Progesterone is a startlingly beneficial hormone, and almost all of us could do with more than we have.
Progesterone acts on your breasts and uterus, so it’s essential for healthy reproduction and periods. But did you know it also acts on your brain, immune system, and detoxification enzymes? Progesterone does a lot more for you than just fertility and easy periods. It soothes, nourishes, energizes, strengthens, and rescues your body in ways you never imagined.
Benefits of progesterone
- Boosts energy by stimulating the thyroid and heating up metabolism. That’s why your body temperature goes up half a degree when you make progesterone after ovulation. It also stabilizes communication between the hypothalamus and adrenal glands and so relieves HPA dysregulation (also known as “adrenal fatigue”).
- Soothes mood and rescues sleep because of the Valium-like effect of its metabolite allopregnanolone (ALLO). ALLO is a neurosteroid that interacts directly with GABA receptors in the brain and promotes sleep. Progesterone also up-regulates the DAO enzyme and so relieves the anxiety symptoms of histamine intolerance. Finally, it stimulates sleep centres in the brain and is essential treatment for premenstrual and perimenopausal insomnia.
- Nourishes hair and clears skin because it reduces male hormones (androgens) by inhibiting the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. The result is faster-growing hair, less skin oil (sebum), and fewer skin break-outs. One day, I’d love to see natural progesterone go head-to-head against the anti-androgen drug spironolactone. My money would be on progesterone as the better treatment. See the 7 best natural anti-androgen treatments.
- Lightens periods by counteracting estrogen’s stimulating effect on the uterine lining.
- Prevents autoimmune disease because it modulates immune function, reduces inflammation, and up-regulates detoxification enzymes.
- Builds bones and muscle by stimulating osteoblasts (bone-building cells) and the growth of new muscle.
- Protects against cancer by counteracting estrogen’s stimulating effect on breast and uterine tissue. It may even have a future role as a treatment for breast cancer.
Conditions associated with progesterone deficiency:
Physical signs of progesterone deficiency:
How to get more progesterone
There are two ways to obtain progesterone:
- Make more yourself by ovulating regularly, which requires a whole-body approach. As I explain in my book Period Repair Manual, it’s not as simple as taking something to boost progesterone. You need healthy, happy ovarian follicles for all the 100 days leading up to each and every ovulation, and that means correcting underlying issues with inflammation, insulin resistance, and thyroid (to name just a few). For more information about how to ovulate, please see my book and also my post: Road map to progesterone.
- Take body-identical or natural progesterone, which is available as either a transdermal cream or a capsule. Progesterone cream is adequate for general symptoms, but capsules are better for perimenopausal sleep problems (because an oral dose delivers more of the beneficial sedating metabolite allopregnanolone). A safe dose is about 20 mg in a cream or 50 to 100 mg in a capsule. It generally works best taken only during the luteal phase, or in a pulsed fashion if there is no luteal phase. For more information, please see Chapter 10 of my book and speak to your doctor or naturopath.
Tip: There’s NO progesterone in any type of hormonal birth control. In fact, the biggest problem with hormonal birth control is that it causes progesterone deficiency. Read The crucial difference between progesterone and progestins.
Read Professor Jerilynn Prior’s series of articles: Preventive powers of ovulation and progesterone.