Every month, the hypothalamus secretes gonadotropin-releasing hormones, which stimulates the pituitary gland to produce follicular stimulating hormones (FSH). FSH stimulates the ovaries to produce estrogen and progesterone. The hypothalamus also secretes corticotrophin-releasing hormones, which stimulates the pituitary to produce more adrenocorticotropic hormones (ACTH), which in turn stimulates the adrenal gland to produce cortical, progesterone and other hormones. Therefore, although the ovaries produce most of our progesterone, a small portion of progesterone comes from the adrenal glands. Estrogen has a stimulating effect, while progesterone has a relaxing effect. In order to achieve the balance between these two very important hormones, we have to optimize the ovaries and adrenal gland functions.
Progesterone has the following functions:
- Progesterone protects against fibrocystic breasts and maintains the endometrium. If progesterone is not sufficient compared to estrogen, women tend to develop more breast cysts. The cysts have the potential to become malignant if there is chronic inflammation inside the cysts.
- Progesterone increases the tone of the blood vessels. If we do not have sufficient progesterone, women tend to develop varicose veins. That is why more and more women show varicose veins after menopause or after childbirth.
- Progesterone is a natural diuretic. If it is not sufficient, women tend to develop swelling of the ankles, knees and other joints especially before their period.
- Progesterone stimulates bone cells to produce new bone. Cortisone can block the bone-building effects of progesterone. If you develop any pain in a joint during the menopausal period, it is not wise to get cortisone shots because of the possible side effects. Cortisone can damage bone and connective tissues. When you reach the age of menopause, you are more vulnerable to the side effects of cortisone shots due to a sharp drop in progesterone levels.
Estrogen has the following functions:
- Estrogen can enhance our brain activities, while progesterone makes us calm and happy. Too much progesterone can cause fatigue and lethargy; on the other hand, too much estrogen can cause anxiety and panic attacks.
- Estrogen enhances the body’s immune functions while progesterone suppresses them. That is why if our progesterone level is too low, our body will attack a fetus as a foreign entity, which can lead to a miscarriage. During menopause, if your estrogen level is relatively high compared to your progesterone level (even though the total amount of estrogen is lower than before), your immune system can become out of balance. Around puberty, perimenopause or menopause, women tend to develop various autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematous, Hashimoto’s diseases, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis.
- Estrogen helps to store fat tissue while progesterone has the opposite effect on the body. If our estrogen level is too high compared to our progesterone level, it becomes very challenging to lose weight. We have often heard some women complaining about how difficult it is to lose extra weight around the waist area after childbirth. This estrogen-dominant condition (when the estrogen level in our body is relatively high compared to the progesterone level) changes our metabolism. After we eat, our cells will quickly store the blood sugar as fat tissue instead of using that sugar to produce more energy. Then our blood sugar levels drop quickly and we need another meal to maintain our sugar levels. Acupuncture can improve the functions of our ovaries and adrenal glands, causing them to produce more progesterone, which improves our metabolism. When our progesterone is balanced with our estrogen, we do not crave sweets. When we eat healthy food, our blood sugar goes up slowly and stays there for about three to four hours; our cells use the blood sugar to produce heat to warm up our bodies and to help us do all of our mental and physical activities. Our circulation will be in a better condition. We will not have swollen knees or ankles or many dilated small blood vessels, such as spider veins.
- Estrogen decreases the elimination rate of testosterone, while progesterone enhances it. When estrogen is not balanced with progesterone, women can develop more facial hair, swelling of the face, increased muscle tone and deepened voices. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, where many cysts are growing in the ovaries, is associated with this estrogen- dominant condition.
Acupuncture, herbs, meditation, Tai Ji, Qi Gong and yoga helps redirect energy and blood flow to the ovaries and adrenal gland, so the ovaries can produce balanced hormones. Furthermore, acupuncture can reduce stress levels instantly. Because the stress hormone cortisol shares the same precursor as progesterone, when you are more stressed, less progesterone is produced. By reducing stress, acupuncture increases the production of progesterone. Sufficient progesterone is the key factor for women to stay calm and be happier. That is why menopausal women tend to develop anxiety due to the dropping of the progesterone. There is research showing that insufficient progesterone may be associated with autism since progesterone is critical for a fetus to develop a healthy brain. The use of birth control pills for the past twenty years may contribute to insufficient progesterone levels, thus causing infertility.