What is progesterone?
Progesterone is a hormone found in men, women and children. Everyone needs a small amount of progesterone for good health and longevity. However, women of reproductive age need much more. Progesterone plays an essential role in a woman's reproductive cycle and her ability to have children, and if she does not produce enough many serious problems can occur (see Symptoms below).
Postmenopausal women and children tend to have the lowest levels of progesterone. Adult males have a similar level to that in women during the follicular phase of their menstrual cycle. When a woman ovulates, the level of progesterone in her blood more than doubles. During pregnancy, her progesterone level goes up by one to two hundred times.
Progesterone is not a "feminising" hormone. That reputation belongs to estrogen. Excess estrogen or estrogen imitators cause many problems both in men and women. Progesterone is a natural antagonist to estrogen. Progesterone helps to balance and neutralise the powerful effects of excess estrogen in both men and women. Without sufficient progesterone in the body, estrogen becomes harmful and out of control ("unopposed estrogen").
Progesterone is produced in a woman's body in quantities a thousand-fold greater than estrogens. Progesterone is a pivotal building block for the production of other hormones, including estrogens, glucocorticoids and corticosteroids. Without progesterone there would be no menstrual cycle or reproduction. Progesterone plays an essential role including keeping the stimulatory effects of estrogen under control.
In the 1990's an American medical doctor, John R. Lee, pioneered the use of natural progesterone in treating breast cancer, PMS and menstrual problems. Dr Lee emphasised the use of natural progesterone with its dynamic and holistic properties, and warned doctors to avoid synthetic progesterone look-alikes or analogs, because they were not as effective and have serious side-effects. Unfortunately many doctors are not aware of this important distinction. Pharmaceutical companies promote only their more profitable patented look-alikes. The best-known look-alikes are various progestins. Other look-alikes include a variety of progestogens that are not true progesterone.
Sources of progesterone
- Small amounts of progesterone are produced by everyone's adrenal glands.
- Progesterone is made in men's testes.
- Progesterone is produced by the corpus luteum in the ovaries after ovulation.
- At about 8 to 10 weeks of pregnancy, large amounts of progesterone are produced in the placenta.
- Dairy products contain progesterone, because on dairy farms cows and other animals are milked during pregnancy (when the progesterone content of their milk is high).
- Progesterone used to be harvested from animal ovaries or human placentas. These sources were limited, expensive, and subject to the health of the donors.
- Today, progesterone is mostly made from sigmasterol sourced from soya beans. Smaller quantities of diosgenin from yams and other plants in the tuber family are also used. No plants contain progesterone - the steroid substrates (raw materials) in these plants have to be converted into real progesterone in a laboratory.
- The human body cannot convert the diosgenin or sigmasterol from raw, unprocessed plants into progesterone. This is a point that is avoided or misrepresented by marketers of wild yam products.
- Warning. Synthetic progesterone look-alikes or analogs. These look-alikes are favourites of the pharmaceutical companies, because they are not naturally-occurring and can therefore be patented. The best-known analogs are a variety of progestins, though there are others in the progestogen family. Some doctors are not aware of this crucial difference between natural bio-identical progesterone and the patented look-alikes. These look-alikes are not nearly as effective as real bio-identical progesterone, and come with nasty and serious side-effects. (22)
Oral or transdermal progesterone?
Progesterone is poorly absorbed when taken orally, being broken down by the liver instead of being bio-available. However, progesterone is well absorbed transdermally (through the skin). It is essential to use only high quality pharmaceutical grade natural bio-identical progesterone cream. Homeopathic progesterone products and wild yam creams do not work. Low quality products and creams containing insufficient progesterone are unlikely to be effective.
Women - Symptoms of progesterone deficiency
- Mood changes, anxiety, nervousness, irrational fears, irritability.
- Low sex drive / libido.
- Breast disorders, pain, tenderness.
- Headaches, migraines.
- Hot flashes.
- Menstrual problems such as irregularity or heavy bleeding.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
- Postpartum depression.
- Weight gain.
- Peri-menopause problems.
- Menopause problems.
- Night sweats.
Women - Benefits of progesterone supplementation
- Helps with the common symptoms of menopause including hot flushes, mood swings, insomnia, night sweats, vaginal dryness and restlessness. Estrogen levels normally fall by 40-60% during menopause, but progesterone levels often fall to almost zero. Menopause is not an estrogen-deficiency disease. The symptoms experienced by menopausal women are actually the symptoms of estrogen dominance! The most effective and safe treatment of these menopause symptoms is to counteract the excess estrogens with natural bio-identical progesterone.
- Relief from PMS symptoms that you "just had to put up with".
- Heavy menstrual bleeding. Using natural progesterone during the luteal phase of the cycle will usually regulate and control bleeding within two or three months. It is important that uncontrolled bleeding be fully investigated by a gynaecologist to exclude serious underlying uterine disease.
- Restores libido / sex drive and function such as lubrication.
- Energy levels restored. An end to that unexplained fatigue.
- Helps to burn body fat for energy. Helps to control one important pathway in weight gain.
- Normalises insulin blood sugar control. Helps to stabilise blood sugar levels, and control craving for high-sugar and sweet foods such as chocolate. Anyone not experienced chocolate cravings during PMS?
- Anti-depressant. Depression is on the increase, with women suffering more than men. Bio-identical progesterone is the raw material for the anti-stress hormones serotonin and dopamine. Sometimes depression is also caused by low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia).
- Stimulates bone growth, protecting against osteoporosis. It also protects against arthritis, and as an anti-inflammatory, reduces arthritic pain.
- Maintains the uterine lining during the second half of the menstrual cycle (the luteal phase).
- Assists the thyroid. Progesterone therapy helps to restore normal thyroid hormone action.
- Helps avoid early miscarriage (propagates an embryo). Sufficient progesterone is vital to pregnancy. If you are estrogen-dominant and progesterone-deficient, supplementing with natural bio-identical progesterone can help get pregnant through to a healthy delivery.
- Protects against ovarian, endometrial and breast cancers.
- Protects against fibrocysts, uterine fibroids and endometriosis.
- Used for building other essential hormones.
- Normalises blood clotting.
- It is a diuretic, normalising body fluid and salt levels.
- Heart disease - reduces blood clotting, reduces stress / better sleep, reduces high blood pressure by acting as a natural diuretic, improves the integrity and function of cell membranes.
Symptoms of estrogen dominance / insufficient progesterone in men
As most men age, the level of estrogens, estrogen look-alikes and xenoestrogen toxins in their bodies rises. As the level of these estrogens rises, their testosterone level falls. The testosterone level falls naturally with aging, but the high level of the estrogens makes the aging symptoms much worse.
- Prostate enlargement - benign prostate hyperplasia / hypertrophy (BPH) and the risk of prostate cancer.
- Urination - difficulty, increased frequency. Constricted urethra.
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Low libido.
- Adiposity (fat build-up) and the redistribution of fat.
- Muscle development reduced.
- Body hair reduced.
- Veins become less prominent.
- Breast growth.
- Risk of many other cancers.
- Risk of heart and artery diseases.
- Sweat and body odour changes.
- Skin thinning.
Progesterone for men
Progesterone is known as the "source hormone" and gets converted in the male body into testosterone and other hormones. As men age, their progesterone levels drop and therefore so too do the testosterone levels. This is compounded by the fact that estrogen levels are on the rise. A slight hormonal imbalance becomes a major imbalance - fast.
Progesterone opposes and balances excess estrogen. It is progesterone that inhibits the harmful effects of too much estrogen (unopposed estrogen) more than anything else.
As estrogen levels rise in older men, there is no parallel rise in progesterone to balance this. For men progesterone is anti-feminizing rather than being a "female hormone". Any adult man showing these estrogen-dominant symptoms, especially those over 50, should use a small amount of transdermal natural progesterone daily to offset the excess estrogens in his blood.
Progesterone is a powerful 5-alpha reductase inhibitor. 5-alpha reductase is an enzyme that turns beneficial testosterone into unwanted and dangerous dihydrotestosterone (DHT). High levels of DHT are associated with baldness, prostate disease, and a host of other illnesses as men age.
Progesterone raises the level of androstenedione in the prostate gland. A healthy prostate needs an abundance of androgens such as testosterone, androstenedione, and DHEA to function as well as it did in their youth.
A healthy prostate needs a small amount of progesterone, and actually has progesterone receptors. Studies on laboratory animals have reduced the weights of their prostates just by giving them natural progesterone.
Benefits of progesterone for men
Natural bio-identical progesterone helps combat or even reverse the above symptoms of estrogen dominance in men. As progesterone is a precursor hormone for testosterone, it is increasingly becoming the hormone used to treat prostrate problems and other male hormone imbalance symptoms.
- Protects against prostate problems. Urination is easier, stronger flow, less frequent. Bio-identical progesterone is increasingly being used as an alternative to prostate surgery. There is substantial anecdotal evidence indicating that it can reduce an enlarged prostate back to normal.
- Improved libido and sex drive.
- Improved energy level.
- Feeling of wellbeing, happiness. Natural progesterone is a natural antidepressant.
- Combats the build-up and redistribution of fat.
- Muscle bulk and tone improved.
- Baldness. Loss of hair all over the body is stopped or even reversed.
- Reduced / reversed breast growth.
- Reduced risk of prostate cancer and many other cancers. Some cases of prostate cancer have responded positively to progesterone. Who wants to go under the surgeons knife if they don't have to?
- Reduced risk of heart conditions.
- Improved sweat and body odour.
- Stronger, more resilient, younger skin.
More and more men are putting stigma aside and embracing this natural alternative.
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Topical progesterone creme has antiproliferative effect on estrange-stimulated endometrium.
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This paper reviews the effects of progesterone on the brain, with special focus on its role in the formation of the myelin sheath surrounding nerve fibers. Other roles of progesterone in the brain include evaluating activating GABA receptors, which induces a calming effect
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