Originally published: 20.NOV.2019
Last updated: 04.JUNE.2024


Medically reviewed by Dr. Sarah Conway


Progesterone is a female steroid sex hormone, often viewed as the ‘good cop’ female hormone that supports and balances out the effects of estrogen. High levels of estrogen and lower levels of progesterone may lead to a negative set of symptoms which is why it is easy to understand why we would want to maintain normal progesterone levels. With this in mind, you might wonder if there is a way to naturally maintain your progesterone levels.

Let’s discuss everything you should know about naturally maintaining your progesterone levels, including food that may increase progesterone levels and how lifestyle changes can impact female hormone levels.

Related article: Can I Get Pregnant with Low Progesterone?



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Buy a Progesterone Test

By examining progesterone in the blood, the test can decipher whether you are ovulating normally.


Can you naturally increase progesterone levels?


If you have low progesterone levels, your healthcare may recommend specific creams, gels, or supplements. There are also some lifestyle changes that you can consider that may help increase progesterone and support healthy hormone levels, these include:

  • Eat foods that support your body’s production of hormones
  • Avoid foods and external substances that can knock your hormones out of sync
  • Reduce the amount of stress in your life
  • Maintain a healthy weight

What foods raise progesterone in women?


Although no food contains progesterone, by eating a diet rich in certain minerals and nutrients, you can help your body produce a sufficient and optimal amount of progesterone for better physiological function.

Related article: Fertility-Boosting Foods: 8 Foods to Help Fertility


Magnesium-Rich Foods


Magnesium is key to supporting your hormones and regulating your hormone levels which is why it's one of the nutrients associated with promoting healthy progesterone levels. And since the body is capable of retaining healthy levels of magnesium, it's rare to experience a deficiency, however, it is still possible.

If you are experiencing low progesterone levels, you might consider speaking with your doctor about your magnesium levels and the idea of incorporating more magnesium-rich foods into your diet. According to the National Institute of Health, women over the age of 19 should be getting around 310-320 mg of magnesium per day [1].


Dark chocolate


Support your magnesium levels and have your chocolate too! You can get around 64 mg within a single 1oz serving. Make sure it’s real dark chocolate and not something with needlessly added sugar or other sweeteners. It also provides you with a nice dose of antioxidants to help your immune system.


Nuts


Almonds, brazil nuts, and cashews are particularly good sources of magnesium at around 82mg per ounce. Eat them as a snack or add them to your smoothies or salads for a healthy boost. Nuts are also a great source of fiber.


Tofu


If you’re not following a plant-based diet, incorporating tofu into your meals might not be something that crosses your mind! However, if you are hoping to include more magnesium-rich foods into your diet, tofu contains 53mg per 3.5 ounces. Plus, 10g of protein in this serving size along with 10% of the iron, calcium, selenium, and manganese needed by your body each day.


Avocados


There are around 58mg of magnesium in one medium avocado, which makes enjoying nearly everyone’s go-to brunch item even easier. They’re also a good source of B vitamins, potassium, and monounsaturated fats helpful to the heart.


Legumes


This covers a variety of plant-based foods, from lentils to peas to your favorite beans. Serve them in soup or include them as a side with your lunch or dinner. It’s possible to get 120mg of magnesium from one serving of steamed black beans.


Vitamin B6 foods


Vitamin B6 also plays a role in keeping your body’s hormones regulated which is why it is often recommended for women who want to boost their fertility. Research suggests that increasing B6 in a woman’s diet can raise progesterone levels and reduce estrogen to improve symptoms of PMS.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends women from 19 to 50 take in at least 1.3 mg per day if they’re not pregnant. That minimum increases to 1.5 mg for women 51 and older. As always, speak with your doctor before taking supplements [2].


Fish (Salmon)


Six ounces of salmon provide you with 1.6 mg of Vitamin B6, 94% of the amount recommended each day. Other fish high in concentrations of B6 include tuna, snapper, and mahi-mahi.


Eggs


It doesn’t matter if you boil them, scramble them, or have them over easy. You can take in 10% of the Vitamin B6 needed each day when you have two of them at any meal.


Sweet potatoes


Substitute one of these for the white variety and provide yourself with 15% of the B6 you need.


Milk


Drinking milk is an easy way of keeping progesterone levels up by giving you 5mg of Vitamin B6 per glass. You can put it in your tea, or coffee, or mix it in a smoothie if you don’t like the idea of drinking it straight out of a glass.


Carrots


Try out some carrot sticks as an afternoon snack in replacement of other high-sugar options. You get as much as you would from drinking a glass of milk no matter how you prepare it.


Zinc-rich foods


According to research published in Nature, zinc deficiency impacts just under 20% of the world population [3]. Zinc is another mineral essential in helping your pituitary gland regulate hormones in your body. It helps the gland boost the current levels of FSH hormones which helps your ovaries create the progesterone and estrogen needed by your reproductive system.

It’s recommended that women over 19 get at least 8mg per day, with those amounts increasing if you’re pregnant or currently lactating. You need to eat foods containing zinc each day since your body doesn’t store it for later use.


Shellfish


Oysters are one of the best sources of zinc. Six oysters of medium size provide you with 32mg, which amounts to a whopping 290% of the amount needed by the body each day. Shrimp, crab, and muscles are also good sources, giving you around 14% of what you need per 100 grams consumed.


Seeds


Eating a handful of your favorite pumpkin, squash, or sesame seeds is an excellent way to get a daily zinc boost. They also provide you with a good dose of fiber and healthy fats.


Whole grains


The presence of the antinutrient phytate can prevent you from absorbing as much zinc as you could from whole grains. But it’s worth adding them to your diet since they contain other vital nutrients like magnesium which also boost progesterone levels.


Vegetables


Try combining the B6 boost received from eggs into a morning omelet containing zinc-rich mushrooms to get the benefit of both minerals. Other vegetables you can add to your diet include peas, potatoes, and green beans.


How do lifestyle factors impact progesterone levels?


There are several lifestyle factors and habits that can impact your hormone levels.


Avoid xenoestrogens


Over recent years, there has been a newfound interest in the term xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens, meaning “foreign estrogen, are a type of xenohormone that imitates the effects of estrogen within the body. Consuming foods with xenoestrogens for a sustained period of time you can overload your body with excess estrogen, which can lead to you developing estrogen dominance and in turn, lowering progesterone levels.

Here are a few easy steps to avoid xenoestrogens:

  • Processed foods: The methods used in processed foods found in most supermarkets can leave harmful byproducts such as xenoestrogens. This group includes meats and any non-organic fruits and vegetables. Avoid any chicken, turkey, or other meats not labeled as “Hormone-free.” Consuming processed foods with harmful chemicals, pesticides, or added hormones can disrupt the natural hormonal balance and lead to lower levels of progesterone in your body.

  • Excess drinking: Consuming large amounts of alcohol frequently changes the way your body produces estrogen. Excess drinking can raise the levels of estrogen produced while lowering your progesterone levels.

  • Switch from coffee to tea: Try getting your morning boost from an herbal tea instead of your sweetened takeaway coffees. The high levels of caffeine in four cups of coffee can raise estrogen levels by up to 70%.

  • Plastic containers: Maybe you drink from plastic water bottles or put your food in plastic containers to heat up in the microwave - any exposure to heat can cause the chemicals from these containers to leach into your food or beverage. That is why the biggest source of xenoestrogen exposure for most people is plastics.


Stress and weight management can also have a major impact on your ability to keep your hormones balanced.


Stress


When you are stressed your body triggers your adrenal glands to produce two hormones known as cortisol and adrenaline. The problem is that this biological process uses raw materials to produce progesterone to create cortisol instead. This means, that if you are stressed your body releases your progesterone and uses it for stress hormone production.

That is why one of the best ways to restore your hormonal balance is to reduce the amount of stress in your life. Some people have to eliminate the source of the stress, whereas others can reduce their stress levels by balancing parts of their lives with activities they enjoy, be it hiking, meditating or exercise.


Maintain a healthy weight


As you may have noticed there is a very strong link between a woman’s weight and their hormonal balance, which is normally noticeable with changes in your menstrual cycle. It is very common for women to stop menstruating if their weight drops below their ideal level, or for you to notice your periods becoming more irregular and painful over time if you are carrying excess weight.

Abnormally low fat levels signal to the body that you are in the equivalent of famine, so instead of allocating nutrients to the reproductive hormones it focuses instead on using those nutrients to keep the body alive.

In the case of excess fat, the way it affects hormone levels is a bit different. Our fat cells produce estrogen. So the more body fat you have, the more estrogen you tend to produce while progesterone levels do not increase with weight gain. Causing your estrogen/progesterone balance to go out of sync. The big problem with this source of estrogen production is that it can spiral out of control.

With all of this in mind, it’s important to stick to a healthy weight to support both your overall health and your hormone levels. This weight will be different for everyone and varies depending on your height, age and other factors. It is important to speak with a medical professional if you are unsure what your healthy weight range is


Why do women need progesterone?


Progesterone is produced by your adrenal glands, located over your kidneys as well as by your ovaries. It has a variety of important functions for women. One of these functions is to maintain the lining of the uterus. Elevated progesterone levels also play a significant part in keeping your menstrual cycle regular and healthy.


What are the symptoms of low progesterone?


There are a variety of different causes of low progesterone. However, it is normal for the levels of estrogen and progesterone to lower in your 30s. By our late 30s, we don't produce as much progesterone and oestrogen. This reduction in hormones causes a decrease in ovulation. As a result, by your 40s, cycle length and menstrual flow may vary and periods may become irregular. This time is often called “perimenopause”.

Our bodies normally carefully regulate our balance of estrogen and progesterone. Symptoms of high levels of estrogen can include:

  • Decreased sex drive
  • Increased PMS
  • Irregular periods
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Bloating
  • Hot flashes
  • Tenderness in the breasts
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia

If left untreated for a significant period, hormonal imbalances long-term may contribute to:

  • A complete lack of ovulation (and periods)
  • Infertility
  • Endometriosis
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Uterine cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Heart disease

low-progesterone-high-estrogen


LetsGetChecked’s range of Female Hormone Testing options will help you understand your hormonal health.

The Progesterone Test must be taken 7 days before an expected period. If you have 28 days, you take the test on day 21 to confirm that ovulation has occurred. The test must be taken on this day of the menstrual cycle as progesterone levels rise following ovulation or the release of eggs from the ovaries.

Related article: How do you Check Progesterone Levels From Home?


Add descriptive tag

Buy a Progesterone Test

By examining progesterone in the blood, the test can decipher whether you are ovulating normally.


References


  1. National Institutes of Health. Magnesium. Online: Ods.od.nih.gov
  2. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin B6. Online: Ods.od.nih.gov
  3. Nature. Zinc deficiency is highly prevalent and spatially dependent over short distances in Ethiopia. Online: Nature.com

Please note that the following is for educational use only and is not a substitute for medical advice. This content cannot diagnose or provide information about treatment. Consult with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns or need specific medical advice relating to any symptoms, conditions, diagnosis, or treatment. Do not delay seeking medical advice and do not disregard professional medical advice based on this content. Your healthcare provider can provide the most suitable guidance based on your situation.