Fertility

Boosting Progesterone Naturally

So maybe you've been tracking your cycle and you notice you have a short luteal phase, which is generally less than 10 days between ovulation and bleeding time, or you just had your progesterone tested and it came back low. It's possible your doctor recommended progesterone cream and maybe you're looking for other ways to increase your own production of progesterone. Here are my top progesterone production boosting tips!

Natural ways to increase progesterone production

1. Get better sleep

Getting good rest is not entirely specific for increasing progesterone levels but it is important for allowing your body to heal, period. So, sleep is an important place to start if you're experiencing any kind of imbalance and this should be the number one focus before implementing other kinds of supplementation. Sleep issues can stem from an overexcited nervous system, liver stagnation, adrenal imbalance, poor sleep hygiene, or many other reasons and if the reason you're not resting well is unclear to you, I encourage you to work with someone to figure out how to help you figure out what is preventing you from sleeping well. 
 

2. Eat more cholesterol & fat

Progesterone is one of several hormones produced from cholesterol. While not everyone absorbs large amounts of cholesterol from their diet, consuming enough cholesterol and fat is important for hormone balance and the integrity of your cells walls and therefore tissues. Fat is also important for blood sugar balance and insulin resistance, which plays directly into the health of your hormones. Make sure you're looking towards high quality sources of fat and cholesterol, such as egg yolks, avocado, coconut, pasture-raised, 100% grass-fed animal meats and fats, sardines, wild salmon, anchovies, and oils from things like olive, coconut, avocado. 
 

3. Castor oil

The liver processes all of our hormones and helps clear excess hormones from the system. Excess estrogen can contribute to progesterone deficiency and topical castor oil packs are a great way to help support the liver in clearing the extra estrogen. Symptoms of estrogen excess include breast tenderness and fluid retention, often seen just before your period starts. Estrogen disruptors are very present in our environment in plastics and many skincare products and can also be caused by excess abdominal fat and blood sugar imbalance. Daily rituals like castor oil packs on the abdomen are an amazing way to support daily detoxification and promote regular self-care. 
   

4. Seed cycle

Seed cycling is when you rotate flax/chia/hemp seeds in the first half of your cycle and sesame/pumpkin/sunflower seeds in the second half of your cycle to support the balance of estrogen and progesterone, which is the foundation for a healthy menstrual cycle and fertility. I often add fish oils and evening primrose oil and sometimes homeopathic remedies throughout the cycle to additionally support hormone rhythms throughout the month. It's amazing how something so simple and cost effective can be so effective in correcting hormone imbalance. 
 

5. Vitamin B6

This B vitamin is essential in the production of the corpus luteum, which is formed in the ovary after ovulation. The corpus luteum then releases progesterone, which is why progesterone is higher in the second half of your cycle, after ovulation. Foods high in B6 include liver, all animal meat, salmon, eggs, avocado and pistachios. I rarely supplement B6 alone and generally recommend a B-complex to make sure those vitamins are being consumed in balance. 

6. Vitex 

Vitex agnus castus, or Chaste Tree, is a wonderful hormone balancing herb for women. It works by increasing Lutenizing Hormone (LH), which is required to stimulate ovulation, which then helps increase the release of production and release of progesterone from the ovaries. Vitex also reduces prolactin levels, which is a hormone that can effect progesterone levels. Just to create realistic expectations, Vitex can take some time to be effective so long-term use is generally required. 

Think you might need more support?

If you think you could benefit from some guidance in working to balance your hormones, improving your fertility, dealing with infertility, PCOS or whatever symptoms you're experiencing that you think may be hormone related, I'd love to work with you. I see patients in Bend, OR and work with people long-distance as well. Click here to learn how to become a patient. 

Photo by Andressa Voltolini

Progesterone Cream for Fertility and Hormone Imbalance?

Progesterone cream is often the recommendation when a woman has low progesterone. It's easy to find over the counter and it makes sense that if you're low in progesterone, it's probably worth supplementing. I like to take a few steps back from that thinking and consider why you might not be producing enough progesterone and start building up the system that way. Let's first take a look at what progesterone does for you body and why it's important.

Progesterone versus progestin

Before diving into what progesterone is, let me first explain what it is not. Progesterone is a hormone produced in your body or produced in a lab from a medicinal herb, generally Wild Yam. Progestin is a synthetically produced compound that is commonly found in hormonal birth control pills and hormone replacement therapies. Progestin does not have the same effect in the body as progesterone. Over-the-counter progesterone creams usually contain manufactured progesterone, not progestin. Got it? Ok, let's move on to what progesterone deficiency might look like in the body.

Progesterone in your body. 

Progesterone is a hormone produced from cholesterol and is important in the second half of your menstrual cycle in order to create the ideal environment for implanting a fertilized egg in pregnancy. It's super important in fertility and also other conditions like PCOS, hypothyroidism, PMS, Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation and many other types of hormone imbalance. After ovulation, the corpus luteum forms in the ovary and starts releasing progesterone. So, if ovulation isn't happening, then progesterone isn't happening so well. Recent research is also highlighting the effects of progesterone in breast, cardiovascular and nervous system health. Needless to say, progesterone is essential to our whole health picture.  

Symptoms of progesterone deficiency

  • Hot flashes
  • Low libido
  • Headaches 
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Irregular menstrual cycles (particularly short luteal phases, which is the time between ovulation and when your period starts)
  • Poor sleep
  • Thyroid hormone imbalance

    Progesterone levels can be measured with a simple test that can be run to see if it is contributing to your symptom picture. Keeping track of your menstrual cycle and when you ovulate is another great way of determining general progesterone status.

Is progesterone cream the answer?

Like I said above, progesterone cream does treat the progesterone deficiency but misses the deeper underlying meaning of why you might be deficient in progesterone in the first place. It might be a lack of nutrients like cholesterol or magnesium in the diet, chronic stress or elevated estrogen. I would much rather see an increase in the natural production of progesterone rather than supplementing, if possible. That being said, if a woman were to not be interested in waiting to increase progesterone levels naturally and is interested in becoming pregnant or becomes pregnant, progesterone cream could be beneficial in maintaining a healthy pregnancy. That might be my one exception. Not my first choice but, there's the ideal scenario and then there's real life, right?

So, what is the best way to increase progesterone? 

If you know you're progesterone deficient, check out my post on ways to increase progesterone naturally

If you suspect you may be progesterone deficient and are looking to for a practitioner to help identify and treat the root cause of your symptoms, click here to find out how to become a patient. I work with people locally in Bend, OR and long-distance.

Photo by Nicole Mason

Cauliflower Fried Rice

This is a super-quick and delicious meal if you're looking to pack in a ton a vegetables and healthy fats, while avoiding grains. You don't have to be completely avoiding grains in your diet to appreciate a grain-free meal from time to time and this one is really satisfying and easy to throw together on weeknights, when you're looking for something comforting, yet nourishing.

Traditional fried rice often uses cheap, vegetable oils and is heavy on the rice, which can spike blood sugar and increase inflammation. By using high-quality oils, pastured eggs, and organic produce, this is a really healthy alternative. Cauliflower is full of cancer-fighting properties and helps support healthy detoxification pathways. Dark leafy greens contain folate and tons of minerals. And garnishing with cilantro helps naturally clear toxics and heavy metals from the body. Each ingredient in this dish has a purpose in helping feed you well. Enjoy!

GRAIN-FREE CAULIFLOWER FRIED RICE

INGREDIENTS
1 head cauliflower
4 slices pasture-raised bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
3 tablespoons avocado or coconut oil
2 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2-3 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
2 cups chopped dark leafy greens (chard, kale, spinach, etc.)
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Avocado
Cucumber

METHOD
1. Start by cutting cauliflower into florets. Add to food processor and pulse until broken into small, rice-sized pieces.
2. Heat a large sauté pan (preferably cast iron) on medium heat and add bacon. Cook until fat is rendered and add oil, garlic, zucchini, riced cauliflower to the pan. Sauté until cauliflower and zucchini begins to soften, 5-8 minutes, stirring periodically. Add greens and peas and cook another 3 minutes, until greens are wilted and peas are soft.
3. Serve hot garnished with chopped cilantro, avocado, and cucumber.

Serves 3-4

Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)

What is Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)?

FAM is a reliable method of tracking fertility that can be used in preventing or attempting to achieve pregnancy, in addition to providing a deeper understanding of gynecological health. It is also so much more than that. Your body has an amazing monthly rhythm of hormones that translates into signals that you can pick-up on in order to understand your fertility status as well as the health and balance of your hormones. The main measures that are used are a daily morning temperature taken even before your feet hit the floor, as well as cervical fluid and cervical position.

Understanding your monthly cycle

The first half of your menstrual cycle is from the first day of your menses until ovulation, which is around day 14. This is called the follicular phase. During this time, estrogen is high and the morning temperature should be lower (generally below 98.0F). The second half of your cycle is higher in progesterone, which causes the morning temperature to be at least a few tenths of a degree higher that the first half. This second phase is called the luteal phase and spans from approximately day 15 until the day before your menses returns. If these daily morning temperatures are charted throughout the month, there should be a clear shift where the morning temperature rises, which indicates ovulation. Commonly, the whole cycle will be around 28 days and the luteal phase should last at least 14 days. If your cycle is much longer or shorter than 28 days or luteal phases that are less than 11 days it could mean that there is some degree of hormone imbalance. Tracking this information shows you exactly what is going on with YOUR body each month and that is priceless!


Something you were not taught in sex-ed class: you can really only get pregnant about 6 days each month, which means there isn’t really any need for birth control for the rest of the month. FAM helps you understand which of those days are your fertile days so you can either avoid having sex or use some form of non-hormonal birth control during that time.

How can I get started with FAM?

If you’re ready to understand your hormones better and are psyched to start using this method for either birth control or fertility support, there are a couple different ways to go about it. Learning a little bit more of the theory and practice of FAM is the best way to use it with success.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler is the go-to reference for understanding all things FAM. It's a really amazing read if you get nerdy about the whole thing, like I did. The methods taught in the book are basically the "old-school" way of charting with a basal body thermometer and a paper chart. Many apps also exist now help make charting easy. Kindara is my favorite if you want to go that route. 

The simplest way to get started with FAM is to use Daysy!

Daysy is a FAM device that you take your temperature with each morning and it indicates your fertility status for the day with either a color-coded light. Daysy also has an app, called DaysyView, that will show the chart of your fertility throughout the month.

How effective is Daysy?

To best understand the effectiveness of Daysy, I want to bring up the Pearl Index. It’s a way of rating the effectiveness of birth control methods. If 100 women used a certain kind of birth control method and 1 of them were to get pregnant, the Pearl Index number would be 1.0. Birth control pills have a Pearl Index of between 0.1 and 0.9 and IUDs a Pearl Index of 0.1-2.2. Well, Daysy’s Pearl Index is 0.7, which is pretty darn good! That means that it is 99.3% effective.

Think you might need more support?

If you really want to dive into this method and get some additional support with your charts, I recommend finding a Fertility Awareness Educator that can help further explain how to chart and can look at your charts to help you understand and read what is going on with your own cycle.  

A personal note about FAM...

I’ve spent a lot of time training in FAM and used it myself for 2.5 years to prevent pregnancy and then had great success using it when I was ready to get pregnant. I have a history of hormone imbalance associated with Post-Birth Control Syndrome and FAM played a major role in helping me heal my hormones and have a healthy baby. In my dream world, all my female patients would use FAM so I could see their charts and understand what’s going on with their hormones without the need for ordering any specialty testing (in most cases). If you're looking for a practitioner who understands FAM and can help restore your hormone health, I'm here for you! Find out how to work with me right this way