Q: What happens when you’re no longer making sufficient progesterone to balance your estrogen?
A: Women’s bodies produce two primary hormones–estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is needed for the health of the vagina, breasts, skin, bones, arteries, heart, liver, and brain. It is essential for all that is female.
Progesterone, a much overlooked hormone in today’s medical community, is just as essential. It serves as precursor, protective agent, and balancing act for estrogen.
For example, for the body to produce estrogen and other essential hormones, progesterone must first be present. For a fertilized egg to grow into a child, progesterone must be present to make the uterus into a welcoming “home”.
Left by itself, estrogen causes abnormal blood clotting in the body. Progesterone comes alongside to normalize blood clotting, thus protecting against strokes.
Unbalanced estrogen causes water retention. Progesterone acts as a natural diuretic. Estrogen depletes cell oxygen levels. Progesterone restores it. Estrogen interferes with thyroid hormone use in the body. Progesterone rides to the rescue, enabling the function of these hormones.
And the big one for today’s weight-conscious woman–estrogen converts food energy to fat, while progesterone helps the body burn fat for energy.
There are 3 major reasons a female quits producing sufficient progesterone to balance her estrogen:
1. Low thyroid function...the thyroid is known as a female’s “3rd ovary”. If it’s not getting sufficient iodine (perhaps true of 8 out 10 adult Americans), the ovaries weaken. Weak thyroid leads to weak ovaries, leads to lack of progesterone production.
2. Hysterectomy (ovaries are gone or not working)
3. Menopause (ovaries have gone into retirement) Those who study these things contend that estrogen dominance (unbalanced estrogen) is a primary cause in almost all female-related health problems.
The list that follows is adapted from Dr. John Lee’s book.
*Acceleration of the aging process
*Cold hands and feet (Sign that estrogen is impacting thyroid hormone function)
*Decreased sex drive
*Depression with anxiety or agitation
*Early onset of menstruation
*Endometrial (uterine) cancer (Estrogen dominance is the only known cause)
*Fat gain (abdomen, hips, thighs)
*Increased blood clotting (stroke risk)
*Irregular menstrual periods
*Pre-menstrual bone loss
*Prostate cancer (in men, obviously) (When a man’s thyroid isn’t getting sufficient iodine, his testes quit making enough progesterone to keep his testosterone from changing into dihydrotestosterone and estrogen. It’s estrogen that swells and wounds the prostate gland. And although dihydro is a more potent form of testosterone, it’s weaker at protecting the prostate from the wounding/cancer causing impact of estrogen.)
*Thyroid dysfunction (mimicking a “hypo-thyroid” condition)
*Water retention and bloating
*A woman’s body may need estrogen help, but it doesn’t need Premarin–horse estrogen extracted from the urine of pregnant mares. It doesn’t work, and causes significant side effects:
-Blood sugar problems
-Increased risk of cancer
*Provera, a synthetic form of progesterone, is ineffective.
*Soy is a “phyto-estrogen” (meaning plant-derived) which if consumed takes up the estrogen receptor cites on the various organs of the female body, so that the harsher estrogens are not absorbed.
*Black Cohosh (an herb) is yet another “phyto-estrogen”.
Dr. Lee often recommends the use of progesterone to balance estrogen, and if hot flashes persist, or other evidences of estrogen need, to use Black Cohosh.
*Testosterone is the most important hormone for low libido (sex drive). Men produce 80% more than women, but both need it in order to maintain healthy sexual appetite. An herb called Damiana has a testosterone-like impact on the body. (Doesn’t cause facial hair growth or deepening voice in women.)
Dave Frahm, Naturopath/Nutritionist
In His Service for The Body