Meet Progesterone! In my last blog, I introduced you to Estrogen and began talking about the amazing benefits female hormones give us. No more ugly stereotypes about women getting the short end of the biological stick! We may have gotten a learning curve, but once we learn it, our whole world changes!
Progesterone is the other dominant sex hormone for women, so I like to think of her as Estrogen’s more introverted, very chill, detail oriented sister.
How Progesterone Works During Your Cycle
At the beginning of luteal phase (after ovulation, usually the 10-16 days before your period), your estrogen declines. That’s when progesterone takes the driver’s seat and begins to rise day by day. During this time, progesterone gives an embryo the opportunity to implant, which makes pregnancy possible. If you’re pregnant, progesterone will continue to rise. If you’re not pregnant, progesterone will decline again, which triggers the onset of your period.
Progesterone’s role is to help calm your body and mind so that pregnancy could be possible, but you’ll still feel it’s effects even if you aren’t trying to conceive since you’re still going through that phase of your cycle.
Poised with Progesterone
When trying to conceive, women are told to make their lives very low stress so that their pregnancy will be healthy. During a normal cycle though, it’s still important to lower stress, because that’s what progesterone is telling your body and brain to do. Progesterone is anti-stress! Progesterone doesn’t have the same energizing and outgoing effect that estrogen does. Instead, it encourages you to have a “mini nesting phase.” Taking care of organizational details, cultivating a relaxing environment, and taking things off your plate encourages healthy progesterone levels. Progesterone makes your insulin slightly more resistant and increases your hunger. Your digestion can be slower when progesterone is dominant too. Taking digestive enzymes, eating protein and complex carbohydrates, and making sure to not ignore your hunger can be very helpful for having a healthier cycle. If you're worried about your metabolism during this time, don't panic! Progesterone is pro-thyroid and works to increase the activity of your thyroid hormones, which is amazing for your overall metabolism and many other important functions in your body!
What Happens If Progesterone is Too Low?
Experiencing anxiety before your period? Breaking out on your chin the week before your period? Less than optimal levels of progesterone could be the reason. They might even be within normal range on lab tests, indicating that you're otherwise healthy or don't have a disease, but still cause frustrations every month.
In the All About Estrogen post, I talked about how estrogen has to be metabolized properly. If it’s not, then you not only have symptoms of estrogen dominance, but your body also won’t be able to produce as much progesterone due to estrogen being “stuck.”
Stress hormones can also steal from progesterone and lower them! If your cortisol is too high and you’re getting really stressed out, overwhelmed, and angry, that’s an indicator that your progesterone levels aren’t as good as they could be.
If you’re having PMS or period problems, spot treating won’t help balance your hormones. It’s important to support your entire cycle because all of your hormones are working together and influencing one another. One phase always merges into the next. Although these symptoms can be extremely frustrating and painful, they're trying to get your attention so that you can course correct and improve your health-- inside and out.