Progesterone is the single most important hormone made by the female body. It is critically important for the health of virtually every cell and organ of the body. Because progesterone is a master hormone, it is used as a precursor for the production of other important hormones, such as estrogen and cortisone.
Progesterone is a hormone produced in the body which helps to regulate the menstrual cycle of women. Men also produce a small amount of this hormone, but it is less important to sexual maturity in men than is testosterone. In women, progesterone is produced just before ovulation in order to enhance the possibility of becoming pregnant. It is a key player in pregnancy especially in the first eight weeks and beyond. If a woman does not become pregnant, hormone levels begin to decline after ovulation, enough so that the uterine lining is shed. Along with estrogen, progesterone maintains the balance of the women’s menstrual cycle, producing monthly periods or menstruation.
Progesterone also serves several other important functions in the body. It aids in immunity, reduces swelling and inflammation, stimulates and regulates the production of the thyroid gland, and keeps blood-clotting levels at normal values. Progesterone also can be said to be an “anti-aging” hormone. It keeps bones strong, produces collagen, and helps keep nerves functioning at appropriate levels. Some researchers are now testing the effects of progesterone shots on people with multiple sclerosis to see if it can help keep nerves and skeletal muscles from deteriorating.
Progesterone production, however, can be suppressed by environmental antagonists, such as the hormones found in most commercially grown meats & dairy products, pesticides, petro-chemicals, prescription hormones and stress.
As a woman ages, levels of progesterone and estrogen begin to decline. This gradually leads to menopause. It is easy to see how the decline in these levels not only affects the menstrual cycle but also contributes to aging, because less collagen means less skin elasticity, which contributes to skin wrinkling. Low levels also decrease the body’s ability to create new bone cells, which puts a woman at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.
Other functions of Progesterone
Another major function of progesterone is to regulate the activity of estrogen. It is able to decrease the production of estrogen receptors. This decreases the cell’s ability to overreact to excessive levels of estrogen. This is one of the mechanisms by which progesterone protects the body from estrogen-induced cancers of the uterus and breasts. Another by promoting cell differentiation. Progesterone promotes normal cell development and can override estrogen’s message to multiply. Estrogen and progesterone work together to better in balance than they do alone or out of balance.
Progesterone blocks the action of a hormone called aldesterone. Aldesterone causes the body to store water in the presence of dehydration. Progesterone blocks aldosterone receptors and allows the body to release excess water. Progesterone behaves like a natural diuretic. Progesterone decrease thyroid binding globulin. Estrogen increases thyroid binding globulin levels, which inactivates thyroid hormone. This slows the body’s metabolism and allows the storage of fat and energy for a future fetus. Progesterone, on the other hand, decreases thyroid binding globulin levels, thereby increasing the amount of active thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone can now stimulate the utilization of the fat store for energy.
Progesterone is very important to the normal functioning of the brain. A blood-brain barrier protects the brain from outside substances. Only what is necessary is allowed to cross this barrier. Over 66% of the progesterone made by the body is concentrated in the brain. In the brain, progesterone can bind to GABA receptors. These receptors are responsible for maintaining an appropriate mood. GABA receptors are the receptors to which antidepressant drugs and anti- anxiety drugs bind to produce their effects. Studies show that these mood-altering drugs work because they elevate the concentration of a progesterone by-product. Therefore, progesterone can be prescribed as a natural antidepressant and anti-anxiety treatment.
Progesterone relaxes smooth muscle, which is found in the uterus. Progesterone can relax smooth muscle contraction. The contractions of the uterine smooth muscle during the menstrual cycle are experienced as menstrual cramps. Progesterone can decrease the intensity of menstrual cramps. Smooth muscle also lines blood vessel walls; therefore, progesterone can relax blood vessels.
When progesterone and estrogen are available in their proper relationship, they promote good health. When they are not equal and supporting one another, Estrogen Dominance occurs causing the body to be out of balance. If therefore there is a progesterone deficiency, it will lead to certain symptoms.
Low progesterone symptoms are:
- Weight gain especially over the belly area
- Mood Swings
- Abnormally heavy flow during periods or irregular periods
- Low sexual drive
- Infertility/no ovulation
- Pain in breasts
- General body pain
- Hot flashes
- Varying degrees of fatigue
- Cravings of a wide variety
- Mental stress
- Lowered immune system
- Hampered intestinal health including indigestion
- Increase in cholesterol levels
- Frequent bloating and occurrence of gas
- Migraines and headaches
- Cramping during menstruation
- Excess water retention
- Puffiness in cheeks
- Memory loss
- Vaginal dryness
- Joint pain
- Changes in appetite
- Inability to lose weight
Some common signs of a progesterone deficiency that may not be immediately noticeable include chronic constipation and getting sick often, since the hormone plays a role in intestinal health and overall immunity. Women with a long-term progesterone deficiency are also at increased risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and breast and uterine cancers.
Causes of Progesterone Deficiency
- Stress: Studies have shown that many women in America suffer from low levels of progesterone due to the fast-paced and stressful life they lead. Stress is also responsible for irregular ovulation.
- Diet: Women consuming high amounts of non-vegetarian food usually have high levels of estrogen. Animals, these days, are given high levels of estrogen so that they grow big in size. This estrogen finds its way in the human body and causes imbalance between the levels of progesterone and estrogen in the human body.
- Birth Control Pills: There are high levels of prescription hormones in birth control pills. One of the hormones, is Progestin, but it is not the same as the progesterone hormone produced by the body. Added to it, these birth control pills increase the levels of estrogen, causing an imbalance.
- Other Reasons: Some of the other reasons are hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, adrenal gland disorders, hormone replacement therapy, etc.
Additional Pages of interest: