When we think about progesterone, we might only think about the role it plays in our menstrual cycle or our fertility, but this powerful hormone has other biological functions. Progesterone is a powerful anti-anxiety agent, an anti-depressant, and a diuretic, which means it helps us to eliminate excess fluid. However, a common sex hormone imbalance involves low progesterone—and this can cause chaos for a woman’s experience of her period as well as her sense of calm, her moods, her energy, and even her confidence and the way she perceives herself.
Signs you might be low in progesterone:
- PMS/PMT and other cycle-related symptoms, such as irregular periods, very heavy periods or spotting in the lead up to your period
- Feeling puffy, swollen or bloated
- A tendency towards anxious or low moods or mood swings (especially in the lead up to your period)
- Unexplained weight gain (especially around the abdomen, hips and bottom)
- Headaches (particularly pre-menstrually)
What impacts progesterone production?
Progesterone is supposed to be the dominant hormone in the second half of the menstrual cycle, known as the luteal phase. During the childbearing years it is predominantly made in the ovaries, however, we also make some progesterone from our adrenal glands across the whole length of the cycle. Because our adrenals also make our stress hormones (whose production always takes top priority), chronic stress – which is extremely common these days – can compromise our progesterone production. Stress can also contribute to irregular ovulation or anovulatory cycles. This may not seem like such a big deal if you’re not trying to get pregnant, but ovulation is required to stimulate the surge of progesterone in the second half of the menstrual cycle. In other words, if we don’t ovulate, we don’t get an increase in our progesterone levels. And, when stress hormones are being produced in excess, your body is more likely to get the message not to produce enough of this important hormone that contributes to your overall sense of calm and happiness, as well as reduces fluid retention. Your body uses cholesterol as a building block to make progesterone. We also need various nutrients to support healthy ovulation—which then stimulates progesterone production. Some important nutrients that people commonly aren’t getting enough of include selenium, iodine, zinc, vitamin D and magnesium.
Supporting progesterone through nourishment
The best source of selenium is brazil nuts—just 2-6 nuts a day can provide your daily selenium requirement. Zinc is predominantly found in red meat, oysters, eggs and seeds. Many people struggle to get enough through their food so this is one of the reasons we packaged up a plant source of zinc in our Organic Zinc Extract. Most of our vitamin D comes from (a safe level of) sun exposure, however we can also get some vitamin D from mushrooms exposed to UV light. Magnesium is most commonly found in green leafy vegetables, as well as nuts and seeds, so make sure you’re getting at least your minimum five serves of veg a day (seven if you really want to feel fab!). For iodine, choose a good quality fortified salt or include seaweed regularly in your way of eating. We included kelp in our Cycle Essentials to ensure you obtain iodine, as it is also needed for thyroid function.
Boosting progesterone through stress management
In addition to boosting your nourishment, it is essential to reduce the relentless presence of stress hormones so your body gets the message you are safe, and so it can therefore produce the right amounts of progesterone. This might look like making changes in your weekly schedule so you’re not feeling quite so overwhelmed by all the tasks you’ve packed in and considering your perception of pressure and urgency (is your inbox really a matter of life or death?)… Or it might look like reducing your caffeine intake (as caffeine drives adrenaline production) and introducing a daily diaphragmatic breathing exercise or semi-regular downtime. Usually it’s some combination of these that is most effective.
How Cycle Essentials can help
If your period comes crashing in like a marching band alerting you to its arrival days before it shows up, Cycle Essentials is the blend for you. A carefully formulated blend of herbs plus kelp (a fantastic source of iodine), it works synergistically to support regular ovulation, necessary for healthy progesterone production. It also includes herbs that support the adrenal glands, to help relieve symptoms of stress. Fostering healthy progesterone production could be the difference between your period being an event each month and it showing up quietly. We have been flooded with comments from incredulous women exclaiming the difference Cycle Essentials has made to their monthly cycle—often within only a couple of cycles—and it makes our hearts sing to hear this! Cycle Essentials is best taken for at least three months, and for optimal results we also suggest incorporating a daily restorative practice, such as diaphragmatic breathing.