Today I’ll be sharing some ways to increase progesterone levels naturally. These methods are diet based, but you may also supplement if needed.
How to Increase Progesterone Levels Naturally
Researchers believe that nearly 75% of Americans have a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is vital to allow the body to absorb calcium, regulate the pituitary gland (which regulates hormone levels). When the pituitary gland is not functioning properly, you won’t be able to produce as much of the necessary hormones to keep your reproductive system in working order. The pituitary gland regulates the production of FSH (follicular stimulating), LH (luteinizing), and TSH (thyroid stimulating). These, in turn, regulate the production of estrogen and progesterone.
How Much Magnesium Do You Need?
- Recommended: 320 mg per day but during pregnancy that increases to 450mg per day.
Foods High in Magnesium
If you are deficient, trying to conceive or get pregnant you should take a magnesium supplement along with eating foods rich in magnesium.
- Dark Leafy Greens (Raw Spinach) – 79mg per 100g of Spinach
- Nuts and Seeds (Squash and Pumpkin Seeds) – 534mg per 100g of Pumpkin Seeds
- Fish (Mackerel) – 97mg per 100g of Mackeral
- Whole Grains (Brown Rice) – 44mg per 100g of Brown Rice
- Dark Chocolate – 327mg per 100g of Dark Chocolate
Vitamin C is an ascorbic acid which functions as an antioxidant. Antioxidants work like a defense system, disarming free radicals which are unstable molecules that can damage cell structures. Researchers believe that the ovaries take in ascorbic acid right before ovulation, which then facilitates a strong ovulation. In a 2003 study, women who took Vitamin C had a significant increase in progesterone levels and a higher pregnancy rate than those who did not. Women who took 750 mg of Vitamin C increased their progesterone levels by as much as 77 percent.
How much Vitamin C should you take?
- Minimum: 85 mg per day.
- Recommended: 250–500 mg per day.
- Limit: Do not take more than 1000 mg per day as high dosages of Vitamin C as the body may get acidic. This can dry up your cervical fluid and make your cervical fluid overly acidic which is unfriendly to sperm.
- Unlikely to be enough in your Prenatal Vitamin.
Foods High in Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin so it is very sensitive when the food high in Vitamin C is exposed to air; processed or cooked it immediately begins to lose its Vitamin C. A Danish study showed that if you boil broccoli for only 5 minutes it still loses 36-55% of its Vitamin C 5. So it is vital that you eat raw and fresh fruits and vegetables that are high in Vitamin C.
- Yellow Peppers –300mg per large pepper (Red and Green have less)
- Dark Green Leafy Vegetables (Kale) – 120mg per 100g of Kale
- Kiwi – 64mg per Kiwi
- Broccoli – 89.2mg per 100g of Broccoli
- Oranges – 69.7mg per Orange
Another vitamin that has been definitely shown to help increase levels of progesterone in the blood naturally is Vitamin B6. Getting enough of this vitamin is vitally important when trying to conceive as it helps to regulate your hormones. On research study has shown that taking Vitamin B6 at doses of 200-800 mg/day can reduce blood estrogen levels, increase progesterone levels and result in improvements in PMS symptoms 6. Research has also shown that women with high levels of Vitamin B6 have lowered their chances of miscarriage by 50% and improved their fertility by 120%.
How Much Vitamin B6 Do You Need?
- Minimum: 1.9 mg per day.
- Recommended: 10 mg per day. Can increase to 50mg when short-term booster is needed.
- Limit: Don’t exceed 100 mgs per day as it can lead to nerve damage.
- Unlikely to be enough in your Prenatal Vitamin
Foods High in Vitamin B6
Like Vitamin C, Vitamin B is also water soluble and is very sensitive to heat. With Vitamin B1, Vitamin B12 (or folic acid) being the most sensitive. So you should try to eat the food in its most natural state possible. It’s hard to consume high levels of Vitamin B6 from food alone so you should use a vitamin supplement. When consuming higher doses of Vitamin B6 you should also take a B complex vitamin as the high levels of B6 can hide a deficiency in some of the other B Vitamins.
- Sunflower Seeds –35mg per 100g
- Pistachio Nuts – 1.12 mg per 100g
- Fish (Tuna) – 1.04mg per 100g (cooked)
- Turkey – 0.81mg per 100g (cooked)
- Dried Fruit (Prunes) – 0.75mg per 100g
Zinc acts on multiple organs of the body that are implicated in progesterone production including the pituitary gland and your ovaries. It increases your levels of follicle stimulating hormone by prompting the pituitary gland to release follicle stimulating hormones, which in turn causes ovulation and also stimulating the ovaries to produce estrogen and progesterone.
How Much Zinc Do You Need?
- Recommended: 15-25 mg per day, 30 mg for vegetarians.
- Limit: 40 mg per day, too high a dose can actually decrease immunity.
- There usually is enough in your Prenatal Vitamin (but not always).
Foods High in Zinc
- Seafood (Cooked Oysters) – 78.6mg per 100g
- Lean Beef – 12.3mg per 100g
- Wheat Germ – 16.7mg per 100g
- Pumpkin and Squash Seeds – 10.3mg per 100g
- Nuts (Cashews) – 5.6mg per 100g
To understand how L-arginine helps increase your progesterone levels you need to understand how ovulation works. Before ovulation, your mature egg is wrapped in a follicle for protection. Think of it like an apple with only one seed in it. Each cycle these follicles grow because of a hormone called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). However, only one follicle is selected for ovulation and the rest is reabsorbed by the ovaries. The selected follicle grows to be about 20 mm in diameter, or about the size of a large grape. This process takes about two weeks and culminates in ovulation.
When you ovulate the egg bursts out of the follicle and starts to make its way down your fallopian tube to your uterus. The follicle remains in your ovary but now becomes known as the corpus luteum. It is the corpus luteum which produces the progesterone to maintain a thick endometrial lining in your uterus which is vital for a healthy pregnancy. Once the corpus luteum has decayed after about 14 days then you stop producing progesterone, causing your uterus to shed your endometrial lining causing your period.
So what does L-arginine have to do with the corpus luteum?
L-arginine is an amino acid that creates nitric oxide, which widens and relaxes arteries and blood vessels, increasing blood flow in your body. During the corpus luteum’s short lifespan it “receives the greatest rate of blood flow per unit of tissue of any organ in the body” 8. This blood is what keeps the corpus luteum secreting progesterone during the two week period after you ovulate. Other benefits of this increased blood flow are the improved production of cervical fluid, improved egg quality and in the case of men increased sperm production.
If however, the corpus luteum isn’t getting enough blood flow it will decay early resulting in it stopping to secrete progesterone before it should. This can cause you to have a short luteal phase and estrogen dominance towards the end of your cycle as a result of your lower progesterone levels.
In the January 2009 issue of the “Journal of Ovarian Research”, a study showed that 100% of the women had improved corpus luteum blood flow and 71% had improved progesterone levels when they took 6 grams per day of L-arginine.
How Much L-Arginine Do You Need?
- Recommended: Dosage varies widely but you should look to consume 3-6g per day, but you shouldn’t go over 60g per day.
Foods High in L-Arginine
Typically anything high in protein is also high in L-Arginine. You can also find L-arginine supplements in most health food stores, however, most prenatal vitamins don’t contain it.
- Turkey – One turkey breast contains 16 grams of L-arginine
- Chicken – One chicken breast contains 9 grams of L-arginine
- Pumpkin Seeds – One cup of pumpkin seeds contains 7 grams of arginine.
- Peanuts – A cup of peanuts contains 4.6 grams of arginine.
- Chickpeas – If you don’t eat meat chickpeas or garbanzo beans are a great option. One cup of cooked chickpeas contains 1.3 grams of arginine, 14.5 grams of protein, and 12.5 grams of dietary fiber.
Like L-Arginine, it is believed that Vitamin E works by increasing luteal blood flow which can lengthen the luteal phase and increase egg quality.
In the same Journal of Ovarian Research study, it found that women treated with 600 mg of Vitamin E per day improved corpus luteum blood flow in 83% of patients and improved progesterone in 67% of the women.
How Much Vitamin E Do You Need?
- Recommended: 100-130 mg per day.
- Limit: 1,000 mg per day.
- It is likely that your prenatal vitamin doesn’t contain enough.
Foods High in Vitamin E
- Nuts (Almonds) – 2mg per 100g of Almonds
- Sunflower Seeds – 3mg per 100g of Sunflower Seeds
- Shellfish (Shrimp) – 2mg per 100g of Shrimp
- Fish (Trout) – 8mg per 100g of Trout
- Plant Oil (Olive Oil) – 4mg per 100g of Olive Oil
Some herbs may also increase your progesterone levels quite naturally. One such herb is chaste berry, which is also known as vitex. Chasteberry, or Vitex, is a small brown berry believed anciently to calm sexual desire. It is believed to stimulate progesterone production and reduce the levels of estrogen in your blood by suppressing prolactin levels in the body, known to cause irregular menstrual cycles. Herbalists believe chasteberry to be a natural source of progesterone and can be taken as an extract, tincture, or pill. However, you should avoid chasteberry if you are taking any kind of hormonal birth control, if you are pregnant, or if you are currently taking medications to increase your chances of getting pregnant.