s main functions is signalling to the ovaries how much of certain hormones they need to make. It has also been shown to increase the secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH) and to stimulate the growth of the corpus luteum, which in turn increases the production of progesterone. Most women see an improvement after three months.
(Sidenote: Vitex isn’t for everyone, especially those who experience sadness as their primary PMS symptom. If that sounds like you, taking Vitex can lead to serious episodes of depression.)
As I mentioned in the last post, keeping your levels of progesterone within normal levels goes a long way in ensuring that estrogen doesn’t get out of control. Estrogen dominance, after all, is a result of an imbalance between the two.
What are you doing to support your progesterone levels? If it’s something you’d like to explore further, get in touch and I would be happy to help.