Are you looking for natural ways to increase progesterone for better hormone health?
Progesterone may just be one of the most fascinating female hormones there is. While it is the powerhouse of the menstrual cycle, this is just the tip of the iceberg when looking at all the aspects of your health progesterone affects.
Let’s dive into the importance of progesterone, the symptoms you’ll see when it is too low, and how you can naturally increase your progesterone for better hormone health!
If you haven't already, make sure to check out our post on the gut-fertility connection! It is a must-read.
What is Progesterone?
Progesterone is one of the primary female sex hormones. It belongs to a group of steroid hormones called progestogens.
The word progesterone can be broken down into “pro” meaning to promote, and “gesterone” meaning pregnancy, revealing its primary role in pregnancy promotion.
In your menstrual cycle, an egg is released from your ovaries during ovulation. The remaining follicle that released the egg creates a temporary organ called the corpus luteum that produces progesterone.
Progesterone is then released as the key hormone during the second half of your menstrual cycle, known as the luteal phase occurring after ovulation.
Why is Progesterone Important?
The main function of progesterone is to prepare the endometrium, the lining of your uterus, for a fertilized egg to implant and grow in.
If successful, pregnancy will occur, and progesterone will continue to increase to support the growth of the embryo. If pregnancy does not occur, progesterone levels decline as your endometrial lining sheds resulting in your period.
While progesterone is crucial for a healthy pregnancy, it is also important even if you're not trying to conceive. You want to make sure your body is still ovulating in order to keep a healthy menstrual cycle and hormonal balance.
Let’s look at a few other ways progesterone benefits the body:
Helps to maintain a healthy level of estrogen in the body. If you have too low progesterone, there is nothing to neutralize estrogen in the body, allowing it to go out of control and cause a hormonal condition known as estrogen dominance.
Helps to regulate the timing of menstruation. Without adequate progesterone levels, your uterine lining may not get the signal to shed as the hormonal cascade is disrupted.
Promotes a healthy uterine lining. Since progesterone’s main role is to promote pregnancy, it protects the uterine lining and makes it sticky for egg implantation.
Has anti-anxiety effects. Due to progesterone’s stimulation of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter in the brain, it is seen as the relaxing hormone that also promotes sleep.
Muscle relaxation. Progesterone has a relaxing effect on the smooth muscles of your bowels which can help promote better bowel movements and transit times.
Progesterone and Gut Health
You may not think your progesterone levels play much of a role in your gut health, but progesterone proves to be more magical than you think!
Progesterone has been shown to play an important role in tightening your junctions and decreasing the permeability of your gut which is common in a syndrome known as leaky gut.
Progesterone also helps with overall gut motility by relaxing the muscle cells and moderating motility. It has also been shown to help increase satiety after meals helping with weight regulation and overall digestive health.
Signs and Symptoms of Low Progesterone
Since progesterone plays such a large role in so many aspects of your health, it is important to be able to identify the symptoms you may feel in connection with low progesterone levels.
Some symptoms include:
Migraines or frequent headaches
These symptoms are the first telltale sign your progesterone levels may be out of whack.
The next step is to get your hormonal levels checked. At New York City Nutrition, we offer hormonal testing as one of our services, taking a test don’t guess approach. Testing allows our team of dietitians to see your imbalances and tailor your interventions to support exactly what your hormones need. Check out our services page for more help!
What Causes Low Progesterone?
A variety of factors can cause low progesterone. Some of the most common risk factors that impact progesterone production include:
Over-exercising/ under eating
High prolactin levels
Low thyroid function
It is important to find the root cause of your low progesterone in order to reverse the effects and find natural ways to increase progesterone levels.
Natural Ways to Increase Progesterone
Luckily enough, there are plenty of ways to support natural progesterone production, as we will discuss!
Eat more healthy fats. If there are any foods you should eat to increase progesterone levels, it is dietary fat. This includes foods like avocados, olive oil, salmon, and nuts. Healthy fats are a necessity for hormonal production. Research has shown that regular consumption of healthy fats increases progesterone levels and improves ovulation rates.
Zinc. Zinc plays an important role in the reproductive system and has been shown to increase the number of binding sites on progesterone receptors. You are able to supplement your diet with zinc through whole food sources like meat, poultry, nuts, and seeds.
Try Chaste Tree Berry. This herbal supplement is also known as Vitex agnus-castus, and is known for its ability to boost progesterone levels and keep prolactin levels down.
Take Magnesium. Magnesium is involved in over 300 functions in your body and is also one of the most deficient minerals in the US. Studies have shown that supplementing with magnesium keeps estrogen levels in check. Since estrogen and progesterone work in opposition, when estrogen is low, progesterone will be able to increase naturally.
Reduce Stress. When your cortisol levels are constantly heightened, your body shuts down reproductive functions because it senses it is not a safe time to conceive. Reducing stress levels will lower cortisol and naturally cause an increase in progesterone.
Limit Caffeine. Caffeine increases your cortisol levels which have been shown to hinder progesterone production. Caffeine also affects estrogen metabolism leading to high levels of estrogen. Studies have shown a decrease in caffeine improves progesterone levels.
Balance Blood Sugar. Making sure your meals contain a protein, fiber, and healthy fat source helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. This is crucial to prevent extra stress on your body hindering progesterone production. Unstable blood sugar can also lead to insulin resistance which has been shown to lead to hormonal imbalances.
Take Vitamin B6. With estrogen dominance, Vitamin B6 can become depleted. This becomes an issue as this vitamin is needed for healthy progesterone levels. Supplementing with Vitamin B6 has been shown to lower estrogen levels and increase progesterone.
The Takeaway: The Individualized Approach to Increasing Progesterone
Whether you are trying to conceive or not, making sure your progesterone levels are normal is crucial for more than just your menstrual cycle health!
Remember, having any of the symptoms mentioned above is not normal and is a sign of some underlying hormonal imbalance.
While all the tips mentioned are natural ways to increase progesterone, many of them contain supplements that should not be taken blindly. Working with one of our specialized dietitians at New York City Nutrition will help you get to the root cause of your hormonal imbalance through our hormonal testing.