Today I am talking about progesterone deficiency – in particular I want to discuss 8 effective ways to improve progesterone deficiency.
1. Understanding Progesterone and Progesterone Deficiency
What is progesterone deficiency? Do I have progesterone deficiency?
First let’s talk a little bit more about progesterone.
Progesterone is a really important hormone for women. It’s produced primarily from the corpus luteum which is what is left over from the follicle after the egg is released. For that very reason progesterone levels are much higher for women of child bearing age as compared to women who are post-menopausal. After menopause, it’s actually very normal to have lower progesterone levels.
Progesterone levels are also impacted by breastfeeding as well. Progesterone and prolactin work as a seesaw (prolactin being the breastfeeding hormone). When prolactin levels are high, progesterone levels are low. Therefore, its normal for women who are breastfeeding to have lower progesterone levels.
Progesterone is definitely a feel-good hormone for women. So, if you’re suffering from low progesterone it can have a significant impact on your mood and your emotional well-being.
It’s a really important hormone for female fertility as well. If you are finding that it is taking a long time for you to conceive or if you have a history of recurrent miscarriages, it’s really important to have a look at what is going on with your progesterone levels because low progesterone can be a cause for both of these. There are other potential causes as well which need to be assessed and evaluated but low progesterone is one of the causes.
2. Complete the Hormone Breakthrough Quiz
The first step in identifying whether you may have low progesterone is to take the hormone breakthrough quiz.
This is a short three minute quiz which will give you an indicator as to what could be the leading cause of hormonal imbalance for you and your body.
You can take the quiz here.
It’s certainly not a preclusion for hormone testing. If you want to back the information you receive in the quiz, with some more thorough explanation of what is going on in the body it’s important to get your hormones tested.
3. Have Your Hormones Tested
Saliva hormone testing is a great way measure progesterone levels. Learn more about saliva hormone testing here.
When we’re assessing progesterone it’s important to collect your saliva sample at the correct time. It needs to be collected between days 18-21 of the menstrual cycle. Blood-work can also assess progesterone levels. In this case progesterone is best checked on day 21 of the cycle.
The reason why we choose this very specific time-frame for sample collection is that progesterone production peaks in the luteal phase of the cycle (the second half of the cycle after ovulation).
4. Chart Your Menstrual Cycle
If you want to get a better idea of how low progesterone could be impacting your menstrual cycle I also recommend you start charting your cycle. For women who have low progesterone levels, it’s very common for the cycle length to be short. So, if you’re a woman who knows her cycle length is not that typical 28-day cycle, but you’re experiencing a shorter cycle like perhaps 21-24 days, it’s highly likely you have low progesterone.
The reason for this is that if the cycle length is short, it’s really hard for the body to produce enough progesterone. You need to have a minimum cycle of around 24 days (or at least 10 days post ovulation) in order for your body to have the best opportunity to produce enough progesterone.
If you’re also suffering from pre-menstrual symptoms (or you have any symptoms you experience all cycle, but gets worst pre-menstrual) is also an indicator you might have low progesterone levels.
Again, hormone testing is the best way to conclusively find out if that is the case.
Once you have investigated what is going on in your hormone levels and you do know that you have progesterone deficiency, the next question is what are some affective ways to fix this.
How Can I Improve Progesterone Deficiency Using Natural Medicine?
5. Are You Ovulating?
The first step here is to figure out whether you are actually ovulating. It’s possible to have an anovular cycle – which means you might still have a 28-day cycle, but you might not be ovulating.
This is very common for women in the peri-menopausal phase or in early adolescence (shortly after menarche when the hormones cycles are still balancing and trying to regulate).
So, an anovular cycle at both stages of a women’s reproductive life can occur.
If you’re not ovulating of course that means you are not releasing an egg from the follicle which means progesterone production from the corpus luteum is negligible or very minimal in comparison to the amount of progesterone you would be producing if you were having an ovulatory cycle.
If you have had the hormone test done that will tell us definitively whether you actually ovulated that cycle. Bloodwork and saliva hormone test can both tell us that.
If you’re not ovulating, it’s really important to trigger ovulation and there are some herbs that can be used for that purpose but it’s also beneficial to try and make sure your eggs are as healthy as possible. By ensuring healthy egg production it’s much more likely your body is going to ovulate.
Some other triggers that can block ovulation include thyroid hormone dysfunction and stress. So, if you know you’re not ovulating, it’s important to get a thyroid hormone test done to figure out whether a dysfunction in thyroid hormone production is blocking ovulation but it’s also common for ovulation blocks to occur from stress in general.
6. Manage Your Stress
Physical and emotional stress can both block ovulation. A lot of women find this occurs when they are travelling, because that is a change in lifestyle and this causes some stresses in the physical body that can block ovulation.
Do the best job that you can to address any external stress. Sometimes counselling can really help if there are things in your life that you are struggling to manage.
Doing the best job to take care of your health is very important too. Practicing self-care is one of the best ways to manage stress levels to reduce the impact of stress on both your hormones and your general health.
Exercise is fantastic, even a doing a 20min brisk walk every day is a great way for your body to metabolise and burn up stress hormones. Practising meditation, relaxation and breathing techniques can also help to induce the relaxation response in the body which can counteract any stress that you are experiencing.
I also love bodywork techniques like reflexology, massages, facials – we know that all of these techniques can help induce the relaxation response.
Remember that anything that makes you feel good and helps your mind switch off from stress in your life will to improve your body’s stress response. Some people love hobbies like craft, knitting or painting, other people love playing with their pets. Some people love just watching the sunset. Anything that can get you back into the present moment and switches off the active mind that is continually worrying, churning over events that have occurred is very helpful for helping you manage your stress levels.
If anything, it can help improve your general enjoyment of life!
7. Optimise Your Nutrient Status
Optimising nutrient status is important for both healthy egg production but also healthy hormone production. Two important macro nutrients for supporting progesterone production are protein and cholesterol. If you know you have low progesterone it’s really important that you don’t go onto a low-fat diet.
Cholesterol is a precursor nutrient for progesterone production, so you want to make sure that you’re including cholesterol in your diet from clean sources. Cholesterol is predominately found in foods that comes from animals (e.g. meat and dairy products).
We also know that cholesterol (because it’s a saturated fat) can be impacted by exposure to xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are frequently found in herbicides and pesticides. If the animals that are producing the cholesterol containing foods that you are consuming have eaten herbicides and pesticides, those xenoestrogens will get trapped in the animal’s saturated fat molecules.
It’s really hard to completely eliminate saturated fat from animal foods. In actual fact, you don’t want to because that is where the cholesterol is! You just need to make sure the animal fats you consume are certified organic if you possibly can to minimise xenoestrogen exposure.
Even if you can’t do it all the time, try and make sure the majority of the food you are consuming from animal sources are certified organic. It’s easy to get certified organic eggs, butter and some dairy products from your normal supermarket these days. You might need to go to a more specialised supplier to get certified organic meat but it’s well worth the effort.
If you have to choose between having certified organic fruits and veggies or certified organic animal foods – definitely choose the animal foods first. Make that your priority. With fruits and veggies, you can wash and peel them and other things you can do to help the herbicide and pesticide residue that you just can’t do with animal containing foods.
If you’re a vegan you want to make sure you’re consuming some coconut products in your diet and again those coconut products need to be certified organic. If you’re vegan also make sure you’re consuming enough protein containing foods such as legumes.
Other nutrients that are essential for healthy progesterone production are the B Vitamins and also zinc. Zinc containing foods include pepitas, legumes, shellfish etc. Remember though shellfish can be high in ocean toxins so I would only choose those for special occasions – basically a sometimes food rather than an everyday food. Animal containing foods are also a good source of zinc which you will get automatically if you are consuming them for cholesterol.
B vitamins are found in our whole grains. If you have low progesterone, it’s important that you don’t go grain free. Wholegrains are those grains that still include the outer husk which is where the B vitamins are contained.
A good comparison here is the difference between white rice and brown rice. White rice has had that outer husk removed which means it’s a low B vitamin containing food. Whereas brown rice still contains that outer husk which means it’s a much better source of B Vitamins.
So, for your B Vitamins, wholegrains are a great food to include. Other wholegrains you can consider includes amaranth, spelt, buckwheat – even wholegrain wheat contains a good source of B vitamins as well you just want to make sure you can tolerate wheat products.
A lot of women with a hormone imbalance find that wheat products are more difficult to digest – it just depends on your own idiosyncratic reaction as to whether you can tolerate wheat based products.
I would definitely recommend not going on a grain free diet if you have low progesterone.
8. Herbal Medicine for Progesterone Deficiency
There are some herbs which a great for supporting progesterone production as well. The most common ones that we are aware of are Chaste Tree, White Peony (which is a Chinese herb) and also Tribulus which is an Indian herb. Each of these herbs can be beneficial for women with low progesterone depending on the cause and the symptoms you are experiencing.
The best step is to contact a herbalist who can help prescribe the correct herb for your body in the correct dosage so that you do get the benefits that you are looking for. Please click here if you would like to schedule an appointment.
If you have any other questions about low progesterone make sure you get in touch and let me know.
Thanks so much for listening, bye for now.