Women with endometriosis don’t make enough progesterone receptors, particularly in the endometriosis growths. That makes it difficult to shut down estrogen activity so estrogen levels rise, especially around the aberrant growths.
After ovulation, progesterone changes your GABA receptor so that it is no longer able to respond to progesterone and other neurosteroids. This creates a situation of progesterone resistance since the neurosteroid receptor is unresponsive.
Dr. Gottfried compares progesterone resistance to a lock and key. When the combination is wrong then progesterone is “locked out.”
If you have progesterone resistance then this helps to explain why progesterone therapy in the form of birth control pills or progesterone creams may not have been successful for you.
If you are lacking progesterone receptors, then your body will not recognize these additions.
Symptoms of Low Progesterone
Progesterone plays a big role in the second half of your cycle or your luteal phase. Per Dr. Gottfried, signs of imbalanced progesterone include anxiety and disrupted sleep.
Left unchecked by low progesterone levels, estrogen continues its stimulating effects, which can result in a thick lining, heavy bleeding and breast tenderness before your period.
Fluctuations in estrogen coupled with low progesterone can lead to migraines and mental instability in your luteal phase prior to your period, that can lead towards straight up rage.
Have you been there before your period?
Low Progesterone & Stress
When you are stressed out then increased cortisol levels block progesterone receptors. Progesterone and cortisol both compete for these receptors.
And cortisol wins. Every time. After all, it’s role is associated with life and death.
This is a grave reminder of just how important it is for those of us with endometriosis to find ways to de-stress and create positive reactions to the stress in our lives.
Your Thyroid and Low Progesterone
Per Dr. Sara Gottfried, you need adequate thyroid hormone to make precursor hormones for progesterone. If you are low in thyroid hormone then you will not make as much progesterone.
This feeds into another cycle. When you have low progesterone, this raises thyroid requiements. Your thyroid has to work harder, which further worsens progesterone production.
Natural Ways to Increase Progesterone
It is not fully understood why some women are more progesterone resistance than others. The problem with progesterone resistance is that your body doesn’t respond to progesterone pills or creams.
To resolve, we need to naturally increase our own progesterone levels. Dr. Gottfried makes several lifestyle recommendations for naturally increasing your progesterone levels.
1.) Vitamin C
According to Dr. Gottfried, “At doses of 750 mg/day, vitamin C has been shown to raise progesterone levels in women with both low progesterone and luteal phase defect.”
2.) Manage Stress
High cortisol levels can block progesterone receptors, so it’s important to keep stress under control. Here’s some stress relieving tips.
3.) Cut Caffeine
Caffeine also increases cortisol levels, which blocks the ability of progesterone to bind to its receptor.
4.) Take Chasteberry
This herb (also known as Vitex agnus-castus) is said to restore your natural progesterone levels. Per Dr. Gottfried,
Most researchers believe that chasteberry increases the release of lutenizing hormone from the pituitary, which raises progesterone and normalizes the second half of the menstrual cycle.
Dr. Gottfried recommends the following brand of Chasteberry:
I tried Chasteberry when I was first diagnosed with endometriosis and didn’t do well with it. My main issue at the time was that it triggered bladder flares. Now that I have that under control, I’m curious if this could be an option to try again.
Have you tried it?
On the Positive Side?
I find the body to be so interesting especially in regards to the hormonal interplay that feeds into endometriosis: the mystery disease.
I tried progesterone cream awhile back and didn’t do well with it. I wonder now if it is because my body is progesterone resistant. I wasn’t even aware of this condition 🙂
I am also curious about the interplay between progesterone resistance and birth control use. Does this make things worse? I would think so since the pill I was taking suppressed ovulation, further suppressing my body’s natural production of progesterone.
I will try some of Dr. Gottfried’s suggestions to see if this helps. I do know that stress management has played a pivitol role in my healing journey. I feel much more grounded and calm during times of stress. This, at least is a step in the right direction 🙂
Have you read Sara Gottfried’s book(s)? Have you tried any of her suggestions for naturally increasing progesterone? Do you experience symptoms of low progesterone? Feeling anxious? Overwhelmed before your period?
I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.