PCOS progesterone deficiency can be a leading cause of infertility among women of reproductive age. Lately, you’ve suffered through mood swings, you struggled to get through the day, and the things that used to give you joy seem uninteresting to you. With the aforementioned symptoms, along with regular headaches and feeling like a bloated whale, none of this has helped the process of attempting to break through fertility ceiling, as you have trudged on in your quest to have your first child. It hasn’t been for a lack of trying … after months of trying, and visits to the doctor, nothing seems to be working.
If you’re on the cusp of giving up, please don’t. You’re not doomed to be barren for the rest of your days; given your symptoms, you just might have a progesterone deficiency. Indeed, the tell-tale signs that this might be the positive diagnosis that you have been looking for include mood swings, incidences of PMS, fatigue, inflammation, headaches, anxiety, depression, as well as weight gain (1).
Sometimes, despite being well away from menopause, women suffering from a progesterone deficiency may also experience aggressive night sweats and hot flashes (2). More frighteningly, other signs that a progesterone deficiency may be kneecapping your fertility include miscarriages in previous pregnancies and heavy periods that are accompanied by pain.
If you know all this, why hasn’t my doctor caught on?
Before we discuss the details of how a progesterone deficiency wreaks havoc on your ability to conceive and retain a pregnancy, you may be wondering why your doctor hasn’t made this diagnosis yet. Like all of us, doctors, while very knowledgeably and possessing vital skills that make them a cornerstone of society, are invariably human. As such, they sometimes make mistakes, as all of us do.
A misnomer that they often fall for when seeing patients suffering from fertility frustrations is the abundant presence of estrogen in the bodies of those that may actually be suffering from a progesterone deficiency. They might assume that since there is no shortage of estrogen running through their veins that their follicles are pumping it out en masse.
On the other hand, the reality of the matter might is that their exposure to factors in their environment is ramping the levels of this hormone via means other than the workings of the female reproductive system, as you will read in the coming paragraphs.
The damage done makes it hard for the female to eject ovum from her follicles post-puberty, which prevents the release of progesterone that follows the ejection of the ovum (3). This triggers the hypothalamus in women to release androgen and estrogen to stimulate more follicles to release an egg. If it continues to not happen, these elevated levels of hormones can scar the ovaries, forming the cysts that give PCOS its name (4).
Compounding the problem is the fact that progesterone is an antagonist to estrogen, whose presence neutralizes excess estrogen in the bloodstream. With the lack of progesterone that is caused by the nurture factors of pre-natal exposure to environmental pollution (5), as well as the additional suppressant factors within the patient’s control further constraining its production, estrogen is permitted to run wild through your body, causing further damage to your reproductive system, as well as stoking many of the symptoms associated with PCOS.
How do I know if I have a progesterone deficiency?
One tell-tale way to flag a potential progesterone deficiency is to track your basal body temperature like a hawk. If the time where your elevated basal body temperature (an aspect of the menstrual cycle that is brought about by elevated levels of progesterone following ovulation) lasts for period less than 12 days, then your corpus leuteum is releasing insufficient levels of that key hormone (6).
Another wrinkle regarding this issue may be that your progesterone may not just have problems being generated, but estrogen also makes an attempt to take over in the absence or shortage of progesterone (7). Signs that this might be the case include excessive production of cervical mucus, as well as swelling in the breasts that are quite painful to the touch.
Before we move on, a very important proviso regarding self-diagnosis. While it is often essential to be vigilant of your own body and steer doctors towards investigating leads of which that they might not be aware, know that the symptoms of progesterone deficiency also mirror what you feel with other disorders.
Other maladies such as anemia, hypothyroidism, and congenital adrenal hyperplasia also manifest themselves with the signs that also mark a progesterone deficiency, so ensure that you are through with crossing off other possibilities before convincing yourself that you have it. In this manner, you will be doing your utmost to bring yourself to optimal health, while not disavowing any potential serious conditions.
Ok, I have a progesterone deficiency. How do we fix this?
So knowing what we know now, how do we reverse controllable factors that lead to PCOS progesterone deficiency that it either causes or aggravates? While you can’t change the genetic makeup that you inherited from your parental units, you do have the power to control what you put in your body.[Tweet “Progesterone is typically stifled by two dynamic variables: (1) environmental pollutants and (2) exposure to gluten.”]
As mentioned earlier in this article, progesterone is typically stifled by two dynamic variables: (1) environmental pollutants and (2) exposure to gluten. Let’s talk about the chemicals that mess with your body first…
While much is made of exposure to toxic chemicals sprayed and dumped by sociopathic multinational corporations, the most significant introduction of foreign chemical compounds that supress your progesterone levels is inhaled cigarette smoke.
The link between smoking by women and progesterone deficiency sufferers is well-documented (8), so of all the first steps to take, this is the first one that should change with immediate effect. Throw the Marlboros in the dumpster and don’t look back!
The same goes for hanging around lady friends that engage in this practice: they may be your friends right now, but remember: this is your life. Sometimes achieving the major milestones in life requires difficult decisions, and while the social and addictive pressures of smoking will weigh on you in the beginning, this is the first step on your journey to saying hello to your newborn daughter/son for the first time. Take it.
Another big stressor that makes getting pregnant an exercise in futility and not fertility are the obscene amounts of pesticide that unwitting women consume in a well-intentioned attempt to eat healthy. If you’re picking out veggies and meat from the edges of the supermarket, good on you! But are they pesticide and hormone free?
Most of the produce and standard cuts of meat from there is typically swimming in the stuff (9), all in the name of keeping it looking presentable and pretty for squeamish shoppers. As such, acquiring your vegetables at a farmer’s market, where the vendors know where they obtained their goods, and what has been done to it.
These often come from the ground of the farmers that are selling it, and frequently, they have kept them free of chemical inputs to ensure the cleanest food possible. Failing this, go to your closest organic supermarket, where the fruits, veggies and meat that they obtain are usually free of these harmful compounds, preventing xenobiotics from upsetting your hormonal balance without your knowledge.
While most of the developed world is marked by the distinction of having water that can be drunk from the tap without further treatment, sadly, some areas may have water that has been compromised by pollutants that may be inducing the production of xenobiotics in your body (10).
In any event, it can’t hurt to have your water tested for harmful compounds like heavy metals, as some areas may be have been used for heavy industry in the past, and despite government assurances that the drinking water is safe, it’s worth noting that saving face is one of the things that bureaucrats and politicians seem to value more than the welfare of the public. If your water does contain levels of heavy metals above acceptable levels, switch to bottled water for the time being.
From the workplace to the workshop, solvents, adhesives, and other potentially toxic chemicals like paint thinner, glass cleaner, and superglue are commonly used on a daily basis to solve many of the problems of modern life. Unfortunately, when these products were created in previous generations, little thought to potential side effects was given, and in the present day, our society has been saddled with high levels of synthetic estrogen imitating compounds (11), which as you know by now wreaks havoc with female reproductive cycles. To reduce or eliminate exposure to these compounds:
– Take all the household chemicals that have non-toxic alternatives and clear them all out (safely … check your region’s policy on disposing of hazardous waste).
– For the solvents that you have no choice in being exposed to (usually in the workplace), ensure that you are wearing a mask that have a respiratory cartridge that is certified to keep out organic vapours, along with gloves and protective clothing that is solvent resistant.
If you enjoy jogging, where do you do it? If your route takes you along busy roads where traffic is heavy much of the time, you may want to move it away from there. Automobile exhaust, not surprisingly, is filled with petrochemicals that will form those terrible xenobiotics in your body (12). Also, what are you using to hydrate? Is the bottle plastic? Then get to your local sports or outdoor store and get a certified BPA free steel water bottle, as BPA has been shown to have toxic effects in humans (13).
Emulsifiers in Beauty Products/Cosmetics
One of the more shocking sources of artificial compounds that drive progesterone deficiency is in the very things that get you clean and make you pretty. Emulsifiers, or emollients as they are known in beauty products, are a cream that is formed when oil and water are forced to mix together.
While these compounds have been known to moisturize dry skin, they have also had the unfortunate side effect of introducing petrochemicals into your system in yet another fashion. With regard to cosmetics, most have it as part of their makeup, so avoiding putting it on try you are attempting to conceive would be the best strategy in this regard. If you do have you put on makeup for work or an important social setting, using cosmetics that do not contain paraben (14) (a known estrogen imitator) should be a priority.
Consumption of Gluten
After exposing all the sources of xenobiotics that lurk in the background in your daily life and distancing yourself from them, it’s time to pay attention to what you eat, with respect to gluten. Ah, gluten! The food that it inhabits forms the base of the food pyramid promoted by the FDA and the health authorities beneath them.
For years, the fat and protein contained within meats were singled out as the enemy, causing the populace to flock en masse into the low fat (but high carb/gluten) arms of the grains portion of the food family. Flooded with gluten, the adrenal glands switch over to producing cortisol exclusively in order to deal with the excessive inflammation caused by the gluten, leading to a dramatic reduction in the production of other hormones like progesterone (15).
As we’ve discussed in previous articles, switching over to a paleo diet where vegetables and protein heavy foods dominate will go a long way towards addressing this, but until you manage to conceive, no cheat days where gluten foods (all grains, sweets, gravy, sauces, and any food that has high fructose corn syrup in it) are to be consumed.
Adding progesterone to your system via creams
In addition to cutting off the two inputs of progesterone-disrupting aggressors at the knees, another trick in your arsenal should also include the manual introduction of synthetic progesterone into your body (16). By using oral pills, injections, or creams applied topically anywhere on your skin, you can introduce badly needed reinforcements of this fertility enhancing hormone, when used alongside the other strategies outlined previously, will put you in the best possible position to break the ice of conceiving and moving on through a successful term to the long awaited birth of your first child.
For the first time in a while, we hope that a light has been turned in the dark room of infertility that you have found yourself in, so that you can begin to now find your way out. While the makeup of modern society has made it difficult to avoid the factors that have manifested the problems that you have been suffering from, there are alternatives to these default setups, and with a little effort, you will be able to have that successful pregnancy you have been so desperately seeking.