Last week we spoke about what progesterone is and what it does.
This week we discuss what happens when progesterone is too low. Essentially we become unbalanced, both physically and emotionally.
Common symptoms to low progesterone include PMS, fibroids, painful periods and fluctuating mood swings.
Four other, more serious conditions of low progesterone, are endometriosis, endometrial pre-cancer and cancer, anxiety and disordered sleep such as insomnia.
There are many reasons for low progesterone. The following are some of the most common.
Aging – For those of us over 35 and heading towards menopause, we have fewer ripe eggs, less ovulation and lower progesterone.
Stress – Cortisol blocks progesterone receptors and your body will make cortisol instead of pregnenolone and progesterone. If you don’t remember what cortisol is or what it does, please check it out.
Little or no ovulation – Ovulation is key to the regular, monthly production of progesterone during fertile years. If you don’t ovulate, you will have progesterone deficiency.
Low thyroid – You need adequate thyroid hormone to make pregnenolone from cholesterol, and then to make progesterone. If your thyroid is low, your progesterone levels will be low. To make matters worse, if you have low progesterone, it raises thyroid requirements. If your thyroid is already low or borderline, it has to work harder and results in low progesterone levels. It’s a vicious circle that only stops when our progesterone levels become adequate.
High prolactin – Some women make too much prolactin, a hormone in the pituitary of the brain that controls lactation in women. High blood prolactin interferes with the function of the ovaries in premenopausal and perimenopausal women, and as a result, secretion of ovarian hormones such as progesterone, and eventually estrogen, decreases.
I suffered from a lot of menstrual problems for most of my life. The PMS started pretty young. I was in so much pain and my periods were so heavy, they put me on the birth control pill in my mid teens. It helped from the perspective of my periods were light, I barely knew I had them, but my moods were … volatile. Or maybe that was just adolescence.
After many years on the Pill and in an effort to get off of it, I had my tubes tied. That lasted less than 6 months. My heavy periods and accompanying pain were back with a vengeance. That’s when my doctor suggested going back on birth control. I was desperate so I did. THAT was a mistake. I became Dr. Jeckyl and Ms Hyde so after two months I took myself off them. And suffered. It got so bad I would miss a day of life every month. You would find me in bed or on the couch on painkillers and curled up.
After trying everything I knew at the time, I opted for a hysterectomy. They left my ovaries but everything else is gone including the polyps and fibroids that they found. I won’t lie to you. It’s been amazing. The freedom from pain and heavy periods has been such a relief. It didn’t solve my hormonal imbalances but it did get rid of the pain and allowed me to finally live a more balanced life.
Then I met a massage therapist who is also a health and life coach. He encouraged me to get my hormone levels checked out and low and behold my progesterone and DHEA (we’ll chat about that in an upcoming series) levels were both low. Add to that unstable blood sugar levels and it’s no wonder I was so messed up. I dealt with anxiety attacks, mild depression and horrendous periods … but at least I found a way out. I started taking bioidentical progesterone and low dose DHEA and it made a world of difference. I had been so out of balance for most of my life that it has taken a few years to get me where I am.
I don’t necessarily recommend you follow what I did (I didn’t know that you could improve your life through nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle changes) but I do highly recommend that you get your doctor to run some blood work. Checking your hormonal levels gives them a starting point but you also need to look at your symptoms.
If you’d like to investigate this further, please contact me and we’ll work together to help you get rebalanced.