The adrenal glands produce over 50 different hormones, and the condition of the adrenal glands affect all other hormone systems in the body. The adrenals are especially connected to the thyroid and reproductive systems. These three organ systems make up the Hormone circuit in the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response. In this article, we’ll be looking at how you can use progesterone cream to help balance the hormones affected by adrenal fatigue.
When you are facing stress, your NEM’s first line of defense is the adrenal glands. The adrenals produce your body’s main anti-stress hormone: cortisol. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is the hormone cascade that produces cortisol. It begins with the control centers in your brain – the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. This control center sends signals to your adrenal glands to produce cortisol.
This control center also regulates the ovarian adrenal thyroid (OAT) axis. The OAT axis is very important for hormone balance in women. When it's in balance, your menstrual cycle is more regular, you have fewer PMS symptoms, your metabolism is running smoothly, your mood is more stable, and you have good energy levels.
But if your OAT axis goes out of balance, one of the three Hormone circuit components takes a bigger hit than the other two. When it’s your thyroid, symptoms will include very low energy, weight gain, dry skin, PMS, and depression. If it’s your adrenal glands, symptoms will include anxiety, irritability, and fatigue. When it’s your ovaries, symptoms will include brain fog, loss of memory, PMS, and estrogen dominance.
Estrogen and progesterone are the two main female sex hormones, and they are produced mainly in the ovaries. These two hormones keep each other in check. Relative dominance of one over the other can cause a lot of health issues. The more common case is that estrogen is the hormone that becomes relatively dominant.
Healthy women produce 20-25 mg of progesterone during their regular monthly cycle and around 300-400 mg during pregnancy. Once menopause is reached, the level of progesterone drops to around 1%. And although estrogen also decreases with age, it usually decreases at a slower rate. This creates an imbalance. In today's society, most women are also exposed to xenoestrogens, substances that mimic estrogen, and thus aggravate the imbalance even more.
Estrogen is a pro-growth hormone that’s associated with fibrocystic breast disease, endometrial proliferation, and endometrial cancer. Progesterone is its antagonist, working against these effects. It helps prevent cysts and cancer from developing. It is also a natural diuretic, it has anti-anxiety effects, and it contributes to bone tissue formation.
Progesterone is also the precursor to many adrenal hormones. So if you’re facing chronic stress, your body will favor using it to produce more anti-stress hormones including cortisol rather than keeping it for your reproductive cycle. That’s why estrogen dominance is so common in women with adrenal fatigue. That’s also why you see so many symptoms of reproductive hormone imbalance in adrenal fatigue, such as PMS, low libido, and infertility.
The good news is that if you address the imbalance in one component of the OAT axis, you’ll see improvement in the others. This is where progesterone cream can be helpful in adrenal fatigue recovery.
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) has become a very common condition. Its symptoms include fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, brain fog, anxiety, mild depression, hypoglycemia, salt and sugar cravings, lowered immunity, estrogen dominance, low libido, PMS, infertility, dry skin, hair loss, an inability to handle stress, and heart palpitations.
Unfortunately, the mainstream medical community doesn’t yet recognize AFS. So if you have it, you’ll probably be prescribed medications for each symptom. This will leave the underlying cause untouched, letting it get worse. But even some symptoms won't be managed properly. This is usually the case with estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance can be identified by testing estrogen and progesterone levels, as well as looking at your medical history and symptoms. But very few doctors do this. Most will simply put you on synthetic estrogen, thinking that what you have is actually a deficiency in estrogen. But what you really need is to lower your estrogen levels and increase your progesterone levels.
You can increase progesterone in your system naturally through one, or all, of the following ways:
Synthetic progesterone is a very commonly used drug. It is labeled "Progestin" rather than "progesterone." You can find it in certain types of hormone replacement therapies and birth control pills.
Because it’s much more powerful than natural progesterone, it can potentially overwhelm the liver and Detoxification circuit. Like many anabolic hormones, including estrogen, most of progesterone is broken down in the liver. The weaker the liver, the greater the risk of liver congestion. A weak Detoxification circuit, which includes the liver, is often found in AFS. It can get in the way of your body’s natural ability to produce progesterone, which can then create an even bigger imbalance in your hormones.
Not only that, but synthetic progesterone seems to have the opposite effects of natural progesterone. For example, while natural progesterone is a diuretic, synthetic progesterone can lead to water retention and bloating. While natural progesterone prevents certain types of cancer, synthetic progesterone can increase cancer risk.
Other reported side effects of synthetic progesterone include:
Natural progesterone - in contrast - has many health benefits, including:
Natural progesterone is derived from wild yams, and it is then converted by your body into the identical form your ovaries produce naturally. But don’t confuse this with yam extracts that you can get in health food stores, as those cannot be converted by your body into natural progesterone.
Although you can take natural progesterone orally, by injection, sublingually (under the tongue), or topically, we find the most efficient and safest forms are topical, oral, and sublingual. Injecting it is very effective, but it can cause irritation and pain at the injection site. The sublingual form is effective, but it does require an alcohol base that can be a problem for some people. The oral form can break down into more metabolites that make you feel sleepy, so it might be a good alternative for someone with sleep issues. However, your liver will need to metabolize the progesterone if it is taken orally.
That’s why we usually recommend progesterone cream over the oral form. Progesterone cream is effective, easily absorbed by the skin, and its dosing is easy to control. The oral form tends to be most exposed to liver metabolism, as it must pass through there. The cream can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream.
However, while both can be helpful, they can also be problematic in AFS sufferers.
When choosing a natural progesterone cream, there are a few things to take into consideration.
First of all, it should be carried in an oil or water-based emulsion that has the same fatty acid composition as human skin.
It should contain 400-600 mg of natural progesterone per ounce of cream. Try to find a cream with a pump delivery, with each pump application containing 20 mg of progesterone.
Make sure the product has "USP Progesterone" on the label. That indicates that this product is the natural progesterone we’re talking about, rather than just a wild yam extract.
Apply it to areas of your body that are not high in fat and that have good circulation. Areas like the upper part of the arm, the inside of the upper arm, the wrist, the face, and the neck are good examples. Avoid the buttocks, breasts, and abdomen. Areas high in fat can allow the progesterone that is not absorbed to accumulate in the fatty tissue. This could cause build-up to still occur in the body, even if you are using a high-quality natural progesterone cream.
If you take higher doses than you should over a long period of time, you are at risk of experiencing some side effects. Those can include sleepiness, edema, low libido, paradoxical estrogen dominance symptoms, and an increase in androgen production (male sex hormones). Candida infection can also be triggered.
If you take the right type and dosage of progesterone cream, it is highly unlikely you’ll experience any side effects. It’s a very safe product but should be administered under medical supervision at first to avoid any problems.
The first clue comes from the fact that cortisol, the adrenal hormone that is your body’s main stress fighter, is a downstream associated hormone of progesterone. Cortisol output usually increases in the beginning stages of AFS, then it drops when the adrenal glands are exhausted, which happens in the more advanced stages.
But if the underlying stress is not addressed, your body’s need for cortisol keeps increasing. And without sufficient cortisol, the rest of your NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response has to compensate and eventually dysregulates as well. And as each stress-fighting mechanism goes out of balance, your body is left ravaged by the negative effects of stress. This is very apparent in the OAT axis and the Hormone circuit of the NEM.
A deficiency in progesterone will create even more imbalances in cortisol production. This can aggravate AFS symptoms even more. However, by increasing progesterone, you can improve or resolve this issue.
Too much cortisol, on the other hand, which occurs in the beginning stages of AFS, can block progesterone receptors. Also, when you’re facing a lot of stress, your body favors cortisol production over progesterone, and so your body can become progesterone deficient. Supplementing can help with this also.
Although progesterone cream can be a great support in hormone balance and adrenal fatigue recovery, you shouldn’t rely on it alone. You must put in place a full adrenal fatigue recovery plan; otherwise, the use of a supplement here or there will ultimately be ineffective.
A whole-body recovery plan includes eating the adrenal fatigue diet, getting a lot of rest and sleep, using effective stress management techniques, doing very gentle adrenal breathing and adrenal yoga exercises, and consuming a regiment of gentle nutrients that replenish your body’s lost stores. Using progesterone cream as part of this regiment can be a great tool.
Keep in mind that, especially if your body is suffering from AFS, it’s not advisable to try and figure out the different nutrients and supplements you should use on your own. The guidance of a health professional experienced in adrenal fatigue and Hormone circuit issues can help you avoid the common pitfalls of adrenal fatigue recovery, such as paradoxical reactions and adrenal crashes.
Although high-quality progesterone cream is quite safe, it’s still very important to get the dosage right. You should use low-dose cream with 1.7% progesterone and that gives you 20 mg progesterone with each pump. Apply the cream to areas with little fat and high circulation, and spread it widely. Rotate the areas you use each day.
We recommend you apply the cream before bedtime so your skin absorbs it for as long as possible. Always start at a very low dose, especially if you are weak and have a history of adrenal crashes. Those who have multiple chemical sensitivities need to be very careful, as natural progesterone cream can produce paradoxical effects. Remember, the weaker the body, the greater the risk.
How much progesterone you use depends on your current condition and health goals. For example, if you still menstruate, you can use progesterone cream to relieve PMS and painful cramps. You can also use it to help regulate your cycle and protect against osteoporosis and cancer.
If you’re menopausal, you can use it to relieve menopause symptoms and to prevent or reverse osteoporosis. If you’re on hormone replacement therapy, you should reduce the dosage of estrogen before starting progesterone; otherwise, you risk getting estrogen dominance symptoms.
All of these dosage considerations can be very tricky to figure out, so please follow the guidance of your health professional.
Men and women produce the same sex hormones, just in different amounts. Men produce estrogen and progesterone, and women produce testosterone. But men produce about half the amount of progesterone that healthy women do. Testosterone is the main estrogen antagonist in men, and in that sense, it does the job of progesterone.
But just like women, men are at risk of hormone imbalances, and they can get a relative increase in estrogen levels. This can raise the risk of health issues such as enlargement of the prostate and prostate cancer. In order to address this imbalance, men should take steps to increase their testosterone levels. In the meantime, they can use progesterone cream to help keep estrogen in check.
Hormones regulate your body’s physiological functions, from bone growth to menstrual cycles to metabolism. And because the different hormone systems in your body are linked, an imbalance in one system can affect all the others. That’s why stabilizing and balancing hormones should be part of any worthwhile health plan. Unfortunately, modern life is rife with stressors including toxins, xenoestrogens, and psychological stress that can put your hormones out of balance.
In women, estrogen dominance is one of the biggest causes of other health problems, such as fibrocystic breast disease, osteoporosis, endometriosis, and cancer. Estrogen dominance is very common in women with adrenal fatigue. In some cases, it is the cause of AFS, and in other cases, it is a symptom of AFS.
Dysregulation of the OAT axis can affect one of its components more than the other two. And depending on which component is most affected, you’ll see different symptoms arising.
Progesterone can be an effective tool against these hormonal imbalances. This is especially so if you’re suffering from estrogen dominance. It can also help with adrenal fatigue since it is a precursor to cortisol, your body’s main anti-stress hormone.
And although progesterone cream is quite safe, you should only use it under the guidance of an experienced professional. You should also only use it as part of a holistic adrenal fatigue recovery plan. Otherwise, it will be ineffective, and it may even cause side-effects and paradoxical reactions.
Men can also have estrogen levels that are high relative to testosterone. And so they can use progesterone cream as an estrogen antagonist while they restore their testosterone levels.
Many women suffer from hormone imbalances, especially between estrogen and progesterone. And the symptoms of such imbalances can be very uncomfortable. This is especially the case for women with adrenal fatigue. Progesterone cream can be a helpful tool in regaining that balance if used correctly.