By Dr Nina Lange
Progesterone is one of the key hormones in a woman’s body. In proper balance with Estrogen and Testosterone, it functions to regulate menstrual cycles, improve fertility, ease menopausal transition and PMS, promote sleep and feeling calm, speed up metabolism and generates a general sense of wellbeing.
Without adequate levels, we see signs such as insomnia, bloating and water retention, PMS, irregular cycles, menstrual cramping, fibroids/PCOS, infertility, and anxiety.
As Naturopathic physicians we often test the levels of these hormones through a salivary hormone panel and make a plan for optimizing your levels of all of these hormones. Because we live in a society where Estrogen tends to dominate due to the use of pesticides, plastics and chemical hormones we more often see low Progesterone.
So what do we do to raise this incredibly important hormone?
1.Treat the adrenal glands: This is another way of saying “help your body adapt better to stress”. Because Progesterone is produced in both the ovaries and adrenal glands (that also regulate your stress responses) these important glands need to be strong. Reducing chronic stress by taking even small steps to support the adrenals through lifestyle changes (sleep, diet and moderate exercise) and supportive herbs and nutritional supplements will help to optimize their ability to produce adequate levels of Progesterone.
2.Detoxify the liver: the liver metabolizes hormones so in order to ensure proper ratios of Estrogen to Progesterone, support the liver on an ongoing basis. We also suggest talking to your ND about whether doing a detox/cleanse is right for you.
Along with some herb/supplements, consider a simple step such as a glass of warm water with lemon every morning to start stimulating the liver’s detoxification processes.
3. Herbs and Nutrition: Along with food sources, use supportive herbs and nutritional supplements in doses that are prescribed specifically for your needs. Although there are many herbs and nutrients that can assist in bringing up Progesterone, some of our favourite ones include
I3C: broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, brussel sprouts
These help to reduce the load of harmful Estrogen in the body, which in turn increases the ratio of Progesterone to Estrogen
Vitamin B6: walnuts, beans, bananas, spinach, potatoes, lean red meat
Helps liver detoxify Estrogen
Zinc: shellfish, beef, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, wheatgerm
Stimulates Progesterone production
Magnesium: beans, pumpkin, whole grains, nuts, spinach
Supports adrenal glands in is useful in every enzyme reaction in the body which in turn helps produce hormones
Chaste tree: a herb that has a potent effect on the pituitary gland and is useful in directly stimulating the body’s production of Progesterone
Licorice Root, Rhodiola, Ashwaghanda, Shisandra: these herbs help to strengthen the adrenals allowing them to help produce and release sex hormones.
Evening Primrose Oil/Borage Oil: high in the fatty acid, GLA, these oils help to provide compounds for the body to make more Progesterone. Always balance these with fish oils or flax (omega 3s).
4.Regular sleep and meals: Make sure you get adequate sleep and at regular times. Ideally, going to bed between 9-11pm and waking between 6-8am, ensuring 7-9 hours sleep nightly, will assist the adrenals and pituitary gland in the brain in regulating the production of Progesterone
Eat meals that include protein at regular intervals to keep blood sugars stable. Eating erratically or having blood sugar spikes and lows will further stress the adrenals.
Decreasing the stress of inadequate sleep and blood sugar imbalances will unburden the adrenals, allowing them to release adequate levels of the hormones necessary for proper hormone balance.
Take charge of balancing your Hormones today! You can find out if your Progesterone is low and treat it! Proper hormone levels make a world of difference as they affect all aspects of your sense of wellbeing.