Most women know that progesterone is a key hormone when it comes to periods and fertility. You might have even been told that your progesterone is low and is the main reason you’re struggling to get pregnant. Having spoken with many women in this situation, I’ve found that most people accept this as something they can do very little about, except take progesterone supplements to try to correct it. And no wonder why! Quite often, they are not given information and advice on what they can do themselves. So please read on if this is you.
There are a number of known factors that reduce progesterone and one of the key culprits is stress. This is something that is an epidemic in today’s world. If we weren’t stressed enough at work, along came Brexit angst, Covid 19 with lockdowns, swiftly followed by the Ukraine War, the Cost of Living Crisis and strikes everywhere! Arrgh! When we’re stressed, our bodies produce cortisol to put the body on high alert. What you might not realise is progesterone is required to produce cortisol. So, increased cortisol= decreased progesterone. That’s ok now and again, but prolonged stress really depletes progesterone. Why is progesterone important? Well, if we don’t have enough, the uterine lining becomes thinner (less chance of embryo implantation), periods become irregular, we get mood swings, feel hot and could suffer with migraines. Bottom line, it reduces the chance of pregnancy.
It’s important therefore to reduce stress where possible and work out ways to create balance. Some ideas for you:
- Write a list of the predominant stressors in your life and brainstorm 2-3 ways you could reduce what is stressing you. Writing it down helps you get clear and helps your brain find solutions.
- If work is stressful, have 3 periods at the beginning, middle and end of the day where you stop for 5-10 minutes and ‘reset’. This is non-negotiable time for you when you sit and do nothing but breathe, empty your mind and just be. This helps you re-energise and gives you space.
- Meditation when you wake up in the morning, particularly thinking through what you are grateful for and setting an intention for how you want to feel in your day sets you up for things to go well.
- Regular exercise helps enormously. You can even kill two birds with one stone – a lovely walk in nature is meditative in itself.
- Acupuncture and other therapies such as reflexology are proven to reduce stress.
- Get regular self care activities factored into your calendar. If it’s not thought about and booked in, it often doesn’t happen. Why do we put ourselves last?! Whether it’s ‘soak in the bath with a mag’ night, a coffee with friends, a massage, or a date with our partner, make a habit of planning for the month ahead. Perhaps make the last day of the month a cue to getting your diary out.
The other main culprit is insulin resistance, tied in with obesity. Whenever we eat carbs, whether it’s a piece of cake, pasta or rice, the pancreas produces the hormone insulin. It moves the sugar into our cells to produce energy. Over time, especially if we eat a lot of sugar, this mechanism fails to work as it should and we end up with the sugar staying in our bloodstream. The pancreas tries its best by producing more and more insulin to deal with it and this depletes progesterone. So of course, if we can reduce carbohydrates in our diet, we can help reverse this insulin resistance. Clearly this is easier said than done when we are in the habit of eating a lot of carbohydrates. We tend to reach for tempting sweet treats when we are stressed and tired so tackling stress first is helpful. Then it helps to make gradual changes to your diet rather than going all out and potentially feeling overwhelmed or deprived. So if you know one particular carb is your dominant go-to such as biscuits or crisps, try tackling that one first. When you feel you’ve conquered that, what else is next? Don’t think you have to cut these pleasures out completely, just focus on reducing. Increasing protein and healthy fats in your diet also means you get less hungry and keeps your hormones balanced.
Another other factor that can affect progesterone is reduced magnesium. Magnesium helps regulate the pituitary gland which is responsible for producing hormones involved in fertility. These hormones lead to the production of progesterone as well as oestrogen. Choose foods to boost your magnesium levels as well as Zinc, Vitamin B6, L-Arginine, fibre and Vitamin C. These all help progesterone levels.
If you’ve thought that you’re stuck with taking medications to raise your progesterone levels, I hope this article has encouraged you.