One of my clients has been battling low mood, outbursts, anxiety and worry for years. When you speak with her, she's so nice and smiles all the time, but in her heart she's breaking. At home with her family, she has no patience and finds herself hiding in her bedroom to avoid interacting with them. She loves them, but they crowd her and drive her crazy.
One may assume she may have introvert tendencies, but when questioned she's all about being the life of the party. She used to host dinners and volunteered for everything. She loved being in the center of it all. Today, she can't stand it, and it's making her question who she is and what her value is.
Does this feel familiar? If it does, it's time to do a little investigative work.
In her case, she was exposed to a few different environmental pollutants that she couldn't clear, her GI tract was out of balance and she had a few “bad” bacterial pathogens taking up residence, and her stress response system was tanking. She also is considered to have estrogen dominance, because her ratio between estrogen and progesterone were off. In here case, her progesterone was below normal for a post-menopausal woman. That's pretty low considering she's just now going through menopause.
During perimenopause and menopause, progesterone is going to lower naturally. Besides preparing the lining of your uterus for a fertilized egg to implant and maintain the endometrium throughout pregnancy, the primary role of progesterone is to balance the strong effects of estrogen.
Your need for progesterone drops. You are no longer fertile, and your estrogen is dropping.
You Still Need Progesterone
However, even post-menopause your body still needs progesterone.
Your body will continue to produce estrogen throughout your life, and you will need progesterone to counter it. Estrogen is produced by your adrenals glands, fat tissue, liver and there's evidence you're your brain can produce estrogen if necessary.
In addition to balancing the effects of estrogen, progesterone binds to certain receptors in the brain to exert a calming, sedating effect. It improves sleep, protects against seizures, and enhances insulin and thyroid sensitivity.
It builds bone and benefits the cardiovascular system by blocking plaque formation in the blood vessels and lowering the levels of triglycerides and aids the efficient use of fat as a source of energy.
Prior to menopause, progesterone is produced in your ovaries, placenta and your adrenal glands. Post-menopause, it's only produced by your adrenals. That is why if you are under a lot of stress, especially if you have adrenal fatigue, it's likely you also have low progesterone.
One reason why low level of progesterone can affect your mood is due to decreased serotonin, which can result in poor sleep and depression. Also, when estrogen is high, because progesterone is low, it can't prevent stimulating effects of estrogen which can lead to anxiety.
Additionally, progesterone is critical for the production of cortisol. Cortisol is one of your primary stress hormones and is necessary for blood pressure management, strengthening your immune system, lowers insulin to maintain blood sugar, signals the conversion of protein into fuel and reducing inflammation when released for immediate threats.
Symptoms of Low Progesterone
If you have low progesterone, you may experience:
- More intense hot flashes / night sweats
- Mood changes – anxiety, depression, worry
- Poor sleep / Insomnia
- Headaches / migraines
- Weight gain / Cellulite
- Water retention / Edema
- Brain fog
- Saggy skin
- Lost bone strength
If you do not maintain a certain level of progesterone, you could develop estrogen dominance. And if your estrogen goes high, because you have low progesterone, you may also experience:
- Thyroid disruption
- Panic attacks
- Low sex drive
- Hair loss
- Memory problems
- Poor body temperature regulation
- Breast tenderness
- Fibrocystic breasts
Hormone replacement therapy is one way you can address low progesterone. There are creams, drops and pills you can take to increase progesterone, but if you supplement with progesterone you need to work with a health professional and monitor it often. Every 6 weeks you want to test your levels.
Too much progesterone can quickly cause you to experience heart palpitations, sleepiness, nausea, high-anxiety and panic attacks.
Also, progesterone can build up in your fat tissue and take three to six months to clear the excess.
Raise Progesterone Naturally With Food
There are no foods that contain progesterone, but be eating certain foods you can ensure your body has the building blocks for making more. Most of the food advice is based on research done for women and fertility, not necessarily post-menopausal women. However, eating well is always a smart move and can help reduce stress.
Cholesterol is needed in your body to make pregnenolone, the precursor hormone for progesterone and others.
Coconut oil, coconut butter, olive oil, olives, lean red meat, and eggs.
Oranges, papaya, pumpkin, sweet potato, strawberries, kiwi, lemons, tomatoes and camu camu.
Sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, pumpkin, butternut squash, mango and avocado.
The B vitamins help combat stress and support your liver break down estrogen byproducts, reducing estrogen dominance. It also can help reduce levels of estrogen while boosting progesterone production.
Beef, chicken, salmon, tuna, walnuts, spinach, sweet potatoes, beans and prunes.
This important mineral not only helps to preserve progesterone levels through keeping you calmer, it also assists the breakdown of the antagonistic estrogen metabolites, reducing estrogen dominance. And if you are low in magnesium, it causes stress.
Cashews, leafy greens such as kale and Swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, black beans, lentils and other legumes, cacao, mackerel fish, whole grain brown rice, and best of all Epsom salt baths.
Oysters, shellfish, shrimp (prawns), liver, red meat, pumpkin and cashew nuts.
Fiber is essential in good hormonal balance. Fiber binds and helps to excrete metabolized, or used, hormones.
Flaxseed, quinoa, millet, amaranth, teff, gluten-free oats.
Addressing The Elephant In The Room: Stress
If you are post-menopausal, or close, your best line of defense is to address stress. Stress comes in all forms, emotional stress, physical stress from bacterial, viral or parasitic infections, body misalignments, toxicity issues, excess alcohol, etc.
Whenever your brain perceives a threat; internal, external, real or imaginary, it triggers your stress response system. When your threat response system is activated, cortisol along with other stress hormones is released. If this happens for a long period of time or too often, your levels of progesterone will decrease since it's used to produce cortisol.
Since, postmenopausal progesterone is produced by the adrenal glands (not the ovaries), therapies that improve progesterone in cycling women may not help in menopause, or post-menopause. Supporting your stress response system, or you HPA axis, is usually a better strategy. However, progesterone supplementation may be appropriate for improving energy, sleep and mood in post-menopausal women, but it needs to be monitored often.
The problem is that we live in a world full of constant stressors. The work week is packed, bills are due, commutes are long and frustrating, best friends go through hard times, you're not getting along with your spouse, the yard needs work…
The good news is, you can work with your brain to minimize stress. There are practices like yoga, meditation, mindfulness and journaling that can help remind yourself that you are in no real and immediate danger and train your brain not to respond to stress so quickly.
Additionally, you can become more aware of your environments, so you can determine what triggers you. You then and influence your environments so you avoid triggers that cause stress and cultivate triggers that reduce stress.
You can get to know yourself better, understand what it means when you're feeling anger, fear, judgment, etc. Once you understand what those emotions are telling you, you can address the root cause.
You may have considered hormones as something outside of your control your entire life. As a woman, they likely have been very vocal throughout your life. However, though they have been blamed for the reason why women are “hysterical,” “unstable,” and “crazy,” when they are balanced you are clear-headed, calm, motivated, energized, confident and feeling sexy.
It's only when there is an imbalance that you can feel anxious, exhausted, wired but tired, foggy, depressed, manic, and emotionally unstable. And recognizing that, you can do something about it.
However, there are so many tips, tricks, strategies and methods out there where do you begin?
That's why I would like to invite you to schedule a FREE Hormone Troubleshooting Session. This time is about identifying what your root causes may be and determining a strategy or two with you and your lifestyle in mind. There are hundreds of ways you can approach your hormone imbalance, but you need to be are the center of your plan of action.
If you suspect your progesterone levels, or hormones in general, are not what they should be and you feel like you can't get a handle on your hormone therapy, I invite you to contact me.
Click on the button below and schedule an appointment that is convenient for you.
You can feel like yourself again, calmer, motivated, confident and great in your own skin.
Your partner in health,
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