While on your fertility journey, or maybe while discovering why your cycle is so “off”, you were told that you have low progesterone. Or maybe you haven’t been told so yet, and are wondering if you have low progesterone. Let’s chat and make this diagnosis a little easier for you to understand.
Progesterone is a hormone dominant in the last half of your menstrual cycle (luteal phase- Day 14-30) to help mature (thicken) the lining of the uterus in preparation for implantation. Without adequate amounts of progesterone, your body does not have the ability to thicken the lining of the uterus, and therefore infertility and/or miscarriage are common. A low progesterone level accounts for 3-10% of the infertility cases, and 35% of miscarriage cases and is known within the medical community as a Luteal Phase Defect/Dysfunction (LPD).
A Luteal Phase Defect can be diagnosed if you have:
- A short luteal phase (<10 days)
- Low progesterone production
- Impaired response to progesterone, which results in delayed uterine lining maturation
Signs of a Luteal Phase Defect
- Short menstrual cycle (<26 days)
- Short luteal phase (<10 days)
- Premenstrual bleeding
- Over 38 years of age
- A low progesterone level at the peak of your luteal phase (Day 21 of cycle)
One of the main causes of low progesterone is chronic or prolonged stress. Your adrenal glands produce cortisol in times of stress (as part of your fight-flight response). However, when you don’t give your body the time to recover, overstimulation will lead to adrenal fatigue or exhaustion, and cortisol begins to plummet. So how can it make more cortisol? Answer: Progesterone. Your body actually “steals” progesterone to make more, and so treating the stress issue is a major step in recuperating from low progesterone.
Stress can me emotional, mental or physical. Not sleeping enough, eating poorly, diet restriction, chronic exercise, toxin overload, and low immunity can all contribute to this physical stress.
Stress, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar can also contribute to deficiencies in Magnesium, Zinc and B6 which are required for progesterone production.
So what can you do to increase Progesterone?
- Eat a whole foods, organic diet rich in Magnesium, B6 and Zinc – your diet should be rich in protein, healthy fats and fruit & vegetables. Minimize alcohol, caffeine, gluten, dairy and sugar. Animal products and the Dirty Dozen should be organic so as to not take in any extra hormones that could alter your own production. Dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fruit, beans and some organic lean animal products are rich in Magnesium, B6 and Zinc.
- Vitex Agnus-Castus, or Chastetree Berry is a beautiful herb that has a long history of use with women’s gynecological issues. It is not a hormone itself, but has the ability to naturally stimulate progesterone production and restore estrogen-progesterone imbalances. Vitex should be taken in small doses daily for at least 3 months to see the desired effects.
- De-Stress –Try some stress-reducing activities such as tai chi, massage, yoga, walking in nature, meditation and artistic expression. If you can support your adrenal glands, the glands that secrete cortisol, you can encourage your body to produce it’s own cortisol versus using progesterone to do so. Try herbs like Schisandra or Ashwagandha.
- Bio-identical Progesterone Cream – Bio-identical hormones are derived from natural substances that contain hormone-like substances. Progesterone is usually derived from wild yam. If you want to give progesterone cream a try, you can get it from either a bio-identical friendly doctor, or you can buy it over the counter. Look for what is called “USP progesterone cream”. I really like NOW Brand Natural Progesterone Liposomal Skin Cream.
If you think you may have low progesterone, it would be beneficial to contact your healthcare provider to be sure before trying any of these herbs.