Progesterone is one of the many hormones produced that regulates and stimulates various functions in our bodies. While most of us are aware of estrogen, little attention is focused on progesterone. Progesterone is produced by the ovaries, the placenta when a woman is pregnant and also by the adrenal glands. It’s primary function is to prepare the uterus for implantation of the fertilized egg and to maintain the pregnancy.
Levels of progesterone vary throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle. It is produced just before ovulation and continues to rise over the last two weeks of a menstrual cycle. Its decline at the end of the cycle promotes the shedding of the uterine lining and the onset of a menstrual cycle.
Progesterone counters the effects of estrogen on the body. This is why you will see them paired in many hormonal preparations. Progesterone also influences our nervous systems by increasing sleepiness and decreasing anxiety. I recommend to many of my patients on progesterone formulas to take around bedtime to aid in sleep. Progesterone helps to mature breast tissue and prepare for milk production. It promotes healthy appetite and fat storage especially with pregnant women.
When you have too much progesterone in relation to estrogen, you may experience a decreased insulin sensitivity, weight gain, depression and low libido. When you have too little progesterone in relation to estrogen you may experience irregular menstrual cycles, breast tenderness, irritability and mood swings, endometriosis and uterine fibroids. An interesting note: when your progesterone levels are too low, you actually can’t make sufficient cortisol from your adrenal glands. This is a very important issue to consider when treating someone with deficient adrenal gland function.
It seems that in our lives as women we either have too little or too much of some hormones or when it is balanced, it doesn’t stay that way. That usually corresponds to whether I’m riding a broom to work or a car. I’d much prefer a car any day. Just ask my husband and kids! As we grow older and enter the time before we actually stop menstruation (perimenopause), the levels of progesterone and estrogen are fluctuating quite a bit. Missed ovulations are becoming more frequent. You may notice a change in the number of days of your menstrual cycle, a change in flow or even changes in sleep and hot flashes.
I find that treating a woman during these times can be most rewarding. There are many options. As a Naturpathic Physician, I tend to gravitate to those therapies that are least invasive and least harmful to the body. My first approach is to assess total body function before just treating symptoms. You would be surprised at how little your body requires in terms of hormones. It is really about achieving balance between hormones. I always look to adrenal function, progesterone production, and pituitary function before I consider augmentation with hormones. My goal is to support the systems of hormone production first.
I have been working with Marie Lachney over the last 10 years in a team approach using a specialized lab to assess total body function and then recommending the nutritional supplements that the test results indicate are needed to help each client achieve balance between hormones. There is more information in the frequently asked questions as well as the test protocol on Marie’s website at MarieLachney.com – New Pathways Counseling
I will continue to contribute articles on the other hormones, both male and female in addition to other very important health related topics.