Avoid Symptoms of Low Progesterone
Symptoms of low progesterone are many and if you’re past your mid-30s you probably have suffered some of these symptoms. Known as the “feel good hormone of pregnancy”, progesterone is essential to a woman’s health.
“Progesterone” comes from the word “gestation” meaning pregnancy. Progesterone prepares the lining of the uterus for implantation of the fertilized egg. In the event of pregnancy, progesterone levels increase to very high levels maintaining the uterine lining during pregnancy. Many women feel great during pregnancy and progesterone is responsible for these positive feelings and emotions.
Progesterone provides many other important health benefits. It regulates the menstrual cycle along with estrogen. Progesterone is produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands. Like other hormones, progesterone exerts it effects through receptors on the cells. There are progesterone receptors in the uterus, breast, vagina, blood vessels, and brain. That’s why low progesterone levels have wide-spread effects.
Progesterone counteracts the effects of estrogen. Estrogens have proliferative effects on the body, meaning estrogens promote tissue growth. Progesterone counter-balances these proliferative effects and provides protection against uterine cancer and breast cancer, as well as protection against osteoporosis, and heart disease.
Progesterone production naturally begins to decline when women reach their mid-30s. It has a calming effect, and you may have noticed or heard that many women begin to experience some level of anxiety once they get past their mid-30s. Low progesterone is one of the reasons.
Symptoms of low progesterone are due to the low progesterone itself but can also be related to an the imbalance between estrogen and progesterone as progesterone levels drop relative to estrogen, or what is known as estrogen dominance.
Symptoms of Low Progesterone Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
Sleep disturbances or insomnia Breast tenderness
Miscarriages/infertility Mood swings
Painful or lumpy breasts Foggy thinking
Unexplained weight gain Weepiness/crying
Headaches Migraine headaches
Progesterone has a calming effect on the body. Progesterone is typically the first of the sex hormones to decline in women. Have you noticed that many women are started on drugs to treat depression and anxiety as they get past their mid-30s? Low progesterone can lead to depression and anxiety. This drop in progesterone can occur in a woman’s 30s and some times even younger. Progesterone replacement exerts effects on the brain similar to that seen with antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications. Progesterone replacement taken at night can be useful in women with sleep issues.
So if you’re feeling anxious and/or depressed be sure to have your progesterone levels measured.
A Word on Progesterone Replacement Therapy
Here’s one take home message. Progestins are not the same as progesterone even though they are used to treat low progesterone. Progestins have a much different chemical structure than progesterone, and more importantly, a much different effect on the body than bioidentical progesterone. While progestins protect the uterus from endometrial cancer, that’s where the similarities with bioidentical progesterone end. Progestins frequently cause bloating, headache, fatigue, weight gain, depression, and premenstrual symptoms by stimulating estrogen receptors, and therefore appear to also increase the risk of breast cancer. Oral contraceptives typically contained progestins which by their vary nature are synthetic compounds.
The word “synthetic” is frequently used in discussing hormone replacement therapy. When discussing hormones “synthetic” means man-made. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The more important consideration is whether or not a hormone is bioidentical or not. Bioidentical hormones can be natural or synthetic. Bioidentical means a hormone as the exact same chemical structure as the hormone produced in the human body.
Premarin is a natural hormone produced by pregnant mares, and in fact, contains several equine hormones of which only a few are similar to female hormones produced by women. So even though Premarin is natural it would be considered less healthy than a bioidentical synthetic hormone prescribe to women.
Prometrium is a synthetic progesterone but it is bioidentical and can be obtained at a regular pharmacy. Compounding pharmacies specialize in compounding bioidentical hormones. Many natural progesterone compounds can be found over the counter. These products usually are derivatives of yams (synthetic bioidentical progesterone is made from yams). These products in a sense are pro hormones which may or may not get converted into progesterone was absorbed in the body. If you want to raise your progesterone you are best off to get a prescription for a bioidentical progesterone rather than relying on these over the counter natural progesterone creams.
To learn more about the differences between progestins and progesterone see this article of ours.
There’s been a tendency to only replace estrogen in women without a uterus (since there is no concern of endometrial cancer from opposed estrogen therapy). But, given the wide array of benefits of progesterone women without a uterus should consider progesterone replacement therapy, too.
Treating Symptoms of Low Progesterone
Bioidentical progesterone and estroges in combination have been shown to improve HDL or good cholesterol, while lowering the LDL or bad cholesterol. The two hormones also work synergistically to improve bone density. Progesterone stimulates bone formation while estrogen prevents bone resorption. Progesterone relaxes uterine muscles alleviating menstrual cramps and relaxes the smooth muscles of the blood vessels. This improves blood flow to the heart and other organs including the skin restoring that youthful glow to a woman’s appearance. See How to Overcome Estrogen Deficiency Symptoms to learn more about low estrogen symptoms.
Now you can understand why progesterone is called the feel good hormone of pregnancy. Avoid symptoms of low progesterone. Have your progesterone level measured if you suffer any of the above symptoms.
The benefits of bioidentical hormone replacement are summarized in this review paper.
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