Progesterone’s amazing and far reaching benefits are nothing short of miraculous.
It improves mood, prevents spasms and inflammation, protects the nervous system, increases cognitive ability, improves memory, increases the IQ of babies, blocks the effects of the harmful estrogen (Estradiol) and possesses anti-cancer activity.
Unfortunately, a woman’s progesterone begins declining at age 35 due to genetics, diet and environmental factors.
Benefits of Progesterone
- Calms mood (Activates GABA)
- Prevents Spasms & inflammation
- Protects and heals Nervous tissue
- Increases Cognitive Ability
- Improves Memory
- Increases IQ in babies
- Blocks Estradiol harm
- Anti-Cancer Activity
Progesterone Deficiency in Women
A deficiency of Progesterone can lead to PMS, Endometriosis, Uterine Fibroids, Infertility, Miscarriages, Ectopic Pregnancy, Pre-Term Births, Post Partum Depression, Osteoporosis and Cancer of the breasts, ovaries and uterus.
The annoying symptoms associated with a deficiency of Progesterone are more than a mere nuisance. They are signs of a hormonal imbalance in a continuum that progresses from PMS through a multitude of progressively more serious conditions and ultimately leads to a significantly increased risk of cancer.
Signs of Progesterone Deficiency
3. Uterine Fibroids
4. Repeated Miscarriage
6. Ectopic Pregnancy
7. Preterm Labor & Delivery
8. Post Partum Depression
What Causes a Deficiency of Progesterone?
Hormone levels begin to decline in women at age 35 and at age 45 in men. In addition to this genetic decline, environmental estrogens are increasing the need for more Progesterone. Factory farms now feed Estradiol to dairy and beef cows in the U.S. to make them produce more milk and put on more weight so that they can get them to market sooner. Additionally, pesticides and plastics contain estrogenic chemicals that that further disrupt the endocrine balance. Unfortunately, the price we pay is a higher rate of Estrogen induced disease, including cancer, which is not yet being recognized or at least not admitted by the Dairy, Beef, agricultural and plastics Industry.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
PMS is a disorder effects as many as 75% of menstruating women. It is characterized by physical, mental and emotional symptoms that occur every month during the one to two weeks prior to menstruation. For most women, PMS symptoms cause mild to moderate disruptions to their daily routine, but many experience severe or disabling symptoms. Of the estimated 40 million women who suffer from PMS, more than 5 million have an extreme form of PMS that is known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD.
What are the symptoms of PMS?
- Exaggerated mood swings
Physical signs and symptoms:
- Bloating (due to fluid retention)
- Weight gain (due to fluid retention)
- Breast tenderness
- Sleep disturbances
- Food cravings
Progesterone and PMS
A deficiency of Progesterone and/or too much Estradiol causes excessive menstrual bleeding and cramping. It also causes PMS moodiness, bloating, acne, and breast tenderness. By raising your progesterone levels you can totally eliminate the symptoms of PMS by providing the natural compensatory balance to Estradiol.
Progesterone and Mood/Sleep
Progesterone reduces PMS moodiness and has a general calming effect on the nervous system through its action on GABA, the calming neuro-hormone. Progesterone produces a valium-like effect on the stressed nervous system and creates a healthy EEG sleep pattern in the brain similar to that produced by valium.
Progesterone Protects Brain & Nervous System
Progesterone protects and preserves the nervous system. Progesterone and Testosterone work together to prevent neurodegeneration of the central nervous system. Therefore, any age-related decline in progesterone may have a negative impact on brain, memory and nerve function.
Additionally, progesterone and the natural, bio-identical estrogen known as Estriol help reduce age-associated abnormalities of the myelin sheath that covers the nerves. New research indicates that supplementing these natural hormones could help prevent Multiple Sclerosis.
Progesterone and Brain Trauma
Researchers involved in a study at 17 medical centers across the country soon will begin using the hormone progesterone to treat patients who experience traumatic brain injury (TBI). The treatment is part of a randomized, double-blind Phase III clinical trial that will enroll approximately 1,140 people over a three- to six-year period beginning in March, 2010. The trial is funded by a grant to Emory University from the National Institutes of Health.
The clinical trial is led by David Wright, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital will serve as the lead center, with faculty from Emory School of Medicine and Morehouse School of Medicine.
Wright discussed progress in clinical trials using progesterone for TBI at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in San Diego. His presentation took place in a panel discussion about traumatic brain injury on Feb. 19, 2010.
Emory researchers concluded in an earlier three-year clinical trial conducted in 100 patients that giving progesterone to trauma victims shortly after a brain injury appears to be safe and may reduce the risk of death and long-term disability. That clinical trial was called ProTECT I (Progesterone for Traumatic brain injury — Experimental Clinical Treatment). The current trial is named ProTECT III.
The earlier trial found evidence that progesterone is safe for use in patients suffering from traumatic brain injuries. Results also showed a 50 percent reduction in mortality in those patients treated with progesterone. The treatment improved functional outcomes and reduced disability in patients with moderate brain injury.
Progesterone is naturally present in small but measurable amounts in the brains of males and females. Human brain tissue is loaded with progesterone receptors. Laboratory studies suggest that progesterone is critical for the normal development of neurons in the brain and exerts protective effects on damaged brain tissue.
Donald G. Stein, PhD, Asa G. Candler Professor of Emergency Medicine, Emory School of Medicine, and director of Emory’s Department of Emergency Medicine Brain Research Laboratory, pioneered discoveries regarding the effect of progesterone following traumatic brain injury — first discovering the neuro-protective properties of progesterone in the laboratory more than 25 years ago.
Every 15 seconds, someone in the United States sustains a significant traumatic brain injury. Approximately 2 million adults and children in the United States suffer from traumatic brain injuries each year — leading to 50,000 deaths and 80,000 new cases of long-term disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Progesterone May Increase Babies IQ
A study reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry observed that administering progesterone from the middle trimester of pregnancy for relief of the symptoms of toxemia had some unexpected benefits: “A significant improvement in educational performance was demonstrated among children [whose mothers] received progesterone before the sixteenth week” following conception; and after giving birth their mothers seemed to have greater success at breastfeeding.
Clinical observations involving ninety children whose mothers received progesterone were summarized thus: “More progesterone children were breast-fed at six months, more were standing and walking at one year, and at the age of 9-10 years the progesterone children received significantly better gradings than controls in academic subjects, verbal reasoning, English and arithmetic.”
There are approximately 6 million pregnancies annually in the U.S., including 4 million live births, 1.2 million abortions and 600,000 miscarriages.
Though most treatments for miscarriage remain scientifically unproven, a recent analysis of 15 studies, conducted by D.M. Haas and P.S Ramsey (Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Apr 16;(2):CD003511), including 2118 women, supports the benefits of Progesterone supplementation for treating recurrent miscarriage.
In a subgroup of three of those trials involving women who had recurrent miscarriages (three or more consecutive miscarriages), progestogen treatment showed a statistically significant 62% decrease in miscarriage rate compared to placebo or no treatment.
Had the trials used natural progesterone, instead of synthetic progestogen, the results would have likely been even better because synthetic progestogens do not bind to progesterone receptors as well as the natural bio-identical hormones.
Luteal Phase Defect
The primary condition linked to Progesterone deficiency and the need for supplementation is known as Luteal Phase Defect (LPD), a condition in which the lining of the uterus (endometrium) is not sufficiently prepared for implantation and support of the embryo.
During the luteal phase, which is the 2nd half of the menstrual cycle from ovulation to menses, the ovary normally secretes a large amount of Pogesterone, along with a lesser amount of Estradiol, to prepare the uterus for the implantation of the embryo.
In a woman with LPD, a problem occurs in the lining of the uterus during this stage that causes the failure of the embryo to implant, or unsuitable nourishment of the growing embryo and fetus resulting in a miscarriage.
When Progesterone Should be Taken to Prevent Miscarriage
Upon the diagnosis of LPD, a patient may be given a prescription for Bio-Identical Progesterone supplementation. It is essential that the supplementation begin at or just after ovulation and continue up to the 12th week of pregnancy.
There are approximately 500,000 Premature Births in the U.S. every year with the baby being born at least 3 weeks early. Full term is considered 37 weeks to 40 weeks.
Premature Birth is the country’s No. 2 cause of infant mortality. Babies born prematurely that survive are at increased risk for neurological, hearing and behavioral problems. The hospital costs of a premature birth exceeds $50,000.
According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine dated June 16, 2003, giving pregnant women the hormone progesterone reduced the risk of premature delivery by 34 percent
“This is really the first innovation that’s clearly been shown to prevent or reduce the incidence of premature delivery,” said Dr. Charles J. Lockwood, director of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine and former chairman of obstetrical practices of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The study involved women at very high risk of premature delivery. The women previously had at least one baby very early – at about 31 weeks on average. Some of the women received 250 mg of Progesterone weekly by intramuscular injection until week 36 of the pregnancy vs a comparison group who got shots of an inert oil.
The Progesterone proved so effective that the study was halted early because it would have been unethical to keep giving some women a placebo.
“The results are so good that it’s surprising,” said Dr. Fredric Frigoletto, chief of obstetrics at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “No intervention that we have ever applied has had any measurable effect. This is very good news.”
Lead researcher, Dr. Paul J. Meis, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, said giving Progesterone to just a half-dozen women would prevent one premature birth.
His study followed 459 women mostly in their 20s who had high-risk pregnancies. It was conducted at a network of 19 clinical centers run by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development from 1999 to 2002.
Among the two-thirds who got Progesterone, about 36 percent gave birth before 37 weeks, compared with 55 percent of women in the comparison group. About 11 percent of mothers who had progesterone shots delivered before 32 weeks, compared with about 20 percent in the other group.
The babies of mothers given progesterone also fared better, with only 27 percent weighing less than 5 1/2 pounds at birth, compared with 41 percent in the comparison group. Babies of mothers in the progesterone group also were less likely than the others to be stillborn, die soon after birth or have breathing problems or other serious complications, although the numbers with such problems were too small for firm proof.
Rising Progesterone levels during the 2nd half of the menstrual cycle are designed by nature to activate inhibitory GABAA Receptors in the nervous system and calm the mood.
The large increase in Progesterone during pregnancy and its rapid decline after birth effect some women who have faulty inhibitory GABAA Receptors that appear to become over stimulated, leading to a severely depressed mood.
Research indicates that supplementing a GABAA Receptor activator, such as natural Progesterone at the pregnancy levels, may resolve postpartum depression and allow for a gradual weaning reduction. (see GABAAR Plasticity during Pregnancy: Relevance to Postpartum Depression, Neuron, July 2008)
Although some studies using synthetic progestagens have failed to resolve the postpartum depression, it should not be unexpected since synthetic progestagens are unable to activate GABA Receptors.
Progesterone and Osteoporosis
The two types of bone-regulating cells are osteoclasts and osteoblasts. Osteoclasts function to dissolve older bone, leaving tiny unfilled spaces behind. Osteoblasts are then able to move into these spaces to produce new bone. Like all living cells, osteoblasts and osteoclasts require hormonal guidance to function properly.
Estrogen is able to help slow bone loss by curbing the activity of bone-dissolving osteoclasts. On the other hand, osteoblasts depend primarily on Progesterone and Testosterone to facilitate the building of new bone.
In the absence of these hormones, osteoblasts and osteoclasts cease to function properly, and rapid deterioration of bone occurs. Natural Progesterone stimulates the new bone formation required to prevent and reverse osteoporosis. Results of Endocrine Research studies published in 2003 revealed that Progesterone promotes osteocalcin gene transcription and stimulates osteoblast proliferation and differentiation.
Progesterone and Cancer
Progesterone increases the Tumor Suppressor Protein known as p53, the “guardian of the cell” and decreases the cancer activating protein known as bcl-2.
The Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 guards against cellular mutations that can cause cancer in the following ways:
- Activation of DNA repair
- Stops Cell growth when necessary to allow DNA time to repair
- Initiates programmed cell death (apoptosis) when DNA damage is irreparable
Estradiol, on the other hand, does the opposite of progesterone. It causes a decrease in p53 and activates bcl2, the opposite acting protein that promotes cancer cell growth.
Breast Cancer and Progesterone Deficiency
One of the most significant studies of the relationship between low levels of natural progesterone and increased breast cancer risk was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1981. The study followed 1,083 women with a history of difficulty becoming pregnant for periods ranging from 13 to 33 years.
The researchers found that infertile women who demonstrated a progesterone deficiency had a premenopausal breast cancer risk that was 540% greater than that of women whose infertility was due to non-hormonal causes. Furthermore, the women with a progesterone deficiency had a 1,000% greater chance of death from all types of cancer.
Serum progesterone levels at the time of breast cancer surgery influence survival rates, according to a 1996 study published in the British Journal of Cancer. Women who had progesterone levels of 400 ng/dL or greater at the time of breast cancer surgery had significantly better survival rates at 18 years than those with lower serum levels of progesterone at the time of surgery. In women with higher progesterone levels at the time of surgery, approximately 65% were alive 18 years later, whereas only 35% of the women with low progesterone levels survived 18 years.
Uterine Cancer and Progesterone
Conventional estrogen replacement therapy with synthetic estrogens increases the incidence
of endometrial (uterine lining) abnormalities, including cancer, according to a study published in the Journal of Endocrinolgy, Sept 2004.
Here’s the take home message: Breast cancer cells do not multiply when women have a sufficient supply of progesterone. Progesterone likewise also prevents cancer of the ovary and uterus as well as small cell lung cancer which is normally a very difficult cancer to treat.
Progesterone in Men
Men make about half as much progesterone as women. However, it is extremely important for men as well as it is for women. Progesterone gets converted into Testosterone. Most men know that the loss of Testosterone is associated with aging and causes decreased libido and erectile dysfunction. It is also associated with prostate cancer.
Progesterone preserves natural stores of Testosterone by preventing it from being converted into Di-Hydro-Testosterone (DHT), which blocks the prostate and causes Benign Prostate Enlargement and it’s bothersome symptoms including frequent urination, hesitancy, feeble urine stream and night-time urination. Too much DHT also blocks the hair follicles and is the principal cause of male pattern baldness.
A deficiency of Testosterone, in men or women, is associated with a loss of muscle mass, joint pains, heart disease and the tendency to put on excess abdominal fat. Taking supplemental natural progesterone can boost your Testosterone level.
Progesterone and Prostate Cancer
Men typically make a very small amount of Estrogen: about 1/10th the amount of a woman. If however, the ratio of Estrogen to Progesterone gets out of balance, prostate cancer develops for the same reason breast or uterine cancer develops in a woman. Progesterone protects against cancer growth and Estradiol activates cancer cell growth.
What is the best form and dose of Progesterone?
The most effective form of progesterone is the oral, sub-lingual (under the tongue) form. The skin is designed to be a barrier, not to absorb hormones. It works well for a short while, but eventually progesterone applied to the skin gets shunted into fat cells and begins to build up. Eventually this excess progesterone can cause swelling, moodiness and irritability.
The mucous membranes of the mouth however, were designed for absorption. When progesterone is absorbed in the mouth, it is absorbed and transported through the blood stream directly to the ovaries, uterus and receptors on the pituitary gland, before it is broken down in the stomach or the liver and excreted from the body. I have found this method to be very effective without any excess buildup over time.
The sub-lingual form is safe to take for extended periods. The usual sub-lingual dose is 50 to 100 mg of natural progesterone daily depending on the individual. To determine the correct amount that is right for you, I recommend testing before and after one to three months of natural progesterone therapy. A blood test is preferred to saliva testing because sub-lingual dosing can remain in the saliva up to 48 hours after dosing and skew the results. It is recommended that you test your progesterone level every twelve months to make sure you remain at the optimal level.
Testing Your Progesterone Level
A woman should test her hormone periodically to make certain they are in balance and take a natural Progesterone supplement if her levels get too low, along with any of her other sex hormones that are out of balance. To learn more about hormone testing, click here.