Expert advice on vitex for fertility

Vitex (also know as chaste tree) is often said to be great for fertility, but is it for everyone? You’d think so by reading fertility forums and blogs! But often times it can make a woman’s symptoms worse.

Join Kelly LeGendre and I as we talk about vitex; what it is, how it works, who should take it (and who shouldn’t), as well as proper usage.

And make sure you scroll below the video to grab her top fertility tip and a three-day fertility menu! I’ve also added the show notes in case you’re a reader and not a watcher. 😉

Vitex for fertility

About Kelly

Kelly LeGendre, the creator of The Fertility Fix program, is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist who has been helping women grow their families naturally for over a decade. After the birth of her son (who was conceived while following the first iteration of The Fertility Fix plan!), she left her acupuncture practice to focus on helping make motherhood a reality for other women worldwide. Kelly uses a research-based approach to naturally optimize fertility through a combination of functional nutrition, lifestyle modification, and herbal medicine. You can find her website at TheFertilityFix.com and she is also on Facebook.

Top fertility tip

Do everything in your power to reduce your stress level! Women don’t realize what a huge effect stress has on their hormone levels, but it takes whatever else is happening inside your body and amplifies it. Stress increases insulin resistance, interferes with thyroid function, lowers progesterone, makes it more difficult for your liver to break down excess estrogen and other toxins, and causes inflammation by impacting gut health. No matter how much you clean up your diet, if your stress level is still through the roof, your health (and fertility) will suffer.

Where to buy vitex

Mountain Rose Herbs vitex extract

Gaia vitex extract available on Amazon

Show notes

Not an exact transcription, so check out the video for the entire conversation, but here are some of the main points from our talk!

What is vitex?

Vitex, also known as chaste tree, is a bush/herb native to the Mediterranean. The berries are used in herbal medicine.

What actions does it have on the body?

It works on the hypothalamus to stimulate dopamine production and when dopamine is up, it suppresses prolactin which has a cascading effect to raise progesterone.

It can be useful in women with progesterone deficiency issues, but Kelly always tries to use other options to raise progesterone first.

Is this a herb for both men and women?

No, this herb is for women only. It may decrease testosterone and impair sperm motility in men.

Is it estrogenic?

Vitex does have a slight estrogenic effect, but it tends to raise estrogen and progesterone at the same time. So women with high estrogen want to be wary taking it.

What reproductive issues should we be taking vitex for?

Kelly uses it primarily for luteal phase defects (where the second half of the cycle after ovulation is too short). Vitex is usually only used after options haven’t worked.

It’s also important to know that dopamine and progesterone have the same precursor hormone, pregnenolone. And if you are low in pregnenolone, she tries to raise those levels first as vitex will force the body to produce more dopamine which could cause deficiencies in other areas causing a “crash” later.

What other natural remedies should be tried first?

Lifestyle – Pregnenolone is also used to produce cortisol, and if you have high levels of stress for a long period of time, the body uses this precursor for stress instead of progesterone production.

Women tend to gloss over this recommendation and move on to more exciting remedies, but reducing stress, and figuring out better ways of dealing with it, are really important and make a big difference.

Diet – Consuming a lot of vitamins and minerals as well as good fats is important in hormone production.

Sugar needs to be cut out as it can cause the body to preferentially produce serotonin instead of dopamine.

Caffeine needs to go as it can raise cortisol levels.

A focus on whole foods is important.

Supplements – replacing nutrients you may be deficient in can also be helpful. Magnesium, zinc, B6, and vitamin C can all help in the production of progesterone and its precursor hormones.

Can vitex be used for PCOS or annovulation?

PCOS responds so well to diet and lifestyle changes that those should be primary in those experiencing PCOS. Because they aren’t ovulating progesterone will be low. But once we can get them ovulating through dietary changes, then we can look at progesterone levels and see if they have any luteal phase problems.

What is the best form to use – tea, capsule, or tincture?

Alcohol extracts the constituents from the plant so tinctures are going to be your best bet.

How much vitex should you take?

It’s important to work with someone who knows the herb well as they can figure out the correct dosage for your situation. Normally Kelly recommends about 30-40 drops per day in water, upon waking, and on an empty stomach.

How long does it take for it to have a positive effect on the body?

It normally takes about 3 months to see any changes due to vitex.

Should you take it throughout your whole cycle, or just post-ovulation?

Kelly has most of her patients use it during the luteal phase or last half of the cycle. (from ovulation until the first day of your period)

Is it bad to take along with other herbs or supplements (what about Maca)?

No known contraindicated herbs for vitex, but maca seems to be another overused herb right now.

The only research done on maca in women is to raise estrogen levels post menopausally. Women with early menopause or premature ovarian failure may have good results with it, but if a woman has low progestersone the last thing they need is more estrogen in their systems.

And because they do opposite things, there is no need to take maca and vitex together.

If you are taking hormones or going though medicated cycles for assisted reproductive therapies, you shouldn’t be taking herbs that help to balance your body’s hormones. The herbs are trying to naturally balance while the prescriptions are trying to take over and do what needs to be done so it’s counter-productive.

If you are taking it while trying to conceive, can you continue it during pregnancy?

This is really something to talk to your midwife or OB about as there are no studies that show it’s safe…and yet there are no studies that show it’s unsafe.

The concern with going off of it abruptly is that vitex is artificially getting your body to produce progesterone and if you stop taking it without using supplemental progesterone it could make miscarriage more likely. Other alternatives are progesterone creams or prescriptions.

Vitex and breastfeeding – should you take it while breastfeeding and does it reduce milk supply?

Not aware of anything that has shown that it can bring back cycles while breastfeeding. But it has traditionally been used to increase milk supply in the immediate post partum period, and yet at others times it can be used to reduce prolactin levels – it all depends on the individual situation so check with a practitioner that knows the herb.

There hasn’t been really any research that has proven it safe or unsafe, but taking herbs that affect hormones makes Kelly somewhat wary as it’s not something you really want to pass on.

Additional information added after the show

Vitex can make depression worse, and in some cases can even promote suicidal ideation. So women who have a history of depression should be VERY cautious with it. This is especially true for low dopamine-type depression, the symptoms of which include apathy and having a really hard time getting excited about anything.

vitex for fertility

3 day fertility menu

The diet I recommend to my clients centers around real, whole foods. You need plenty of good fats and protein to create the hormones needed to conceive and sustain a healthy pregnancy, so I try to include a wide variety of them.

I also focus on LOTS of veggies to provide necessary vitamins and minerals, plus the micronutrients and fiber that are needed to break down and remove surplus hormones and other endocrine disrupting toxins from the body. Cruciferous veggies are especially good for helping the body eliminate excess estrogen, so I try to include some everyday.

Sugar, alcohol, and caffeine have been proven to have negative effects on endocrine balance, so I recommend excluding them completely while trying to conceive.

Meat, eggs, and dairy should always be grass-fed and organic to avoid added hormones and maximize good fats, and fruit and veggies should be organic when feasible.

While my plan isn’t paleo, I highly recommend Melissa Joulwan’s paleo cookbook, Well Fed, to anyone trying to transition to a way of eating that includes more cooking. In it, she outlines what she calls the “weekly cook-up”, where you basically spend an hour or two once a week grilling chicken, browning ground beef, prepping veggies, and making a few sauces, then all week-long all you have to do is throw a few things in a pan with a little oil and some spices, and voila—dinner is done in 10 minutes flat!

Melissa’s got a quick primer on her website, plus links to recipes and a few meal plans with more detailed info and shopping lists here . I’ve started doing a weekly cook-up recently and it’s absolutely revolutionized the way I cook (and eat), because I always have something on hand that’s healthy and quick to prepare. To save even more time, make enough at dinner to have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Day one

Breakfast: Steamed greens (I like a spinach, kale, and chard blend) with butter, two eggs over easy with salt and pepper, topped with diced avocado

Lunch: Bean chili with ground beef, pico de gallo, and plain, full-fat Greek yogurt over mixed greens

Snack: Small handful of raw almonds and blueberries

Dinner: Chicken breast or thighs, stir-fried with avocado oil, green beans, zucchini, tomatoes and Greek seasoning, small green salad with olive oil and vinegar

Day two

Breakfast: Steamed greens with butter, turkey sausage, and sweet potato

Lunch: Leftover Greek chicken and veggies over mixed greens

Snack: Plain, full-fat Greek yogurt with raspberries

Dinner: Paleo Pad Thai, riced cauliflower sautéed with onion in butter and chicken stock

Day three

Breakfast: Steamed greens with butter, two eggs scrambled with salt, pepper, and garlic, topped with feta or goat cheese

Lunch: Leftover pad thai and small green salad with olive oil and vinegar

Snack: Veggies (cucumber, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, etc) with hummus or guacamole

Dinner: Zucchini noodles (made with a vegetable peeler or spiralizer – found on Amazon), cauliflower “cream” sauce, with mushrooms and wild-caught shrimp sauteed in butter and garlic

*as with any dietary changes, see your health care provider (preferably a holistic practitioner) for personal recommendations.

 

If you have any questions concerning vitex that we didn’t answer, please feel free to ask in the comments and we’ll get it answered as soon as we can!

Boosting Fertility with Vitamin B

When looking to balance your hormones, it’s important to consume enough foods that properly nourish your body, especially those high in vitamin B.

And Vitamin B6 is actually one of the most important in the set of B vitamins, as it helps regulate your hormones.

Being deficient in B6 can cause irregular menstrual cycles, a progesterone imbalance, as well as poor egg and sperm development. B6 can also help lengthen the luteal phase of your cycle and regulate blood sugar levels.

How much do you need?

Recommended daily amounts for total vitamin B is between 100 and 200mg’s per day. At one point I actually started charting my daily meals on SparkPeople.com and realized that even my intake on a whole foods diet was falling quite short of 100mg’s. I just wasn’t eating enough of the right foods. The RDA for B6 is about 1.9 mg for women and 1.3mg for men with the upper limit of intake at about 100mgs per day.

vitamin b and fertility

Sausage and bean Soup Recipe

To boost your intake with food, include more

  • whole grains, properly soaked
  • legumes (beans, lentils, etc), properly soaked
  • eggs,
  • grassfed meat,
  • wild caught fish,
  • potatoes,
  • spinach,
  • avocado

The B vitamins are also water soluble, meaning that you eliminate what you don’t use and they are not stored in the body long term like the fat soluble vitamins.

It’s also important to consume foods as close to their natural state as up to 90% of vitamin B6 can be lost during the processing from whole to ‘processed’. Eating a varied diet is also very important since different foods contain different nutrients, this way you guarantee to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Supplements can also be a good idea, and most women who are actively trying to conceive should be on a great whole foods/raw pre-natal vitamin already. But the amount of B6 in them are not enough to help boost your body’s stores of the nutrient, sometimes only giving you a few milligrams a day.

The FDA recommended amount of vitamin B6 in a multi-vitamin is only 2.5 mg’s.And it’s hard to know how much to supplement with since the RDAs are based only on how much of a nutrient is needed to prevent certain health issues. So looking at the RDA of B6 for instance, you’d want to make sure you got at least 1.9mgs with diet and supplementation.

Personally, I’ve taken a B complex vitamin (B vitamins should be taken together for better absorption) along with a pre-natal vitamin when I need to. I’ve found recommendations to start supplementing with an additional 25-50 mg’sof vitamin B complex per day and increase it after a couple of months if you’re still having problems.

(taking to much  of any specific nutrient long term can also cause an imbalance of your overall nutrient stores as well, so be sure to talk to your health care provider)

Many things in our diet and lifestyle also use up the vitamin B you consume:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking caffeinated beverages
  • Taking chemical hormones, (i.e. The Pill)
  • Eating to much protein
  • Eating white flour and refined bread products
  • Eating to much sugar, and you may think you don’t eat many sweets, but simple sugars are in most processed foods!

So by reducing the ways that cause our bodies to use up the vitamin B we’ve been able to get throughout the day while we also increase the right foods in our diet we can give our bodies what they need to help support hormone balance.

And while increasing your daily intake of Vitamin B, please note that it could take at least a couple of months to really notice a difference as it can take some time to balance the hormones.

 

****2013 update – I currently recommend taking a methyl B vitamin and tend to stay away from any type of folic acid (should be folate instead). I take a sublingual folate/B12 after finding out I also have a mutated copy of my C677T gene (known as MTHFR). The one I take is available on amazon.

Naturally Warmed Up; how to raise your basal body temperature

{Learn how to fix your low basal body temperature – a guest post by Matt Stone of www.180degreehealth.com}

Donielle contacted me recently because so many of her readers were complaining of having a low body temperature – something that is very common, practically universal, among women with standard menstrual and fertility issues. Since I’m notorious for making women hot, yeah baby, and I even have a “Hot Chicks Club” for all the women who have obtained a consistent waking luteal phase body temperature of 99 degrees Fahrenheit or higher… I guess I’m the go-to guy on this issue.

how to raise basal body temperature

While I could soften it and explain the particulars of the science and massage you into accepting that the advice I have has validity, I think it might be best if I just keep it simple. And slap you upside the head with it. If you would like to find out more about the basis of why the following information works so well (and I have 30,000 comments on my website confirming that it does indeed work very well – for raising body temperature, restoring menstruation, improving fertility, and many other metabolism-related disorders), I have put out several materials on it – the best and most recent being Diet Recovery: Restoring Hormonal Health, Metabolism, Mood, and Your Relationship with Food. (available on Amazon)*

So let’s get on with it.

The quick explanation of the problem at hand is that if the human body goes through the supply of something faster than it is being delivered, the body down-regulates metabolism to slow down the rate at which it burns through stuff (namely calories and nutrients). There are other factors involved, most of them hereditary in nature (but can still be overcome with the right approach).

In a world in which we have developed serious calorie phobia, carbohydrate phobia, fat phobia, couch potato phobia, saturated fat and cholesterol phobia, and more – almost all women in today’s society have grown so accustomed to actively eating below appetite, with dietary restriction, and exercising vigorously that they don’t even realize that they are basically engaged in disordered eating.

This is particularly harmful to women who are already coming into the world with a suppressed metabolism, which is becoming increasingly common due to our nutrient-poor diet, the dieting our mothers did (kids of dieting mothers have a known increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes), chronic physiological stressors, and countless other factors.

To make a long story short, if you have a reduced morning body temperature (this is the most important time to check as this is the best indicator of your absolute lowest metabolic rate), cold hands and feet (another powerful indicator of low metabolism), or other signs of a low metabolism (constipation, frequent infection, yeast issues, chronic fatigue, low sex drive, abnormal menstrual cycle, thinning hair, puffy eyes or water retention, poor fingernail growth, poor strength, hypoglycemia, and others) – the typical modern approach of beating yourself into submission with dietary restriction (even just being a health nut) and lots of “cardio” exercise will take you much farther away from a healthy metabolism. It is counterproductive and worsens the underlying disorder.

Dr. Atkins perhaps said it best when he wrote…

“…remember that prolonged dieting (this one [meaning the Atkins diet], low-fat, low-calorie, or a combination) tends to shut down thyroid function. This is usually not a problem with the thyroid gland (therefore blood tests are likely to be normal) but with the liver, which fails to convert T4 into the more active thyroid principle, T3. The diagnosis is made on clinical ground with the presence of fatigue, sluggishness, dry skin, coarse or falling hair, an elevation in cholesterol, or a low body temperature. I ask my patients to take four temperature readings daily before the three meals and near bedtime. If the average of all these temperatures, taken for at least three days, is below 97.8 degrees F (36.5 C), that is usually low enough to point to this form of thyroid problem; lower readings than that are even more convincing.”

Keep in mind that the metabolic rate – the active thyroid in your system being a primary factor in your metabolic rate, determines the rate at which pregnenalone is converted to progesterone – the pro-gestation hormone. That’s why, when metabolism is low, fertility is poor. When metabolism increases, your chances of conception and a successful pregnancy skyrocket. I highly recommend going through the following steps to anyone looking to get pregnant – whether having problems or not. Having a high metabolism going into pregnancy, and producing abundant progesterone has all kinds of benefits to the offspring – from increased brain size/development to increased ratio of muscle mass to body fat. And it’s good for moms too. Progesterone increases the elasticity of cervical tissues! Making childbirth a LOT less painful.

Alright, so we’re finally getting to the useful stuff. If you consistently have a body temperature below 98 degrees F when you wake up in the morning (rectal temps being the most reliable), you can fix this. It is not hard, unless you consider being on vacation and spa days hard. It is very common for people of all ages, male and female, to see increases in body temperature from as low as 95F to 98F and above in less than 30 days. It really is that simple and reliable. The hard part is getting people to try it because it sounds so strange in contrast to the exercise more/eat less, ‘carbs are the devil’ and/or ‘saturated fat is the devil’ and ‘no pain no gain’ brainwashing that has taken place over the last half century.

How to raise body temperature and increase your chances of having a successful pregnancy…

  1. Eat as much nutritious food as you can every day. Emphasize the more calorie-dense unrefined carbohydrates like root vegetables, fruit, and grains in particular, but also eat a satisfying amount of meat, fat, dairy products (milk is incredible for body temperature), and whatever else that you find enjoyable. But keep it as nutritious and unprocessed as possible. 
  2. Eat beyond appetite. This is key. Eating more than you want to eat is what forces your body to get out of its low metabolism rut.
  3. Go at least 12 hours straight per day without food – you don’t want to be overeating for more than half the day. So if you eat dinner at 7pm, have breakfast at 7am. I believe this practice can make the body more responsive to the hormone leptin, probably the most important hormone in fertility (because it raises thyroid and progesterone).
  4. Get as much sleep as possible. Sleep is an incredibly powerful tool for raising metabolism.
  5. Avoid vigorous exercise. This is not a permanent recommendation obviously. You can resume getting more vigorous exercise once your body temperature is fully restored.
  6. Emphasize saturated fats over unsaturated fats. Dairy products, red meat, and coconut products are the best source of dietary saturated fats. You should eat these preferentially over nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, avocado, and other plant fats – as well as pork and poultry, when possible.
  7. De-stress. While eating a lot, sleeping a lot, and avoiding excessive exercise is inherently de-stressing, it also pays to spend time doing something that you find leisurely or enjoyable and mentally and physically relaxing, which is highly individual. Massage and sunbathing would be my two personal favorites!

And, well. That’s all there is to it.

Enjoy.

Note – you will probably not feel well when you start doing this, but will feel bloated, hungover, and extremely fatigued and drowsy. Those are not bad signs, but signs of deep physiological relaxation and/or signs of adjustment to the new transition. Be patient. Give it a full 30-day trial.

how to raise your basal body temperature Matt Stone, author of 7 books, is an independent health researcher who emphasizes the dangers of dieting and restricted and restrained eating of many varieties, and raising metabolism naturally. He is the voice of www.180degreehealth.com

 

 

 

 

 

Note from Donielle – I use the iBasal* for checking daily basal temperatures and love that it also keeps track of my cycle and fertile days for me. Matt uses this thermometer*.

Symptoms of Low Progesterone (and Natural Progesterone Cream Info)

Progesterone is, of course, very important to our hormonal health and reproductive system. It is one of the hormones that plays a vital role in regulating many of the bodies functions – especially a woman’s cycle. It also plays a very large role in maintaining a pregnancy, so being progesterone deficient can have drastic effects.

During the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, progesterone is produced by the collapsed follicle until either the period begins (which then marks the start of a new cycle and lower progesterone levels) or until the placenta takes over for producing the progesterone during a pregnancy.

One of progesterone’s most important functions is to cause the endometrium to secrete special proteins during the second half of the menstrual cycle, preparing it to receive and nourish an implanted fertilized egg. If implantation does not occur, estrogen and progesterone levels drop, the endometrium breaks down and menstruation occurs.

If a pregnancy occurs, progesterone is produced in the placenta, and levels remain elevated throughout the pregnancy. The combination of high estrogen and progesterone levels suppress further ovulation during pregnancy. Progesterone also encourages the growth of milk-producing glands in the breast during pregnancy. (source)

symptoms of low progesterone

Other Roles of Progesterone:

  • helps normalize blood sugar levels
  • boosts thyroid function
  • helps us use fat for energy
  • has beneficial anti-inflammatory effects
  • reduces swelling and inflammation

(from What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause, available on Amazon*)

Symptoms of Low Progesterone

Many of the symptoms of low progesterone also coincide with symptoms of other health issues, so be aware that just because you may have some of these, it doesn’t mean you’re low on progesterone, but of course it’s definitely worth looking into.

  • a luteal phase less than 12 days
  • sugar cravings
  • ovarian cysts
  • low basal body temperatures
  • irregular periods
  • allergy symptoms
  • arthritis
  • spotting in the days before your period begins
  • recurrent early miscarriage
  • blood clots during menstruation
  • cold hands and feet
  • brittle nails
  • cracked heels
  • decreased sex drive
  • menstrual cramps
  • depression or anxiety
  • acne
  • fatigue
  • fibrocystic breasts
  • PCOS
  • endometriosis
  • fibromyalgia
  • gallbladder issues
  • Foggy thinking
  • headaches and migraines
  • infertility
  • vaginal dryness
  • slow metabolism
  • mood swings
  • weight gain, especially around the middle

Over the summer I read What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause by Dr. John Lee and highly recommend it to anyone needing to know more about natural hormone balance. He discusses at length why we may be low in progesterone and how to use a natural progesterone cream to help rectify the issue. Below are just a few of my notes.

  • xeno-estrogens/xeno-hormones make us estrogen dominant. They come from plastics, synthetic hormones, conventional meats and animal products, etc. This exposure can result in low progesterone. If our mothers were exposed to it, it can cause dysfunction in her daughters ovarian follicles.
  • the embryonic stage of life is when ovarian tissues are most sensitive to the toxicity of xeno-hormones
  • xeno-hormones are fat soluble (meaning the body absorbs and holds on to them) and non-biodegradable
  • Stress increases levels of cortisol, which blocks progesterone from its receptors in the body. Too much stress and progesterone won’t get where it needs to go.
  • Using huge amounts of supplements over the long-term may result in another imbalance in the body.
  • Our bodies release mood and energy enhancing chemicals (like adrenaline) to fight allergic responses to food – we are hooked on what we’re allergic to!
  • Exercising too hard lowers antioxidant levels in the body. Moderate exercise raises levels.

This book also went into the explanation of natural progesterone creams, which aren’t truly natural; a better name is bio-identical. You see, the progesterone in our bodies is produced nowhere else in nature. Dioscorea mexicana is a plant that is part of the yam family native to Mexico. It has a steroid called diosgenin that is taken from the plant and is converted into progesterone by changing the cellular structure.

Naturally Boosting Progesterone

1. Progesterone, like all other steroid hormones, is synthesized from pregnenolone, which in turn is derived from cholesterol (source) so making sure you have adequate consumption of dietary cholesterol is very important.

2. The herb vitex (learn advice from an expert on vitex) is also helpful as it works to lower estrogen and raise progesterone simultaneously.

3. Turmeric, found in curry, is known to help increase the body’s progesterone levels. Other herbs such as thyme and oregano are thought to have the same properties. (source)

4. Increasing the intake of foods rich in vitamin B, especially B6.

5. A diet low in conventional meats and animal products, as many times the hormones given to them act as estrogens in the body. Choose organic and preferably grass-fed products.

6. Don’t use plastics, canned foods, or conventional cleaners and beauty products. Most of them contain estrogen like compounds that cause a body to be estrogen dominant.

7. Ensure enough magnesium intake. (I’ve been using a magnesium oil, which I buy on Amazon*)

8. Eat plenty of protein each day with each meal – hormones need protein for production.

9. Consume plenty of vegetables, fruits, and especially dark leafy greens. These micro-nutrients are important for progesterone production.

10. Use a bio-identical progesterone cream*. The one I have used is from Beeyoutiful*. While all natural progesterone within the cream is the same, the other ingredients in it make a big difference. Some creams and lotions actually contain xeno-estrogens – kind of contradicting what the cream is meant to do! Beeyoutiful’s cream contains just coconut oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil infused with organic wild yam root, organic comfrey root, and cayenne, 1000 mg USP progesterone, sweet orange essential oil, rosemary essential oil, candelilla wax, beeswax. From my limited experience with it, it goes on easily, absorbs quickly, and has no smell.

I don’t think progesterone cream is a fix-all, but may help in the short-term as you also figure out how to increase your body’s own progesterone production.

11. Practice Lunaception to raise progesterone. In Katie Singer’s book “Garden of Fertility” she mentions that progesterone can be strengthened by sleeping in total darkness all but 3 days out of the cycle.

12. Take care of your adrenal glands. When your adrenal glands are fatigued (due to frequent physical, emotional, or mental stress) the precursor to progesterone (DHEA) is used to make cortisol instead of progesterone. A 24-hour adrenal saliva test can show you what your cortisol levels are throughout the day and may be helpful is helping you heal the body.

 

If you’ve been found to have low progesterone, how did you go about fixing the problem?

More reading: Progesterone and the Luteal Phase

natural help for low progesterone

Progesterone and Luteal Phase Defects

Reader Question: I have been trying to get some information on bioidentical progesterone cream use for short luteal phase issues and can not find information anywhere.  I have been tracking my cycles for almost 10 years using the sympto-thermal method and after the birth of my second son, the length of my luteal phase has been VERY short…too short to sustain a pregnancy.  I know this is a result in low progesterone and was told that going the bioidentical progestone route can help me.  I am hesitant to do so bc the source of soy.  Would you simply recommend Vitex and vitamin B6 to increase luteal phase length?

An important part of conception, progesterone is also needed to carry a pregnancy to term. A woman’s body has to produce enough progesterone to support the pregnancy until the placenta is developed enough to take over.

One of the reasons progesterone may be to low, is that there may be to much estrogen in the body and the first thing to look at is the weight of a woman {groan}. Our fat cells help to produce and carry estrogen in the body, when we are overweight, we’re more apt to have higher estrogen levels. Losing weight is neither fun nor easy, but even losing 10% of your body weight (should you need to lose any) can help balance out hormone production.

Another reason hormone levels can become unbalanced is if a woman is still nursing, as it’s a natural way our body’s “protect” itself. Breastfeeding keeps our prolactin levels higher, thereby keeping the progesterone levels low. Weaning usually solves this problem within a few months, though the age of the baby should be taken into strong consideration as nursing through the 2nd year is still important. I have my own feeling on trying to conceive while breastfeeding, but vitex has been shown (in some women) to help lower the prolactin levels enough to boost progesterone.

Stress on the thyroid and adrenals can also throw hormones out of whack. Lack of sleep and healthy foods (both hard to get when taking care of a baby) can cause stress to these organs. When these organs are not running at optimal levels, hormones become unbalanced.

A diet high in sugar and refined carbs also does a number on the balance between estrogen and progesterone!One main reason why is that our bodies are dependent on vitamin B6 to help process carbohydrates. So even if we think we’re getting enough vitamin B6 in our diets, our bodies may be using more than we’re consuming, essentially leaving us mal-nourished.

My Answer:

I think that there are a lot of things you can do with whole foods to help a body heal, but it does take time. Make sure the diet is void of refined sugars and carbs, and full of healthy fats (butter, evoo, coconut oil), a variety of veggies and fruits, and good wholesome dairy.

Vitamin B6 is often linked to luteal phase problems and it’s a great place to start! But I also think that getting in real folate and vitamin B’s is essential and should be looked at prior to, or along with, any supplementation. Foods high in vitamin B6 include:

  • Spinach
  • Bell peppers
  • Turnip greens
  • Garlic
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli

(read more about vitamin B6 at WHFoods)

It’s also important to think about the B vitamins as a whole, whether you are supplementing or trying to boost intake through only foods. They all work together and should be consumed together.

Foods high in one or more B vitamins:

When supplementing: Be sure to use a B-complex vitamin made from food sources, preferably a ‘raw’ vitamin.

Re: Vitex – from talking with other women, many of them have had good luck with vitex getting their cycles back on track, especially after a baby. Not only does it help lower prolactin levels, it helps to balance out the estrogen:progesterone ratio as well. Many Vitex supplements contain other herbs as well, so before taking check to make sure that all herbs taken, match your symptoms.

Re: Progesterone Creams – I think that if a woman who is having trouble lengthening the luteal phase or producing enough progesterone, that a progesterone cream is definitely an option. Especially if it’s been a few months of adhering to a whole foods diet and supplementation. If a couple is actively trying to conceive and the woman has a short LP or known low progesterone levels, I’d be hesitant to not use a progesterone cream. I personally know many women who have successfully used progesterone creams that helped save pregnancies that looked like they may be at risk. There are different creams, some more natural than others. I personally have never used this, so I don’t have any recommendations, so I’m hoping that some of you may be able to leave a recommendation for a particular brand of natural progesterone here in the comments. (*update, I have used the cream from Beeyoutiful since this post and purchased it because it contained only natural oils along with the bio-identical progesterone)

From my Facebook Friends:

  • My understanding is that it can take up to 6mo for the luteal phase to get back to normal. I would try to heal the body via whole foods and correcting imbalances first, because it is more than just progesterone that is probably out of whack, there is a whole series of hormones.
  • My reproductive endocrinologist & immunology specialist told me that treating LPD is treating a symptom, and the root cause of low progesterone in the luteal phase is insufficient estrogen in the ovulatory phase. Thus balancing hormones across your cycle would be best.
  • I have been fighting with this since my first miscarriage almost 4 years ago, and it’s not easy! But in the last 6 months of working on it, I have… had the best results with changing my diet (off of sugars and grains, unless they are soaked, adding lacto-fermented veggies and drinks [beet kvass is very high in B vitamins–good for progesterone!]), getting proper exercise (t-tapp has a workout designed specifically for balancing hormones and it works!) and supplements (Vit. B complex, C, D, E, Zinc, Selenium, Evening Primrose Oil, Vitex). You can also use a natural progesterone lotion, such as the one available from: http://gentlepharmacy.com/. It’s a slow process, depending upon how low your progesterone levels are to begin with, but there IS hope!
  • I have my youngest because I used progesterone. I have PCOS so my estrogen is very high. I needed to balance it with the progesterone. Once I conceived, I used everyday till 10wks (because I had miscarried the pregnancy b4) when I allowed the midwife to try the heartbeat on a doptone. Then I weaned off it as the baby had implanted so my progesterone production was sufficient.

Have you ever dealt with a short luteal phase? What did you do to treat it?

 

*All information is given to inspire and encourage you to do your own research, learn from others experience, and learn to ask your doctor more questions. No answer given is from a medical professional and should not be taken as medical advice.