Progesterone – Menopause
Information and Options about Progesterone Replacement
- Not many women are familiar with the symptoms that are cause by progesterone. Menopause symptoms like insomnia, depression, joint pain and many others have a progesterone component.
- But we will also give you the background about the current debate in the medical community about progesterone replacement. This issue is far from being settled.
- We will also explain your options about different kinds of progesterone replacement.
Numerous functions in the body are influenced by progesterone. Menopause leads to a drop in the production of this hormone which is produced mainly by the ovaries and to a much lesser extent by the adrenal gland and the brain. As the ovaries shut down during menopause, the amount of progesterone in the body falls.
Progesterone regulates the sleep cycle, balances the mood, relaxes muscles and most important, balances the effect of estrogen.
Progesterone Related Symptoms in Menopause
mptoms can come from either too much or not enough of this hormone and it is important to know the difference.
There has been so much press about estrogen dominance, that women began to use a lot of progesterone to counteract it. Initially this improved their symptoms dramatically but over time, symptoms started again. Some women thought that these were still symptoms of estrogen dominance and increased progesterone even more.
Symptoms of excess progesterone develop slowly. They are mostly caused by overuse of progesterone replacement (incl. natural or bioidentical)independent of the form the therapy (cream or pill).
Low Progesterone – Menopause Symptoms Include:
- Menopause Insomnia
- Anxiety and nervousness
- Weight Gain
- Decreased Libido
- Heavy Bleeding
Excess Progesterone Menopause Symptoms Are:
- High levels of cortisol:
- Increased appetite, especially for carbohydrates- Increased fat storage in cells which can cause not only weight gain but also problems with your cholesterol level
- Incontinence (because progesterone relaxes the muscles in the bladder)
- Aches and pain (because it influences the ligaments and muscles)
What is Progesterone?
Progesterone influences numerous functions in the body. It is one of the main hormones that regulates the reproductive cycle and is important for the proper function of estrogen. It is a steroid, just like estrogen and testosterone and an important precursor to other hormones (inlcuding estrogen and testosterone).
The metabolism of progesterone is highly complex. There are numerous breakdown products that affect the receptors throughout the body. For example, during times of high stress, most of it is converted into the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to overeating, weight gain (because of food cravings) and fatigue.
Progesterone stimulates breast tissue and may cause breast cancers in some woman. However a lot of questions remain about the relationship between estrogen and progesterone as it relates to breast cancer.
Should You Replace Progesterone in Menopause?
After menopause, the level of progesterone falls dramatically. There is an ongoing debate in the medical community about the need and risk regarding progesterone replacement.
Many doctors believe that only women on estrogen replacement with an intact uterus need to take progesterone (to prevent endometrial cancer).
Others believe that progesterone in menopause adds many other benefits to the functioning of the body and should be given to all women on hormone therapy to prevent estrogen dominance symptoms (breast tenderness, headaches, sleeplessness, anxiety, fibrocystic breasts etc.).
There are some who even take it one step further and propose a progesterone replacement therapy without estrogen.
Among the chief proponents for this treatment is the late Dr. John R. Lee, author of the book: What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause (TM): The Breakthrough Book on Natural Hormone Balance. He strongly believed that progesterone is vital for our well-being and important for the treatment of a wide range of symptoms.
Although his conclusions are somewhat dated, he opened the eyes of many women about the importance of progesterone for menopause symptoms. (He also has an excellent section in his book for a menopause diet.)
Newer research seems to indicate a large variation among women on how they metabolize progesterone. This could explain why some women have great results with progesterone replacement while others have severe side effects.
As we have said, progesterone is a precursor to estrogen and testosterone as well as for some other hormones. However, this appears to be true only for the hormone that is produced by the ovaries. Newer tests show that progesterone replacement works differently and is not converted to the other hormones. So when you use some form of progesterone replacement, the amount of the hormone in the body stays higher, especially the synthetic progestins.
Options for Progesterone Replacement
It is important to distinguish between progesterone andprogestins. Progestins were developed because bioidentical progesterone lost its effectiveness very quickly and could not be absorbed if taken orally. This changed with the discovery of micronized progesterone(basically making the molecules very small) which solved the problem.
Now there is an FDA approved natural form available that can be taken orally, called Prometrium.
Other options for taking natural progesterone are vaginal suppositories, skin creams or injections. Compounding pharmacies offer oral micronized version suspended in olive oil for women who are allergic to the peanut oil in Prometrium.
Aside from the micronized progesterone in pill form, other bioidentical options include oil-based creams, and water or alcohol based gels.
If you are using progesterone creams, avoid the application of product on areas of your body that has fatty tissue underneath (such as belly). It is better to apply it to the thin-skinned areas like the inside of the arms, wrists or side of the throat. This avoids a build-up in the fatty tissue which causes most of the problems with excess amounts.
Progestins stay in the body much longer and are more powerful than micronized progesterone. This is the reason that progestins can create side effects and reactions in the body that are very different from the natural hormone.
The most common synthetic version for menopausal women is Medroxyprogesterone such as Provera. Prempro is a combination product containing synthetic estrogen (Premarin) and progestin.
Here is a resource for Emerita Pro-Gest Natural Progesterone Cream,Paraben-Free, 4-Ounce Tube. Read the reviews and be careful if you decide to try natural progesterone.
Menopause is a time when our hormones drop. But as we have stated, hormones are very powerful chemicals. There are still many questions regarding progesterone. Menopause itself is a very complicated issue and there are no easy answers regarding any hormone replacement.
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