All About Progesterone: Your “Soothing” Hormone

Hormones – all the talk it seems these days. Many of us have heard of hormones like cortisol, estrogen, and testosterone. But what about progesterone? In fact, it’s one of the most commonly deficient hormones in women and is directly related to anxiety levels! 

There are actually MANY hormone imbalances that can be potential triggers for anxiety (especially in women) – a lot of which are caused by reproductive hormones such as imbalances with: estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone

In fact, women are twice as luckily to struggle with anxiety than men are (2) and a big part of this can do with abnormal hormonal fluctuations throughout one’s menstrual cycle from the 3 hormones listed above!

In this blog post we’re talking all about progesterone, a reproductive hormone whose imbalances often go completely unacknowledged or misunderstood! 

So, What exactly is Progesterone?

Along with estrogen, progesterone is a female sex hormone produced by the ovaries and is often referred to as the “soothing” hormone. Even though it’s commonly known as a woman’s hormone, men actually produce small amounts as well.

Progesterone is one of my favourite hormones to talk about as it’s SO closely tied to anxiety. It helps to reduce anxiety levels, promote relaxation, and encourage deeper sleep.

In woman, progesterone is also known to balance out estrogen and as these two hormones drop, it triggers the start of one’s menstrual bleed (3). As you can probably imagine, the ratio between these two hormones is crucial for keeping the menstrual cycle regulated (more on this below).

But for now, let’s talk about what some of the most common signs and symptoms of progesterone deficiency are!

So, What are Symptoms of Progesterone Deficiency: 

  • ANXIETY – often in the days / weeks leading up to your period (the luteal phase) 

  • Irregular periods 

  • Light cycles (shorter and lighter bleeds with excessive brown spotting) 

  • Water retention 

  • Poor sleep patterns (insomnia or waking up in the night) 

  • Joint or muscle pain 

  • Issues managing weight: abnormal weight gain, inability to loose weight 

  • Low sex drive 

  • Fatigue 

  • Headaches 

  • Symptoms of excess estrogen – despite levels being healthy

The Estrogen : Progesterone Ratio

Just as each hormone is individually needed, their ability to work together is arguably more important. Estrogen and progesterone are no exemption!

You can almost think of these two as a couple – they balance each other out and need to work together to keep the family functioning (aka our bodies). If progesterone is feeling low and not holding up its end of the relationship, estrogen goes unchecked and can end up dominating the whole system – in other words, we become estrogen dominant (3).

Estrogen / progesterone levels vary depending on the phase of one’s cycle (there are 4 distinct phases within a women’s menstrual cycle). Both hormones are at their lowest during the start of one’s menstrual cycle (1st day of bleed). Progesterone then reaches its highest value in the middle of our luteal phase (roughly between days 18-28).

If progesterone is too low, menstruation might not happen. If estrogen is too high in relation to progesterone, intense pre-menstrual symptoms (PMS) can occur such as tender breasts, swelling, cramping, moodiness, bloating, and decreased sex drive.

What is Progesterone’s Connection to Anxiety?

When there are imbalances with certain hormone levels (either too high or too low), this can cause abnormally heightened levels of anxiety – which can create a lot of un-ease within the body & mind!

When we’re chronically stressed or anxious, cortisol levels rise and tend to stay there.

Our body notices these heightened levels and as a result, we produce even MORE cortisol. In fact, cortisol (aka stress) is known to deplete progesterone production and other important reproductive hormones (5)!

Be sure to read up on blog – part 2 (coming soon) to understand more of progesterone’s ties to anxiety.

Tools to balance progesterone

Okay, so now we know the roles and symptoms of deficiency when it comes to progesterone – let’s talk about what you can do to balance your levels!

Sometimes, balancing hormones need a little extra support in addition to dietary / lifestyle changes. I always recommend working with a practitioner to ensure you’re getting the right supplementation for your body!

Feel free to reach out to me for 1-1 coaching if you think this might be you! Fill out the box here (at the bottom of the page) to do so.

That said, there are of course many changes you can make starting today!


    • Increase vitamin B6 rich foods: Sweet potato, garlic, spinach, bananas, wild salmon, pasture-raised meat

    • Add high quality vitamin C sources: Red peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, citrus fruits

    • Balance blood sugars: Choosing whole-food complex carbs like brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato and always ensuring you’re including enough protein, healthy fats, and veg in your meals. Check out my other blog on why imbalanced blood sugars might be making you H-anxious

    • Include fibrous foods to help remove excess estrogens: Beans / legumes, cauliflower, apples, celery, etc.

    • Eat plenty of probiotic rich foods: Sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi, or high quality yogurt

    • Ensure you’re getting adequate dietary fats: healthy fats are SO important for keeping hormone levels in check. In fact, the body actually needs cholesterol to make progesterone. Enjoying high quality animal fats such as eggs, wild fish, or pasture raised meats can be helpful to support healthy cholesterol levels
Solo forest walks are my fave!

    • Deep breathing: taking long deep breathes throughout the day can be so helpful to ease stress levels. Focus on making your exhales twice as long as your inhales. For example, breathe in for 4 seconds, and breathe out for 8 – feeling your belly rise and then contract while doing so

    • Connecting with nature: walking in the forest, swimming in lakes or the ocean, going for a jog outside, or a weekend hike are just a few great ways to connect with nature to help ease stress

    • Slow movement: walking, yoga, mobility work, light bike rides are all great ways to keep stress levels in check
  • OTHER: 

    • Supplement with Vitamin B6 (in P-5-P form): I always recommend doing so with the care of practitioner 

    • Supplement with Chastetree Berry (Vitex): this is a great supplement to help support progesterone production. It is always best to do this under the care of a health practitioner

    • Ensure adequate estrogen metabolism: there are many ways to do this such as including more liver cleansing foods, supplementing with DIM, and increasing soluble fibre intake 

    • Take a look at other systems in the body: getting comprehensive testing can help to understand other potential reasons of low progesterone such as thyroid imbalances, adrenal fatigue, elevated cortisol, and more! 

Check out my article on How to Reduce Anxiety During Spring for some extra anxiety supporting tools that will help to reduce cortisol levels, allowing our bodies produce adequate amounts of progesterone.


So there we have it, an overview of this ever so important “soothing” hormone, progesterone, along with ways you can help to ensure your levels are in the optimal range.

Keeping progesterone levels in check helps to keep anxiety at bay, you feeling calm and grounded, supports a more regulated (and pain free) cycle, better sleep, and all around assists the body in functioning optimally!

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we dive even DEEPER into the anxiety/ progesterone connection and what you can do about it!

NOTE: this post should not be taken as medical advice. Consult a health care practitioner before making changes.

Lastly, sending a huge thanks to McKenna Garrison for her work on this blog post



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