Progesterone For PMS: 5 Reasons This Functional Medicine Practitioner Takes It
There’s no way around it. PMS sucks. Knowing that 12 times a year you’re going to feel like crap and that each time the cramps, moodiness, poor sleep and bloating are going to last for a few days…it’s not easy to deal with. I’m glad I’m not living in feudal, medieval times but at least then, women had the “luxury” of resting in “red tents” during their menstrual cycle. Good luck with finding a job or a spouse or kids who are okay with “menstrual sequestration.”
So what’s a modern lady suffering from PMS to do? Just grin and bear it, minus the grinning? Well, thanks to a hormone I along with thousands of other “menstruating persons” (to use woke language) take, PMS does not have to be a monthly sentence of bitchiness and pain.
Of course, I’m talking about progesterone (duh, the title spoiled it). Now before I get into how progesterone works for PMS symptoms, let’s talk about why the symptoms occur in the first place.
Why Does PMS Occur?
PMS symptoms are the result of an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. During the first half of the cycle, the endothelial lining of the uterus is stimulated by estrogen. After ovulation, it’s the second half of the cycle. The ovaries pump out enough progesterone to offset the effects of estrogen. In a perfect world, the progesterone offsets the growth of the uterine lining and wall.
But because you’ve lost the hormonal lottery, your ovaries aren’t producing enough progesterone to offset the effects of estrogen in the second half of the cycle. Estrogen may be essential for bone health, and cardiovascular health, to name some major benefits. But when there’s too much of it and not enough progesterone to balance things out, this explains the true cause of PMS: estrogen dominance.
Progesterone is produced in the ovaries and is better associated with the early stages of pregnancy. But menstruating ladies (oops, sorry, I mean menstruating persons) I’m here to tell you that you should think of progesterone as a calming hormone.
And in getting estrogen to chill out during the second half of the cycle, progesterone helps with PMS by:
- Reducing inflammation
- Stabilizing mood
- Preventing uterine fibroids
- Minimizing fluid retention and bloating
- Supporting sleep and other imbalances related to PMS symptoms
Why This Functional Medicine Practitioner Uses Progesterone For PMS
I guess I don’t directly use progesterone for PMS, but I kinda do indirectly because let me tell you, when it’s a vicious cycle (no pun intended), I can’t sleep a wink on some nights, my flow is super heavy and I’m moody (or moodier than normal, my husband would tell you. 🙂
Ever since I started taking progesterone, these symptoms have been way more manageable. Keep reading and I’ll tell you the magic dose that has worked for me.
How Progesterone Helps With PMS Symptoms
So let’s take a look at how progesterone hormone helps with the 5 PMS symptoms I mention above.
For mood, progesterone calms the central nervous system, including the brain. If you want more of a geeky explanation, progesterone converts into a natural steroid in the brain, allopregnanolone (I had to look that up, I couldn’t remember what it was called even though it was right on the tip of my tongue).
Anyway, this steroid activates GABA neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers. Because of highly processed food filled with glutamate (MSG), many of our neurotransmitters can become hyperactive. But GABA is a calming neurotransmitter. So progesterone helps activate GABA, thereby relaxing our body’s many systems and signals, including inflammation.
If you’ve got a baby bump and you’re not pregnant, taking exogenous (external source) of progesterone helps regulate sodium and water balance in the body.
As I said, progesterone activates the relaxing neurotransmitter, GABA. In doing so, it has anti-inflammatory properties that may alleviate cramps. And it’s not just abdominal pain that it can help with. Progesterone may also help alleviate breast tenderness and pelvic pain.
I admit that most research on progesterone is a mixed bag. Actually, it’s more of a stinker. You see, if you look at WebMD and other mainstream conventional medicine websites, they’ll tell you there’s no evidence progesterone works for PMS. But let me and thousands of other anecdotal reports tell you it works. My sleep has improved greatly in the days leading up to day 1 of my cycle.
When to Take Progesterone
Like most things in life, timing is everything when you take progesterone. Progesterone levels naturally rise during the second half of the menstrual cycle, after ovulation, known as the luteal phase. Peak progesterone is about 5-9 days after ovulation occurs. That’s why functional medicine practitioners like yours truly recommend checking progesterone levels 6-8 days after ovulation, or on days 21-28 of the cycle.
This is why, even if you use progesterone during most of the cycle, you want to boost the dosage in between ovulation and the beginning of the flow. But the exact timing depends on a few factors, including the length of your cycle. That’s why it’s best to work with somebody with extensive knowledge of hormone function and diagnostic testing. (I can help!)
Best Progesterone Form & Dosage For PMS Symptoms
When it comes to taking progesterone, you have a few choices: oral capsules, creams, gels, and intravaginal suppositories. Personally, I prefer cream. But whatever method you choose, make sure it’s bio-identical progesterone. It’s kind of kooky, but bio-identical progesterone is derived from wild yams. (And just an FYI: yams are different from sweet potatoes!)
Again, since everybody is different, I can’t recommend an exact dosage without knowing your baseline levels, especially during the second half of your cycle. I can tell you, however, that I like to take a dosage that mimics the natural flow (again, no pun intended) of progesterone levels during the cycle. So for days 1-15 of my cycle, I use 50-100 mg daily, and on days 16-25 I up the dose to 100-200 mg/day.
I’m not saying that’s the exact dose I would recommend for you. In order to nail down a proper dose, we first have to get your sex hormone panel readings.
For chronic stress, fatigue, and menstrual problems, I usually order the DUTCH Plus Cycle Mapping diagnostic test for my clients. As part of your fee for my functional medicine treatment protocol, I’ll order the lab for you, evaluate the results, and interpret them easily so you can understand it. (Hormones are complicated, scientifically and emotionally.)
If you’re taking a topical progesterone cream or gel on your own, start with a very low dose like 20 mg. Use it daily during the luteal phase (the second half of the cycle leading up to day 1 of menstruation). Apply the cream or gel to areas with thin skin like the inner wrists so that way, the cream absorbs better.
When Not To Take Progesterone
If you have a more severe form of PMS, your doctor may diagnose you with premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD. PMDD affects about one in twenty women. The mainstream medical advice is that women with PMDD should avoid progesterone because a synthetic form of progesterone known as progestins, which are found in some contraceptives, has been shown to worsen mood. However, this medication is not the same as natural progesterone.
If you have PMS or PMDD, I can help you conquer your symptoms. In my practice, I combine natural methods with the latest cutting-edge diagnostic testing methods. The first step is to connect with me. Shoot me an email at email@example.com or call me at (402) 379 – 9600.
Until next time,
Jenna Witt, NP
Functional Medicine Practioner
Owner, Fundamental Wellness Nebraska