Increasing progesterone levels (if you are deficient) takes time & can be trickier than addressing other hormone deficiencies. Medical Doctor & OBGYN Sara Gottfried explains that some people may have a form of progesterone resistance, causing them to be unresponsive to adding the hormone to their regime through pills or cream.
I got my hormones tested using SpectraCell Labs at the Bulletproof BioHacking Conference. I learned that my progesterone was nearly non-existent. Although I didn’t suffer from ALL of the symptoms linked to low progesterone (menstrual headaches, mood swings, anxiety…), I certainly had some warning signs:
- Breakouts around that time of the month
- Water retention/bloating
- Acne without taking androgen-lowering medication
Ladies, here are a few reasons we want to have optimal levels of progesterone:
- Improves PMS symptoms
- Promotes healthy bones
- Makes it easier for you to lose stubborn body fat/weight
- Promotes feelings of calmness
- Acts as a precursor for other hormones (testosterone and estrogen)
What did a biohacker like me do to start increasing progesterone? I hacked it. Before you start following the hacks listed below, get your hormones tested using one of the methods mentioned in this blog & work with your doctor to develop a plan that’s best for you.
Warning: If you have low progesterone, your plan to get optimal levels may look very different than mine. Your age (premenopausal, perimenopausal, postmenopausal), other hormone levels, and symptoms will all play a role in your personalized regime.
Hack #1: Take 100mg of progesterone on days 15-28 of cycle.
Warning: This hack is very personalized.
If you are premenopausal and only slightly below normal levels, you could most likely improve your progesterone production naturally. However, for me, I tried the natural route (taking DHEA & other supplements) for many months with no change. Therefore, for a period of 6 months, I was prescribed progesterone by my doctor & took it on days 15-28 of my cycle.
Please note that taking over-the-counter hormones is not risk-free. It’s not a good idea to take them forever (for most people) because it can interfere with your body’s natural production. Also, not everyone responds to bioidentical progesterone. In my case, I was not producing enough on my own, so taking a low dose allowed me to improve without exceeding the normal range.
You’ll know when it’s time to get off of bioidentical progesterone because it will start to do the opposite of what it was meant to do in the first place… Symptoms include acne breakouts, weight gain, mood swings, bloating, breast tenderness, etc. If you are going to use pills or cream, it’s critical to re-test your levels every 6 months (or however often your doctor recommends) to make sure you’re not doing any damage.
Result: Increasing progesterone helped me prevent breakouts, reduce PMS symptoms, and create cycle regularity.
Hack #2: Lower adrenal stress (adrenal fatigue).
“Adrenal fatigue” refers to chronic stress on the adrenal glands. When you experience chronic stress, the adrenal glands may stop secreting optimal levels of DHEA. Without proper levels of DHEA and healthy adrenal glands, it becomes difficult for your body to make progesterone. Depending on the severity of your adrenal fatigue, it can take anywhere from 6-24 months to recover. To support my adrenal glands, I followed these steps:
- Decrease coffee/caffeine intake. For 1 month, I had no caffeine (hard for a Bulletproof fan!) because it boosts cortisol temporarily. According to the American Journal of Public Health, high cortisol can block your progesterone receptors. After I month, I added back in the occasional green tea or coffee, but kept my consumption very low.
- Supplement with herbs and vitamins. My supplement regime: 2 capsules of Adren-All in the morning, 750mg of Vitamin C (which has been shown to raise progesterone in women by this study), Zinc Picolinate (with copper), and Cortisol Manager at night. Other supplements that have been recommended for progesterone deficiency & adrenal health include the following: Chasteberry (AKA Vitex), 6 grams of L-arginine, Vitamin B6, and vitamin E.
- Get adequate sleep. To learn how to improve your sleep quality, check out these tips.
Result: Cortisol Manager makes me feel calm. Stopping my morning coffee allowed me to replace it with a nutrient-dense shake. Getting adequate sleep OBVIOUSLY feels awesome.
Hack #3: Eat more healthy fats and magnesium-rich foods.
Diet can impact your hormones. In addition to limiting processed foods & sugar (pretty easy for me since I’ve been following a whole foods/Bulletproof diet for a while now), I implemented these nutrition tips:
- Eat pasture-raised eggs (with the yolks please!) & grass-fed butter. If your cholesterol is too low, you may not be making enough pregnenolone, which is used to produce progesterone. These foods help keep your cholesterol in check.
- Increase the magnesium in your diet. Magnesium is helpful in promoting hormonal balance. Halibut, spinach, and cacao (dark chocolate) are some tasty options that contain magnesium.
- Limit foods that encourage estrogen production. If you are low in progesterone, you may have excess estrogen. When the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is out of whack & you’re estrogen dominant, it’s a good idea to stay away from foods that may boost estrogen production: processed sugar, tempeh/tofu, flaxseeds, beans, etc.
Result: I feel satiated, reduced my sweet-tooth, and fixed my magnesium deficiency.
The Big Picture
Hormonal balance makes life so much easier! Easier to lose weight, get a goodnight’s sleep, and have energy all day. By implementing the steps above, I’ve been able to get back into the optimal range for progesterone, see my skin improve, and have cycle regularity.
I’ve also seen firsthand how dietary changes and supplementation has improved hormonal balance (through tracking it of course) in my Bulletproof coaching clients. Pretty cool.
Thank you for reading & I hope this helps my fellow ladies working on increasing progesterone!