Having low progesterone in relation to estrogen can lead to acne by way of increasing insulin, which can lead to excess androgens, as well as amplify testosterone and DHT conversion in the skin.
An unbalanced ratio of progesterone and estrogen levels are also responsible for PMS symptoms such as mood swings, breakouts, breast tenderness and feeling bloated as well as fibroids, weight gain and thyroid dysfunction.
Symptoms of low progesterone
If you suffer with many of the symptoms below then it’s likely that you could be suffering from low progesterone levels:
- Weight gain (especially around the middle)
- Menstrual cramps
- Low/no libido
- Menstrual headaches
- Breast tenderness/swelling
- Mood swings
- Amenorrhea (absent periods)
- Waking in the night
- Short menstrual cycles
- Irregular periods
- Ovarian cysts
- Difficulty sleeping
- Low basal body temperature
- Slow temperature rise after ovulation
- Sugar cravings
How do we correct low progesterone?
It can take anywhere from 6-12 months of diligent work to correct hormonal imbalances and restore optimal progesterone levels. Below are some of the strategies I use with patients to correct their hormonal balance:
- Balance blood sugar levels with a high fat, low carb diet – I often recommend that patients struggling with hormonal imbalances modify their diet to increase healthy dietary fats and reduce carbohydrate consumption in order to reduce fluctuations in blood sugar levels throughout the day. This is by no means a no-carb diet and is not as restrictive as it may seem. For those that find this difficult to accomplish on their own, I have created The Fat Fuel Formula™ – a 12 week fully guided and supported program that provides them with meal plans, resources and tools to successfully and deliciously implement this into their busy lives.
- Supplement smartly and selectively – Supplements, vitamins and botanical remedies can be an important part of a treatment plan to re-establish healthy hormone balance but should only be taken under the advisement and supervision of a health care professional (ie. functional medicine practitioner or Naturopathic Doctor). This is particularly important when it comes to modifying or changing hormones because you need to properly assess baseline values and track progress to avoid creating new imbalances.
- Avoid environmental hormone disruptors – The easiest, and potentially the most important change to make, is to limit your exposure to xenoestrogens. What exactly are xenoestrogens? They are substances not naturally found in nature that have hormonal effects on the body. They have an estrogenic effect on both the male and female bodies. Because estrogen and progesterone work like a seesaw, as one goes up the other goes down, so increased estrogen exposure causes progesterone deficiency.
- Break a sweat and exercise regularly – Excess estrogen is stored in adipose tissue/body fat. Being overweight or obese contributes to hormonal imbalance because fat cells are known to change the hormone produced by the ovaries called androstenedione into estrogen. Estrogen is then stored in these fat cells and slowly released into the body. The more body fat, the more potential for excess circulating estrogen, and the less progesterone that your body produces. I encourage you to sweat every day, but limit your amount of high intensity training and overexercising. Whether it be yoga, hiking, cycling, or working up a sweat in a HIIT class, find whatever activity you enjoy and make a habit out of it!
- Manage stress – High levels of stress can decrease your progesterone levels and cause your hormones to become further imbalanced. When your body is in a constant state of stress (poor diet, low carb/low calorie diet, excessive exercise, lack of sleep and anxiety over your skin are all reasons you could be chronically stressed), your adrenal glands need progesterone to produce the additional cortisol and adrenaline. This is known as the ‘progesterone steal’ and means that your body uses up your progesterone stores to help you deal with stress, as opposed to what it is designed to do – maintaining and regulating your menstrual cycle and supporting pregnancy.To lessen stress in your life, I highly recommend incorporating a daily meditation practice into your routine. This will help build you resiliency and prevent the hormones from going off the rails.
If you suspect low progesterone or other hormonal imbalances may be contributing to your skin or health concerns, please reach out and book a complimentary discovery call so we can discuss the best options for improvement.