Fertility factsheet – low progesterone levels
Low progesterone levels are a common cause of sub-fertility. Progesterone is an important hormone which prepares the body for conception and pregnancy, maintains pregnancy, regulates the monthly menstrual cycle, and improves libido. It is produced in the ovaries, the corpus luteum, the placenta and the adrenal glands. Without a good level of progesterone you may not be able to get pregnant, or you may have miscarriages.
Are there any natural ways to improve progesterone levels?
Yes there are some things we can do to improve our progesterone levels. There are no foods which contain progesterone, but there are foods that contain oestrogen. Oestrogen and progesterone levels in the body should be balanced, but if oestrogen levels are increased for some reason your hormones may become out of balance. It is therefore essential that if your progesterone levels are low you should avoid eating oestrogen containing foods. These include:
- Dried fruits
- Flax seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Chick peas
- Soy beans
- Bran cereals
- Soy milk
- Multigrain bread
- Cow’s milk has also been found to have high levels of bovine hormones, so reduce cow’s milk as much as possible, buy organic milk and dairy products which have lower levels, and skimmed milk has been found to contain less hormones than full fat milk. So switch to organic skimmed milk and use it sparingly.
- Herbs, some of which increase oestrogen levels. One exception is nettle, which is delicious as a tea, and is said to help with adrenal health.
- Tap water is sometimes said to contain oestrogen so possibly switch to bottled water, but bear in mind that plastics are also said to contain an oestrogen-like chemical which may disrupt your hormone balance.
Although there are no foods that contain progesterone we can improve our diet to ensure an adequate supply of the vitamins and minerals needed by your body to manufacture progesterone. These include:
- Vitamin B6 rich foods such as walnuts, lean red meat, poultry, seafood, bananas, spinach, potatoes and cereals fortified with B vitamins.
- Vitamin C 750mg per day has been shown to increase progesterone production.
- Vitamin E from wheat germ, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts and peanut butter.
- L-arginine from pumpkin seeds
- Zinc found in veal’s liver, lean red meats, shellfish, crabs, dark chocolate, wheat germ, and pumpkin, watermelon and squash seeds.
- Magnesium found in spinach, halibut, whole grain cereals, pumpkin and squash seeds, okra and nuts. Magnesium is also important for the breakdown of oestrogens.
- Cholesterol containing foods such as whole eggs and organic butter, since progesterone is made from cholesterol an adequate dietary supply is required to produce progesterone.
Make sure you get to bed early enough and get enough sleep, which will promote adrenal health.
Do everything you can to reduce stress in your life. When you are stressed your adrenal glands will convert progesterone to cortisol, depleting your progesterone levels.
Reflexology can help to reduce your stress, reducing cortisol levels and so increasing your progesterone levels. You can also use reflexology to stimulate the corpus luteum, after ovulation, to produce more progesterone.
It may take about 3 months after making these changes before you see a rise in your progesterone levels. If you are charting your temperature every morning this will be seen as higher post ovulation temperatures, and hopefully a longer luteal phase.