What is Progesterone?
Progesterone is secreted by the ovary (corpus luteum) and to some extent by the adrenal gland after menopause. Progesterone is also secreted by the decidua of the placenta during pregnancy. Progesterone is considered a calming hormone and balances the effect of estrogen.
The effects of natural progesterone include:
- Helps balance the effects of estrogen
- Has a short biological half-life
- Helps you sleep (by its effect GABA)
- Acts as a natural antidepressant to produce a natural calming effect
- Lowers high blood pressure
- Controls lipid metabolism and counteracts abdominal obesity stimulated by estrogen
- Lowers cholesterol (decreases LDL and increases HDL) and triglycerides
- Increases growth of scalp hair
- Normalizes libido
- Augments the effects of estrogen on the cardiovascular system
- Acts as a natural diuretic to balance the amount of fluid in the skin cells to maintain proper hydration
- Has an anti-proliferative effect on all organs with progesterone receptors found on the uterus, breast, ovaries, and cervix. It is known to protect against cancer of the uterus, and breast.
- Balances the effects of estrogen on blood sugar by increasing insulin, insulin resistance, and cortisol
- Builds bone by stimulation of osteoclasts
- Decreases thyroid binding globulin thus aiding the function of the thyroid gland (is also thought to have some effect on the thyroid receptors)
- Maintains zinc and copper levels
Progesterone supplementation is used to treat perimenopause and menopause. In perimenopause and menopause, progesterone is usually the first hormone to become deficient as the ovaries cease to function.
Low progesterone levels can be found in the following circumstances:
- Impaired production (primary ovarian)
- Decreased thyroid hormone
- Increased prolactin levels with attendant low LH levels
- Excessive stress or the use of antidepressants
- Adverse nutritional states such as excessive arginine consumption, excessive sugar, excessive saturated fat, or deficiency of vitamins A, B6, C and zinc
The symptoms of decreased progesterone are very similar to those of estrogen excess and include:
- Mood swings, depression, and anxiety with panic attacks
- Irritability and headaches
- Osteoporosis, pain, and inflammation resembling osteoarthritis
- Irregular heavy menses
- Decreased HDL’s
- Swollen and tender breast, and fibrocystic breast disease
- Fluid retention with swelling and bloating
- Decreased sexual interest
Due to its multiple beneficial effects, it is recommended that progesterone is used in women who have had a complete hysterectomy and must be continued as long as estrogen is continued (forever).
Much effort has been put into developing synthetic progesterone. These “progestins” are erroneously presented as “progesterone” even by the press and even some physicians. These progestins have numerous detrimental effects and few of the beneficial effects of progesterone. It has been said, “treatment with progestins is worse than no treatment at all.”