Progesterone is an important steroid based hormone in the body. For females, progesterone helps to:
- regulate the menstrual cycle
- maintain pregnancy
- acts as precursor to other steroid hormones
- has an effect on moods / brain function
Progesterone works in relation to other steroid based hormones, in particular estrogen. If progesterone levels are low then symptoms that are typical of estrogen dominance may occur, when in fact it’s progesterone that’s low.
- weight gain
- decreased sex drive,
- mood swings, depression
- Irregular cycle
- heavy menstrual bleeding
Progesterone is also required in adequate levels to help prepare the uterus as a competent and nourishing site for a fertilized egg to implant. Difficulties with pregnancy may arise with the uterus not being receptive enough and this may be due to inadequate progesterone levels.
Progesterone and cortisol (a major stress hormone) have a tricky relationship. Progesterone actually feeds cortisol. High levels of cortisol are often seen with low progesterone levels (1) suggesting the body is diverting the progesterone for increased stress (cortisol demands).
Progesterone is required for normal functioning of our nervous system and has protective effects over the brain, especially in repairing the insulation of fibres (myelin) (2).
Progesterone is broken down and processed along with most all hormones in the liver. Adequate and optimal liver function therefore is important to ensure progesterone and all hormones are balanced.
If you feel like your hormones, in particular your progesterone is not quite in balance it’s critical to evaluate why this is happening along with total symptomatology to determine treatment requirements. Here are some things that would be important to assess:
- Your total stress load, how you cope with stress and your energy.
- Evaluating your actual hormone levels through salivary or urine test
- Evaluation of your menstrual cycle – the length of cycle, days of flow and any PMS signs and when they occur
- Liver function assessment
- Diet, especially assessing intake of good dietary fats
Hormone balance is the linchpin to optimal health so make sure yours are well balanced.
Dr. Sarah Kent is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor specializing in your health. She blends traditional knowledge with current scientiﬁc understanding to generate wellness within her patients. She has received specialized training in naturopathic sports medicine, applying the principles and tools of naturopathic care in treating athletes.
- Stephens MA1, Mahon PB2, McCaul ME3, Wand GS4. Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis response to acute psychosocial stress: Effects of biological sex and circulating sex hormones.Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2015 Dec 24;66:47-55.
- Wright D. MD et al ProTECT: A Randomized Clinical Trial of Progesterone for Acute Traumatic Brain Injury NEUROLOGY/ORIGINAL RESEARCH Annals of Emergency Medicine. 2006