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Natural Progesterone Deficiency and Estrogen Dominance

The two main sex hormones in women are estrogen and progesterone. Like testosterone, estrogen and progesterone are produced in both men and women, although in substantially different quantities. Progesterone is made from pregnenolone, which is synthesized from cholesterol naturally in the body, and is produced in several places within the body of both sexes.

In women, progesterone is produced primarily in the ovaries just before ovulation, with levels increasing rapidly after ovulation. It is also produced in the adrenal glands of both sexes, and in the testes in males. In women, progesterone levels are highest during the ovulation period (day 13-15 of the menstrual cycle). It is responsible for the growth of the cells in the uterus lining which enables the implanting of a fertilized egg. Its purpose is to sustain the newly fertilized egg implanted in the lining of the uterus. Should fertilization not occur, the secretion of progesterone decreases and menstruation begins. Approximately 20-25mg per day of progesterone is produced during a woman's monthly cycle, with up to 400mg produced daily during pregnancy. During menopause, the total amount of progesterone produced radically drops to less than 1% of the pre-menopausal levels.

Progesterone plays a critical role in hormonal synthesis. In addition to being the precursor (a substance from which another substance is formed) to estrogen, it is also the precursor of testosterone and another critical hormone, the adrenal hormone cortisol. Cortisol is essential for stress response, sugar and electrolyte balance, blood pressure, and general survival, and also promotes survival and development of the embryo and fetus. Cortisol in turn, acts as a precursor to many important steroid hormones, and helps to regulate a broad range of biological and metabolic effects in the body. During chronic stress, for example, progesterone production is lowered as the body favors cortisol production to reduce stress.

Progesterone's counterpart, Estrogen, is also produced in the ovaries, and also in adrenal and fat tissues. Its role is to regulate the menstrual cycle, promote cell division, and be primarily responsible for the development of secondary female characteristics during puberty. In non-pregnant, pre-menopausal women, only 100-200 micrograms of estrogen is secreted daily however, during pregnancy, much more is produced. During menopause, the amount of estrogen in the body declines by about 50 to 60 percent. Production, however, is augmented in the adrenals and in the fat cells.

Normally, estrogen and progesterone work in synchronization with each other, opposing each other in their actions, and working to achieve hormonal harmony in both sexes.

Functions of Progesterone

The hormones estrogen and progesterone have a very close relationship. Estrogen is a very stimulatory hormone, and natural progesterone tempers the stimulatory effects of estrogen, acting as an antagonist (opposite of) to estrogen. For example, estrogen can cause breast cysts, while progesterone protects against breast cysts. Estrogen enhances salt and water retention, while progesterone is a natural diuretic. Estrogen has been associated with breast and endometrial cancer, while progesterone is considered to be a cancer preventive. These effects of natural progesterone on estrogen are further summarized in the list of effects of both hormones in the table below.

Estrogen Effects Progesterone Effects
Builds up uterine lining Maintains uterine lining
Stimulates breast tissue Protects against fibrocysts
Increases body fat Helps use fat for energy
Salt and fluid retention Diuretic
Depression, headache/migraine Anti-depressant
Interferes with thyroid hormone Facilitates thyroid hormone action
Increases blood clotting Normalizes blood clotting
Decreases libido Restores libido
Impairs blood sugar control Regulates blood sugar levels
Increases risk of endometrial cancer Protects from endometrial cancer
Increases risk of breast cancer Probable prevention of breast cancer
Slightly restrains bone loss Stimulates bone building
Reduces vascular tone Propagates growth of embryo
  Precursor of corticosteroid production

Most notably, high amounts of estrogen are known to induce a host of metabolic disturbances, which progesterone is known to counterbalance. Therefore, when this balancing mechanism is dysfunctional, a multitude of health related problems can arise, and a condition known as Estrogen Dominance.

Symptoms of Low Progesterone

Progesterone deficiency is seen in premenopausal and perimenopausal women, but also in younger women, and in men. In younger women, progesterone deficiency manifests itself as Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS. The most common symptoms of low progesterone are:

Vaginal Dryness: Women in the peri-menopausal or menopausal phase frequently experience vaginal dryness due to the deficiency of progesterone, a primary cause of painful intercourse, lack of drive, and low libido

Fatigue: Fatique, exhaustion, constant tiredness, are a primary symptom of low progesterone

Depression: Low progesterone can lead to chronic depression

Insomnia: Low progesterone can lead to insomnia and adrenal fatique

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): If you are experiencing new symptoms of PMS that you have not experienced before, such as mood swings, anxiety, et cetera, you may be experiencing the early symptoms of low progesterone

Memory Loss: If you are experiencing short or long-term memory loss, you may be suffering from estrogen dominance or low progesterone

Irregular Menstrual Cycle: Irregular, frequent or heavy menstruation is a key symptom of progesterone deficiency

Weight Gain / Weight Fluctuation: If you are experiencing abnormal weight gain, especially around the abdomin, or if your weight is fluctuating rapidly, it may be due to progesterone deficiency

Other symptoms of low progesterone and estrogen dominance include, but are not limited to:

  • joint pain
  • urinary tract infection
  • intestinal cysts
  • appetite changes
  • reduced libido
  • fibroids
  • migraine headaches
  • loss of sex drive
  • fibrocystic breasts
  • mood swings
  • heavy bleeding during menses
  • hot flashes
  • hair loss
  • irregular menstrual cycles
  • thinning hair
  • slow thyroid
  • fluid retention
  • difficulty with concentration

There are four primary factors that contribute to this hormone inbalance.

The Four Main Causes of Progesterone Deficiency

Medical Prescriptions

Birth control pills contain a large amount of prescription hormones, compounding the imbalance by increasing the amount of estrogen in the body. Progestin, which is used in hormone replacement therapy, is not the same as natural progesterone, and has been shown to increase cancer rates.

Stress

The fast paced, stressful, lifestyle of today's women taxes their bodies, robbing them of natural progesterone. Stress has also been found to affect a woman's ability to ovulate, limiting or altogether halting the production of progesterone. Studies have revealed that by the age of 34, almost half of all women have low progesterone.

Diet

What we eat plays a huge role in the increase of estrogen, particularly for non-vegetarians. Our feedsupply of chicken, beef, and pork are fed estrogen to make them grow larger and be more commercially valuable so that they can be transported to market more quickly. This estrogen finds its way into the human body adding to the imbalance of progesterone and estrogen in our human bodies. A diet high in refined starches, sugars, and processed foods also contribute to hormone imbalance.

Environment

Another common cause of estrogen dominance is exposure to false estrogens, or xenoestrogens, found in our environment. Xenoestrogens are synthetic estrogen-like substances that differ from estrogens produced by living organisms, but that imitate or enhance the effect of estrogens. There are an almost infinite number of sources of these pseudo-hormones, including hair care products, plastic bottles, birth control pills and spermicides, plastic food wraps, cosmetics, mineral oil (baby oil), commercially raised meats, styrofoam cups, all artificial scents, detergents, pesticides and herbicides, paints, lacquers and solvents. Many of these xenoestrogens are known carcinogens, and are also known to damage the immune system and disturb homonal balance. Unfortunately, we are surrounded by them, as we ingest or are exposed to these products on a regular basis.

Other Causes

Some of the other causes of progesterone deficiency or estrogen dominance are hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, adrenal gland disorders, hormone replacement therapy, and other disorders.

Best Methods of Protection against Progesterone Deficiency and Estrogen Dominance

A recommended first step in correcting estrogen dominance is the use of a USP-grade all-natural progesterone cream (USP stands for United States Pharmacopoeia, indicating that stringent tests were performed for quality assurance). The product should be provided in a hermetically-sealed, airtight container to prevent oxidation, and be formulated of a 100% botanical (plant-derived) base.

Monitor your dietary intake of high-estrogen foods. Whenever possible, buy organic meats, and avoid skin care products that contain mineral oil, and use of petroleum-based products. Replace refined sugars, starches, and foods high in petrochemicals with organic raw fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Progesterone deficiency has many unpleasant side effects, and can lead to serious and life-threatening health conditions. Hormone replacement therapy and certain prescription medications can compound the problem of estrogen dominance. Making simple changes in your diet, avoiding harmful personal and home care products, and adding a natural progesterone cream can help to alleviate unpleasant symptoms and prevent against more serious health conditions.

Estrogen Dominance and Low Progesterone in Men

When we hear the term estrogen dominance, we naturally assume it to be a condition suffered only by women. We would be wrong. Estrogen dominance can also affect a men's health, and can result in the same harmful consequences.

How Men Develop Estrogen Dominance

Hormonal balance is as essential to a man's health, as a women's. As with women, an essential balance of testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen play a key role in their optimum health, and many of the same factors that contribute to a woman's imbalance in levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone also impact a man's, including obesity, alcoholism, and environmental factors, one of the most common. As with women, men are exposed to many harmful environmental substances called xenoestrogens, substances that mimic estrogen. Xenoestrogens are found all around us - in the food we eat, the water we drink, and the products we use.

Commercially raised beef, poultry, and pork often comes from animals that have been treated with steroids to make them grow bigger, more rapidly, and make them more commercially marketable. Non-organic produce is also tainted with xenoestrogens from the pesticides used in farming. Xenoestrogens are also found in a seemingly endless array of paints, personal care products, detergents, artificial scents, styrofoams, plastics, and a host of other items found in our daily lives. Constant exposure to these substances can lead to estrogen dominance.

Problems Faced by Men with Estrogen Dominance

Testosterone levels are highest in men when they are young. As men begin to age, testosterone levels begin a natural decline. Unlike a woman's menopause, when estrogen levels plummet over months to very low levels, men's “andropause” is a gradual decline of testosterone levels, approximately 1% to 2% percent per year, over years. Combined with the constant bombardment of xenoestrogens, which our bodies cannot differentiate from natural estrogen, and a declining level of testosterone, estrogen builds up and can become the dominant hormone, causing numerous health problems, such as:

  • Weight gain, especially around the abdomen and chest
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Decreased fertility
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Hair loss
  • Prostate and breast cancer

How Men Can Fight Estrogen Dominance and Low Progesterone

To avoid these problems, men need to restore and maintain a healthy hormonal balance. There are several things you can do to regain control of the hormones in your body.

Decrease your exposure to as many xenoestrogens as possible.

Change your Eating Habits

If you eat meats, start buying certified organic meats or those labeled “hormone-free”, and introduce more organic produce such as raw into your diet.

Avoid Processed Foods

These foods are high in petrochemicals. Replace refined sugars, starches, and foods high in petrochemicals with organic raw fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Avoid Plastic and Styrofoam In place of common styrofoam or plastic plates, forks, and cups, use ceramic dishes or china, and don't microwave or store food in plastic containers.

Reduce your Dairy Intake

Cut down on dairy products. Dairy products are often high in estrogen because cows are frequently milked when they are pregnant and estrogen levels are at their highest. Use rice or almond milk instead.

Cleaning Products and Paint Protection

Wear gloves when handling paints or solvents such as paint thinner or rubbing alcohol, as these products are petroleum based and high in xenoestrogens. Use natural household cleaners whenever possible, and buy laundry detergents that are free of scents and dyes. Simply put, you can avoid the problems of estrogen dominance by living a more natural lifestyle and making a few minor adjustments. By following a few simple guildelines, you can restore your body to a normal, healthy hormonal balance - even if you already suffer from estrogen dominance.

 

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