Low Progesterone? 5 Signs To Look Out For
Women in a healthy balanced state exude a sense of calm, sexy, confidence. Unfortunately our hormones can easily put a damper on things and we know that low progesterone is known to compromise one’s mood, weight balance and libido.
Even though oestrogen is seen as the women’s hormone, its sisterly antagonist progesterone has many vital roles in the body. In fact we now know that progesterone is even cancer protective. Balancing progesterone could be the key to re-establishing true longevity.
In this article we discuss the 5 signs to look out for when progesterone is low.
1. Progesterone, reproductive disorders & infertility
The steroid hormone progesterone was discovered by the medical world in 1933. For most of this century it was only seen as the pregnancy hormone, but today we are discovering the true multitude of its function.
A woman’s menstrual cycle involves a fine-tuned dance between progesterone and oestrogen. Every time ovulation occurs it triggers a surge of the essential progesterone supply. If progesterone drops too low or oestrogen escalates too high, ones monthly cycle becomes impaired.
This can result in reproductive disorders such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), anovulation (no ovulation), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), infertility and later menopause problems.
The ‘pill’ is often prescribed as the solution to reproductive disorders, yet it’s designed to attach the drug progestin (not progesterone) to the progesterone receptors to block the uptake of progesterone thus preventing ovulation. The problem is if we don’t ovulate we don’t produce progesterone. Balanced progesterone levels are essential for a healthy reproductive system.
2. Low libido
Not all libido problems are emotionally based. Sometimes our sex hormones become scrambled leaving ones libido high and dry. Testosterone is the hormone most commonly linked to libido, and while it does have an important role in the bedroom for both men and women it is not the only hormone worth focusing on.
Testosterone supplementation alone can leave you feeling aggressive, growing facial hair and balding. Not exactly a sexy experience. For both women and men, testosterone supplementation can also be converted into estrogen by the body, promoting weight gain, depression and further hormone based problems.
Progesterone is unique in that it is a precursor hormone and an end hormone; meaning apart from many tasks, it also has the job of making or suppressing other steroid hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen. Apart from increasing a sense of sexiness by itself, progesterone can also increase testosterone when necessary. Low thyroid function is also known to inhibit libido and progesterone increases thyroid hormones. Therefore when progesterone is supported, the body can create a well-tuned hormonal orchestra to play the symphony of libido, arousal and orgasm once again – even post menopause.
3. Anxiety, depression & insomnia
Progesterone is known to be the calming hormone. This is easy to see during the second trimester of pregnancy when a woman has 40 times her normal progesterone levels circulating in her body; she is soft, serene and glowing. Progesterone has two roles in a healthy nervous system; it increases the action of GABA, a neurotransmitter that calms the neural pathways, allowing one to digest life one step at a time. And it reduces ‘frayed nerves’ by repairing the myelin sheath (the fatty coating that creates smooth nerve communication), thus reducing any sense of overstimulation and reinstating a calm state mind.
Women who suffer from PMS are often familiar with the depressive consequence of low progesterone. Upon studying the nature of PMS, researchers discovered that not only was progesterone too low during the last 10 days before menstruation, but so was the neurotransmitter serotonin, otherwise known as the happy hormone. Serotonin is also the precursor for our sleep hormone melatonin, suggesting low progesterone is involved in insomnia.
The baby blues commonly occurs after birth, but postnatal depression (PND) on the other hand is a more serious matter and can last years. During pregnancy the placenta produces the grand surge of progesterone needed to create a baby. This progesterone production drops away dramatically after the placenta is released from the womb at birth. Ten per cent of new mothers suffer from PND and on rare occasions it can lead to postnatal psychosis. British gynaecologist In the 1950’s British gynaecologist Dr Katherina Dalton, found a strong correlation between bad PMS, PND and menopause problems in women.
4. Stress & fatigue
Stress is run of the mill for most of us, yet our stress capacity can change at any time. We may spend a few decades easily juggling life, but at some point the balls begin to drop. Hormonally women become more sensitive to stress from the age of 35, for men it is closer to 40. Cortisol is our long-term stress hormone it can carry us for months, years or even decades. Cortisol is made from progesterone.
The more stress we are under the more progesterone is stolen away from the reproductive system, the thyroid and the brain, and shunted to the adrenal glands to keep us in survival state. This creates a vicious cycle; the more stressed we are, the more our nervous system and mood balance is put under strain, which creates more stress. If our progesterone levels drop too low, our cortisol diminishes and we become fatigued. Cortisol also affects our blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Progesterone support and stress management are essential to break this downward spiral.
5. Weight gain
The delicate dance of oestrogen and progesterone has a major influence on our weight. Oestrogen sculpts the soft feminine curves on a woman’s body. Even though some women are naturally more curvy, we can have too much of a good thing. Not only can high oestrogen levels increase our weight, it can also create various health risks.
Today we now know that oestrogen has a big part to play in the growth of cancer. Plus high oestrogen and low progesterone both compromise the blood sugar level, increasing the craving for simple carbohydrates and the risk of insulin resistance.
Oestrogen is not the only hormone that causes weight gain; cortisol also has its role. Belly fat is not fun for anyone, but for men and women long-term high cortisol increases the fat deposit around ones midriff. As most of us already know the thyroid also controls our metabolism and weight balance. Thankfully progesterone can balance oestrogen and improve thyroid function, plus it reduces stress and keeps cortisol in check.
There are many culprits that can increase oestrogen and cortisol, and reduce progesterone and thyroid production: stress, environmental chemicals, cleaning products, lack of sleep, sugar, refined foods, and oestrogen in meat and dairy all play their hand. Supporting healthy progesterone levels is an important step towards balanced weight and overall hormone health.
Today we know of many simple but effective ways to balance hormones. Foods such as seeds, dark green leaves, avocados, coconut oil, eggs and fish all help to increase our progesterone levels.
If you feel low progesterone could be a problem, look for the nearest integrative medicine doctor to help you nourish your hormones back to a healthy thriving state.
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