Keep Progesterone balanced

⁠⁠Progesterone is a female steroid sex hormone, often termed the ‘good cop’ female hormone that supports & balances out the effects of estrogen.⁠⁠ Progesterone is a precursor to other hormones and plays a major role in pregnancy. In addition it is involved in bone development, cognitive function, sleep quality, blood sugar balance and energy production. And if that is not enough, progesterone helps maintain hormonal balance.⁠⁠ 

Without sufficient progesterone, your estrogen levels go unchecked & you can end up with estrogen dominance.⁠⁠Estrogen dominance does not always equal high estrogen. Estrogen can be normal, but if progesterone is too low then you can still have estrogen dominance.⁠⁠ Making sure we address low progesterone is one of the ways we can correct estrogen dominance.⁠⁠

Progesterone naturally declines as we approach menopause, so women who are over 40 or going through their menopause years will inevitably experience a fluctuation (up and down roller coaster) and subsequent decline in progesterone, which is why it is important to be aware of your progesterone building window, the time of month when you should be working to support progesterone, not depleting it in the ways I will mention below. Usually this happens between Day 17-Day 21, but can be different for each woman.

Progesterone and stress

Progesterone often goes low in women during menopause because of the stress demands. Why does progesterone go so low as you are moving through menopause? For many women, progesterone goes low because a steroid hormone called DHEA goes low. Through a series of chemical reactions, DHEA will make progesterone, testosterone, and cortisol. Since the body will always prioritize stress over anything else, if you have spent many years in a stressed-out state, your DHEA stores may have been siphoned off to make cortisol. This can leave you low in both progesterone and testosterone. This is where a comprehensive hormone test comes in handy and can tell you your exact DHEA levels. Raising your DHEA levels can help you make more progesterone.

Look out for the signs

Here are a few signs of low progesterone:

  • You know you have low progesterone when you start spotting days before your period. Or when you’ve experienced extremely heavy periods. 
  • Agitation and unexplained anxiety
  • Hot flashes
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Infertility

What to watch-out

Here is what you want to avoid during your progesterone building window

  • Avoid longer fasts (for more than 16 hours)
  • Avoid carb restricted diets. You still want to be low-carb and eat healthy carbs to avoid blood glucose spikes.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise and pushing yourself with a hard workout
  • Avoid stress

If you are a perimenopausal women (any woman over 40+) or you know your progesterone levels need help, you may want to extend your progesterone building days to 2 days before and/or after the peak production time. This is based on the fact that perimenopausal women are already dropping in progesterone levels and will need extra time to build and support progesterone.

Optimise your Progesterone

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  • Thyroid: You need adequate amounts of thyroid hormone to make pregnenolone. Without pregnenolone, we can’t make progesterone.⁠ Thyroid function is key.⁠⁠
  • Stress: As already mentioned in times of stress, the brain signals to the glands to prioritize cortisol production over progesterone. Find a stress management practice that works for you.⁠⁠
  • ⁠⁠Eat enough calories: Under-eating can cause low progesterone because this is a form of stress on the body. It puts our body into a state of panic and this stress decreases progesterone levels.⁠⁠
  • Healthy fats: Cholesterol is necessary for the synthesis of pregnenolone, which in turn makes progesterone. Cholesterol is also necessary for the production of thyroid hormone. Healthy fats will also help to balance blood sugar.⁠⁠
  • Stable blood glucose: Increased insulin & blood sugar dysregulation leads to inflammation & more cortisol production. Insulin sensitivity can increase progesterone levels.⁠⁠
  • ⁠⁠Proper nutrition: Make sure you have adequate nutrient status. Most important are Vitamin B6, Magnesium, Zinc.⁠ and Vit-C.
  • Inflammation: Increased inflammation leads to increased cortisol & as mentioned above the body will prioritize cortisol production over progesterone.⁠⁠

Eat some of the below progesterone food during the 17-21 day window. These are in-line with a healthy low-carb lifestyle to still keep in the best shape.

  • Pumpkin & squash
  • Tropical and citrus fruits
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts
  • Grass fed meat 

What to do with fasting

  • Women of any age who fast at the wrong times during their cycle might also be unknowingly tanking their progesterone levels.
  • All women should avoid longer fasts (fasting more than 16 hours) between Day 20-Day 25 of their cycle. This is peak progesterone producing time, and this is when you want to double down on progesterone building foods and avoiding progesterone depleting activities like long fasts, strenuous exercise and stress.