A common question we hear is: How can I naturally increase my progesterone levels? This is a great question to be asking, as healthy levels of progesterone are necessary for a healthy female reproductive system, and more broadly for overall health. However, this question requires some reframing. While increasing progesterone is important, the right question to consider is “why is my body not producing enough of it?”.
How hormones are produced
Hormones are produced by a variety of mechanisms. Testosterone is produced in women by the ovaries and the adrenal glands, whereas estrogen is produced mostly in the ovaries as well as in adipose tissue. Progesterone, on the other hand, is unique in that it is mainly produced by something called the corpus luteum which forms once ovulation has occurred (1). As discussed in Progesterone 101, the corpus luteum is formed after the ovum is released for fertilisation, and subsequently produces progesterone for about two weeks, until the start of the next menstrual cycle (For more on this process, click here) (2).
In order to produce a healthy level of progesterone, you need to ovulate (3). Eating certain foods or changing other lifestyle behaviours cannot replace progesterone enough to compensate for not ovulating. The first step to increasing low progesterone is to figure out if you are ovulating and if not, why you are not ovulating.
How to detect ovulation
The inne minilab can provide insights as to whether or not ovulation has occurred, as well as even more data on what progesterone levels look like across a cycle. Through the daily practice of utilising the minilab, one can be informed about their individual progesterone levels.
Reasons for anovulation that lead to not producing enough progesterone
There are many reasons why ovulation may not occur. Some possibilities include stress, estrogen dominance, hypothalamic amenorrhea , endometriosis or PCOS (4-7). Knowing which one of these is the root cause is crucial to increasing progesterone. For example, PCOS that is linked to insulin resistance is commonly treated with a low glycemic index (GI) diet (8). Conversely, hypothalamic amenorrhea is caused by too severe of a caloric deficit, and thus is worsened by dieting (9). If an individual with amenorrhea went on a low GI diet and ate less calories in an attempt to raise their progesterone, they would likely not have the desired result of improving ovulation and progesterone production (9). Therefore, it is imperative to assess the issue leading to anovulatory cycles before making any changes.
The only “right” lifestyle changes for increasing progesterones are the ones that are relevant to the issue that you personally are experiencing, and this varies from person to person. Once the underlying cause of the low progesterone is determined, there are many strategies for these specific dysfunctions - ranging from Vitex, to supplements for estrogen detoxification, stress management, and more. We recommend that this process should always be facilitated by pairing inne minilab data with the support of a medical professional.
Getting familiar with your unique flow
While curiosity around progesterone, and an interest in maintaining healthy levels of it, is commendable, unfortunately there is no quick fix. Rather, one can be empowered by their inne data to pursue these answers. By looking deeper into this data and one’s personal experience of symptoms, it is possible to fundamentally benefit one’s overall health in a more sustainable way. While a quick fix is appealing, we invite you to consider these ways of addressing the cause at its source and look forward to providing information on these different reproductive health issues in more depth.
1. Taraborrelli, S, Physiology, production and action of progesterone, AOGS, 2015, 94, pp. 8-16
2. Filicori, M. Butler, J.P., & Crowley, W.F., Neuroendocrine regulation of the corpus luteum in the human. Evidence for pulsatile progesterone secretion. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 1984, 73(6), pp. 1638-1647
3. Reed, B.G. and Carr, B.R., The Normal Menstrual Cycle and the Control of Ovulation, 2018, Endotext, pp.1-32
4. Marquardt, R.M., Kim, T.H., Shin, J.H., and Jeong, J.W., Progesterone and estrogen signaling in the endometrium: what goes wrong in endometriosis? International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2019, 20(15), pp. 3822
5. University of Wisconsin-Madison Whole Health Library, Estrogen Dominance, 2020, (article consulted on July-10-2020)
6. Shufelt, C.L., Torbati, T., and Dutra, E. Hypothalamic amenorrhea and the long-term health consequences. Seminars in Reproductive Medicine, 2017, 35(3), pp. 256-262
7. Joseph-Horne, R. et. al, Luteal phase progesterone excretion in ovulatory women with polycystic ovaries. Human Reproduction. 2002, 17(6), pp. 1459-63
8. Marsh KA, Steinbeck KS, Atkinson FS, Petocz P, Brand-Miller JC. Effect of a low glycemic index compared with a conventional healthy diet on polycystic ovary syndrome. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2010 Jul 1;92(1):83-92
9. Meczekalski B, Katulski K, Czyzyk A, Podfigurna-Stopa A, Maciejewska-Jeske M. Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea and its influence on women’s health. Journal of endocrinological investigation. 2014 Nov 1;37(11):1049-56