Like estrogen dominance, progesterone deficiency is an incredibly common hormonal imbalance we see. This is because just like estrogen dominance, our modern lifestyles and environments continually push us towards this imbalance.
Chronic stress from hectic lifestyles, overactive inflammatory systems, poor sleep, high caffeine, gut issues, and neurotransmitter imbalances (see previous 2 articles in this series) all depress the healthy production of progesterone.
Since progesterone governs the thickening and stabilizing of the uterine lining, low progesterone levels commonly lead to post-ovulation spotting, heavy periods, and the passing of large clots during your period.
Symptoms of Progesterone Deficiency
Additional symptoms of progesterone deficiency include:
- Anxiety and depression
- PMS and PMDD
- Poor sleep patterns
- Dry skin and hormonal acne
- Low libido
- Painful cramps
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- Irregular periods
- Increased risk of pelvic cancers over time
Once again, you’ll see that the symptoms that are possible with progesterone deficiency overlap some with imbalances of estrogen. Perhaps the most specific symptoms of progesterone deficiency are post-ovulation spotting and anxiety/sleep disturbances in the second half of the cycle, but even those aren’t anywhere close to reliable compared to actual testing of levels.
Why Low Progesterone is So Common
Anything that signals to the body that it’s not a good time to reproduce will diminish progesterone production. While this was previously thought to be due to the phenomenon of pregnenolone steal, this isn’t the cause of this imbalance. Instead, it is likely due to alterations in hormonal signaling that occurs at the level of the adrenals, ovaries, and pituitary that recognize that any source of stress limits the chances of a successful pregnancy.
Regardless of whether you are trying to get pregnant or not, healthy progesterone levels are crucial for having a healthy feminine cycle and a reasonable period.
Unsexy Stress and Progesterone
Because sources of stress–whether physical or mental–have a huge effect on progesterone creation, lifestyle changes make a considerable part of rebalancing these levels. Consistent meditation, having a support group, built-in downtime, minimizing caffeine, increasing nutrient density, and sticking to strict sleep/wake cycles are all crucial parts of not only raising progesterone levels but keeping them normal for the times thereafter.
Unfortunately, this kind of work isn’t considered very sexy. Most ladies would rather take some supplements than change their lifestyle factors and what we see over and over again is that women get better for a little while on supplements and then slide right back into imbalance once their supplementation schedule is over.
There are many different options for helping to alleviate symptoms and achieve healthy progesterone levels, and we DO use these to help our ladies. However, our goal isn’t to have women take these supplements forever on end.
Our goal is to give them the boost they need through supplementation until the body can take over and maintain balance on its own.
These same tools are resourceful healing options when abrupt life changes happen, such as pregnancy or high-stress life events like the death of a family member. That’s all part of the hormonal toolkit that we’ve been talking about throughout this series!
Real Life Example
I (Alex) had ridiculously low progesterone levels when I did my last DUTCH test, which wasn’t a surprise since I had been spotting for several months in a row. Since stressful life events were the reason I had moved away from my usual lifestyle, I used the results of my DUTCH test to come back to a healthier way of living. It’s easier to make changes like this–such as going to bed earlier and cutting back on caffeine–when you have the numbers to motivate you!
In order not to lose my sanity with the constant spotting, I started an herbal protocol to boost progesterone levels. I added in Vitex/Chasteberry at Megan’s recommendation (NEVER start something like this without testing! It’s incredibly dangerous to do so!) and started several supplements to regulate blood sugar, which relates to healthy progesterone levels.
I don’t plan to stick with these supplements permanently, but they have been super helpful at dealing with symptoms such as spotting, anxiety, and sleep disturbances while I get my lifestyle stuff in order.
Similar to estrogen dominance, it’s not possible to fit our entire 3 month Healthy Hormones Group Program inside one article! But this is a good start on the important concepts.
Upcoming Topic In the Series
Up next: testosterone elevation and deficiency. Stay tuned!