Progesterone is a hormone in both men and women. It plays a greater role for women, though, as it’s related to menopause, pregnancy, and overall health. You may be interested in increasing your progesterone levels if you’re a woman looking to get pregnant. Low progesterone levels can cause:
- infertility or miscarriages
- uterine bleeding or irregular periods and spotting
- sex drive
- weight gain
A doctor may prescribe various forms of progesterone. Synthetic forms, also known as progestins, are available, but they’re also associated with an increased risk for breast cancer. Read on to learn more about where to find natural progesterone, benefits, risks, and more.
If you’re looking for natural progesterone, you can buy products made from soybeans or yams from the variety Diascorea uilosa. When extracted from these sources, progesterone is considered bioidentical, or chemically similar to the progesterone a woman’s body makes. Traditional table yams you find in the market won’t offer the same benefits.
Natural progesterone is most commonly available as a cream. The body absorbs creams well, making it more available in the bloodstream. Examples of progesterone creams on the market include:
Individual directions may vary, but most of the creams’ instructions say to apply a dime-sized amount of cream onto the inside of the wrists, arms, stomach, or thighs twice per day.
Some manufacturers recommend premenopausal women use the cream for 14 days before they start their period for best results. It’s recommended for menopausal women to use for 21 days, stop for 7 days, then repeat its use.
Natural progesterone pills are also available. However, the liver breaks down progesterone quickly, so less becomes available to the bloodstream. A person would have to take much more oral progesterone than they would if they chose to apply the progesterone cream.
You can also take progesterone suppositories, which would be inserted vaginally. They’re also thought to enhance healthy tissue in the uterus and improve pregnancy success.
While foods don’t necessarily contain progesterone, some foods may help stimulate the body’s production of progesterone. These include:
- Brussels sprouts
- whole grains
Some foods are also associated with lowering the amount of estrogen in the body, which could increase the ratio of progesterone to estrogen. These include:
Incorporating these foods into your diet could help boost natural progesterone levels.
In addition to considering the use of natural progesterone treatments, there are other ways a woman can increase her body’s natural progesterone. She can:
- Maintain a healthy body weight. Excess weight causes a woman’s body to produce more estrogen. This creates an imbalance in progesterone. While maintaining a healthy weight doesn’t necessarily mean that a woman will make more progesterone, it does mean her hormones will be more balanced.
- Reduce stress. Stress triggers the production of stress hormones and can cause the kidneys to convert hormones like progesterone to cortisol. Examples of steps to relieve stress include meditation, journaling, reading, listening to music, or participating in other relaxing and enjoyable activities.
- Refrain from overexercising. Physical activity can go a long way in reducing stress levels and maintaining a healthy weight. However, excessive exercise can have the opposite effect. It can cause the body to produce stress hormones over progesterone.
It’s important to remember that low levels of this hormone don’t mean that a woman is in poor health. Talk to your doctor to see if they can help identify the causes of low progesterone.
Sometimes causes aren’t so clear, but if your doctor can provide a diagnosis, they can also help with a treatment.
Benefits of taking natural progesterone may include:
- protecting the endometrium (lining of the uterus)
- preventing uterine cancer
- maintaining HDL cholesterol levels (also known as the “good” cholesterol)
- reducing symptoms associated with menopause, like mood swings
- reducing adverse side effects of synthetic hormones
With natural progesterone, you may notice some changes and symptoms like breast tenderness, headaches, and depression. But these symptoms are generally more associated with synthetic progesterone. If you do experience these symptoms, they generally go away as you continue taking natural progesterone.
Be sure to patch test with topical creams before applying it all over your body. To patch test, place a little cream inside your wrist and wait 24 hours to see if you develop an allergic reaction, like itching, redness, or swelling.
Natural progesterone could be a way for some women to boost their levels without having to experience the unwanted side effects of synthetic hormones. Many women are interested to increase their progesterone levels to help with fertility and to decrease menopause symptoms.
But there isn’t a lot of data available about natural progesterone. Supplements aren’t monitored or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for quality or dose like other over-the-counter products have. For this reason, it’s important for you to talk to your doctor before starting to use natural progesterone supplements.
Your doctor will be able to recommend additional treatments and review your medications to ensure you can safely use natural progesterone.