Got hypothyroidism and PMS? Stress could be robbing your body of progesterone

PMS-low-progesterone-pregnenolone steal

It’s the time of the month that so many women dread, the PMS days. For some, premenstrual syndrome is simply an irritating inconvenience, but for others it is a cause of extreme suffering. Yet because it is so common, many women don’t take PMS seriously, even though the effect on their lives is serious indeed.

For women who also have hypothyroidism, symptoms can overlap and the causes can be the same.

Common or not, PMS, especially the extreme variety, is not normal or healthy. It is a sign that the delicate balance of female hormones is all out of whack. PMS symptoms may be a signal that the body is experiencing a progesterone deficiency due to chronic stress.

Symptoms of low progesterone include:

  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Crying easily
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent or irregular menstruation
  • Low sex drive
  • Migraines

As you may have noticed, many of these are also symptoms of hypothyroidism. The chronic stress that lowers progesterone and causes PMS can also suppress thyroid function.

Natural remedies for PMS

Instead of reaching for the progesterone cream at your local supplement store, it’s safer to first address the underlying causes of low progesterone. For many women, progesterone levels take a beating because of chronic stress. Every time you experience stress, your body responds with cortisol, an adrenal stress hormone that works to keep the body in balance.

But in these fast-paced times, we experience stress so frequently that the body’s demand for cortisol is constantly high. To keep up with demand, the body borrows the materials needed to make reproductive hormones, including progesterone, and makes cortisol instead. This is called “pregnenolone steal,” when the body steals pregnenolone needed for other hormones to keep pace with the demands of stress.

Not only can chronic stress rob the body of progesterone, but it can also hinder function of the brain’s pituitary gland. The pituitary gland directs function for the thyroid and other hormone glands. When chronic stress suppresses pituitary function, this can suppress thyroid function.

Factors that can cause chronic stress:

  • Sugar and sweeteners, too many starchy foods (rice, pasta, bread, etc.), and excess caffeine
  • Food intolerances (gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, nuts, grains, etc.)
  • Gut problems (gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, etc.)
  • Lack of sleep
  • Chronic inflammation (joint pain, muscle pain, skin rashes and disorders, brain fog, fatigue, etc.)
  • Autoimmune disease (such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism)
  • Overdoing it; pushing yourself without breaks or enough rest
  • Poor nutrition

Restoring hormonal balance naturally

Many times, the best way to reduce symptoms of PMS is to stop the pregnenolone steal, thereby allowing the body to make enough of its own progesterone. Strategies for stopping pregnenolone steal include an anti-inflammatory diet, which eases the body’s burden of stress. You may also need to work on restoring gut health, taming chronic inflammation, or managing your autoimmune disease appropriately, approaches that benefit from the guidance of an experienced practitioner.

These strategies can also help boost thyroid function.

Nutrients to ease PMS

Basic nutritional support can sometimes ease the symptoms of PMS. For instance, are you getting enough omega 3 fatty acids and gamma-linoleic acid (GLA)? You may find that supplementing with a high-quality emulsified fish oil or krill oil is helpful, especially if you add one of the GLAs—evening primrose oil, borage oil, or black currant oil—as well.

Supporting serotonin, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitter, may also alleviate symptoms when you’re premenstrual. Compounds that support serotonin activity include tryptophan, 5-HTP, St. John’s Wort, and SAMe. Other nutrients that may offer additional support include magnesium, B6, and vitamin D3.

Ask my office for natural therapies to alleviate PMS and support healthy hormonal balance and thyroid function.

If you suffer from symptoms of low thyroid, you should also rule out Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid disorder.

Important note: If you are taking an antidepressant, do NOT embark upon a serotonin support regimen without the guidance of your physician.

Dr. Joni Labbe

About Dr. Joni Labbe

Dr. Joni Labbe is a board-certified clinical nutritionist specializing in science-based nutrition with a focus on women's health issues. She has successfully helped pre-menopausal and menopausal women regain and maintain their health since 1995. Dr. Labbe is the author of the Amazon #1 Best Selling book Thyroid & Menopause Madness and It’s Not Just Menopause: It’s Your Thyroid. She is also a professional speaker, radio personality, fitness expert, and former host of “Healthier Way With Dr. Labbe.” Dr. Labbe is one of the country’s leading authorities on thyroid disorders, including Hashimoto’s disease. Dr. Labbe has also authored numerous articles and blogs on health, nutrition, and thyroid health, as seen in Naturally Savvy, Thyroid Nation, and Fox News. She is a Board Certified Clinical Nutritionalist, Doctor of Chiropractic, and has post graduate training in Functional Neurology, Functional Endocrinology, Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis, and earned a Diplomate and Fellow in Nutrition from the American Association of Integrative Medicine.

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