Progesterone is a female sex hormone that is mainly produced in a female’s ovaries after each month’s ovulation cycle, and it plays an important role in both pregnancy and the menstrual cycle. Besides regulating the menstrual cycle, progesterone readies a woman’s uterus for pregnancy by thickening the uterus’ lining in preparation for a fertilized egg. When no egg is fertilized, progesterone levels go down and a new menstrual cycle ensues. In the case where an egg is fertilized, progesterone helps maintain the thickened uterine lining during the course of the pregnancy. Maintaining proper levels ensures that the body does not go into Progesterone Deficiency.
In the case of progesterone deficiency, however, this vital role is not carried out, resulting in problems with your menstrual cycles and fertility. Older, menopausal women usually have progesterone side effects.
Progesterone, however, is not only the prerogative of women. Men also need progesterone. Albeit at much lower levels than women, men encounter a problem with sperm development without it. Fortunately, this is rare.
Progesterone is produced in a woman’s ovaries, the adrenal glands, the placenta (during pregnancy), and in men, the testes. It is thus quite possible to say that progesterone deficiency might contribute to or be the result of adrenal fatigue.
Signs Associated with a Progesterone Deficiency
The most typical signs indicating a progesterone deficiency closely correspond with adrenal fatigue. These include:
- Anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability
- Sleeping problems, e.g. night sweats, problems falling asleep, or waking up during the night
- Feminine issues – such as bloating, water retention, the growth of facial hair, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, endometriosis, infertility, irregular menstrual cycle, and PMS
- A lowered libido
- A thyroid imbalance
- Hair loss, acne, dry skin, brittle nails
- Constant fatigue
- Brain fog
- Weight gain due to a slower metabolism
- Sugar cravings
Reasons for a Progesterone Deficiency
As a woman gets older, her progesterone levels drop. One of the major reasons for a progesterone deficiency in younger women is stress. It is also one of the main reasons in men.
The body has a built in mechanism of balance. Progesterone is automatically balanced by estrogen in the body. Problems arise when they are not in balance. In the modern world, where estrogen can be the predominant hormone coming from chemicals, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and stress – the body tends to be in a state of estrogen dominance.
The protein from foods we eat is another reason for estrogen dominance and the resulting progesterone deficiency since these foods can be heavily saturated with hormones. Also, as already mentioned, our modern environment is filled with chemicals that actually mimic estrogen in the body. In turn, this subdues our progesterone levels.
Although menopause is natural, a hysterectomy or oophorectomy both cause a significant drop in progesterone production.
Adrenal Fatigue and the Body’s Automatic Response
Although not recognized by modern medicine as a medical condition, adrenal fatigue is a fact of life for many people. This condition begins when the adrenals are overstressed and unable to perform their normal function. It is a condition characterized by a number of different symptoms such as fatigue, reactive hypoglycemia, insomnia, and low libido.
Under normal circumstances, when the body perceives a threat, it goes into a state of readiness to deal with it. This is known as the fight or flight reflex and is an automatic response. The hypothalamus, which is part of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA axis), perceives a threat and sends a message via neurotransmitters to the pituitary gland that the body needs to be put into that state of readiness in order to address the threat. This threat could be of a physiological or psychological nature.
The pituitary gland, in turn, releases hormones that indicate to the adrenal gland that it needs to produce cortisol (which deals with stress) and adrenaline (which puts the body in a state of readiness in order to take appropriate action). Of higher priority is the production of stress-related hormones, with other hormonal production considered as secondary. Once the stressful situation is over, however, normal bodily function and hormone production once more ensue. So far, so good.
However, when the stress is prolonged – continuing for a long period or indefinitely – reactions can be completely different. An increase in or continuation of stress means the body needs to produce increasingly larger amounts of cortisol in the adrenal glands.
At some point, the adrenals are no longer able to keep up with the ever-increasing demand, and your body’s automatic response kicks in. This is called the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response – with the adrenal glands being on the forefront of this anti-stress battle.
Once the NEM kicks into action, other avenues are sought to produce the cortisol needed to keep up with the demand, as cortisol is the body’s main anti-stress hormone. The body, however, cannot keep up with this production indefinitely, and at some point, total adrenal exhaustion sets in. At this point, you are said to suffer from ‘burnout’.
Recovery from adrenal fatigue depends on what stage you are in. Stage 3, also called adrenal exhaustion, can be very devastating. Recovery is a very long process and those with the condition often have a number of seemingly unrelated symptoms, including those as mentioned with a progesterone deficiency.
The Role of Hormones
Progesterone, estrogen, and cortisol are but three of the hormones produced by the adrenal glands using cholesterol as their raw material. These hormones have similar molecular structures yet have different functions.
When the body is in ‘fight or flight’ mode due to stress, cortisol production is increased in the adrenal glands. The problem, however, is that in order to make cortisol, progesterone is needed. Since progesterone is used to make stress hormones, and no longer does what it is designed to do, an imbalance is created between your progesterone and estrogen, and conversely, testosterone as well.
It may not necessarily mean that you have too much estrogen in your body. Rather, your progesterone levels are lowered due to increased and prolonged stress, thereby lowering these levels in relation to the estrogen already present.
Because your progesterone is being depleted, it impacts on normal hormonal interaction in the body, resulting in a multitude of undesirable symptoms. Western medicine normally looks at treating the symptoms, and therefore, the cause is not necessarily treated. Progesterone replacement might help alleviate the symptoms for a while, but in the long run, it is a matter of adding fuel to the fire and serves to fuel the body’s desire for an ever-increasing cortisol production Original Source.