Hi again precious, and thank you for joining us for the liberating continuation of our blog series on using food as medicine to support hormone regulation! In Part 2, we dive into the captivating world of progesterone production and how the nutrients lurking in your kitchen really can hold the key to harmonising your hormones.
Last week, we explored the realm of oestrogen. Today, we shift our focus to progesterone, a hormone that reigns supreme in the realm of reproductive health and hormonal balance. Progesterone, often referred to as our "feel good" hormone, plays a pivotal role in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. When produced in sufficient quantities and in the right balance with oestrogen, it has the potential to leave us feeling regulated, serene, and blessedly free from pesky PMS symptoms.
How does progesterone have this effect? Progesterone works on the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain, stimulating more of this neurotransmitter to be produced. The more progesterone you have, the more GABA you utilise. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning it prevents action potential and in this case, has a calming effect on the nervous system. GABA has many roles in the body, but reducing anxiety and improving sleep are two very important ones.
If we look at progesterone from another angle, it also has relaxing effects on smooth muscle. This is important when we think about the uterus, as relaxed muscle allows the uterus to be more inviting for the implantation of an embryo. Progesterone gets the uterus ready to accept, implant, and maintain a fertilised egg. If there isn’t enough progesterone to prevent muscle contraction, an egg may not be able to implant.
There are many more functions of progesterone, but now that we have a couple down pat, how can we support our bodies to naturally produce more of it!? In this post, we will explore the fascinating world of nutritional biochemistry and delve into how certain nutrients such as zinc, B6, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin D, can help boost progesterone levels.
Research suggests that zinc deficiency can disrupt the balance between progesterone and oestrogen, leading to hormonal imbalances. Zinc stimulates the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland, which, in turn, promotes the production of progesterone.
Top sources rich in zinc include oysters, beef, beef liver, pumpkin seeds, eggs, organic dairy and legumes.
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, plays a crucial role in hormone metabolism. It aids in the conversion of the hormone precursor, 5-alpha-pregnanedione, into progesterone. Additionally, B6 helps regulate prolactin levels, which can impact progesterone production.
Top sources of B6 include salmon, chickpeas, avocado, beef, beef liver, chicken, bananas and sweet potato.
Magnesium helps convert cholesterol into progesterone through its role as a cofactor for the enzyme cholesterol side-chain cleavage (SCC) enzyme. Magnesium also supports the function of the corpus luteum, the temporary gland that produces progesterone after ovulation.
Top sources of magnesium include avocado, dark chocolate, almonds, cashews, green leafy vegetables, legumes, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are known to positively impact progesterone levels. These fatty acids aid in reducing inflammation, improving insulin sensitivity, and supporting melatonin production, all of which contribute to overall hormonal balance.
Top sources of omega-3’s include fatty fish like salmon and sardines, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia and hemp seeds.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that aids in the synthesis of steroid hormones, including progesterone. It supports the production of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which stimulates the adrenal glands to produce progesterone.
Top vitamin C foods include citrus fruits, berries, kiwi fruit, capsicum and broccoli.
Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant that supports hormonal health. It helps regulate the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland, which triggers progesterone synthesis. Vitamin E also protects progesterone from oxidative damage.
Top vitamin E foods include sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, avocado and mamey sapote.
Vitamin D, often referred to as a hormone, has been shown to have a positive association with progesterone. Vitamin D promotes the production of progesterone by stimulating the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland. Additionally, vitamin D enhances the expression of genes involved in progesterone synthesis.
Top sources of vitamin D include sun exposure, fatty fish, pork, beef liver and egg yolks.
In the intricate machinery of our bodies, numerous cogs and wheels must turn harmoniously to optimise progesterone production. The exciting part is that we can tap into the power of food as medicine to boost these levels naturally and holistically. By embracing a nutrient-rich diet, we unlock the potential to support the synthesis, release, and equilibrium of progesterone, our very own "feel good" hormone. From zinc and B6 to magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin D, these potent nutrients play essential roles in the delicate biochemical processes that ultimately contribute to progesterone production.
As we explored in this blog series, the key lies in maintaining a balanced diet, incorporating as many nutrient-dense foods as possible. So let's embrace the colourful palette of fruits and vegetables, savour the goodness of nourishing proteins, and sprinkle our meals with the mighty activated seeds and nuts.
Remember, nourishing our bodies with these hormone-boosting nutrients is not only about achieving hormonal balance, but also about fostering overall well being. So, let's raise our glasses (filled with Foraged, of course!) to the power of food as medicine, to the joy of nourishing ourselves from within, and to a vibrant life fueled by the magic of progesterone!
As always, consult with your preferred practitioner to determine your specific nutritional needs and hormonal status requirements.
Braun, L., & Cohen, M. (2015). Herbs and Natural Supplements: An Evidence-Based Guide (4th ed.). Churchill Livingstone.
Lerchbaum, E., & Rabe, T. (2019). Vitamin D and Female Fertility. Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 31(3), 167–171. doi: 10.1097/GCO.0000000000000527
Simopoulos, A. P. (2002). Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Inflammation and Autoimmune Diseases. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 21(6), 495–505. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2002.10719248
Verma, A., Srivastava, N., & Bala, M. (2019). A review on role of Magnesium in hormone regulation and health. Journal of Mid-Life Health, 10(4), 171–176. doi: 10.4103/jmh.JMH_86_19