Many women have found that taking small amounts of natural bio-identical progesterone relieves many of the symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause itself. This observation may suggest that they have an underlying adrenal cortisol imbalance that is contributing to the symptoms in the first place.
Progesterone has distinct effects on reproduction but also influences almost all tissues in the body. It is important in helping calm the brain for sleep and in priming cells to be stimulated by estrogen.
This latter function is particularly important with age as estrogen levels decline. If progesterone levels have declined more so, cells are not adequately “primed” and do not become stimulated by estrogen. The net outcome is an exaggerated estrogen deficiency effect. This is why taking small amounts of natural progesterone actually relieves many of the symptoms thought to be caused by estrogen deficiency.
So what does all of this have to do with the adrenal glands? After all, progesterone is made in the ovaries. Actually, like many hormones, progesterone is made in multiple tissues in the body. The second greatest amount in young women is made in the adrenal glands. The majority of this progesterone is used to make cortisol, but some become available to contribute to the other cells in the body.
In young women the vast amount of progesterone available to the body comes from ovarian production as the graphic below shows.
This balance gradually shifts towards a general decline in ovarian production but the contribution from the adrenal glands should be maintained. With this combination, the adrenal glands become the dominant source of progesterone as menopause progresses.
Healthy progesterone balance going into perimenopause is dependent on healthy adrenal gland function. Stressed adrenal glands result in greater symptoms during this transition. Those who are having a symptomatic transition should consider having their adrenal function tested.