Are My Hormones Out of Balance?
Part 1: Progesterone
Many people question if their hormones are in balance. While being perfectly balanced is difficult to assess, we know by symptoms if we feel imbalanced. While most people think of estrogen and progesterone when we talk hormones, there are in fact so many more hormones such as thyroid hormone, cortisol, testosterone, DHEA, melatonin and insulin. They all affect each other. In a series of articles, I wish to simplify basic hormone imbalances and what we can do about them.
Two of the most common hormones out of balance are progesterone and cortisol. Progesterone deficiency symptoms include:
• Lighter sleep or insomnia
• Anxiety, panic attacks
• Mood swings, irritability
• Breast cysts, ovarian cysts, fibroids
• Heavy bleeding
• Insulin resistance (weight gain)
• Headache (cyclic)
• Infertility, PCOS, endometriosis
Symptoms often start to show up in the mid-30s and can get more severe particularly around perimenopause, where it is quite common to have severe anxiety and insomnia. This is also why women experience worsening PMS and heavier bleeding as they head towards perimenopause.
It is also my belief that many cases of unexplained infertility are due to less than optimal progesterone levels.
Progesterone deficiency is often linked to cortisol excess, which is due to stress. In our increasingly overstimulated environment, our adrenal glands excrete cortisol and epinephrine (adrenalin). Cortisol and progesterone are both made in the body using the same building blocks. If the body is overproducing cortisol due to stress, there will be less progesterone available. This is why the treating the adrenals is essential to balancing progesterone.
Treating progesterone deficiency involves getting a good assessment. Bloodwork and salivary testing can be helpful. However, if one has severe symptoms like insomnia and severe anxiety associated with changes with the menstrual cycle, proceeding directly with bio-identical progesterone may be a nice option. Bio-identical progesterone often works very quickly and is safe. It is important that women do NOT use SYNTHETIC progesterone (also called Progestins), which is associated with increased breast cancer risk.
Milder progesterone deficiency symptoms for those who don’t want to use any hormones can be assisted with herbs such as vitex or vitamin B6, in addition to treating the adrenals. Herbs such as rhodiola, ribes nigrum, licorice, ashwaganda, Siberian ginseng, and B vitamins can help balance the cortisol and restore the adrenal glands.
Talk to us about individualized testing and treatment options if you are experiencing obvious progesterone deficiency symptoms. Stay tuned for more on hormone balancing.