Progesterone is a powerful hormone, that is essential for good health in women of all ages.
You might know it best as one of the hormones necessary for us to experience the magic of creating new life — from falling pregnant in the first place through to enabling us to carry a pregnancy through to full term.
It is a common misconception that once we reach menopause, the need for progesterone in our bodies diminishes.
Progesterone has many other functions in our body that we continue to require throughout every stage of our lives. It is a powerful anti-anxiety agent, an anti-depressant and a diuretic, meaning it allows us to get rid of excess fluid. It is also essential if we are to access body fat to burn as energy. Without the right amount of progesterone, you will predominantly utilise your glucose (“sugar”) as an energy source which can lead your body to having to break down muscle tissue for energy. Over time, this can slow down your metabolic rate which is not something you want as it increases body fat levels and decreases your energy and vitality.
Once we begin to reach menopause and our ovaries begin to wind down the production of sex hormones, the body continues to make progesterone in other areas — primarily our adrenal glands. Yet this is also the place from which we make our stress hormones.
If our body has consistently been in a stress response, perhaps as a result of our busy lifestyle, excessive caffeine consumption, or our perception of pressure and urgency, our adrenals will have been churning our stress hormones – primarily adrenalin and cortisol – to help you. Adrenalin communicates to every cell in your body that your life is in danger, while cortisol communicates that there is no food left in the world. Because of the connection your body has that progesterone is linked to fertility, it doesn’t want you to bring a baby into a world where it perceives you’re not safe and there’s no food.
So the body will think it is doing you a favour by shutting down your adrenal production of progesterone when there are excessive amounts of stress hormones being produced, at any life stage.
Park the fertility aspect of the above and consider what else this leads to: you’ve now stopped making a hormone that stops you from feeling anxious, going to a low mood and now you are retaining fluid. When you are experiencing these symptoms, it can impact every aspect of our lives, including our food choices, whether we exercise or not, as well as how we interact with others. The ripple effect of poor progesterone production due to the relentless output of stress hormones is a major challenge for too many women today and can be contributing to a sense of daily overwhelm.
For a peri-menopausal, menopausal or post-menopausal woman, strong adrenal function is essential to ensuring that you are protected against degenerative diseases associated with bone density and cardiovascular decline. If, as a result of having not made sufficient amounts or ratios of sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone) across your menstruating life-cycle, because your adrenals aren’t up to the task of overseeing the production of these hormones – the body always has a Plan B.
Plan B consists of increasing body fat, since fat cells are another production centre for estrogen in the body.
A lack of sex hormones, along with a general decrease in metabolism by around 10 to 15 per cent (often due to muscle loss), is one of the primary reasons women in their menopausal years begin to find their body changing shape quite suddenly.
There are a number of ways we can support our body to continue producing sex hormones outside of our ovaries. Avoiding liver loaders (such as refined sugars and alcohol) and ensuring adequate consumption of nutritious fats (such as those found in oily fish, chia seeds, flax seed, walnuts and evening primrose) is a great place to start. Managing stress by creating calm in our life (whatever this might mean to you, be it meditation, diaphragmatic breathing or something else), is also invaluable.
Cycle Essentials has been designed to support healthy adrenal function to ensure optimal production of sex hormones across the various stages in a woman’s life. It is most effective when coupled with the lifestyle changes mentioned above that also protect and support the adrenals, helping you to make the right amount of (particularly) progesterone for your current life stage.