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We hear a lot about estrogen not not as much about progesterone. A philosophy we have is “Estrogen may be the King of hormones but it is nothing without its Queen, Progesterone”. In acknowledgment of our Queen, let’s talk about progesterone. When hormones are properly tested, if out of balance, progesterone is almost always low. Low progesterone can lead to estrogen dominance and cause a cascade of uncomfortable symptoms. These symptoms of low progesterone can be hard to link together to reveal the root cause of the hormone imbalance. 

 

What are the symptoms of low progesterone?

Progesterone is the main hormone responsible for regulating your menstrual cycle. As a result, symptoms of low progesterone may present as changes in your menstrual cycle. This can result in abnormal bleeding or difficulty getting pregnant and/or maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

Additional low progesterone symptoms may appear as:

  • PMS
  • Painful periods,
  • Ovarian cysts, and
  • Fluid retention (bloating)
  • Weight gain
  • Breast tenderness
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats

It’s also important to note, during menopause your body naturally decreases its production of progesterone, which can heighten the above symptoms.

What causes low progesterone levels?

It’s impossible to pinpoint one singular cause of low progesterone or hormone imbalance. However, potential causes of low progesterone levels could be:

  • Low precursor hormones (like the upstream hormone LH)
  • Increased prolactin (which is an antagonist or opposite hormone for progesterone),
  • Increased stress
  • High alcohol intake
  • Antidepressant use
  • Environmental exposures to toluene & benzenes
  • Excessive arginine
  • Saturated fat, and sugar in your diet
  • Increased estrogen levels
  • Deficiencies in vitamins, A, B6, C, and zinc
  • Stress 

Notably, high stress in particular, plays a significant role in low progesterone levels. This is due to the long-term stress hormone, cortisol, being created on the same pathway as progesterone. Simply, more cortisol production equals less progesterone production.

How can I increase my progesterone levels?

Once you know your progesterone levels are low (through proper testing), you can seek treatment to help increase them. Some simple ways to promote healthy progesterone levels is to ensure you are getting all of the necessary vitamins and minerals in your diet. Additionally, decreasing the number of environmental estrogens you are exposed to throughout your day can significantly help your body’s hormone levels maintain balance.

Self-diagnosing and treating hormone imbalance is not something we recommend. However, we support efforts you do on your own to help boost your body’s ability to regulate your hormones. Ultimately, we recommend seeking treatment from a hormone expert. Working with a naturopathic physician who specializes in hormone balancing to balance your hormones is the best route. Treatment from a naturopathic physician might involve the use of herbs or if indicated, bio-identical hormone creams, but should always include proper testing.

Progesterone’s relationship to Estrogen

One of the most important factors in balancing your hormones is understanding the estrogen to progesterone ratio. It is essential that progesterone and estrogen work in an optimal ratio. As a result, it is paramount to both support low progesterone and to decrease potential high estrogen (estrogen dominance). This can be done through botanical medicines and/or possibly replacement hormone therapy, under the care of a licensed professional.

Proper testing to determine your current hormone levels is necessary. Armed with your lab results and symptoms, we will be able to find an optimal treatment plan for you. Our goal is to not only fix low progesterone but to get all other hormones back into balance as well.