Progesterone: A Side Effect

As long as I’ve been reading and listening to the work of Ray Peat I’ve been hearing that progesterone has no side effects.  Progesterone is “safe in large amounts (except…can be anesthetic if hundreds of milligrams are taken at once),” Peat himself said to me in an email.

I beg to differ.

The hot flashes that I’ve been experiencing for the last 2 months became troublesome for me.  They were long, intense, and were paired with rage at times.  I couldn’t understand why I was having them – doesn’t progesterone supplementation fool your body into thinking you’re not experiencing perimenopause (or real menopause, for that matter)?  Things had been going well, and I was confused, so I asked Dr. Peat about it.  His response:

Some things that reduce hot flashes for some people are supplementing pregnenolone, interrupting the progesterone each cycle, using cynoplus only in the evenings, increased salt, and coffee. The natural ovarian cycle gives the liver time to adjust its enzymes, and with continuous progesterone supplements, the liver enzymes excrete progesterone more quickly, and weaken its effects.

I thought that was interesting about liver enzymes….maybe I was having hot flashes because I’d been dosing every day instead of just the last 2 weeks of my cycle.  I did this knowingly, attempting to reverse the hyper-estrogenation I’d inflicted on my body with the stupid and dangerous Wiley Protocol.  Of course, taking hormones in a non-physiological way is likely to cause problems at some point, so perhaps that’s what was going on.

I stopped taking the progesterone for a few days.  The hot flashes got worse.  This led me to believe it WAS perimenopause I was dealing with.  When the estrogen/progesterone ratio is too heavy in favor of estrogen, symptoms of menopause (or PMS, or other unpleasant things) occur.  So I reversed course.  I figured I’d take a LOT of progesterone, to get the hot flashes to stop.  Then I’d taper down and find my new “normal” dose, after determining the threshold below which they broke through.

So a few days ago I decided to dose 3 drops every 1-2 hours, aiming for about 30 drops across the day.  This would be 100mg of progesterone, about 5 times my normal dose, but according to Peat, still safe.  By 5:00PM I didn’t feel very good – kind of tired and tense.  I was in the habit of taking my blood pressure and pulse because I’d recently started taking beta blockers for my hypertension, which usually runs around 150/95. So I took my blood pressure and it was 165/105 – about 10 points higher than even my normally high BP, with heart rate around 105 (usually around 85).  I checked periodically throughout the evening and it remained high, but the next morning was a bit lower again. 

That next day I did the same thing – 3 drops of Progest E every 1-2 hours.  My hot flashes seemed to be getting less intense, so it seemed like the right thing to do.  Again, around 5PM I started noticing tachycardia.  I took my blood pressure and it was 164/107.  That’s when I started suspecting the progesterone had something to do with this, as I’d changed nothing else in the previous 2 days.

I hit Google and found this article about hypertension that occurs during pregnancy, which states the following:

In an article published in the July 7, 2000, issue of the journal Science, HHMI investigators Richard P. Lifton and Paul B. Sigler and colleagues at Yale University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine report that a mutation renders the mineralocorticoid receptor more sensitive to progesterone, a hormone that is produced in abundance during pregnancy. (…)

When the mineralocorticoid receptor is triggered by aldosterone, its normal binding partner, it switches on the cellular machinery that causes kidney cells to reabsorb more salt, ultimately raising blood pressure. Lifton’s group found that when women who have the faulty receptor undergo the hundred-fold rise in progesterone that occurs during pregnancy, progesterone overstimulates the receptor, causing salt retention, expansion of blood plasma volume and skyrocketing blood pressure.

So what this is saying is that some people have a protein mutation that makes them more sensitive to progesterone.  In such a person, progesterone in high amounts (such as in pregnancy….or, say, when you’re me and desperately trying to make hot flashes disappear) can cause the kidneys to retain more fluid…raising blood pressure.

I should mention, when I was pregnant I developed hypertension (not pre-eclampsia), which led to my daughter being born by C-section 3 weeks before her due date.  My blood pressure was so high she was in distress.  Before that I had not had a problem with high blood pressure, and after the pregnancy my blood pressure returned to normal.

So after finding this article I went to the drugstore and bought some diuretic pills and took one.  Within a few hours my blood pressure returned to it’s “normal” state of hypertension – 150s over 90s, and my pulse was back in the 80s.  I stopped taking the progesterone at that point – I guess that was 3 days ago now.  My hot flashes have almost vanished – just little reminders here and there.  I guess I increased my progesterone level quite a bit and it’s not dropping quickly.

I wrote to Dr. Peat to share this story and the article I found, and to ask if he’s ever encountered anything like this in his research or practice.  I haven’t heard back from him yet.  I’m trying not to make that mean anything.  He must know that everything he puts in print becomes fodder for the public so perhaps he’s choosing his words carefully.  Or maybe he’s off researching the issue intently.  Or maybe he just blew it off because it’s terribly inconvenient to have someone tell you that you were wrong and that in fact SOME people actually do have serious side effects associated with high doses of progesterone.

I developed high blood pressure while living in California, around December of 2012.  At the time I was taking high dose progesterone and estrogen supplements, a la the Wiley Protocol.  I did stop taking those in March 2013, and then there was a period of time when I wasn’t taking any hormone supplements at all, until I started with the Progest E in November 2013.  Looking back at previous blog posts I see I’ve posted various blood pressure measurements over the past year or so:

  • April 2013: 145/88
  • June 2013: 135/83
  • November 2013: 155/109 (had recently started Peat-inspired plan, had increased salt and fluids and was taking Progest E, at a pretty low dose.)

What if progesterone supplementation is behind my high blood pressure?  I wasn’t taking progesterone between April and November, and during that period my blood pressure was lower (according to this blog, anyway), with the exception of the time I tried to drink 100oz of water every day.

I’m sure progesterone is safe for most people…but I’m curious how many people have this mutation?

Am I rare?

New plan: No progesterone supplementation for a while. If I find myself needing it I’ll take a few drops, but no more than 3 per day, and only during the last 2 weeks of my cycle.  Also no more extra salt. I’m also drinking celery juice and taking Hawthorn because I understand these things can be helpful for lowering blood pressure.  I’ve tried 3 different anti-hypertensive medications – 2 caused problematic side effects and one just didn’t work.  I tried everything I’ve seen Peat recommend for high blood pressure (eating MORE salt, high dose vitamin K, bag breathing, more potassium, magnesium/epsom salt baths).

There will be other new plans too.  Stay tuned.

Estrogen Sucks, Part 3

Estrogen still sucks.  It sucked a couple times in December and it still sucks.

I have decided to stop listening to random people on the interwebs.  I get myself in trouble when I see that someone on some facebook group tried something and it worked really really well and hey! maybe I better try that too!  Not good!  Here’s the latest trouble I got myself into:

Someone somewhere thought it would be a good idea to take DIM twice a day along with B6 to get rid of excess estrogen.  For several weeks I’ve been taking DIM once a day, and no B6.  Yesterday was day 3 of this DIM/B6 experiment, and last night I woke up about 53 times.  Then today I was crying and depressed all day.  I was crazy estrogen lady.  I mean, it was so bad I had to tell perfect strangers that I was “hormonal” so they would stop trying to help me.  I was a Mess.  With a capital M.

Also this morning I noticed there were cherry angiomas on my torso that weren’t there last I looked.  Last time I saw those I was experimenting with cold thermogenesis, known for stirring up estrogen.  They went away when I stopped that silliness.

New Rule: Only do supplements that Ray Peat says to do.  No more doing what Jane Schmoe on the internet thinks is awesome.

No more DIM, no more Calcium-D Glucarate.  I’m just going to use progesterone to counter estrogen.

I haven’t had that super duper awesome happy feeling in a while – like over a week and a half.  I blame the unauthorized supplements.

Going to bed.  Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Good Times

I’ll get to the resistant starch stuff…later.  That’s going to take a little research and a little discussion that I’m too tired to articulate right now.  But we’ll get there.

Today, just for a minute, I want to talk about how much better I feel now than I did 2 months ago.  Two people in my life this week commented to me that I’m not moody or depressed anymore.  One of those people has asked me for help with his mood problems. I gave him a Ray Peat-inspired shopping list and told him to buy some lights.

I few months ago when I started following Peat’s recommendations I never felt at peace.  I realize this now only because now I have stretches of time that I feel GREAT.  Like, peaceful and happy and content with my life exactly as it is.  A complete lack of anxiety or depression.  Back in November I started having these moments.  They were fleeting, but they were there.  Just in the last week or so those moments have been lasting longer – for hours sometimes!  I have no idea what is happening biochemically in me that causes that feeling, but it’s fabulous.

This week I got my period and had no PMS.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I had a mood swing that lasted all of 5 minutes which made me cry for no good reason.  That was it.  My PMS used to last days.  DAYS.  And now it’s over in 5 minutes.

Also, this week, my hunger stopped being so crazy.  I feel like a normal person again, and have for the last 5 or 6 days.  No crazy appetite.  WTH?

I’ve got the whole family on the Peat plan now.  I make Peat-friendly meals and we all eat them.  My daughter used to get rashes when she drank milk.  She would get them around her mouth and in random areas on her body.  She also used to have keratosis pilaris (KP) on her arms and cheeks. Turns out that milk doesn’t CAUSE these skin problems…milk causes an increase in nutrient metabolism, requiring more vitamin A.  The deficiency of vitamin A causes skin problems.  Now she gets plenty of vitamin A in her diet and no longer has rashes or KP.  Brilliant!  Thanks for making that clear, Dr. Peat.

Anyway Peat offers no quick fix, no express train to a lean body.  But if your goal is to be happy and to feel at peace, even while carrying those extra pounds, this (for me, anyway) is the way to do it.

I Am a Robot

Huh…I guess I lied about that whole needing a break from blogging thing.  Oh well…I’m sure that’s neither the first nor the last time I’ll do that.  So damn moody.

And speaking of moody, I’ve been learning that I’m a complete and utter robot, and that so much of the discomfort I feel in life comes down to two things – not having enough sugar in my diet and not having enough progesterone in my body.  For long periods of time I’ve been an irritable, tired person — increasingly over the past 2 years, but I’ve had serious bouts before that.  It wasn’t until I learned of the joys of consuming simple sugars that the fatigue started to dissipate, after many months of low-carb.  And it wasn’t till I tried progesterone supplementation (specifically Progest E) that I realized I’m not a jerk.  The estrogen in me is a jerk.  Or maybe the prolactin.  Hard to say – I think they’re in cahoots.

Now, when I get hungry/tired/cold, I drink orange juice or eat sweet fruit, and within 10 minutes I’m satisfied, alert, and warm.  (Juice does the trick faster.)

When I find myself being a bitch, thinking Ray Peat is an idiot, or hating something about my life, I take 6 drops of Progest E and within 20 minutes I’m calm, nice, and happy.  And a much better mom/wife.

It’s fairly amazing.

So next time I’m on here complaining about something, just tell me to go drink some juice and hit the progesterone.

I now accept that I have no free will.

Score 3 for Ray Peat

Yesterday I decided to do some blood glucose (BG) testing while drinking orange juice.  I’ve been turned off from OJ because I tested my BG after drinking it in the morning and it was high – like in the 170s.  I tested again in smaller quantities, but I always felt really hungry after drinking just a little so what’s the point?  Well, I’ve since learned that the hunger you feel when you eat fruit is your true hunger.  Low carb dieting raises stress hormones, which reduce appetite.  No wonder people lose weight on low carb – their cortisol is suppressing their drive to eat.  Until 6 months later when they (might) realize their thyroid doesn’t work anymore.  Anyway, hunger means there are no stress hormones running around, so eat, dummy.  One problem with this though – I have been hesitant to keep eating juice or fruit because I didn’t want my blood sugar to be high all day. What a conundrum!

Well, I decided to turn to science to get some answers.  I drank 12 oz of orange juice at breakfast and then 3-4 oz every hour.  Here were my readings:

  • Fasting blood sugar: 127; Temp/pulse 98.1/79
  • 9:00AM – 172
  • 10:00AM –  139
  • 11:00AM – 115 (temp/pulse was 98.6/79)
  • 12:00 – 115
  • 1:00 – 74 (after 30 minutes mild/moderate exercise)
  • 2:00 – 97
  • 3:00 – 106

Huh.  So for some reason there’s a big spike at first but then blood sugar is low all day.  Weird!  I did it again today to see if the results would replicate.  Had breakfast with about 10oz juice.  Here’s what I got:

  • Fasting – 124; temp/pulse 98.0/85
  • 9:00AM – 119 (tested at 1 hour and 20 minutes after breakfast)
  • 10:00AM – 106 (temp/pulse 98.8/75)
  • 12:00 – 101
  • 1:00 – 107
  • 2:00 – 112

At that point I stopped testing every hour.  Good enough!  I did take one more test though, after 30 minutes of stationary biking.  Blood sugar was 72, similar to the previous day after biking.  I thought it was weird that I didn’t feel hungry at all with blood sugar that low.  Then I remembered…About 10 years ago I used to do martial arts (Aikido).  I would train hard for an hour and a half, and leave the dojo feeling really good, but not hungry.  Then about an hour later I would become ravenously hungry.  Now I understand why!  The workout was causing a stress response – cortisol and/or adrenaline were suppressing my appetite.  After relaxing for an hour or so the stress hormones would lower and my true hunger would be revealed.  This is why Peat (and others) are opposed to exercise – it raises stress hormones.  I guess I knew this intellectually, but it makes a lot of sense now having experienced a complete lack of hunger after exercising, while my blood sugar is getting very low.  Interesting.  I’ve been doing 30 minutes of biking and 15 minutes of yoga per day for the last week.  Maybe instead I’ll do 30 minutes of yoga and 15 minutes of weight lifting.  Less continuous stress.

The other thing on my mind has to do with progesterone.  Ray Peat did an interview that was aired last week, in which he answered lots of questions that had been submitted by listeners.  Well, prior to the interview I submitted a question.  My question appeared in the second hour of the interview, and was as follows:

I’ve recently started taking Progest-E, and it has helped my cyclical mood symptoms very much.  I’ve been taking it days 14-28 of my cycle.  I hate to stop taking it because I have PMS (moodiness) the day after I stop.   Would there be any harm in just continuing to take it non-stop for a while, even if it means I miss a period or two?

Dr. Peat’s answer:

I’ve known quite a few women who took it every day and kept cycling without any problem.  But what they should be aware of is that if you take a little bit extra just before the expected time of ovulation it will trigger early ovulation, and then if you stop taking it or take less it will bring on an early menstruation.  So if you’re going to take it every day, it has to be every day the same amount.

If you’ll remember I really REALLY didn’t want to stop taking my Progest E after day 28 last month. In fact, I kept taking it and taking it and finally stopped against my will to have a period.  Then I started up again on Day 4 of my cycle – a full 10 days before I was supposed to start up – because the symptoms of high estrogen were unbearable.  I was depressed, bitchy, and puffed up.  It sucked.  So I started my progesterone early.  Well, surprise surprise…my period came 10 days early.  And it’s very possible I dosed a little too high before ovulation.  That Ray Peat.  He sure does know some stuff.

More news: after about 10 days of probiotics my gut is still messed up.  I tried taking two teaspoons of potato starch today (far less than the 4 Tbs many people are downing at one time) and still…not good. Gut mad at me.  I don’t know what it will take to fix what is wrong, but I’ll continue with the probiotics for now.

And the orange juice…3-4 oz an hour.

Oh one more thing – suddenly my body is ok with cheese.  I have completely stopped eating fatty chicken and most eggs, cutting my PUFA intake to almost nothing.  Could that be why my asthma isn’t kicking my ass right now?  I had like 4-5 oz of cheese today…and no problems.

Ok, blood sugar…progesterone…and PUFA.   I can’t deny it any more.  All the crap he says is coming true for me.

I think Ray Peat is right.

Estrogen Sucks, Part 2

Have I mentioned that estrogen sucks?  Why yes…yes I did.

It has become very clear that high estrogen is one of my biggest health issues. I’m mad at myself for exacerbating this by ADDING estrogen  (BHRT)…for a period of 8 months (See blog posts between July 2012 – March 2013 for details and to watch my transformation from high-functioning full-time working 182 pound adult to demoralized part-time working 203-pound adult).  On the other hand I’m glad I know what’s really going on with my moods, and now what there is to do is treat it.  I’ve started supplementing with DIM and milk thistle, and have ordered calcium D-glucarate.  Each of these is instrumental in eliminating excess estrogen.  I’m continuing the progesterone (Progest E, 2 doses a day of 10mg each).  Over a period of 2 days my headaches went away, my breast soreness has diminished about 90%, and my dark mood has lifted.

What I don’t understand is why the effects of estrogen have recently gotten so bad.  I’ve never had breast soreness within the first week of my cycle before, I’ve never had headaches associated with hormone changes before, and usually my depression is pre-menstrual, not mid- or post-menstrual.  Why is this happening now?

Bottom line, I’m not sure.  I don’t think it has anything to do with adding progesterone a month ago. This really seems to be an estrogen problem, and progesterone makes it better almost immediately after dosing.  The other thing I changed in the past month is I changed from skim milk to 2% milk for a few weeks, and then gave milk up completely after I realized it was making me asthmatic. I have continued eating cheese though, which doesn’t cause as many problems with my breathing.

I’ve been doing some research:

This study says dietary fat in dairy is a source of estrogenic hormones. This one says that goats milk has much less estrogen than cow’s milk (both regular and organic). This study says both estrogen and progesterone are increased after drinking commercial milk, and this one says there is a “considerable quantity of estrogens” in milk produced from pregnant cows, and that intake of animal products (especially milk and cheese) are highly correlated with hormone-related cancers. (On the other hand, this one is a meta-analysis which indicates dairy product consumption does not lead to breast cancer, and that estrogens in dairy are minute.)

Maybe it’s time to give up cow dairy altogether.  I think it’s also time to add more fiber to my diet – it helps eliminate estrogens so they don’t get reabsorbed into the bloodstream.

Unfortunately, the more I experiment with Ray Peat’s recommended dietary approaches, the more problematic my own symptoms become. I can’t conclusively tie my recent high-estrogen problems with dairy, but I don’t know what else would have caused them.

I think it’s time for me to follow a more conventional high-vegetable/fiber moderate calorie diet, and get a lot more exercise to manage my blood sugar.

Next post: Resistant Starch.  Another experiment in the works.

Estrogen Sucks

It’s become very clear to me over the last several weeks that estrogen completely sucks and progesterone completely rocks. In a healthy young woman they’re ideally balanced and estrogen does important stuff in the body – especially during the reproductive years. I am done reproducing, however, and I have many of the symptoms of estrogen dominance.  I stopped taking Progest E last Wednesday in order to have my period.  I didn’t want to stop, because it had been doing such a great job of managing my typical PMS, anxiety, depression, and I just felt good.  I tried stopping a few days earlier but these symptoms came back and I caved – “Help, save me, Progest E!”  And it did. I had a 37 day cycle because I kept taking progesterone, well past the typical window of “days 14-28”.

But I did force myself to stop taking it, and ever since I’ve been experiencing the effects of all the unopposed estrogen in my body: mood swings, cramps, anxiety, depression, sore swollen breasts, even headaches which I don’t have often.  So now, 4 days into my cycle, I’m hitting the progesterone again.  I don’t care that I’m doing it wrong. I’m listening to my body, and it is begging me to to save it from the estrogen.

These last few days of estrogen-intensity have made me aware that I need to focus more on liver support in order to better clear estrogen.  I think I’m going to go back to the supplements that were recommended by Jack Kruse back when I did a consult with him.  I understand his recommendations so much more now, and they make a lot of sense.  I feel bad that I made so many bad decisions over the last year.  I wonder sometimes if I would have been able to “make it” in California if I hadn’t been taking estrogen supplements.  I think that kind of destroyed me.  I’m just glad I stopped before developing cancer or losing my mind.