Historically, estrogen and how it affects us has been the most commonly talked about sex hormone. However, the importance of progesterone, which is another type of sex hormone, has rarely been mentioned in the past. Progesterone imbalance affects both women and men.
Scientific research is beginning to shed light on the importance of maintaining a balance between progesterone and estrogen for overall health and well being. It is also beginning to show the significant differences between natural and synthetic progesterone.
The primary hormones that are prescribed for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or birth control pills are derived from synthetic sources and do not have the same function in the body that our own biological hormones do.
Studies have shown that synthetic hormones are linked to an increase in certain types of cancer, strokes, and heart disease. According to the Women’s Health Initiative study, an experiment involving hormone replacement therapy was stopped early due to the increase in breast cancer. Breast cancer rates have dropped significantly since reports of this study were released in 2002.
Presently, natural progesterone (bio-identical hormone therapy) is beginning to get recognition for its beneficial effects. According to Dr. John R. Lee, an authority on hormone balancing, “natural progesterone has a molecular structure identical to the progesterone produced by the human body and is created through the fermentation process of the Mexican wild yam.”
Lowered Progesterone Levels
For women, from the time menses begins until menopause, levels of estrogen and progesterone ebb and flow in a manner which promotes reproduction. At about age 35 to 40, women reach the time of premenopause, which is when their levels of progesterone and estrogen begin to reduce.
During this time through age 50, there is a 35% drop in estrogen, but a 75% reduction in progesterone occurring simultaneously. This is normal, and does create many premenopausal symptoms that we accept as part of the aging process.
Many premenopausal women in their mid to late thirties, as well as many women in the menopausal stage are overloaded with estrogen. At the same time they are suffering from progesterone deficiency because of the severe drop in physiological production during this period. There is then insufficient progesterone to counteract the amount of estrogen in our body. It is most noticeable among peri-menopausal women who do not ovulate, which is quite common. You may have a fairly normal cycle, but no egg is released and very little progesterone is produced.
Importance of Progesterone
Progesterone can help prevent estrogen from becoming harmful to our health among other protective factors. Therefore, supplementing with a natural progesterone cream, such as Progesta-Care or Progesta-Care for Men, can help correct hormonal imbalances that cause symptoms associated with estrogen dominance.
Progesterone is also the primary hormone of fertility and pregnancy. It is essential to the survival of the fertilized egg, the embryo, and the fetus. In pregnancy, it prevents the shedding of the uterine lining, as a drop in progesterone can result in a miscarriage.
Natural progesterone helps to counter balance the negative effects of estrogen. When there is not enough progesterone to counterbalance estrogen, one may begin to have symptoms of estrogen dominance. For example, PMS, heavy or irregular periods, irritability, weight gain, anxiety, hair loss, low libido, fibrocystic breasts, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids, to name a few. Men can experience many of these and other issues due to estrogen dominance.
Symptoms of Progesterone Deficiency in Women and Men
- Hot Flashes
- Breast Tenderness
- Fibrocystic Breasts
- Hair Loss
- Bone Loss
- Low Libido
- Night Sweats
- Irregular Periods
- Vaginal Dryness
- Weight Gain
- Mood Swings
- Memory Lapses
- Loss of Muscle
- Excess Facial/Body Hair
- Heavy or Painful Periods
- Urinary Incontinence
- Poor Concentration
Symptoms in Men:
- Prostate problems
- Breast enlargement
- Bone/Muscle Loss
- Male patterned baldness
- Weight gain
- Low libido
Furthermore, progesterone is a building block for many other hormones, including the corticosteroids, which are produced by the adrenal glands and are essential for stress response, electrolyte balance, blood pressure, and lastly, survival. Without adequate progesterone, synthesis of the cortisones is impaired and the body turns to alternate pathways. These alternate pathways have masculine-producing side effects, such as long facial hairs and thinning of scalp hair. Cortisol, DHEA, testosterone, and estrogen are all made from progesterone in a process that begins with cholesterol.
Importance of Balancing Progesterone and Estrogen
Hormones have a profound effect on your everyday health and well-being; although only present in tiny amounts, they have an affect on every cell. Not only do hormones have individual affects, but they also interact with each other to produce dramatic effects in the body. Because of these interactions, they are able to trigger multiple body systems.
The balance of progesterone and estrogen in a woman’s body is very important. At different times in the life of a woman, hormonal imbalance can be caused by stress, obesity, poor liver function, birth control pills, plant estrogens (soy, flaxseeds, red clover), hormone replacement therapy, peri-menopause, glandular dysfunction, and environmental estrogens.
Regardless of the cause, the end result of an imbalance between estrogen in relation to progesterone adds up to a condition Dr. John Lee has termed “estrogen dominance”, as mentioned above. This condition can result in symptoms of PMS, perimenopause, or menopause. Dr. Lee’s book Hormone Balance Made Simple explains this and more, in-depth. These books are available on our website.
Causes of Imbalance Between Progesterone and Estrogen
- Poor Liver Function
- Birth Control Pills
- Plant Estrogens (soy, flaxseeds, red clover)
- Hormone Replacement Therapy
- Glandular Dysfunction
- Environmental estrogens
Natural (bio-identical) Progesterone Cream
A natural, bio-identical progesterone cream or spray may be beneficial for you. We offer these products and more at Energetic Nutrition. As always, check with your doctor before you begin any hormone supplementation program.
Natural progesterone cream helps maintain a normal level of progesterone. It also helps supplement low progesterone levels assisting in proper hormone balance between estrogen and progesterone. Since natural progesterone has been shown to be biologically identical to the same hormone women produce it offers an alternative to taking synthetic hormones. It can be safely used by menstruating women, premenopausal to peri-menopausal women, and those who are menopausal.
Men, too can suffer from estrogen dominance. Estrogens from environmental and food sources (xenoestrogens) can produce hormonal stimuli that can contribute to inappropriate growth of mammary tissue cells, resulting in a problem society is now calling “man boobs”. Read more on our Men’s Progesterone page.
Benefits of Natural Progesterone Include:
- Promote a healthy sex hormone balance
- Have a calming effect
- Help enhance mood
- Helps normalize menstrual cycles
- Increase sex drive
- Help use fat for energy
Natural Progesterone vs. Synthetic
We feel it is important to explain the difference between natural bio-identical progesterone and synthetic progesterone commonly known as Progestin, Provera, Primulut, and Duphaston. The popular Premarin is a synthetic estrogen that is commonly used as another form of hormone replacement therapy. This pharmaceutical is made of synthetic estrogen without any synthetic progesterone added. Even though there is a big difference between the effects of natural and synthetic progesterone, doctors often interchange their names.
In the beginning of this article, you learned about the benefits of natural bio-identical progesterone and how it can help with hormonal imbalance without harmful side effects associated with synthetic progesterone.
Natural progesterone is not a patentable product; therefore, the pharmaceutical companies have altered this hormone to produce synthetic progestins, which are patentable and are generally used in contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
“The synthetic version of this hormone is not really progesterone; it is a progestin. Progestins are synthetic progesterone-like compounds manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. Synthetic progesterones are far more powerful than the body’s own natural progesterone and are metabolized as foreign substances into toxic metabolites. These synthetic progesterones can gravely interfere with the body’s own natural progesterone, create other hormone-related health problems, and further exacerbate estrogen dominance.”
Synthetic progestins are not exact replicas of the body’s natural progesterone. It is derived from pregnant mares’ urine. Unfortunately, there is a long list of side effects, some of which are quite severe. A partial list includes headaches, depression, fluid retention, increased risk of birth defects and early abortion, liver dysfunction, breast tenderness, breakthrough bleeding, acne, hirsutism (hair growth), insomnia, edema, weight changes, pulmonary embolism, and premenstrual-like syndrome.
“The following adverse reactions have been observed in women taking synthetic progestins,including PROVERA Tablets: breakthrough bleeding, spotting, change in menstrual flow, amenorrhea, edema, change in weight (increase or decrease), changes in cervical erosion and cervical secretions, cholestatic jaundice, anaphylactoid reactions and anaphylaxis, rash (allergic) with and without pruritus, mental depression, pyrexia, insomnia, nausea, somnolence.”
The following adverse reactions have been observed in patients receiving synthetic estrogen-progestin combination drugs: rise in blood pressure in susceptible individuals, fatigue, backache, hirsutism, premenstrual-like syndrome, loss of scalp hair, erythema multiforme, changes in libido, erythema nodosum, changes in appetite, hemorrhagic eruption, cystitis-like syndrome, headache, itching, nervousness, dizziness.” http://www.drugs.com/pro/provera.html
Most importantly, synthetic progestins lack the intrinsic physiological benefits of progesterone, thus they cannot function in the major biosynthetic pathways as progesterone does and they can disrupt many fundamental processes in the body.
Progesterone is an essential hormone that also plays a part in the development of healthy nerve cells and brain and thyroid function. Synthetic progestins tend to block the body’s ability to produce and utilize natural progesterone to maintain these life promoting functions. Source: http://www.digitalnaturopath.com/cond/C8769.html
Side Effects of Synthetic Progesterone
- Weight Changes
- Liver dysfunction
- Unwanted hair growth
- Pulmonary embolism
- Birth defects
- Breakthrough bleeding
- Fluid Retention
- Breast tenderness