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In the exercise for hormone balance scheme of things you are not a textbook exercise prescription. Progesterone is a trick to figure out sometimes. The signs can be similar to adrenal fatigue, premenstrual syndrome, or just the chronic fatigue you’ve learned to tolerate. This episode I dive into exercise for hormone balance and how it relates to progesterone.

What it is and what it does:

  • Anti-inflammaty hormone
  • Calming, soothing effect
  • Raises serotonin levels in the brain
  • Helps cope with depression and insomnia

Poor progesterone could be the forgotten hormone. Estrogen and testosterone and cortisol steal the attention. Because of that, this may be news to you. During menopause low progesterone levels can occur.

Estrogen dominance occurs when progesterone is low – since these two need to be on a balanced relationship.

Symptoms of low progesterone:

  • Tiredness
  • Irritation
  • Anxiety
  • Weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Body not functioning well, more seriously, cancer
  • Spotting before your period should start. That can be caused by other things so you may want to check with a physician about the reason.

Therapeutic solutions:

Progesterone therapy, pills or oil compounds

Taking your temperature daily can help if you’re still ovulating.

Progesterone rises after ovulation, and stays up until your next period (about 11-14 days). If your temperature doesn’t rise or stay up (a short phase), then you could have a progesterone deficiency.

In You Still Got It, Girl and the After 50 Fitness Formula for Women course you will chart your temperature (along with half a dozen other measures) for 30 days to check hormone fluctuations and thyroid function. In addition to seeking exercise for hormone balance, it’s important first to know which hormones need balancing.

You can test using progesterone strips.

Reasons for low progesterone:

  • High estrogen
  • Lack of physical activity and unhealthy nutrition
  • Insulin resistance
  • Chronic stress
  • Medications – hormone therapies and steroids, oral contraceptives, and some other medications block production of progesterone.
  • Age – between 35 and 50 estrogen levels drop by 35 percent but progesterone levels plummet by as much as 75 percent.

Estrogen dominance can cause:

  • Stomach pains
  • Hot flashes
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain

Progesterone oils can be massaged into the skin, injected into muscle, or taken in pill form. Like most things, more is not better. Work with a doctor if you’re at the point lifestyle modifications haven’t helped to you have medical supervision.

Natural progesterone boosts

  • Eat more foods with zinc, selenium (brazil nuts), magnesium (details below)
  • Herbal remedies
  • Vitamin supplements – especially B and C
  • Rest to deal with stress – focus on yoga, restorative exercise to replace all or most of your high intensity training. Shorter and fewer bouts of HIIT and short but effective weight training along with nurturing walks, restorative yoga, and rest is best.
  • No foods contain progesterone but you can eat foods that help your body increase progesterone levels.
  • Eat foods that help reduce excess estrogen.
  • Reduce your stress levels and you naturally increase progesterone.
  • Body fat produces excess estrogen, so losing fat is a focus, but avoiding high stress means of doing it is key.

Potentially, the intuitive option of cutting calories, trying to exercise more may contribute to worsening symptoms as you increase cortisol and chronic stress on your body. It’s a collective measure of your mental, physical, and emotional stress that matters. Exercise for hormone balance often means rest before movement or light movement before exercise.

What I find works well for women who love to exercise is having a plan. Exercise for hormone balance is not random. It will take discipline to either slow down or change your routine. When you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, or putting on belly fat and bloating, it is easier to accept that what you’re doing isn’t working. Surrender to a plan that supports you feeling better – filling that hole that’s been dug – so you can get your energy back by balancing your hormones.

Be sure your diet is rich in foods containing these micronutrients:

  • Magnesium: dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, fish (mackerel), brown rice, dark chocolate
  • Vitamin C: kiwi, dark green leafy veggies, yellow peppers, broccoli
  • B6: sunflower seeds, pistachio nuts, fish, turkey
  • Zinc: cooked oysters, lean beef, pumpkin seeds, cashews
  • L-Arginine: turkey, chicken, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas
  • Vitamin E: almonds, sunflower seeds, shrimp, olive oil

Other things to consider:

The herb Chasteberry: Avoid if you’re taking hormonal birth control or trying to get pregnant

Progesterone cream: natural with no plant estrogens, Mexican yam cream or wild yam, and look for something enriched with vitamin E

Foods that increase estrogen dominance: (avoid these)

  • Sugars
  • Sweeteners
  • Preservatives
  • Artificial colorings
  • Plastics – including bottled water, plastic wrap on food, never microwave food in them or leave water bottles in the car exposed to sunlight and redrink, Just sitting for a long time plastics start to break down and the chemicals leech into foods. Store your foods in glass rather than plastic.
  • Hormone-laden meat Buy hormone-free meat and organic foods whenever you can. When something is “huge in size but very cheap and potentially if you’ve tried it, has very little flavor, it’s been treated with hormones and pesticides.

Another reason for fiber.

The amount of time food has to pass through your body can influence how much excess estrogen you have. The longer food sits in your bowel the more estrogen is re-absorbed into your body. Definitely exercise for hormone balance will get things moving too but get that fiber in.

Your liver filters all the chemicals you might have eaten or are still eating. Help it by reducing chemicals and increasing foods that help the liver function:

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Egg yolk
  • Spinach
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Lemons
  • Limes

Another reason to whine about wine

  • Alcohol impacts your estrogen metabolism. If you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, here is:
  • So does coffee.

Stress

Get into flow. Lose your sense of time. (Wouldn’t that be nice?) Stressors and stressful events are not going to go away. If however, you’re good at making them worse through worrying or making them all your business though they’re not, then this is where you need to spend time. You don’t have to sit and meditate. You don’t have to do yoga. You do have to identify what makes you truly lose your sense of time and do more of it. For some it is a hobby like knitting or scrapbooking.

Fat cells convert testosterone into excess estrogen.

So yes, exercise, and eat right. Crash dieting or missing the valuable nutrients above though will worsen not help. Over exercising will also cause a downward spiral.

Reducing cortisol and stress overall is part of a hormone balancing exercise reset. That means temporarily less exercise– a lot less – is going to be your best friend. What you may also realize is to get back to the kind of shape you were once in you can’t do the kind of exercise you once did.

SAMPLE Week 1 of exercise for hormone balance:

  • Walk /hike
  • Yoga
  • Garden
  • Spring Clean your house (oddly- the act of doing this is exercise AND organizing your environment helps you reduce clutter mentally too)

Avoid & reduce:

  • Screens
  • Processed food, sugars, artificial sweeteners
  • Plastics

Improve:

  • Your bedtime routine
  • Take responsibility and plan your actions.

Small weekly changes can make a big difference in your energy. 

Resources mentioned:

You Still Got It, Girl book

After 50 Fitness Formula for Women course

Progesterone test strips

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