Progesterone and progestin (fake progesterone). You might think these are the same and you’d be justified in this belief because that's how physicians and the pharmaceutical industry like to present them.
But they’re not the same. Progesterone is a female reproductive hormone. Progestin is the synthetic form.
If you've been on oral contraceptives or hormone therapy you’ve probably been told that your medication contains progesterone. Actually oral contraceptives usually contain progestin. Hormone therapy often uses the synthetic version progestin as well.
Why is this important?
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the key differences between progesterone and progestin and some of the risks of using progestins.
What is progesterone?
Progesterone is a hormone that regulates the female reproductive system. It has two important roles - beginning the menstrual cycle and helping to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
It may also help to lower blood pressure, stimulate hair growth, and improve sleep.
What happens to progesterone during perimenopause and after menopause?
During perimenopause progesterone levels drop. This is a gradual decline that can start in the late 30s. By the time you reach your 40s, you may see irregular periods and it becomes more difficult to become pregnant and to sustain a healthy pregnancy. Lower progesterone levels contribute to some of the symptoms of menopause like hot flashes.
What are the symptoms of low progesterone?
When progesterone levels are low you may suffer from the effects of estrogen dominance. You can also have irregular menstrual periods, mood changes, trouble sleeping, anxiety and depression.
Low progesterone during pregnancy can result in spotting and miscarriage.
What are progestins?
Progestins are synthetic or chemical versions of progesterone. They are available as capsules, gels, implants, IUDs, and as injections.
They are often used as contraception and as part of hormone replacement therapy.
They also have other uses for hormone related treatments.
Most progestins are made from testosterone, although some are built from progesterone. Because they are not exactly the same as progesterone they can bind to androgen and estrogen receptors as well as progesterone receptors.
What are the side effects of progestins?
While progesterone has several health benefits, progestins can have some side effects that should be considered. The side effects depend on the type of progestin and whether it is used with estrogen. The side effects include:
Elevated blood pressure
Changes in appetite and digestive issues
Mood swings, irritability, and anxiety
Weight gain via water retention and/or fat gains.
There are also serious side effects including a higher risk of developing blood clots when used along with estrogen, and an increased risk of breast cancer.
Natural sources of progesterone
Aside from the production of progesterone in your body, there are natural sources of progesterone available. Natural progesterone is extracted from soybeans or yams and is found in cream or pill form. The cream form is more easily absorbed into the bloodstream than the pill form.
How to maintain healthy progesterone levels
Progesterone levels will naturally drop as you approach menopause, but there are ways you can help to keep levels as high as possible.
Adding these foods to your diet can help:
broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables
Along with adding these foods to your diet, you should also try to reduce stress. If you are under too much stress your body will convert progesterone to cortisol.
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