What Is Progesterone and Its Functions In The Body
There is a hormone that serves in the shadows, relatively unknown, and yet, still very relevant.
This hormone is progesterone, and while it is classified as a female sex hormone, it is very important to both genders with its array of critical functions.
You would be ill-advised to neglect this hormone, and yet, that's exactly what happens- people know little to nothing about it.
But that all changes now.
All of the sex hormones, otherwise known as "steroid" hormones, are synthesized from cholesterol molecules.
This is also true for progesterone, which requires cholesterol to be converted into pregnenolone before it can be further synthesized into progesterone.
But that's not all pregnenolone can be converted into, as it can also be converted into cortisol, estrogen, and male sex hormones under the right circumstances. This is why it is considered extremely versatile and important.
In women, the majority of progesterone is made via the ovaries while some is also produced via the adrenal glands.
During the first half of a woman's menstrual cycle, estrogen is dominant and progesterone production increases as ovulation moves closer.
After ovulation, progesterone levels will rise significantly and remain elevated until menstruation begins.
Progesterone has many important functions in both men's and women's bodies. These include:
Regulation Of The Menstrual Cycle
You might have learned this during high school science classes, but a little refresher about why progesterone is essential for regulating the menstrual cycle never hurt anyone.
Approximately during the mid-menstrual cycle, ovulation takes place and progesterone is released in order to prepare the uterine lining for a possible pregnancy.
The hormone prepares the corpus luteum by thickening the lining and creating secretory glands, which produce a rich nutrient supply for any potential fertilized egg.
If no pregnancy occurs, progesterone levels will drop leading to menstruation in order to shed the now-thickened uterine lining. This is what typically is referred to as the period.
If pregnancy does occur during the preparatory phase, progesterone will continue to be produced in high levels throughout the pregnancy.
This hormone is essential for carrying a healthy pregnancy as it helps maintain and thicken the uterine lining, providing an environment rich in nutrients for the growing fetus.
In addition, progesterone helps relax the smooth muscles of the uterus, preventing contractions that can lead to a miscarriage.
It also helps keep the cervix closed and prevents early labor, as it acts against oxytocin which typically leads to contractions or premature delivery.
The elevated levels will also inhibit the release of subsequent eggs while pregnant, reducing the chances of multiple pregnancies.
Overall, progesterone is essential for carrying a healthy pregnancy and protecting the health of both mother and baby.
Maintenance Of Skin Health
Have you ever wondered why a woman's skin often takes a rapid change for the worst starting at menopause, while in men, it's more of a linear rate of deterioration? Turns out, the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone play an important part.
Decreased levels of these hormones cause atrophy of skin cells, in addition to a reduction in subcutaneous fat, and a reduction in skin's elasticity and firmness.
This, along with reduced production of the structural protein collagen, all work together to cause the skin to become thinner, more transparent, and less elastic - leading to wrinkles.
Therefore, keeping levels of progesterone in check is important for maintaining healthy skin health throughout a person's life. And yes- a deterioration in production is normal, and a given as we age, but you can mitigate the reduction with lifestyle changes, and medical intervention if necessary.
Also, by addressing the factors that are within our power- like supplementing with a Collagen protein powder such as Radiance, you can reduce the impact of decreased progesterone levels.
Loss of cognitive ability following a traumatic brain injury, including strokes, appear to be of a less serious nature in pre-menopausal women as compared to men of similar age.
Not only can progesterone (with some help from estrogen) decrease this risk in women, but it can also safeguard neurons from extensive damage.
This means easier, and faster rehabilitation and physiotherapy processes.
It can also help limit the extent of apoptosis or cell death that occurs following any period of time that the brain is deprived of oxygen.
Bone Health Support
Another important role of progesterone is the support of bone health. Many studies have found that progesterone supports the growth and maintenance of bones, along with their strength and integrity.
Research has also suggested that high levels of this hormone may be beneficial in preserving bone density, as well as in reducing the risk of fractures.
In addition to this, progesterone has also been found to have anti-inflammatory effects on bone cells and can also protect against certain types of cancer that develop within bones.
So, not only does it help with preventative measures, but it can help speed up rehabilitation processes following any type of injury to the bones.
Together with estradiol, they are considered osteoprotective, which is why it is never a good thing to seek an absolute zero-sum game when it comes to these hormones.
May Assist With The Management of BPH
BPH, otherwise known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, is a non-cancerous condition that affects the prostate gland in men.
It causes growth of the prostate tissue, which in turn can lead to difficulty urinating and other urinary problems.
Progesterone could help reduce the growth of the prostate tissue.
It does this by blocking the conversion of testosterone into DHT, which is the conversion that leads to BPH development. It also blocks the enzyme that catalyzes the conversion, 5 -alpha-reductase, from binding to the receptors in the prostate.
This means that progesterone could potentially be used as a form of preventative treatment for men suffering from BPH.
In addition to this, progesterone can also reduce inflammation of the prostate, as well as reducing certain types of related pain symptoms associated with the increased size of the prostate gland.
So while it will not be able to cure a person completely of BPH, it may be able to help in its management.
Blood Pressure Management
Did you know that progesterone has natural anti-hypertensive actions as well? Although previously believed to be a pressor itself- in that, a contributor to hypertension, this is actually not true.
Progesterone is actually helpful in reducing blood pressure levels, primarily by its influence on vasodilation- or widening of the blood vessels.
It also decreases sodium excretion, thereby helping you retain essential electrolytes, as well as limiting water retention which is another contributing factor to increased blood pressure readings.
As mentioned above, pregnenolone which is a precursor of progesterone, can itself convert to cortisol, a key hormone implicated in the development of high blood pressure.
By diverting the synthesis away from cortisol and towards more progesterone, it can help balance out the hormones in your body, leading to a healthier electrolyte balance and physiological state.
Plays A Key Role In Sleep Regulation
There is a developing school of thought that hypothesizes that one of progesterone's primary roles in the body is sleep regulation and support.
This hormone is produced naturally during sleep, and its levels rise significantly during the nighttime hours.
It has been theorized that progesterone helps with falling asleep as well as staying asleep due to its effects on GABA receptors- calming down neurons and allowing for a more relaxed state of being.
On top of that, a relationship could be established to explain this function as well, since sleep disorders are more likely to afflict the elderly with already diminished levels of this hormone.
Combine the natural power of this hormone with melatonin, such as from the supplement DREAMZZZ, and ensure that the sleep you are getting is highly restorative and regenerative.
May Aid Male Fertility
There are many aspects that dictate overall male fertility, with sperm count being merely one component. You can have a high concentration of sperm, but if their morphology (shape) pr motility (swimming ability) is defective, pregnancy will still be difficult to achieve.
That's where good old progesterone comes in again. Thanks to a phenomenon known as "hyperactivation" of sperm, their motility is amplified.
This can assist with them getting to the egg and successfully penetrating the outer layer.
You can think of it as the feeling you get after taking a dose of Dawn To Dusk- your supercharged sperm might turn you into a baby-making factory, so be careful out there!
Regulates Female Libido
Aphrodisiacs for men are a dime a dozen. Not so when it comes to women. While there are similar pathways that stimulate sex drive in the female body and brain when compared to men, there are also differences.
One of these key differences has to do with progesterone, as lower levels is associated with a reduced state of sexual desire in females. That could possibly explain the heightened libido women who are pregnant manifest.
Mood And Addiction Potential
At first glance, there doesn't seem to be much of any relationship between progesterone and mood regulation or even addiction potential.
But that's the way things are when the complex brain is involved. For one, progesterone levels are closely related to the brain's serotonin levels- that is to say that higher levels generally correlate to better serotonin brain levels.
As progesterone levels drop, so too in turn does serotonin as well. That explains why sometimes the individual make seeks out substances that emulate the feel-good feeling of a serotonin high- including those such as cannabis, nicotine, alcohol, or other controlled substances.
Dopamine is also affected, indirectly through the actions of other substances the user may partake in.
How To Maintain/ Optimize Progesterone Levels
While it isn't possible to directly increase progesterone levels without the use of prescription-strength medical therapy, there are natural approaches you can take to stay in the good graces as much and for as long as possible.
Effective approaches include:
Stress management- stress will deplete your progesterone levels as more pregnenolone will be diverted into cortisol production. Do your best to manage it.
Rest Enough- this includes sleeping enough, but also taking days off from training. This will also help you control cortisol levels.
Maintain a healthy weight- excessive body fat tends to lead to overproduction of estrogen, leading to disrupted balance with other necessary hormones.
Again- not possible to directly influence progesterone by this method, but it can pave the way for achieving hormonal homeostasis once more.
Pro-progestogenic foods include:
Red ginseng, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and kale, flaxseeds, legumes like chickpeas ad lentils, quinoa and other whole grains, nuts, and seeds such as pistachios and pumpkin seeds.
Anti-Estrogenic Foods include:
Garlic, onion, fish such as mackerel and tuna, mustard greens, citrus fruits, and cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, and cauliflower.
Lastly- supplementing with bioidentical progesterone can be beneficial in cases of severe depletion or imbalances. This should only be done under the supervision of a medical professional.
In conclusion, progesterone is a very important hormone for both men and women when it comes to reproductive health, and so much more than you could have ever imagined.
But now, after reading this blog, you've very likely developed a new appreciation for it.
So make sure you're doing your part to ensure that your progesterone levels remain where they should be by managing stress, getting enough rest, keeping your weight in check, and eating a diet rich in pro-progestogenic foods.