I wrote a post recently that explained how birth control works. One thing I learned was that the high levels of estrogen in many birth control pills stimulate an excess release of prolactin from your pituitary gland.
Since I took the pill for a decade this made me pause. Is there a connection between prolactin levels and endometriosis? I found an affirmative answer to this question.
Studies show that high levels of prolactin, or Hyperprolactinemia, may be associated with endometriosis and its progression. And high prolactin levels can cause infertility.
What is Prolactin?
Prolactin is a hormone released by your pituitary gland. It stimulates breast development and milk production especially during pregnancy and after delivery.
Prolactin’s biological actions are not limited solely to reproduction. It has been shown to control a variety of behaviors and even play a role in homeostasis. Its functions include regulation of your moods.
Apart from your pituitary gland, other sites of prolactin production in your body include your uterus, immune cells, brain, breasts, skin and body fat.
Prolactin & Ovulation
Elevated levels of prolactin can stop ovulation. Prolactin prevents the release of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) from your hypothalamus in your brain.
This blocks the signal to your pituitary gland to produce FSH and LH. Without these hormones, follicles do not mature or release. Without LH, the egg does not mature and ovulation does not occur. Your ovaries become relatively dormant.
If you don’t ovulate, and you are not on birth control pills, then your body is subjected to continued levels of endo-feeding estradiol.
Elevated prolactin also suppresses follicular maturation and makes for an inadequate corpus luteum, resulting in a luteal phase defect.
These have all been found to exist in infertile women with endometriosis of varying degrees. I certainly have struggled with a shorter luteal phase.
Other symptoms of elevated prolactin include:
- Irregular or no menstrual periods
- Breast milk production that is not related to childbirth
- Decreased sex drive
- Weight gain (It is not clear if it is a result of its stimulation of the metabolic formation of body fat or due to its disruption of your central nervous system)
- Insulin resistance
What Increases Prolactin?
Certain type of diseases or medical conditions can elevate prolactin levels. Treating them should bring prolactin levels down. Some conditions include:
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Chest trauma or irritation of your chest wall (from surgical scars, shingles, or from even using an overly tight bra)
- Cirrhosis (Liver Disease)
- Kidney disease
- Prolactinomas (Pituitary tumors) – this is often responsible for very high prolactin levels
Prolactin can be released in response to stress or stimuli, although its true role in response to stress is not known.
High serum prolactin and cortisol are seen with endometriosis and stress. The presence of these hormones in higher levels could be related to infertility.
Birth Control Pills
High levels of estrogen in many birth control pills stimulate your pituitary gland to produce higher levels of prolactin.
Pregnant women naturally have high levels of prolactin, which helps make breast milk. During pregnancy, prolactin levels increase by 10 to 20 times.
How to Test Prolactin Levels
Prolactin can be tested via a simple blood test. In order to get accurate results, prolactin should be drawn first thing in the morning.
Prolactin should also be drawn early in your menstrual cycle before ovulation. This is because prolactin levels are naturally higher after ovulation.
The normal values for prolactin are:
- Nonpregnant females: 2 to 29 ng/mL.
- Pregnant women: 10 to 209 ng/mL.
- Males: 2 to 18 ng/mL.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
How to Decrease Prolactin?
Dopamine, a hormone produced in your brain, is said to inhibit prolactin secretion.
Some ways that you can naturally increase dopamine:
- Avoid sugar. Sugar alters your brain chemistry by disrupting dopamine levels.
- Healing sleep plays a role in your brain’s time to recuperate and recharge its store of neurotransmitters, including domaine.
- Regular physical activity increases blood circulation to influence the presence of many different hormones within your brain, affecting dopamine levels.
- Meditation has been shown to increase dopamine levels in your brain.
- Massage therapy decreases cortisol and increases dopamine. Another reason to book one today!
- Time in the sun. You can increase dopamine levels by spending 30 – 60 minutes in the sun.
- Omega-3’s can help increase dopamine levels.
- Magnesium: Abnormally low levels of magnesium may contribute to low dopamine. This is one to supplement.
2.) Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is a vital nutrient involved in metabolism of amino acids and in synthesis of neurotransmitters such as dopamine.
3.) S-Adenosyl methionine (SAM-e)
Various studies show that SAM-e is a safe prolactin inhibitor. It raises dopamine levels and lowers prolactin and as a result brings mood boosting, anti-depressant effects.
SAM-e also helps detoxification in your liver, so it also helps regulate estrogen levels. A bonus for those of us with endometriosis.
Recommended dosage for lowering prolactin level is 400mg to 1200mg on a daily basis.
4.) Vitamin E
Vitamin E can help prevent prolactin level from rising.
When using Vitamin E as a prolactin inhibitor, It is recommended to take 300 to 400 IU per day of natural vitamin E or 300mg to 400mg as the case may be.
5.) Healthy, Balanced Diet
Eating a diet in whole and unprocessed foods should help reduce high prolactin levels.
Focus on increasing plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables and if you can tolerate: grains, beans, seeds and nuts.
Proteins are very rich in amino acids, which are required for the production of dopamine in your brain. If your body can tolerate it, include foods such as fish, eggs, beans, legumes, chicken, turkey and red meat to supply your body with adequate amino acids. Try and buy your animal products clean without antibiotics or hormones. Look for grass-fed and/or pasture raised.
Ripe bananas are a major source of tyrosine (an amino acid neuron that helps regulate and stimulate dopamine production). The more ripe the banana, the more tyrosine content increases.
Apples also trigger production of dopamine. Other fruits include watermelon, strawberries, blueberries and prunes.
On the Positive Side?
I found this connection with prolactin, endometriosis and infertility to be interesting. I’m not sure how I’m only seeing this now. I am curious to test to see if prolactin is an issue with me.
After learning that prolactin is also released during stress, I see clearly how this could be an issue with a stressful condition like endometriosis that very much impacts your nervous system.
Have you tested your prolactin levels? Were they elevated? Have you tried to lower them? What’s worked for you?
I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below.
This is super interesting, as always, Aubrey, you throw down some interesting facts and pull out interesting data and studies to highlight biological pathways that may be compromised with Endo. For me personally, my endo got progressively worse with each of my two pregnancies and subsequent breastfeeding. Once I weaned my second child, I was suddenly very very sick. Maybe this has something to do with it.
Thanks Amanda. Interesting connection. Sorry you had to go through that. Sending love.
I have been wondering about this for a while now and I am always told no connection but it took almost 26 years for me to get an actual endometriosis diagnosis.
I think the stress from the pain and the dismissal from doctors all those years may have helped produce my pituitary adenoma. It’s like my brain was trying to protect me and it put me into a fake menopause. The endo pain did not go away but it lessened a little along with my periods. I have night sweats and memory loss. Problem is that I am even more tired with the high prolactin levels. But when I lower my levels the endo pain gets worse. Either way it not good for me.
It seems logical yet it gets brushed aside when I bring it up.
Sorry to hear that Leigh. I’ve found a lot of success over the past year and half following the protocols from the Medical Medium books. The author, Anthony William, has opened my eyes to the root cause of many of my issues. I highly recommend checking out his books. Here’s his first: https://amzn.to/2KnPNtF
I am currently waiting my prolactin test results. My doctor did an MRI brain scan to rule out MS. Instead we found I have Empty Sella Syndrome. Now we are checking hormone levels to see if my flattened pituitary is malfunctioning. Life has become a never ending cycle of testing and waiting for test results. Current diagnoses: Endometriosis, Arthritis, IBS, Fibromyalgia, Vitamin D Deficiency, Insomnia with Severe Periodic Leg Movement Disorder, Allergies, IBS, Gallstones and now ESS. Two and a half years ago just woke up sick one day…
Hi Nicole – It sounds like you are going through so much. It all goes back to the health your immune system, which goes back to the health of your digestion. Are you working to heal your gut? That’s were nearly 80% of your immune system is. I hope you get things worked out. Let me know if I can help you further. Sending love + light.
If the problem is still suffering from them .. use SAMe with Magnesium .. very safe.
get well soon.
I know this sounds nuts, but have you considered an infectious disease specialist? Parasites can cause a lot of funky symptoms.
Hello Aubrey. My name is Raine. I stumbled across this site when I was doing some searches on Endo & Smelly Vaginal Discharge. Needless to say, I found a plethora of info on your site. I found out there there’s a connection with Endo & the Thyroid. I was diagnosed with Endo over 10 yrs ago. Just recently, during an MRI a mass was discovered in my Thyroid. My question to you is, can High Blood Pressure be associated with Endo as well??
Hi Raine – Happy you found me here 🙂
Since endometriosis is a systemic condition it impacts many things in your body. There have been studies done that suggest a link between high estrogen and high blood pressure. I know there was also one done recently that placed a higher risk of endo + heart issues.
I think this would also be dependent on certain medications. Birth control pills can impact blood pressure. Stress is another factor to consider with high blood pressure and endo is a sure stress on your body.
Wow. It was really so much useful information and just in time. Thanks a lot.
All information in one place and now I really can see the logic of all these hormone problems.
I have high prolactin and Endo… when prolactin is high my Endo pain /symptoms are reduced. But then you have other symptoms to deal with… when I reduce my prolactin through beomocriptine/ vitb6 , Endo lain increases. They are definitely linked for me… it’s a balance of hormones or maybe I just get a hysterectomy….
Hi Julia. I think with endo it’s not all hormones, it’s an immune system issue that needs to be addressed. I’d focus on improving your liver and gut health before doing a hysterectomy. I’ve found success following Anthony William’s advice in his Medical Medium books. Much Love.
So I been having lots of problems lately. The lining of my uterus is 2 whatever measurement that is and my prolactin level is 39. Something I’ll have to go back to check. I know about 10 years ago after I had my child I had some but never had it checked and now after 4 years of having another child I had it checked because i knew I had it and wanted to make sure I wasn’t crazy. I’m getting another ultrasound done after my period to check the lining of my uterus again. I’m going crazy because I’m scared. I have many other health issues as well. Like asthma, sinus problems, anxiety and panic attacks, back problems like scoliosis and spasms maybe other
Issues chiopractor wants to do an mri to check the disk on my back. Have heartburn, allergies, been suffering from pressure in my head and headaches, I have issues with my ears, teeth, eyes, skin, just a lot of different issues and some times palpitations and more. I been taking vitamins and such for my immune system. Elderberry, vitamin c, probiotics, multivitamin, iron for my anemia(8.5) heavy periods when I have them. Last 7 days and it starts slow gets heavy for days either 1-3 or days 2-4 then gets normal and then leaves. I’m scared it can be tumors or cancer. I’m praying it’s not. As I have high anxiety in general and for medical issues and procedures as well. And I won’t do go if you mention surgery to
Me or putting me to
Sleep either. So please pray for me for all to be well. Also any suggestions or such as what it can be or be done. I’m waiting to
Get my ultrasound so I can make the appointment for the dr so I can go talk to them to see what they have to say. This is a pain and a nightmare. Thanks for reading and hearing me out.
Hi, love. So sorry that you’re struggling. It looks like you’re dealing with a lot right now! Sending lots of love and healing vibes your way. 💛
One thing that has made a big difference with how I feel is the food that I put into my body. From your symptoms it looks like it could help to try avoiding eggs and dairy, which can cause that mucus like affect in asthma and sinus problems. Also with nervous system issues it helps to avoid chemicals in processed foods and try to eat organic, if possible. Hydration is key too.
I struggle with chronic lower back pain and scoliosis, so totally understand how miserable this can be. I’ve shared some things that have helped here: https://peacewithendo.com/2018/11/endometriosis-lower-back-pain-sciatic-pain-neuropathy.html
I hope you get things figured out and find some relief. Hang in there!