How can I increase my progesterone level?
This is a question I get asked a lot from my fertility clients. Firstly let’s talk about why progesterone is important for fertility. Progesterone as the name suggests is the pregnancy hormone (pro-gest-ation). It plays an important role throughout pregnancy but in particular at the beginning of pregnancy because it is the progesterone released from the corpus luteum (the structure left when the egg is released) that provides all the progesterone needed to maintain and hold the pregnancy.
Progesterone also plays an important role in the second half of the menstrual cycle which is the part called the Luteal phase. Progesterone ensures that the lining of the womb stays there for roughly 14 days after ovulation in case you fall pregnant. If you conceive progesterone rises. If not, progesterone levels drop again causing the lining to come away which we know as the period.
When progesterone is chronically low, this process malfunctions and the progesterone peak may not happen as it should and this is bad for fertility. That is because it can lead to irregular or very heavy periods. You may also experience pre-menstrual migraines and more intense symptoms of PMS.
Progesterone plays both an antidepressant and anti-anxiety role in the body and so it is very calming on the brain.
As women age their progesterone levels naturally decline. This means that as women get older, they have to work harder to keep their hormones balanced; that means keeping stress levels down so that your hormones stay balanced. If you have been to your doctor and had a day 21 blood test which is the one that checks for your progesterone level then do ask for the figure, it ideally wants to be at 40 or more.
What I see is that stress is the number one factor that is upsetting womens progesterone levels. This is because the body prioritises stress as its number one and reproduction as its lowest priority.
Progesterone is the soothing calming hormone, its anti-inflammatory and it boosts gaba your calming neurotransmitter.
Reproductive hormones naturally fluctuate for women; that’s why it’s inevitable that women can feel changes in their mood at times but hormone resilience is the ability of your body to adapt to hormone fluctuations.
To achieve Hormone resilience, we need to enhance progesterone levels. To help with this we need to:
- stabilise oestrogen and detoxify it properly from the body. This can be done by improving our digestive health/maintaining healthy intestinal bacteria, reducing alcohol, improving our liver function, avoiding endocrine disrupters, eating nuts, seeds, flax seeds etc.
- Reduce inflammation – to calm your hormone and neurotransmitter receptors.
See below a list of signs from the body that you have progesterone deficiency:
- Poor sleep, especially falling asleep
- Weight gain, if low in progesterone you won’t burn fat stores for energy
- Fluid retention – progesterone is a natural diuretic so if you feel puffy and swollen low progesterone could be the cause
- Sagging skin – skin stays supple when there is enough progesterone
- Thyroid issues – low progesterone can lead to oestrogen dominance and that can interfere with the conversion of the T4 thyroid hormone to the active T3 thyroid hormone.
- pre-menstrual spotting
- a short luteal phase (which is the second half of the cycle from ovulation to the day before the next period)
- PMS symptoms
- Hot flushes
- Over heating at night with potential night sweats
Stress and Progesterone
When we get stressed it negatively affects our progesterone levels. Every time you get anxious or wound up your body responds as if it’s in danger. It produces the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. If your body thinks you are in an unsafe environment it drops progesterone levels to ensure the lining of your uterus is not conception friendly because it doesn’t want anything slowing you down so it can focus on saving your life. Sadly this can still happen to your progesterone even when you’re not actually in danger but ARE feeling stressed. I feel this is a major factor for women experiencing fertility issue and this lowering of progesterone may lead to luteal phase insufficiency.
The reason this happens, is each month when an egg is released, it leaves behind a crater on the surface of your ovaries. This is called a corpus luteum and it’s like a mini progesterone factory. It’s actually where most of your progesterone is made. When you ovulate, your body produces around 25mg of progesterone daily all throughout the fertile phase of your menstrual cycle. Well that’s what it’s supposed to do but sadly it often isn’t actually happening. When women don’t have the right hormonal balance it leads to oestrogen dominance and luteal phase insufficiency which results in progesterone deficiency.
Most women then end up not reaching their progesterone peak in the second half of the cycle. The means a huge drop in the very hormone that helps promote calm and is important for fertility and a stable menstrual cycle.
When we are stressed, the body uses pregnenolone as a building block for making the stress hormone cortisol and progesterone. When you are in chronic stress the body will always prioritise the available pregnenolone to produce higher cortisol levels and NOT progesterone. It will always do this over higher progesterone levels because managing stress is your bodies number one priority. Sadly, these days so many women are dealing with consistent stress in their lives even at a low level with juggling so many commitments that this is becoming a problem for progesterone production.
So, what can you do straight away to help improve your progesterone:
- Take homeopathic remedies to balance the endocrine system and hormone levels in complete harmony with your body. Why not book a free call with me to find out more.
- Reduce/remove inflammatory foods from your diet: ie: wheat, sugar, cow’s milk. Less inflammation means better ovulation and therefore more progesterone
- Reduce stress – Adrenaline blocks your progesterone receptors, also as mentioned above, stress forces your adrenal glands to steal progesterone to make cortisol.
- Exercise, because it reduces stress and inflammation in the body
- Supplement with magnesium, because it boosts progesterone by improving the health of the corpus luteum, it also regulates cortisol and reduces inflammation.
- Reduce exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals ie: plastics and pesticides and wear rubber gloves when cleaing. Unfortunately, environmental toxins stimulate you to make more of certain hormones and less of others. They damage your thyroid gland and block your hormone receptors. They mimic oestrogen and impair oestrogen detoxification.
- Lose weight if you are over weight – you need to maintain a healthy body weight because body fat makes a type of oestrogen called estrone which can upset the natural balance of hormones
- Maintain healthy gut bacteria – Healthy intestinal bacteria escort bad oestrogens out of your body. Also, unhealthy intestinal bacteria release bad oestrogens causing them to be reabsorbed into your blood stream.
If you would like to see how I have helped other women with their progesterone levels please see my success stories page of my website.
Nutrients to boost progesterone levels naturally:
- Selenium, selenium facilitates the formation and integrity of the corpus luteum.
Food sources include: Brazil nuts, seafood, organ meats
- Vitamin C is found to help boost progesterone and correct luteal phase issues.
Food sources include: sweet potato, kiwi, strawberries, oranges, papaya, pumpkin, broccoli, tomatoes, Brussel sprouts and lemons
- Zinc, helps the pituitary gland to release follicle stimulating hormones. This encourages ovulation and also tells your ovaries to produce more progesterone.
Food sources include: Oysters, prawns, beef, lamb, liver, shellfish, red meat, pumpkin and cashew nuts.
- Vitamin E, helps improve luteal blood flow and raise progesterone levels in some women.
Food sources include: sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts. In smaller amounts: avocado, sunflower seeds, red peppers, pumpkin, asparagus, butternut squash, broccoli and mango.
- Vitamin B6, helps combat stress and also helps your liver break down bad oestrogens, reducing oestrogen dominance. Taking Vitamin B6 can help reduce levels of oestrogen while boosting progesterone production.
Food sources include: russet potatoes, salmon, tuna, bananas, spinach, walnuts, beef, chicken, sweet potato, beans and prunes.
- Sulphur is abundant in cruciferous vegetables, so eating them is a great way to reduce oestrogen dominance. They are rich in glucosinolates, which helps with the detoxification process that happens in the liver. This stops the bad oestrogens from circulating too long in the body which can lead to hormone imbalance.
Food sources include Brocoli, kale, swiss chard, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts.
- Fiber is essential in good hormonal balance; it helps with bowel movement and the evacuation of metabolized hormones, including the harmful oestrogens which antagonize progesterone from doing its work.
Food sources include: flaxseed, quinoa, millet, amaranth, teff, gluten free oats.
- L-Arginine this amino acid is found in high-protein foods and it helps your body make nitric acid. In turn nitric acid, relaxes your blood vessels so that circulation increases. This then ensures that your corpus leuteum and other organs such as your ovaries enjoy improved blood flow to help them produce more progesterone.
Food sources include lentils, chickpeas, fish such as salmon, tuna trout, turkey, chicken, pork, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and dairy products.
To find out more about how I work why don’t you down load my free ebook, which outlines how to find your most fertility time.