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How can you increase your progesterone levels naturally?

During the menopause, there’s a fall in progesterone, resulting in a variety of unpleasant symptoms. Here are some natural ways in which you can re-elevate it.
Menopausal woman suffering from a hot flush and a migraine
Increasing your progesterone levels helps to reduce and relieve menopause symptoms.
Rédaction Supersmart.
2022-02-05Comments (0)

Recap: what is the relationship between progesterone and the menopause?

Initiated at puberty, the ovarian cycle is governed by two key hormones: oestrogen and progesterone.

During the first half of the cycle, it is oestrogen which takes centre stage: produced by maturing follicles in the ovaries, oestrogen is responsible for thickening the lining of the womb (endometrium) in preparation for a potential pregnancy.

Halfway through, just after ovulation, things change: the freshly-ruptured follicle gives way to the corpus luteum, which stimulates production of progesterone. This steroid hormone maintains the thickened uterine lining and makes the environment more conducive to implantation.

If fertilisation takes place, oestrogen and progesterone continue to be secreted in order to support the pregnancy. If there is no fertilisation, the corpus luteum withers and dies and there is a fall in levels of first progesterone, and then oestrogen. This results in a shedding of the uterine lining – in other words, a period, and so the next cycle begins.

Cycles follow one another in this way as long as there is a sufficient reserve of follicles. Between the ages of 45 and 55, however, these finite reserves become exhausted. Levels of oestrogen and progesterone gradually decline, and there is a definitive end to the menstrual cycle: after 12 months without a period, a woman is said to be in the menopause.

This major transition can unfold without any problems. However, the significant change in hormone levels proves disruptive to daily life for many women who experience what are termed ‘climacteric’ symptoms: hot flushes, night sweats, headaches, sleep problems, irritability… For some, these problems begin many years before the menopause, and mark their entry into the peri-menopause.

Though often short-lived, this considerable discomfort can also last for some time after periods have stopped. The good news is there are various ways of restoring adequate progesterone levels to successfully transition through this dreaded stage of a woman’s life.

Prioritise ‘progesterone-friendly’ foods

A good place to start is diet. During the menopause, it’s wise to prioritise certain foods for their significant progesterone content. Top of this list are egg yolks, dairy products (especially from cow’s milk) and poultry (1-2).

Conversely, you should limit your intake of foods that mimic the effects of oestrogen in the body in order to maintain progesterone status. Among dietary sources of phytoestrogens which should be restricted are, in particular, soya, linseed, fennel and oats. (3). Similarly, if you’re a fan of herbal teas, you should avoid certain types such as sage and hop.

As for the rest of your diet, stick to the usual nutritional guidelines : fresh fruits and vegetables to stock up on vitamins and minerals, and healthy fats (mono and polyunsaturated rather than saturated).

Lose weight to increase your progesterone levels

If you feel bloated, it could be because the fall in hormone levels affects the body’s metabolism of lipids ... and its propensity to store fats. It’s therefore not uncommon for women to gain weight when they reach the menopause (4). Interestingly, some animal studies suggest that shedding a few excess pounds could significantly raise levels of progesterone in the blood (5).

But if you’re tempted to start a crash diet, think again. Losing weight too quickly puts you at risk of creating a second hormonal storm. Instead, take a gradual approach, modifying your lifestyle slowly but surely. The key is to combine regular exercise with a slight reduction in your daily calorie intake.

Opt for a direct intake of progesterone

Some menopausal or peri-menopausal women also choose to supplement with progesterone

If you’d rather avoid synthetic formulations, choose a natural, plant-based progesterone such as that obtained from yams, which is bio-identical in structure to the female hormones (7). This is available either as a classic cream (such as Natural Progesterone Cream, with a liposomal formulation for optimal penetration) or as a handy spray (such as Natural Progesterone Spray, enriched with vitamin E for maximum uptake).

Manage your stress levels to lower conversion into cortisol

Loss of femininity, feelings of emptiness, existential crisis: the menopause can place huge strain on your psychogical and emotional well-being. Unfortunately, cortisol (the famous ‘stress hormone’) and progesterone share the same precursor: pregnenolone.

As a result, in the case of prolonged exposure to stress, the body prioritises cortisol production to ensure your ‘survival’, pushing progesterone to the back burner (6).

So to raise your progesterone, try to lower your stress levels as much as possible through gentle approaches such as yoga, meditation and sophrology.

And once again, nature is there to help! More commonly-known as Indian ginseng, ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a classic Ayurvedic adaptogen plant which promotes optimal relaxation, mental well-being and stress reduction (7-8). It can be found in certain cutting-edge supplements (such as Super Ashwagandha, standardised to 5% withanolides for optimal efficacy).

References

  1. Shrem G, Gilman A, Buckett W, Balayla J, Son WY, Lefebvre J, Jin SG, Dahan MH. Amount of Progesterone Consumed Based on Varying Fat Concentrations, Dietary Recommendations, and Estimated Safe Levels in Commercial Cow Origin Liquid Dairy Products. J Med Food. 2019 Sep;22(9):971-974. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2019.0018. Epub 2019 Jun 14. PMID: 31199703.
  2. Mumford SL, Chavarro JE, Zhang C, Perkins NJ, Sjaarda LA, Pollack AZ, Schliep KC, Michels KA, Zarek SM, Plowden TC, Radin RG, Messer LC, Frankel RA, Wactawski-Wende J. Dietary fat intake and reproductive hormone concentrations and ovulation in regularly menstruating women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Mar;103(3):868-77. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.119321. Epub 2016 Feb 3. PMID: 26843151; PMCID: PMC4763493.
  3. Richter DU, Mylonas I, Toth B, Scholz C, Briese V, Friese K, Jeschke U. Effects of phytoestrogens genistein and daidzein on progesterone and estrogen (estradiol) production of human term trophoblast cells in vitro. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2009 Jan;25(1):32-8. doi: 10.1080/09513590802485020. PMID: 19165661.
  4. Davis SR, Castelo-Branco C, Chedraui P, Lumsden MA, Nappi RE, Shah D, Villaseca P; Writing Group of the International Menopause Society for World Menopause Day 2012. Understanding weight gain at menopause. Climacteric. 2012 Oct;15(5):419-29. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2012.707385. PMID: 22978257.
  5. Rodrigues RO, Trevisanuto C, Cooke RF, Vasconcelos JL. Effects of body weight loss on serum progesterone concentrations of non-lactating dairy cows. Theriogenology. 2011 Jan 1;75(1):131-7. doi: 10.1016/j.theriogenology.2010.07.018. Epub 2010 Sep 27. PMID: 20875677.
  6. Schliep KC, Mumford SL, Vladutiu CJ, et al. Perceived stress, reproductive hormones, and ovulatory function: a prospective cohort study. Epidemiology. 2015;26(2):177-184. doi:10.1097/EDE.0000000000000238
  7. Lieberman A, Curtis L. In Defense of Progesterone: A Review of the Literature. Altern Ther Health Med. 2017 Nov;23(6):24-32. PMID: 29055286.
  8. Salve J, Pate S, Debnath K, Langade D. Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study. Cureus. 2019;11(12):e6466. Published 2019 Dec 25. doi:10.7759/cureus.6466
  9. Singh N, Bhalla M, de Jager P, Gilca M. An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011;8(5 Suppl):208-213. doi:10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.9
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