I don’t know who needs to hear this, but progesterone is not just important for pregnancy. Having healthy progesterone levels is necessary for so much more than just conceiving. In this article, we’re going to talk about what progesterone is, its role in your menstrual cycle, the importance of this hormone, and how to boost progesterone naturally.
What is progesterone?
Progesterone is so much more than the “pregnancy hormone.” Progesterone receptors have been found in the brain, liver, nasal passages, skin, bladder, lungs, bones, breasts, womb, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.
It plays a huge role in our overall health. Keeping your progesterone level at a healthy one can sometimes be difficult, especially in our modern world, but it’s absolutely essential. Let’s dive into the role of progesterone.
Progesterone and Sex
Although receptors are found all over the body, progesterone is primarily made in the ovaries of women and the testicles and adrenals of men. For women, progesterone helps to balance estrogenic effects on the uterus, preventing overgrowth on the lining and causing shedding during a woman’s bleed.
Progesterone is produced in very tiny amounts during the first two weeks post menstruation. When ovulation occurs, progesterone production begins and continues for about 2 weeks while estrogen is high, helping to foster a balance of hormones—and of course, to warm the body for a potential child.
When you bleed, progesterone declines.
During the two weeks leading up to menses, it is so important that the body produces adequate amounts of progesterone to help balance estrogen. Low progesterone can lead to estrogen dominance, which can lead to emotional imbalances, PMS symptoms, cysts, and more. A dip in progesterone right before your bleed is why your mood often drops.
As you learned, there are progesterone receptors in the brain. Having adequate progesterone sent to the brain is essential in maintaining good cognition and memory. In both men and women, progesterone has beneficial effects on neurons and helps to regulate neurotransmitters like GABA and dopamine. Both GABA and dopamine are associated with discipline, motivation, memory, learning, and a sense of calm and happiness. In fact, scientists are now looking at progesterone replacement to help prevent memory loss. While this is exciting and promising, there are ways to naturally boost progesterone which we will get to soon.
There is nothing more annoying than having to pee excessively or having a hard time going! Progesterone helps maintain good bladder function, as it acts as a natural diuretic to regulate fluid balance.
Low levels of progesterone can result in hair loss, causing hair to become much thinner and grow more slowly. Because low levels of progesterone can impact androgens, you may experience clogged hair follicles or even an increased risk of acne or dull skin. Keeping progesterone levels healthy can help with hair growth and skin health.
Blood Sugar Balance
Progesterone also affects how we respond to blood sugar levels— and vice versa. So if one is off, it is a vicious cycle of dysregulated blood sugar and progesterone.
We now know that blood sugar levels have a critical role in hormone health. One of the best things you can do for your hormone health is to balance blood sugar. We’ll talk more in-depth on this later on, but for now, just keep that in the back of your mind.
Progesterone and thyroid hormones have a reciprocal relationship. Your ovaries need adequate amounts of thyroid hormone to produce progesterone, but your thyroid also needs a sufficient amount of progesterone to regulate temperature. Progesterone also decreases the amount of protein that carries the thyroid into the bloodstream instead of the cells!
Protects from Cancer
Research has shown that balanced progesterone levels can protect against endometrial cancer, prostate cancer, and fibrocystic breast disease. The important thing to note here is that levels must be balanced—not too little or too much. Now that we know the amazing roles of progesterone and the benefits of balanced levels let’s get into how we can naturally boost progesterone.
What are normal progesterone levels?
Progesterone levels are constantly changing throughout the menstrual cycle. During your follicular phase, the first part of the menstrual cycle, progesterone is low and shouldn’t exceed 0.89 ng/ml. During ovulation, your progesterone levels can rise up to 12 ng/ml. After ovulation, there’s a sharp increase in progesterone.
During the luteal phase, the second half of the menstrual cycle—post ovulation—typically has the highest progesterone levels: 1.8-24 ng/ml. Progesterone peaks typically occur between days 21 and 23 of the cycle.
Checking progesterone levels during ovulation is a great way to tell if you have normal levels. A level of progesterone that is more than 10 ng/ml is normal and means ovulation. Anything lower means ovulation didn’t occur.
Why are progesterone levels so low?
These days, it’s more and more common to have low progesterone levels. Some of the most common causes of low progesterone levels are an anovulatory cycle, hypothyroidism, increased cortisol levels, low cholesterol, and hyperprolactinemia.
So we can heal and nourish by getting to the root of these issues and healing there.
Symptoms of Low Progesterone
- Mood Changes
- Missed ovulation
- Sleep Disturbances
- Weight gain due to fluid retention
- Breast tenderness
- Estrogen dominance leads to heavy periods and potentially PCOS
- Low sex drive
- Irregular or absent periods
- Hot flashes
- Migraine headaches
How to Naturally Boost Progesterone Levels
1 – Eat Foods that Naturally Support Healthy Hormone Levels
What you put in your body directly impacts your hormones – and there are certain foods that can help or hurt certain hormonal levels.
Number one: healthy fats. Sex hormones like progesterone are made from protein, fat, and cholesterol. If you are not getting enough healthy fats from foods like avocado, nuts, coconut, olive oil, and fish.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are rich in zinc, a mineral that tells the pituitary gland to regulate follicle-stimulating hormone production during the first half of your cycle. FSH signals the growth of a follicle containing an egg in preparation for ovulation. Once the egg is released, the follicle transforms into the corpus luteum, which produces progesterone.
Nuts and seeds also contain magnesium which produces not only FSH, but also the luteinizing hormone LH. LH surges around ovulation, but if you don’t ovulate, progesterone will remain low.
Unhealthy fats, on the other hand, are one of the worst things you can do for hormone production. Think vegetable and canola oil, fats from processed or fried foods, etc.
Chicken contains amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein and used to synthesize the hormone progesterone in the body. You must consume an adequate amount of protein and amino acids for progesterone production. Animal products are a complete protein, containing the nine essential amino acids (there are some plants as well) – so not completely eliminating meat from your diet can help with progesterone production.
Oats are amazing for hormone health because they contain soluble fiber, which helps to flush out excess hormones from the body, allowing for more balance. Oats also contain all nine of the essential amino acids!
We have an entire list of the best foods for hormone health that you can check out here.
2 – Herbs and Supplements
Herbs and supplements can help nourish the body and hormones to help get you back in balance. Unfortunately, with our modern agriculture system, you can’t get all of your essential vitamins, nutrients, and minerals from whole foods alone. This is where supplements come in.
Chasteberry or vitex is an herbal supplement that has been used for centuries to treat hormonal health conditions. It’s believed that chasteberry increases progesterone levels by regulating the pituitary gland.
As we mentioned, zinc plays a significant role in regulating progesterone levels. You can find zinc in our Beauty Collagen Complex, as well as other important hormonal herbs like schisandra and ashwagandha.
Magnesium helps regulate the pituitary gland to keep progesterone levels and ovulation on track. You can find magnesium in our Hydration Superfood Energy powder.
Vitamin C can help naturally raise progesterone levels. In one study, women who took 750 mg of vitamin C per day saw an increase in progesterone levels! You can find vitamin C in our delicious vanilla honey Beauty Collagen Complex and in our Organic Immunity Greens powder.
Studies show that taking 200-800mg of vitamin Bg per day can naturally increase progesterone levels and curb PMS symptoms.
3 – Lifestyle Changes
Now, you can eat all the healthy food and take all the supplements in the world – but unless you make lifestyle changes – nothing will change. The first and most important one is coming up with a stress management plan. No more numbing with television binges or freaking out and spiraling. There needs to be a daily stress management plan in place. At the root of hormonal imbalance is often HPA axis dysregulation caused by stress.
You can limit and manage stress by committing to daily practice like walking, stretching, meditating, yoga, journaling, chanting, dancing, or gentle exercise.
It’s also important to look at areas of your life that are stressing you out: relationships, caffeine intake, work, and home life. Take note of people, activities, etc, that are draining you and/or causing you stress. Make an action plan to cut ties slowly. And while doing this, take really good care of yourself. Prioritize time for yourself.
Now, to all of my caffeine and coffee lover: I am sorry. There is research that shows women who drink more than 4 cups (this can equal 2 in more cases) per day may see negative effects on their hormone balance. Caffeine has been shown to create estrogen dominance in the body, leading to low levels of progesterone.
The next most important thing is watching your blood sugar levels. First off, black coffee first thing in the morning sends cortisol skyrocketing and blood sugar levels soaring. It is so important to make sure you are eating breakfast within 30 minutes to an hour of waking up. Women who do this see a complete improvement in hormone levels.
Blood sugar regulation also means eating consistently. No skipping meals or avoiding snacks. Eat at least every 3-4 hours and make them a complete meal: complex carbohydrates, healthy fat, protein, and fiber. For most, this will be the biggest lifestyle change.
Where to start
Start small and simple, one step at a time, so that hormone support (like progesterone) can become a habit. One of my favorite places to start is nourishing the body with superfoods, minerals, and nutrients. It’s a lifestyle change that can be turned into a habit when done deliciously and simply. This is why we created our supplements line. Three products that are insanely delicious and simple to use. A scoop in water, milk, or smoothie. It doesn’t get much easier than that. Find all of the nutrients that help boost progesterone levels naturally with our Superfood Line.
I hope you found this article helpful and motivating.