What You Need to Know About Progesterone

As a woman, you have many different hormones that affect your fertility and various other functions. When you are peri-menopausal or starting menopause, it’s still necessary to have a balance of your entire endocrine system and one of the main hormones is progesterone.   

Progesterone 

For most of my life, I didn’t give much thought to my hormones, except when my period was about to happen. Whatever my friends, progesterone and estrogen were doing three weeks out of the month, was uneventful, until the twenty-eighth or thirtieth day of the month, then, “Wham!” My abdomen would feel more bloated, I’d have an increase in appetite (especially for carbs), my complexion was pale, I looked tired and was more emotional. I’m painting such a lovely picture that's relatable to the time when we were all menstruating. Now that I’m in the menopause stage of life, PMS is a thing of the past and so is birth control. It’s one of the parts about being female that I’m sure many women don’t miss, including myself.   

You might not really understand what progesterone is or what role it plays, but it’s a type of hormone that helps with many functions in your body:   

Progesterone is among the hormones women need to keep balanced, alongside estrogen, estrone, estradiol, testosterone and others.  

Why You Need Progesterone 

The reason doctors are concerned about progesterone levels is because of how much it impacts your body, if levels are off balance. Not just your gynecological health, but also parts of your body and mind as well. Your mental and physical health both do best when you have adequate amounts of progesterone in your body.  

How to Improve Progesterone Levels 

If you suffer from a hormonal imbalance, you are not alone. Fortunately, there are natural ways you can correct your hormone levels, including progesterone, without medications. Making lifestyle changes such as eating a whole foods diet that consists of healthy fats, wild fish, grass fed meat and pasture raised poultry, organic vegetables and fruits and complex carbohydrates like yams, squash and seed grains like quinoa makes a huge difference.  Getting plenty of exercise, and eliminating negative habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol also have a positive impact on progesterone. I know it’s easier said than done, but making small changes that are doable and realistic over time will lead to life log lasting changes.

If you want an excellent way to accurately measure your hormone levels you can order the DUTCH test from Dr. Suzy Cohen. It’s a complete hormone panel that will give you a breakdown and explanation of your results that you can share with your health care provider. It’s a simple test that uses a urine sample.  Before you order, just make sure to read the info about your state’s rules on the website and email Suzy Cohen’s support department. I live in New York, where the kit cannot be mailed, so I would have to have it sent to another state where I have a friend that can fortunately receive it. She then mails it to me and problem solved. It’s a bit of a workaround but totally worth it.  

Your doctor can provide a progesterone supplement, if you’re unable to improve the issue on your own. The results of the DUTCH test will help provide a better direction, when you know exactly what your numbers are. There are natural progesterone options like wild yam cream that can be helpful and it may be a bit of trial and error until you find the right protocol. Too many women just shake their head yes and do whatever their health care provider says without questioning. Nothing against the medical profession, but it’s your body and you need to treat it like the temple that it is so ask questions and educate yourself by reading and researching. This way you are prepared to make better choices.  

Did you know that essential oils have been around for thousands of years and used to improve a variety of health issues, and menopause symptoms are one of them. The Delightful Hormone balancing serum smells and works great and you can make it yourself in under five minutes! It helps balance progesterone and estrogen and has a calming effect on the nervous system. I love DIY and have made several body care products that are a part of my self care routine. You can look up websites for where to buy essential oils or you can use the company I recommend here called planttherapy.com.  

The ingredients are essential oils of thyme, clary sage and ylang ylang. Use evening primrose oil as a carrier oil for the other oils.  

Essential oil of thyme improves progesterone production for both men and women. Low progesterone levels are associated with infertility, PCOS, depression and other hormonal imbalances.  

There is always a risk when you choose to take hormone replacement drugs. For one thing, it makes your body dependent on synthetic ingredients that are not natural to the body. Second, it increases the potential for issues in other areas of your health that can lead to serious side effects that may require other medications to offset. Before you know it, you could be on several medications that are controlling your bodily functions. When I wanted to get pregnant at 41, I was told my progesterone was low. Instead of taking drugs that were recommended by one Ob/Gyn, I did acupuncture and saw a Chinese herbalist who told me a synthetic form of progesterone would weaken my ovaries’ natural ability to produce progesterone on their own. The herbs worked for me, and I knew then that I would trust my body's innate intelligence and choose a holistic approach first. Drugs would always be a last resort. Every woman needs to trust her own intuition and decide what's best for herself.  

The second ingredient for the hormone balancing serum, essential oil of clary sage, helps balance out estrogen production in the body. Many health issues such as infertility, PCOS and estrogen-based cancers are caused from excess estrogen in the body. Some of that has to do with eating high estrogen foods such as dairy, wheat, soy (most soy is processed and contributes to an increase in estrogen) and alcohol. There is more to say on this topic but I will leave that for another post.  

The third ingredient is essential oil of ylang ylang and helps with libido and stress.

Delightfully Balancing Hormone Serum 

1 oz. Evening Primrose oil (carrier oil) 

30 drops of essential oil of clary sage 

30 drops of essential oil of thyme oil 

30 drops of essential oil of ylang ylang  

Directions  

Mix all ingredients in a 2 oz dark colored glass vial with a dropper.  

Rub 5 drops onto neck twice a day.  

Note: Click on the links so they take you to where you can purchase the ingredients.  

Here’s to having happy hormones! 😊  

5 Signs You May Have a Hormonal Imbalance

Abnormal levels of hormones during menopause can wreak havoc and have a negative impact not only on the person suffering from such a condition, but also to the people who are near and dear.  Mood swings, are one of many symptoms of hormonal imbalances. Remember the classic old horror film, “Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde?” Dr. Jekyl is a scientist who drinks one of his potions and is then transformed from neighborhood nice guy into a raging half man half beast. A beast that’ll go ape on anyone or anything in his way.

Perhaps, this describes your mood swings where one moment you feel happy and confident and the next it’s all gloom and doom. It’s important to have an understanding of the root cause of any hormonal imbalance, including what approach to take. If any unusual symptoms have lasted beyond eight weeks, it’s a good idea to seek professional help from a reliable source (typically an endocrinologist).  An endocrinologist can give you the present status of your hormone levels so you have a proper baseline of what’s going on in your body. This knowledge will enable you to explore the safest and best options to reclaim your hormonal health.  In many cases, lifestyle changes can make an incredible difference. 

#1 Consistent Weight Gain 

Are you engaged in a strict diet and exercise routine, but don’t see any positive changes? There are many possible reasons, but if you’re packing on the pounds in spite of your disciplined efforts, there’s a strong chance it could be a hormonal imbalance. Your metabolism dictates how much weight you will lose and if your hormones are out of order, it negatively impacts your metabolic furnace. During menopause, fat storage is more common, especially in the midsection, which makes this area harder to tone. Not impossible at all, but that’s another blog post where I will discuss why it’s essential for women in menopause to build muscle. Muscle is more metabolically active tissue that burns fat, gives your body shape and increases your confidence just to list a few of the many benefits.

#2 Desire to Eat More

Another sign of a hormonal imbalance is your appetite can increase. Even after a full course dinner, there’s a strong desire to raid the refrigerator in pursuit of last nights’ left overs. Pushing your plate away feels like some herculean effort. Will power? Gone.  “What’s happening to me?” you ask. During menopause, there’s an increase in the appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin, and there’s a decrease of the hormone, leptin, which is responsible for the feeling of fullness after you eat. Menopause, in an odd way, is like having a second adolescence minus the pimples. In addition to persistent hunger, you may also have some unusual cravings similar to pregnancy. When I was pregnant, I craved lemons and steak. I think the pickles and ice cream idea comes from Hollywood movies. I never knew anyone that ate that during their pregnancy. The desire to eat more doesn’t describe all women who go through menopause, but it can affect a good percentage. Look for future blogs about how to balance ghrelin and leptin and get control of your appetite. 

#3 Lack of Sex Drive 

Let’s face it, sex is a normal part of an adult’s life and when you suffer from hormonal irregularities, it’s not unusual to find your mojo M.I.A. Comparing my sex drive in my twenties to my fifties, is like comparing a Porche to a Mercedez Benz. I may not be speeding down the highway at 75 miles per hour like I did as a millennial but I find a slower speed in a luxury car is equally, if not more than satisfying. It’s quality over quantity.  Regardless of whatever your partner does to ignite your fire, the answer is more complex.  Abnormal levels of estrogen, thyroid, and cortisol, which are all essential hormones in a woman’s body, can create vaginal dryness which makes sex painful. If something is painful, the tendency will be to avoid it or do less of it.  Extra weight gain from menopause can do a number on a woman’s physical image of herself. That alone can make her want to avoid nocturnal action. No matter how much your partner compliments you, it's important for you to believe it yourself.

#4 Mood Swings 

Mood swings are another strong sign something is off. Especially, if you’ve always been pretty even-tempered. One moment you feel happy and filled with gratitude and then, “Wham!” out of nowhere, sadness smacks you upside the head. Your eyes even well up with tears. The smallest things cause you to explode and you often feel irritable. You may experience that friends, family and co-workers seem to avoid you because your mood swings make them feel uncomfortable. This can lead to depression and the unnecessary over prescribing of anti-depressants that many doctors dole out to menopausal women, which is like putting a band-aid on a broken bone. It’s necessary to get to the root of the problem and dig. Many mood issues can be corrected by addressing the gut which is where the majority of serotonin lives. A majority of women I know have digestive disorders from constipation, bloating, SIBO, to IBS which affects your mental and emotional state. Changes in mood can also be the result of your monthly cycle, if you still have a cycle. Women with balanced hormones are less prone to experiencing extreme highs and lows of their emotions. Your mood swings can especially peak, if you're already in menopause.

#5 Fatigue

The last sign is daily fatigue. Even if all you did was buy groceries, check your email and binge watch your favorite Netflix series for three hours, you may feel wiped out. Do you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning?  Do you find yourself wanting to take a nap at least once a day? That sounds like fatigue. Cortisol is the hormone that’s released when we are under stress and if your levels are elevated that can cause tiredness. Menopause can also cause sleep disturbances because of the imbalance of cortisol. Cortisol should be elevated in the morning and low at night. If cortisol is high at night, then you’ll feel wired and energized.  Hot flashes and night sweats also negatively impact sleep making the ability to concentrate a challenge. 

If you said yes to one or more of the five signs of hormonal imbalances described above, a functional medical doctor that specializes in women’s health can be an excellent resource. Functional medicine takes the WHOLE person into consideration and the consultation is often longer compared to a regular general practitioner. You may be asked to fill out a five-day food journal, bathroom habits (Bristol Stool Chart), along with an extensive health history time line from child hood to your present age. It truly is personalized and will get to the root cause of your situation. 

As you can see, optimum health depends on advocating for yourself so you can have a life that thrives and be the vital woman you’re meant to be.