HORMONE SERIES | The Deep Dive Into Low Progesterone
I wanted to follow up my estrogen dominance post with a post on low progesterone because they have a lot of overlapping symptoms. However, there are some nuances. You can be estrogen dominant in comparison to your progesterone levels without having excess estrogen. If this were the case, then a supplement like DIM wouldn’t be anywhere near as effective as a supplement like Vitex would be for you. Make sense? Don’t worry, I’ll dive into the causes and signs of low progesterone so you can really decipher whether you are dealing with a progesterone deficiency or excess estrogen and then treat from there.
(A blood test with a qualified healthcare practitioner would be a great idea here, but remember that progesterone levels are typically measured on Day 21 so if your cycle is long or short, you might not be getting accurate results.)
Let’s dive into some of the common causes of low progesterone:
- Uncontrolled Stress. Cortisol and progesterone are made from the same precursor hormone called pregnenolone so when cortisol production ramps up, progesterone production slows down. This phenomenon is known as Pregnenolone Steal. It’s actually a double whammy because progesterone is your body’s calming, relaxing hormone and can be a major help in times of stress.
- The Birth Control Pill. The majority of your progesterone is produced when you ovulate so if you don’t ovulate, you don’t make progesterone. The pill contains a synthetic version of progesterone, but it is a far cry from your body’s natural progesterone. For that reason, when you stop taking the pill, low progesterone levels can pose a real problem.
- Low Thyroid Function. Long story short, you need adequate thyroid hormone to make progesterone.
- Lack of Ovulation. Tracking your cycles to determine if you are actually ovulating every month is a great idea if you aren’t sure. A period is not always a reliable indication that ovulation occurred. Examine changes in your cervical fluid and use a basal body thermometer to look for low pre-ovulation and high post-ovulation temperatures. (Everybody is different so give yourself 3 to 4 months to determine your particular temperature range.)
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. PCOS affects approximately 1 in 15 women in the U.S. and is the leading cause of infertility. Many women with the condition do not ovulate and therefore experience chronically low progesterone levels. Acne can be a major problem for women with PCOS (this relates more to high androgen levels though).
- Nutrient Deficiencies. Fat is a hormonal building block so a diet low in this macronutrient can result in inadequate hormone production.
Signs of low progesterone include:
- Difficulty Getting or Staying Pregnant.
- Luteal Phase Defect (aka, a short luteal phase). You may notice this in the form of breakthrough bleeding during the second half of your cycle and/or more frequent periods.
- PMS type symptoms, including menstrual migraines, bloating, breast tenderness, and acne.
- Heavy menstrual flow.
Don’t despair! There are plenty of approaches you can take to boost your body’s supply of progesterone. Here are a few tactics for bringing your body back into balance:
- Manage Your Stress.
- Reduce Exposure to Environmental Toxins.
- Increase your intake of quality fats like grass-fed butter, coconut oil, avocado, and ghee.
- Supplement Wisely. If low progesterone is plaguing you, consider taking a B Vitamin Complex, Zinc, and Magnesium. Additionally, get your Vitamin D levels checked and supplement accordingly.
- Consider Vitex. This herbal remedy does not contain any progesterone, but it helps to boost your body’s natural production of progesterone. It can be a boon for cystic acne.
- Get Adequate Sleep.
- Make Restorative Exercise a Priority (think yin yoga, walking in nature, etc.)
Progesterone is your feel good hormone. You want as much of it as possible! If you aren’t sure if low progesterone is behind your hormonal acne or PMS or other symptoms, book a session. I’m here to help!!