Mini Mikkipedia - lifestyle changes for healthy hormones (Part 1 - Progesterone)

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Hey everyone, it's Mikki here. You're listening to a mini Mikkipedia on a Monday. And this Monday, I wanna chat about progesterone, particularly low progesterone levels and lifestyle and supplemental considerations to help influence favorably your progesterone levels. So first, a little bit of background. Always important when you're talking about hormones.

So progesterone, sex hormone like estrogen, which is obviously heavily involved in the menstrual cycle and levels change across the course of a month and indeed across life stages. It's not consistently present through the menstrual cycle. So it's specifically produced after ovulation. I did tell you this was 101, which means that if you don't ovulate, there's going to be no progesterone production. And in ovulatory cycles...

something that can occur due to a range of different factors which we're not really diving into today, but it is possible to get your period without actually ovulating. During ovulation, the egg releases from the follicle, similar to having a seed removed from an olive, if you think about it like that, and that would leave a little gap. The gap heals and forms the corpus luteum, which is almost like scar tissue, and this is responsible for producing the

Now progesterone prepares the uterine lining, the endometrium, for potential egg implantation and pregnancy because that's the goal, our evolutionary goal if you like, with our menstrual cycle. It also stabilizes the endometrium. Low progesterone levels can lead to spotting, which indicates that there's a shedding of the endometrium and it can also lead to a range of different symptoms, which I will discuss in a minute.

It's also important to recognize that the relationship between estrogen and progesterone is almost a little bit like a seesaw over the course of the menstrual cycle. So prior to ovulation, estrogen levels are high and progesterone is low because you need ovulation to produce progesterone. Post ovulation, this reverses. So while estrogen isn't necessarily low, it is certain it is going to be lower than progesterone. And the levels of these...

hormones indicate the likelihood of experiencing PMS symptoms. So there can be these imbalances, and you might have heard people talk about estrogen dominance before, which really is just another way of saying that estrogen is higher than progesterone. This can be a result of having too high estrogen, higher than progesterone despite appropriate progesterone levels, or it can be that your progesterone levels are low.

and estrogen is in fact appropriate for that stage of the menstrual cycle. So that imbalance can occur through inappropriate levels of either of those hormones. And it also is worth noting that estrogen is more active while progesterone has a calming effect. As one way to sort of think about the impact that these hormones have on your mood and on your body. And maintaining high progesterone during the luteal phase

is one of the key aspects, if you like, for avoiding premenstrual syndrome and also, of course, promoting fertility. So some symptoms of low progesterone post-opulation include the classic premenstrual syndrome symptoms, such as mood swings, sleep issues, breast tenderness, spotting,

in addition to those short luteal phases, a short menstrual cycle. So luteal phase defects are a significant concern in fertility. And for a fertile cycle, it's thought that a luteal phase is supposed to be at least 12 days post ovulation, which allows time for the fertilized egg to implant in the endometrium. So

That is what I'm referring to if I'm talking about a short luteal phase or luteal phase deficiency. So that is having that luteal phase, which is less than the 12 days. And you can absolutely test your progesterone levels. And it's suggested to test, obviously, post ovulation. And post ovulation, the range can be anywhere from 7 to 90 nanomoles.

per liter. These peak at about that one week after ovulation. So if you do test a week after ovulation, you'd expect them to be at their highest level. Postmenopausal, generally speaking, those levels are one to two nanomoles per liter. I've just talked about the symptoms you would anticipate that might indicate low progesterone for your usual menstrual cycle.

But it's also possible, of course, that you can have low progesterone across that perimenopausal phase, which is that transitional phase leading up to menopause. And some of the impacts could be irregular menstrual cycles because of the regulatory effect progesterone has on the menstrual cycle. Increased menstrual bleeding. So without adequate progesterone to balance estrogen, the endometrium may thicken more than usual. So this can lead to heavier or prolonged menstrual cycling.

sorry, bleeding. Mood changes is a big one. Progesterone has a calming effect on the brain and lower levels can contribute to mood swings, anxiety, depression, and irritability, which are often reported during perimenopause. You can also have sleep disturbances. So, progesterone is involved in sleep regulation and it plays an important role almost as an on our neurotransmitter production and particularly GABA.

So its decline can lead to difficulties in falling asleep or staying asleep. And this is a really common one in women who are in that perimenopausal phase. And also, as I mentioned, those increased PMS symptoms, changes in body composition, because progesterone influences metabolism and body composition, its decrease can contribute to weight gain and changes in fat distribution. But also because we lose that calming effect of progesterone on the brain.

We have a subsequent change in our stress hormone profile potentially. So you may be more reactive, you may have more cortisol spikes or adrenaline spikes that then changes how your body sort of responds to food and how it stores energy. So certainly those changes in body composition are not just influenced by changing estrogen levels alone. Progesterone plays a role in maintaining bone density. So you can get lower than anticipated.

bone density across perimenopause, reduced libido because it does contribute to sexual health and desire. And of course, fertility naturally decreases during perimenopause, but lower progesterone levels can further reduce the likelihood of ovulation and pregnancy then too. So there are a range of different things that can occur because of low progesterone levels, but it is important to note that some of these symptoms, obviously,

or one they vary widely amongst individuals. And they may also be influenced by those other hormonal changes, such as reduced estrogen or fluctuating estrogen and reduced testosterone during period menopause. So there's a lot going on. Let's sort of move to firstly lifestyle treatment. And I will say that this is not necessarily the first place that people wanna chat about when it comes to.

their hormones because really we are just looking for a supplement to help support or something like that. However, stress management plays a massive role in helping optimize your progesterone levels. Chronic stress can adversely affect hormone balance and this includes progesterone levels. Now there used to be a line of thought that cortisol stole pregnenolone, which was a pregnenolone

precursor to progesterone. And so you would hear this term, pregnenolone steel, meaning that your cortisol production favored that stress hormone rather than progesterone. So this leads to low progesterone. Now that's actually been debunked. There is no pregnenolone steel. However, we do know that progesterone is actually involved in cortisol production. So the more stressed you are...

the more that that hormone is going to be utilized in areas which leaves less available for what you want progesterone to be doing. So stress management is a huge one. It affects obviously progesterone, it affects your stress hormone balance, and this has impacts obviously on your blood sugar as well. And it is important to find something that works for you with regards to stress reduction, because not everyone gets the outcome that they desire from something like meditation.

Something active like yoga, where you are focusing on breathing and being guided through activities, could be amazing. And a daily five to 10 minutes of yoga, doing Adrienne's 30-day yoga sequence on YouTube. Find something that you can engage in that allows you to focus on your breath and helps

disengage that sympathetic nervous system response and engage that parasympathetic nervous system response. That can be super helpful. But of course, nature, exercise, and I'm thinking even walking, like at a lower level, so you're not going sort of balls to the wall or anything like that, these also help engage the parasympathetic nervous system, you'll rest and digest. And even lying on the floor with your feet up on the wall, focusing on breathing right through your diaphragm,

in through your nose for three counts and out through your mouth for six counts, this automatically engages your parasympathetic nervous system. So having a daily stress management technique, and it doesn't have to be long, I think though that the frequency is important because you need to change how you're responding in a certain situation. And I don't think that a mindfulness class 90 minutes, three times a week is necessarily going to have that.

particular impact. Not that that isn't valuable, but I think that that is not that accessible to most people and may not be as effective. Listening to your favorite music, writing in a journal, having a warm bath, going into a sauna, all of these things can be super helpful. And if you do have low progesterone levels and you're wanting to correct them, you cannot overlook the stress management piece. And of course, in addition to that, getting adequate sleep is so important.

And obviously this is trickier when your sleep is disturbed throughout perimenopause, but also if you have this throughout your luteal phase of your cycle, which can definitely happen in some women, but it is essential for hormone balance. And it disrupts your body's sort of natural rhythms with all of your hormones. That's insulin, cortisol, your sex hormones, your appetite hormones, all of them. So good sleep hygiene is important. Blackout curtains.

Avoiding screens 90 minutes before you go to bed. Having lights that are below eyeline, not above eyeline. Making them warm, so an orange or warm tone rather than bright light. Having your blue light blocking glasses. Removing everything from your sort of bed area that isn't involved with either sleep or sex. So don't do work in bed, etc. Don't watch TV in bed. All of these things can help with your sleep.

and also a regular sleep cycle or routine. So you're going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time every day. Obviously, regular exercise is key, but do note that F45 or CrossFit five times a week probably isn't the exercise you need if you're experiencing lower than sort of normal or optimal progesterone. You need a balance of that high intensity exercise with

having low intensity exercise that helps engage that parasympathetic nervous system. So look at what you're doing currently for exercise for those of us who are active. See where you can make changes so it's not always a grind on your body. Of course, conversely, if you're currently not exercising, then getting into a regular routine with exercise, which would absolutely be one of the best things you can do in general, is super important.

Obviously having a healthy diet, and I know that there's so much couched in healthy diet, people hate that term, but having a diet that is protein rich, it includes vegetables, the types that you can tolerate, adequate amounts of fruit, carbohydrate from good sources, particularly if you're active, and fats that help keep you satisfied and also provide good nutrient profile.

All of these things are really important. And so you've got foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals. And these would help support that progesterone production. Now, we'll go into these vitamins in a minute, particularly. But nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamin E. We've got seafood and meat are good sources of vitamin A. And of course, your dark leafy greens for phytochemicals.

So these things are really important in terms of giving your body the nutrition that you need to help support healthy hormone levels, albeit just relying on diet alone is for most people not enough. It is hard to get what you need from diet alone. Maintaining a healthy weight is key. And there are people, and there's no judgment here, but I see it. They're so focused on supplements, on sleep, on doing everything related to their health,

the potential that in fact they're carrying excess body fat. And it can be difficult for some people to address. And again, there's no judgment there. But being underweight or overweight can affect hormone production imbalance. And this is true for everyone. So ensuring you're at a healthy weight for you is something else that's super important when it comes to your hormones. And that's from both ends of the spectrum.

limiting caffeine and alcohol for its ability to disrupt cortisol, disrupt blood sugar. And as always, unless you are, of course, you have any addictive patterns occurring with either of these, moderation is key. Having said that though, caffeine is consistently associated with good health, but be mindful of how it impacts on you. I think that's really important.

It goes without saying that smoking is not overly good for your health. So ideally, that is not something that you partake in. Reducing your exposure to endocrine disruptors. Now, there are chemicals that act like estrogen that are found in plastics, cosmetics, and pesticides, which absolutely have an impact on your hormones. If this is you, and I mean, stuff like this is really work that you would do with a naturopath. So I definitely want to recommend that. But...

if you recognize that you're having issues with hormone balance. But this is an area often overlooked or dismissed by some people, but I think it's pretty important. And again, it comes down to the individual and how sensitive you are, but helping reduce your exposure to these plasticizers that impact on hormone balance and can disrupt your endocrine system is really key as well. I mentioned meditation before.

Massage would be great as well. Anything doing something that helps promote a sense of wellbeing to you, so engaging in behaviors that you love and activities that you love is key too. And don't forget those healthy relationships and social support. All of this is related to reducing stress and helping promote a healthier nervous system which impacts on your hormone balance as well. So positive social interactions, supportive relationships, help

contribute to overall emotional and physical health. So don't forget that. So while people often go to supplements first when it comes to hormones, lifestyle and diet can make such a big difference to your overall balance of your stress hormones, your blood sugar regulation, which then has downstream effects of supporting your sex hormones, including progesterone.

And next week, I will cover supplements that help support progesterone as well. But what I will say is that taking a supplement without addressing your lifestyle is like putting a bandaid on a life-threatening wound. Like it is pretty ineffective, actually. So dial in the big movers and then look at how you can support your lifestyle with supplements. And that's what we will talk about next week. So

If you have any questions or comments, please DM me on Facebook @mikkiwillidennutrition over on Instagram, Twitter and threads @mikkiwilliden in head to my website, I am doing a sale on my fixed term programs in the lead up to Christmas. So if you feel like you want to give the gift of good health this Christmas, absolutely check that out. And that is on my

The Awesome Program, which is a meal plan that is predominantly gluten-free, it is predominantly whole foods, and it is high protein, bundles of vegetables, all those good things. Or my fat loss plans, Flow, Fat Loss for Woman, or The Man Plan for the dudes out there. So absolutely check them out as well. And I have an athlete plan. Until next time peeps, you have a great week. See you later.