Do you constantly feel exhausted, anxious, or struggle with irregular periods? Unfortunately, these are a few common signs of hormonal imbalance. What might be to blame? Low levels of progesterone. Progesterone is one of the most important female hormones, as it plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy menstrual cycle, fertility, and pregnancy. However, many women experience low progesterone levels—thanks to factors like stress, poor diet, and environmental toxins. But don’t worry! There are natural ways to balance hormones and boost progesterone levels in your body. In this article, we’re exploring how common is low progesterone, as well as effective strategies to help you restore hormonal balance.
Do you have a hormone imbalance?
It’s estimated that over 80 percent of women suffer from hormone woes—roughly the same percentage of Americans with blood sugar imbalances. Neither of these is ideal. And what makes matters worse? These conditions fly under the radar. Most of us live with health conditions, like PCOS and estrogen dominance, without realizing it. If you think you may be suffering from a hormonal imbalance, you’re not alone. It’s time to add holistic hormone healing to your 2023 wellness intentions.
7 SIGNS OF HORMONE IMBALANCE
Be it irregular periods, mood swings, or other symptoms, hormone imbalances are no fun. In some cases, they’re completely debilitating. Below are common signs of hormone imbalance.
1. IRREGULAR MENSTRUAL CYCLES
A typical menstrual cycle ranges from 25 to 32 days. If this doesn’t quite add up with your normal monthly cycle—or your cycle is absent, completely—your hormones are out of whack. Irregular periods can also be a sign of PCOS.
2. HEAVY PERIODS
Normal period bleeding should last 4-7 days and the amount of blood lost is small (2 to 3 tablespoons). However, women who have menorrhagia usually bleed for more than 7 days and lose twice as much blood likely have elevated estrogen.
4. NIGHT SWEATS OR HOT FLASHES
Do you experience hot flashes throughout the day—or wake up covered in sweat? These symptoms are a red flag for hormone imbalance and are likely due to a drop in estrogen levels.
5. PERSISTENT WEIGHT GAIN
Sudden (or stubborn) weight gain, as well as trouble losing weight, are two of the many uncomfortable and frustrating symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Consider getting a hormone panel done with your doctor, as well as getting your thyroid checked.
6. HAIR LOSS
There are a wide range of conditions that cause hair loss, some of the most common being pregnancy and PCOS.
7. PELVIC PAIN
Do you notice pelvic pain during your period or intercourse? If so, they could be signs of a hormonal imbalance creating endometriosis (implants of tissue outside the uterus), fibroids (which are estrogen driven), or ovarian cysts.
WHAT CAUSES HORMONE IMBALANCES?
A variety of factors. One of the most common causes? Abnormal fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone. Although these hormones fluctuate (naturally) during our cycles, tipping the scale too high or too low causes imbalances. Other contributing factors: stress, poor diet, lack of exercise (or too much exercise), certain medications, and exposure to toxins or pollutants. Ultimately, it’s important to get to the underlying cause(s) of your hormone imbalance(s). Pregnancy aside, any of these things can alter your menstrual cycle: birth control, PCOS, fibroids, an inflammatory diet, endocrine disruptors, and eating disorders.
The birth control pill may make your periods shorter and lighter (or disappear, entirely). At any rate, the pill suppresses your body’s natural hormonal rhythms while also depleting it of vital nutrients, like B vitamins.
Oftentimes, the root cause of hormonal imbalance is inflammation. Chronic inflammation can damage the cells in your endocrine glands. What’s surprising is that the inflammation (that causes hormonal imbalances) often starts in the gut.
When absorbed in the body, an endocrine disruptor can decrease or increase normal hormone levels, mimic the body’s natural hormones, or alter the natural production of hormones.
Anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders can disrupt your menstrual cycle and make your periods stop. For balanced hormones, you need to make sure you’re eating enough.
What Is progesterone?
Onto all things progesterone. The main function of progesterone is to prepare the lining of your uterus for a fertilized egg to implant and grow. Progesterone is necessary (and increases) to support pregnancy. If conception doesn’t happen, the endometrium sheds during your menstrual period. Regardless, even if you’re not trying to conceive, normal progesterone levels are important for overall health and well-being. This hormone is responsible for maintaining healthy bones, promoting sleep, and reducing anxiety.
Normal Progesterone Levels
So, what are normal progesterone levels? Ultimately, this depends on where you’re at in your menstrual cycle (or pregnancy). Progesterone levels fluctuate throughout the month. A blood test is the best way to test progesterone levels—typically, on day 21 of your cycle. Progesterone levels are measured in nanograms per milliliter. For an adult female, the chart below lists normal levels of progesterone.
|Stage||Progesterone level (ng/mL)|
|Follicular phase||< 0.89|
What causes low progesterone?
There are several causes of low progesterone. The most common causes are anovulation (ovulation doesn’t occur), PCOS, high stress (too much cortisol can interfere with your body’s ability to make progesterone), an underactive thyroid, over-exercising, under-eating, low cholesterol, and perimenopause.
Signs Your Progesterone Is Low
Due to various factors—stress, poor diet, and environmental toxins, for example—many women experience low levels of progesterone. If you’re familiar with the following symptoms, it’s probably time to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider:
Irregular periods: Progesterone helps regulate the menstrual cycle. Low levels of progesterone can lead to irregular periods or even missed periods.
Mood swings: Progesterone has a calming effect on the brain, and low levels of progesterone can cause anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
Insomnia: Progesterone promotes sleep and relaxation, and low levels of progesterone can cause insomnia or difficulty sleeping.
Fatigue: Progesterone helps regulate energy levels, and low levels of progesterone can cause fatigue and low energy.
Weight gain: Progesterone plays a role in maintaining a healthy weight, and low levels of progesterone can cause weight gain, particularly in the abdomen.
How to boost progesterone levels, naturally
Fortunately, there are natural ways to boost progesterone levels! A few effective strategies to consider:
Eat a healthy diet
Chronic stress can disrupt hormone production, including progesterone. Consider incorporating stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises into your routine.
Get enough sleep
Adequate sleep is essential for hormone production and balance. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
Regular exercise can help regulate hormone levels and improve overall health. That said, there’s no need to overdo it. In fact, consistency is far more important than intensity. Aim for 10-30 minutes of moderate movement, daily.
Certain supplements can support progesterone production, including vitamin B6, magnesium, and zinc. See here for my hormone-balancing supplement guide.
Avoid environmental toxins
If you’re experiencing symptoms of low progesterone, it’s essential to talk to your healthcare provider to rule out any underlying conditions. However, making lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, stress management, and regular exercise can help support hormone balance and improve overall health.
Foods to Eat to Improve Low Progesterone
Last but not least, an emphasis on diet. When it comes to progesterone, focus on healthy fats. Progesterone is made from protein, fat, and cholesterol. When the body doesn’t have enough of these nutrients, hormone production suffers. For this reason, women eating a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet may suffer from low estrogen and progesterone.
Incorporate flaxseed, coconut oil, avocado, and full-fat dairy to boost progesterone production, naturally! Additionally, these are the best progesterone-loving foods to add to your diet: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, pastured animal protein, fatty fish, dried fruit, citrus, lemons, root vegetables, and dark chocolate.
Hormone balance ebook
Ready to take the next step in your hormone-healing journey? Grab your copy of Master Your Menstrual Cycle—my holistic guide to balancing your hormones with ease. Available for only $10!
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider.