It’s estimated that over 80 percent of women suffer from hormone troubles—roughly the same percentage of Americans with blood sugar imbalances. Both of these are far from ideal. What makes matters worse? These conditions fly under the radar. Most people live with health conditions without realizing it. No matter your 2023 wellness intentions, we all strive for optimal health and a balanced internal environment. If you think you may be suffering from a hormone imbalance, you’re not alone. Today, we’re diving into all things progesterone. Specifically, low progesterone symptoms, how to mitigate them, and the best tips to naturally increase your progesterone levels.
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Signs of Hormonal Imbalance
Before we talk about progesterone specifically, let’s take a step back. On top of the relentless pressures and stressors of everyday life, women in their 20s, 30s, and beyond are often faced with the physical and mental side effects of hormonal imbalance. What are signs of hormonal imbalance? Below are a few.
1. Irregular or heavy menstrual cycles
A woman’s menstrual cycle typically ranges from 21 to 35 days. If this doesn’t quite add up with your normal monthly cycle, it could be a sign of hormonal imbalance. Furthermore, intense PMS symptoms (premenstrual syndrome) and very heavy periods are other obvious signs.
Relying on caffeine to get you through the day? While this can be attributed to many factors, hormonal changes can also lead to ongoing fatigue.
3. Hot flashes and night sweats
Are you experiencing random hot flashes throughout the day, or waking up covered in sweat? These symptoms are a major red flag (and mostly likely are due to a drop in estrogen levels).
4. Persistent weight gain
Weight gain—or trouble losing weight—is one of the many uncomfortable and frustrating symptoms of hormonal imbalance. In some cases, this can be attributed to a thyroid issue, stressed adrenals, or PCOS.
5. Pelvic pain
If you experience pelvic pain during your period or intercourse, it’s time to visit your doctor. These symptoms could be signs of a hormonal imbalance creating endometriosis (implants of tissue outside the uterus), fibroids (which are estrogen driven), or ovarian cysts.
6. Cold hands and feet
If you have cold hands and feet on occasion, no need to be alarmed. However, if it’s persistent and associated with changes in skin color, chat with your healthcare provder. This can be linked to hormonal conditions.
Trying to conceive for six months without success? It may be time to speak with your doctor.
If any of these ring a bell, consider reaching out to your healthcare provider or OB/GYN for a consultation and bloodwork.
What does progesterone do in the female body?
The main function of progesterone is to prepare the lining of your uterus for a fertilized egg to implant and grow. Progesterone is necessary (and increases) to support pregnancy. If conception doesn’t happen, the endometrium sheds during your menstrual period. Regardless, even if you’re not trying to conceive, normal progesterone levels are important for overall health and well-being.
Causes of Low Progesterone
There are several causes of low progesterone. The most common causes are anovulation (ovulation doesn’t occur), PCOS, high stress (too much cortisol can interfere with your body’s ability to make progesterone), an underactive thyroid, over-exercising, under-eating, low cholesterol, and perimenopause.
Need a hormone-balancing diet plan? Look no further.
Low Progesterone Symptoms
With abnormal progesterone levels, women are susceptible to a slew of unwanted conditions:
Furthermore, low progesterone levels often mean higher levels of estrogen—also known as estrogen dominance. And dominance causes issues like weight gain and loss of libido. Moral of the story: keeping hormones balanced is key.
Normal Progesterone Levels
So, what are normal progesterone levels? Ultimately, this depends on where you’re at in your menstrual cycle (or pregnancy). Progesterone levels fluctuate throughout the month. A blood test is the best way to test progesterone levels (typically, on day 21 of your cycle). Progesterone levels are measured in nanograms per milliliter. For an adult female, the chart below lists normal levels of progesterone.
How can I naturally increase my progesterone levels?
Under your healthcare provider’s guidance, you can try progesterone creams, oral progesterone pills, or vaginal suppositories. However, you can naturally increase your progesterone levels through diet and lifestyle. In other words, you can support your body’s natural rhythms without medication.
Holistic ways to increase progesterone levels include foods rich in zinc, vitamin B, vitamin C, and magnesium. Hello, hormone balancing superfoods! From a lifestyle perspective, prioritize reducing stressors, minimizing potential endocrine disrupters, and incorporate consistent, supportive forms of exercise.
Foods to Eat to Improve Low Progesterone
With certain vitamins and minerals in mind, these are our favorite progesterone-loving foods:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Pastured animal protein
- Fatty fish
- Dried fruit
- Root vegetables
- Dark chocolate
When in doubt, focus on healthy fats. Progesterone is made from protein, fat, and cholesterol. When the body doesn’t derive enough of these nutrients from its diet, hormone production suffers. For this reason, women eating a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet may suffer from low estrogen and progesterone. Incorporate flaxseed, coconut oil, avocado, and full-fat dairy to boost progesterone production, naturally!