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Posts Tagged ‘progesterone’

female hormones sleep

Is there a torture worse than hitting the sack exhausted from a long day only to toss and turn for hours, unable to fall asleep? Or perhaps you fall asleep but later bolt awake and can’t fall back asleep?

By the time women hit their mid 30s or early 40s, many struggle with sleep. Either it’s difficult to fall asleep, difficult to stay asleep, or both. Although sleep difficulties can have many causes, fluctuations of female hormone prior to and during the transition to menopause can steal many hours of precious sleep.

Female hormone imbalances and sleep problems

When a woman enters perimenopause, her production of estrogen and progesterone begins to decline. Ideally the adrenal glands, which produce stress hormones, take over production of these hormones to ensure a smooth transition into menopause. Unfortunately, most women today enter perimenopause (pre-menopause) in a state of chronic stress and their adrenals glands are either producing too much or too little of stress hormones. To take on the added job of producing sex hormones is simply more than they can handle. That’s when sleep issues can kick in, as balanced levels of estrogen and progesterone are necessary for healthy sleep. Other symptoms may include hot flashes, night sweats, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and more.

Women may also experience sleep issues during certain times of the menstrual cycle when hormone levels fluctuate.

Low progesterone and problems sleeping

Low progesterone seems to have become increasingly common among women and can play a large role in sleep problems. Progesterone is referred to as the “calming hormone” whereas estrogen is more excitatory, and low progesterone is associated with sleeping difficulties.

Chronic stress can impact progesterone levels. Every time you experience stress your adrenal glands release cortisol, a stress hormone. When demand for cortisol is constantly high the body borrows pregnenolone, which is needed to make progesterone and other hormones, to make cortisol instead. This is called “pregnenolone steal” because the body steals pregnenolone from the hormone cascade in order to keep pace with the demands of stress.

Stopping pregnenolone steal may help improve hormone function and improve sleep. Strategies for stopping pregnenolone steal include an anti-inflammatory diet, which eases the body’s burden of stress. You may also need to work on restoring gut health, taming chronic inflammation, or managing an autoimmune disease appropriately, approaches that benefit from the guidance of an experienced practitioner.

Estrogen and sleep problems

When estrogen is too high and progesterone too low, it can cause sleep problems for the obvious reason—there is too much of the excitatory estrogen compared to the calming progesterone and the brain can’t calm down enough to rest. A proper ratio between the two is important.

However, low estrogen can also contribute to sleep problems. Estrogen is intimately connected with serotonin, a brain chemical associated that is converted to melatonin, a sleep hormone. Low estrogen may lead to low serotonin activity and contribute not only to sleep problems but also depression and anxiety. The female brain is highly dependent on sufficient estrogen for normal function in general, and low estrogen can also cause symptoms that include brain fog and memory loss.

Strategies to support hormone balance

Tending to adrenal function and other health issues may help correct hormonal imbalances. This includes not only reducing lifestyle stress, but also eliminating dietary stressors. Eating a diet lower in carbohydrates to prevent blood sugar swings, avoiding foods that cause an immune reaction, not drinking too much alcohol, tending to bacterial gut infections and other aspects of digestive health, and supporting immune balance are all whole-body approaches that can foster proper hormone function and improve sleep.

Ask my office for help in supporting healthy hormonal balance, and improving sleep.

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PMS-low-progesterone-pregnenolone steal

It’s the time of the month that so many women dread, the PMS days. For some, premenstrual syndrome is simply an irritating inconvenience, but for others it is a cause of extreme suffering. Yet because it is so common, many women don’t take PMS seriously, even though the effect on their lives is serious indeed.

Common or not, PMS, especially the extreme variety, is not normal or healthy. It is a sign that the delicate balance of female hormones is all out of whack. PMS symptoms may be a signal that the body is experiencing a progesterone deficiency due to chronic stress.

Symptoms of low progesterone include:

  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Crying easily
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent or irregular menstruation
  • Low sex drive
  • Migraines

Natural remedies for PMS

Instead of reaching for the progesterone cream at your local supplement store, it’s safer to first address the underlying causes of low progesterone. For many women, progesterone levels take a beating because of chronic stress. Every time you experience stress, your body responds with cortisol, an adrenal stress hormone that works to keep the body in balance.

But in these fast-paced times, we experience stress so frequently that the body’s demand for cortisol is constantly high. To keep up with demand, the body borrows the materials needed to make reproductive hormones, including progesterone, and makes cortisol instead. This is called “pregnenolone steal,” when the body steals pregnenolone needed for other hormones to keep pace with the demands of stress.

Factors that can cause chronic stress:

  • Sugar and sweeteners, too many starchy foods (rice, pasta, bread, etc.), and excess caffeine
  • Food intolerances (gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, nuts, grains, etc.)
  • Gut problems (gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, etc.)
  • Lack of sleep
  • Chronic inflammation (joint pain, muscle pain, skin rashes and disorders, brain fog, fatigue, etc.)
  • Autoimmune disease (such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism)
  • Overdoing it; pushing yourself without breaks or enough rest
  • Poor nutrition

Restoring hormonal balance naturally

Many times, the best way to reduce symptoms of PMS is to stop the pregnenolone steal, thereby allowing the body to make enough of its own progesterone. Strategies for stopping pregnenolone steal include an anti-inflammatory diet, which eases the body’s burden of stress. You may also need to work on restoring gut health, taming chronic inflammation, or managing your autoimmune disease appropriately, approaches that benefit from the guidance of an experienced practitioner.

Nutrients to ease PMS

Basic nutritional support can sometimes ease the symptoms of PMS. For instance, are you getting enough omega 3 fatty acids and gamma-linoleic acid (GLA)? You may find that supplementing with a high-quality emulsified fish oil or krill oil is helpful, especially if you add one of the GLAs—evening primrose oil, borage oil, or black currant oil—as well.

Supporting serotonin, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitter, may also alleviate symptoms when you’re premenstrual. Compounds that support serotonin activity include tryptophan, 5-HTP, St. John’s Wort, and SAMe. Other nutrients that may offer additional support include magnesium, B6, and vitamin D3.

Ask my office for natural therapies to alleviate PMS and support healthy hormonal balance.

Important note: If you are taking an antidepressant, do NOT embark upon a serotonin support regimen without the guidance of your physician.

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