what you need to know about progesterone

Progesterone is a hormone produced by the ovary. It plays important roles in the menstrual cycle and in maintaining the early stages of pregnancy. It may also be involved in the growth of certain cancers.

Hormones are chemical messengers that keep our bodies in a happy state of equilibrium(homeostasis). Unfortunately, crossed wires and miscommunications happen, and before you know it your hormones are all over the place. So what causes our internal communication system to go crazy? It could be work stress, a high-sugar diet, or even too much exercise.

Fertility and menstruation are largely controlled by hormones, and one of these hormones is progesterone. Progesterone is a steroid hormone belonging to a class of hormones called progestogens. It is secreted by the corpus luteum, a temporary endocrine gland that the female body produces after ovulation during the second half of the menstrual cycle.

“Progestin” is a general term for a substance that causes some or all of the biologic effects of progesterone. The term “progestin” is sometimes used to refer to the progesterone made in the laboratory that is in oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy. However, all progesterone and progestin products are made in the laboratory. The term “natural progesterone” is really a misnomer.

How progesterone levels change during month?

Menstrual phase (day 1-5):

 Menstruation begins on the first day of the cycle and is marked by shedding of the uterine wall. Blood flow is usually between 10-80ml and may be accompanied by abdominal cramps which help to expel fluid. Levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are fairly low, and metabolism, mood, and hunger should be well balanced.

Follicular phase (day 1-14):

 This step starts at the same time as menstruation, but lasts for 14 days. During this time, the pituitary gland in the brain releases a hormone (follicle-stimulating hormone [FSH]) that acts on the ovaries, causing development and maturation of an egg cell into a structure called a follicle (hence the name of this phase). The follicle releases a hormone, estrogen, which causes thickening of the uterine wall.

Ovulation phase (day 14):

 On roughly the 14th day of the cycle, the pituitary gland releases another hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH). LH causes the mature egg cell to be released from the ovaries and enter the Fallopian tube, which connects the ovaries to the uterus. Ovulation lasts for 12-48 hours, but a women’s ‘fertility window’ can last for up to 7 days, due to the ability of sperm to survive for several days in the female reproductive tract. When ovulation occurs, the egg breaks free from the surrounding protective follicle cells and the hormone, progesterone, is secreted.

Luteal phase (day 15-28):

 Progesterone levels peak and prepare the lining of the uterine wall for pregnancy. However, if fertilization doesn’t occur, progesterone and estrogen levels decrease, causing the lining of the uterus to break down and shed- marking the end of one cycle and the start of a new one.

Though estrogen almost seems like the “good hormone” and progesterone, the “evil PMS hormone”, both are absolutely essential for healthy function and must be maintained in a good balance.

Estrogen boosts mood and energy. It increases fat deposits and impacts where the body stores fat; giving preferential treatment to thicker thighs and lower body fat deposits. Adequate estrogen is necessary for bone formation – in menopause, as there is a drop in estrogen, bone resorption can outweigh bone formation, creating a risk of osteoporosis.

Conversely, progesterone lowers insulin levels, stabilizes thyroid function, improves deeper quality sleep and helps appetite regulation.

How to improve progesterone balance in body?

  1. Take Diet Breaks every 12 Weeks.

    These can be necessary to prevent the shutdown of your cycle.

  2. Eat foods rich in Vitamin C such as citrus and orange.

    Vitamin C is necessary for progesterone production and a healthy uterine lining.

  3. Eat foods rich in Vitamin B such as potatoes, bananas, and whole grains.

    The liver needs Vitamin B to break down estrogen.

  4. Eat Iron-Rich Foods such as leafy-green vegetables, fish and lean meats. 

    Female athletes are especially prone to iron depletion after their periods.

  5. Eat High Zinc Foods such as oysters, lean red meat and dark chocolate.

    Zinc is critical to a good E/P balance.

  6. Avoid “estrogen boosting” foods.

    The key with these hormones is balance. Unless you have low estrogen avoid dried fruits, flax seeds, soy products, and dark rye bread.