What’s Up with Progesterone?
Dr. Kim Callaghan, ND
What’s Up With Progesterone?
I’m terribly interested in getting the details right about progesterone lately as ND’s have been
granted prescribing rights for natural hormones. The list includes progesterone, estrogen, and
So, now I’ve got another tool to help women balance hormones and feel well at all stages of
Progesterone is a biggie in my books. It’s important for “female stuff”. Here is a list (it’s not
complete – there are more – these are my favourites) where increasing / balancing progesterone
changes women’s health:
• improves fertility
• eases menstrual cramps
• regulates irregular periods
• decreases heavy menstrual bleeding
• improves fibrocystic breasts
• improves endometriosis
• improves ovarian cysts
• improves symptoms of PMS
• improves symptoms of puberty
• improves symptoms of menopause – hot flashes, depressive symptoms, anxious symptoms,
and many many more
Impressive, I think. But… there’s more! Hormones work as messengers in the body. So an
organ, in this case the ovaries or the adrenal glands, secretes progesterone and it binds onto a
receptor on a different cell. When the receptor is filled, the cell is turned on to carry out a
Researchers have found progesterone receptors on all kinds of tissues in the body. The
intestines have progesterone receptors as does the pancreas, the brain, parts of the immune
system, and possibly the heart. So cool.
So this information suggests that progesterone has effects throughout the body. This research
has accelerated in the last 10 years which is tremendously exciting for me, as a naturopathic
doctor. For years I’ve been noticing that improving women’s hormonal picture improves her
Here is a list of functions related to progesterone that researchers are currently
• protection against oxidative stress
• protection against pancreatic tumors
• anti-inflammatory action
(progesterone works as a neurotransmitter(chemical messenger) in the brain!)
• neuroprotective in Parkinson’s disease and MS
• diuretic properties
• controls acne
• plays a role in migraine headaches – affects vasoconstriction
• aids in sleep
• chronic pain management
• modulates the immune system
• improves benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH)
• moderates blood sugar control
How’s that for a list? Fantastic!
So let’s talk about, for example, a woman who has terribly painful periods, anxiety, trouble
sleeping, and constipation. Improving progesterone has the anticipated effect of helping the
painful periods because it’s a female hormone. BUT! The anxiety, insomnia, constipation all
improve too. The progesterone works directly on those systems independent of any
reproductive effects. Super.
Progesterone can be low for a number of reasons – genetic susceptibility, low nutrient
absorption of the required building blocks, ovarian dysfunction, peri-menopause. Also
environmental toxins that mess up our hormones and stress.
In practice I use marvelous herbs that help the body to make more progesterone thereby
creating a balance with hormones. I also use excellent supplements to provide nutritional
building blocks to improve progesterone levels. And now with our new regulation, I can
prescribe natural progesterone if warranted.
Progesterone. Now you know why it’s so exciting!