Progesterone – a woman’s saving grace
There is a delicate balance, both complementary and antagonistic between Estrogen and Progesterone, needed to keep the body in balance.
Progesterone’s main role is to prepare the uterus for the second phase of the menstrual cycle for the implantation of a fertilized egg. But fertilization of the egg is a rare “occasion” in a women’s body, so then why do we need Progesterone?
Role and benefits of progesterone
Progesterone has diuretic properties in the body. It enables the body to retain less fluid as opposed to estrogen which causes fluid retention. Progesterone stops endometrial proliferation limiting menstrual blood loss that is so typical for estrogen dominance which causes heavy menstrual bleeding. The effect of decreasing estrogen receptors in breast and uterine tissue and balancing estrogen levels are the main reasons why Bioidentical Progesterone is used to protect us from uterine and breast cancers. Progesterone is this wonderful and desirable hormone in the body that calms emotions and stabilizes mood, contrary to estrogen which when unopposed (not balanced with adequate Progesterone) causes nervousness, anger bursts, and mood swings. These are all typical symptoms of PMS that are becoming an epidemic. Due to its calming effect micronized Bioidentical Progesterone is used to treat insomnia in perimenopausal and menopausal women.
A small amount of the progesterone is produced during the first phase of the menstrual cycle by the adrenals and a much bigger amount is produced by the ovaries during the second phase. In many situations where stress is increased and adrenal function is compromised, progesterone is produced less. This could happen at any stage of a woman’s life (even in young girls.) Stress also affects the production of FSH and LH – which are important hormones that regulate our cycle and that indirectly decrease the production of progesterone. Stress, toxicity, and inadequate nutrition are affecting ovulation (anovulation and short luteal phases) and progesterone levels in many young women and they are the potential causes of infertility, premature osteoporosis and estrogen dominance. At the latest conference of The Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine ( AARM), it was recommended that bioidentical progesterone should be used from the 15th day of each cycle in these young women in order to prevent these conditions.
During the perimenopausal period, while estrogen is decreasing gradually, progesterone is dropping significantly creating an estrogen dominance that is the symptomatic and dangerous state. Heavy prolonged menstrual bleeding, that is so typical for the perimenopausal period, as a result of this disproportional dropping often becomes a reason for unnecessary hysterectomies. Should we take the uterus out while the problems can be quite easily solved by supplying the body with what it is missing and what is creating this estrogen dominance: progesterone!? Similarly, for patients suffering from PMS from low progesterone, treatment must not be the prescription for a contraception pill but rather the addition of what is insufficient. That is exactly what is done by integrative medical doctors in these cases: treatment with bio-identical progesterone.
Bioidentical progesterone (that is identical to our body) and our endogenous progesterone are often confused with chemically altered progestins that are non-identical to our body and are part of some contraception pills and HRT’s (such as Provera). Unfortunately, several studies have concluded that these progestins, often called “progesterone” by gynecologists, can increase the risk of breast and uterine cancer, heart disease and stroke.
In contrast to this, studies showed that bio-identical progesterone is protective against breast cancers as well as cardiovascular diseases.
Progesterone is involved in balancing sugar levels, insulin levels, thyroid hormones and it facilitates fat burning by assisting fat breakdown for energy production. It is essential that its levels are checked in cases where patients are unable to lose weight successfully. Furthermore, it normalizes zinc and copper levels and restores proper cell oxygen levels. Progesterone increases bone building and is recommended for prevention of osteoporosis.
Progesterone deficiency symptoms
They are often unrecognized, untreated or simply ignored:
- Enlarged painful and swollen breasts, fibrocystic breast etc.
- Heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding, irregular periods
- Restlessness, anxiety, depression
- Mood swings
- Swollen ankles and water retention
- Low libido
- Endometriosis, uterine fibroids etc.
- Foggy thinking, difficulties concentrating
- Weight gain
Many symptoms of progesterone deficiency overlap with estrogen dominance as one of the most important roles of progesterone is to oppose estrogen. Estrogen dominance is known to increase the risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer( and prostate in man).
For all the above conditions we recommend Bioidentical progesterone as the studies have shown its beneficial effects. It has been shown to protect against the proliferative effects of estrogen and also protect bone health, cardiovascular health and cognitive function. Furthermore, progesterone has been shown to improve inflammatory markers even in women with very stressful lives. Most importantly the harmful side effects associated with progestins are not seen in studies on bioidentical progesterone! Knowing all the positive effects, bio-identical progesterone is always prescribed with bio-identical estrogen in menopausal women (including women that have had hysterectomies).This is completely different from a conventional gynecologist’s approach.
If it is used in the wrong manner Bioidentical progesterone can lead to oversaturation of the tissues and decreased effect or too much progesterone can cause worsening of existing depression and can cause tiredness. It is imperative that it is checked and prescribed by an integrative medical practitioner.
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