Normally a hormone for pregnancy, it’s also essential for men.
Story: Joy Stephenson-Laws
If you are a woman trying to get pregnant and are reading online about fertility, you have likely come across several articles about progesterone. Sometimes called “the pregnancy hormone,” progesterone is essential before and during pregnancy.
Before pregnancy, progesterone thickens the uterine lining in order to provide a supportive environment for a fertilized egg. During pregnancy, progesterone continues to provide a good environment for a growing fetus. Some researchers believe progesterone may even help prevent miscarriages by encouraging the uterine lining to secrete more nutrients, providing food for an embryo in its first weeks of development.
With menopause, progesterone levels drop, which is why this hormone is sometimes used by doctors in hormone replacement therapy to treat symptoms of menopause.
But this reproductive hormone is not exclusive to women. It is not just a “pregnancy hormone.”
Males produce progesterone in the adrenal glands and testes. And although progesterone is mainly a female hormone, men also need optimal levels of progesterone to produce adequate testosterone. Testosterone is necessary for sex drive, sperm production, muscle mass/strength, fat distribution, bone density, and red blood cell production in men.
“Other progesterone effects in men include those on the central nervous system (CNS), including blocking of gonadotropin secretion, sleep improvement, and effects on tumors in the CNS (meningioma, fibroma), as well as effects on the immune system, cardiovascular system, kidney function, adipose tissue (body fat), behavior, and respiratory system,” the National Institutes of Health reports.
The normal ranges for progesterone in men is less than 1 ng/mL, compared to non-menopausal women whose levels may vary from 1 ng/mL to 90 ng/mL depending on the stage of menstrual cycle or pregnancy.
Symptoms of low progesterone in men may include: low libido, hair loss, weight gain, fatigue, depression, gynecomastia (breast development in men), erectile dysfunction, impotence, bone loss, and muscle loss.
In addition, men with low progesterone levels have a higher risk of osteoporosis, arthritis, prostate cancer, and prostatism, an obstruction of the bladder neck, usually due to an enlarged prostate gland.
Progesterone also may have a major impact on the brain. Progesterone also has potent non-reproductive effects in the brain, too.
“Sex steroid hormones like estrogen and progesterone are made from cholesterol and travel in the blood. They easily cross through cell membranes, as well as through the blood brain barrier, which only allows certain molecules to get into the brain. Once inside the central nervous system, the hormones act as receptor targets and trigger changes, such as increasing or decreasing protein and neurotransmitter levels, which significantly affects many brain structures and functions,” the NIH states.
When men age, testosterone begins to decline and progesterone levels get significantly lower. Diet, stress, and fatigue may affect the production of progesterone as well.
So how can men be proactive about increasing progesterone levels?
“While foods don’t necessarily contain progesterone, some foods may help stimulate the body’s production of progesterone,” according to Healthline.
Beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, nuts, pumpkin, spinach, and whole grains are examples of these foods.
Doctors say some foods are also associated with lowering the amount of estrogen in the body, which could increase the ratio of progesterone to estrogen. These foods include bananas, cabbage, shellfish, and walnuts. It’s also important to remember that smoking may cause an imbalance in endocrine homeostatis.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms discussed or something feels “off” about your health, consider getting your hormone levels tested. You may also want to consider getting your thyroid and nutrient levels checked.
Enjoy your healthy life!