The hormone progesterone is an important player in many bodily processes. Sometimes referred to as “the pregnancy hormone”, progesterone plays a major role in womens’ ability to get pregnant and conceive. To prepare the body for pregnancy, progesterone thickens the lining of the uterus to make implantation of a fertilized egg easier. If pregnancy doesn’t occur, progesterone levels drop – triggering menstruation. When pregnancy does occur, however, progesterone rises to help maintain the pregnancy by reducing maternal uterine contractions and immune response. Progesterone then drops again, setting into motion the onset of labor.
More than just a pregnancy hormone, this steroid hormone (in combination with estrogen) keeps our bones strong(17) by sticking to special bone-forming cells called osteoblasts. Progesterone also helps regulate our blood pressure, mood and sleep(2).
A variety of life events can trigger an imbalance in our levels of progesterone. Both younger and older women can experience a shift at different phases in life.
Too much of a good thing
Pregnant women, women taking birth control pills, and pre and postmenopausal women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and progesterone supplements are more likely to experience heightened levels of progesterone(1).
Symptoms can include breast swelling and tenderness, bloating, mood swings, anxiety, depression, low sex drive, fatigue, and weight gain. Whether you have just one or all of these symptoms, it can be a lot to deal with. Affecting not only you, but your loved ones.
If you’re wondering whether there are natural ways to nudge your progesterone into its optimal range, then stick around!
Food as medicine
Plant foods are rich in phytoestrogens, and eating a plant-rich diet is foundational to achieving
To reduce progesterone:
The lignans found in plant foods like ground flax seed, sesame seed, and fermented soy foods like natto, miso and tempeh(4) are especially harmonizing. When consumed, these foods can help balance our estrogen-progesterone ratio by mimicking estrogen in the body(3). And because estrogen and progesterone work in tandem, adding more of one will reduce the other.
Limiting your intake of animal-based foods, with the exception of small fatty fish, can also go a long way in stabilizing hormone levels (10). Conventionally raised animals and dairy are grown using synthetic hormones to speed up the production process. And because we are what we eat, these foods can really undermine our hormone health. Try avoiding them altogether.
Not enough of a good thing
During perimenopause, women may become estrogen dominant as the ovaries begin to produce less progesterone(6).
Symptoms can include abnormal menstrual periods, irregular periods or short cycles. Sometimes, these can be accompanied by premenstrual spotting, anxiety, depression, mood swings, and sleep disturbances(7).
Food as medicine
Increasing these three nutrients (B6, zinc, magnesium) in your diet can improve your progesterone levels.
Vitamin B6(11) – wild salmon, chickpeas, organic chicken liver, and organic pastured eggs are all great sources of this essential vitamin. B6 has been shown to boost mood, and relieve feelings of irritability, anxiety, and nervousness.
The mineral zinc plays a protective role in our reproductive systems, and can help regulate blood sugar(14), This can help balance our estrogen-progesterone ratio.
Animal-based foods like shellfish, pasture-raised chicken, and grass fed beef provide concentrated amounts of zinc. Vegetarians and vegans can find moderate amounts in leavened bread, nuts, and sprouted beans (12). Because plant foods contain a less absorbable form of this mineral, soaking beans and grains before cooking them can increase nutrient bioavailability(13).
Magnesium can be found in foods like dark chocolate, nuts, and green leafy vegetables. Among its many benefits are its overall calming effect on the nervous system and the heart. And just like zinc, it can help balance blood sugar(15).
Also, consider decreasing or eliminating your intake of sugar and dairy. These two things alone can be a powerful tool in helping to restore your progesterone to healthier levels(11).
Vitex is a gentle, and highly effective herb used to boost progesterone levels (16).
Since many of us are deficient in magnesium, supplementing with magnesium bisglycinate (a bioavailable form of magnesium) can help ensure you consistently get adequate amounts of this important mineral.
Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce excess levels of both progesterone and estrogen, which means it can balance your hormone levels in either direction based on your unique needs(5). So, get out that sweatband, and get moving!
Studies show that when we’re stressed out, our bodies release a stress hormone called cortisol. But that’s not all. We also release a calming hormone called…wait for it… progesterone! If this happens enough, our bodies become depleted of progesterone. A consistent mindfulness meditation practice can have a positive effect on hormonal imbalance, and overall health, by teaching us to respond (rather than react) to our circumstances(9). Can you say “Ohm”?
2- https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/15245-hormone-therapy-for-menopause-sympto ms#:~:text=Progesterone%20plays%20a%20role%20in,Improves%20mood%20and%20sleep.
- Hamilton College 2002 – 2006 (B.A., Chemistry Major and Psychology Major)
- Cornell University 2006 – 2008 (M.S., Food Science)
- Cornell University 2009 – 2012 (Ph.D., Food Science)
Anne is an Angel investor & advisor. She is the author of “The Juicy Bite”, a successful CPG and Tech newsletter. Venture technology and startup scout, with over seven years of global CPG experience. Her background in holistic product design, sustainability, trends & technology identification, and consumer insights enables her to identify white space opportunities and areas for investment. With a Ph.D. in Food Science she brings great expertise and value to the Hormone University community.
“Anne is a real up-and-coming talent with world class training in the chemical senses, demonstrating in her burgeoning career an ability to translate fundamental scientific phenomena into pragmatic commercial relevance with impeccable collegiality to boot.”