Estrogen effects?

by Jenna
(Albuquerque, NM, USA)

I am 37 years old and had been experiencing worsening estrogen dominance symptoms each month, especially fatigue and migraines. I decided to try progesterone cream this month and, following the instructions on the tube, began on day 10. (After reading your site, I now think this was too early as I have always had a very regular 28 day cycle).
I began with only 20mg/day and experienced pretty intense side effects (migraine and severe anxiety), I upped the dose as you suggested and found what seemed to be a good balance at 120mg/day. I had found that applying 50mg about every 5 or 6 hours worked best to keep away the migraines that I would still feel coming on. This seemed to work very well. The migraines never developed and I felt better than I had in months.
But all of that changed yesterday. If all is still on track, my menstrual cycle should begin tomorrow and yesterday I got hit with a whopper of a migraine that the progesterone cream did not derail (I even ended up using 180mg). The migraine and related symptoms (nausea, etc.) are still with me today, though less severe.
I'm quite confused now and would love some advice. The migraine I got yesterday was worse than any I've had in years and I can't help wondering if the use of progesterone cream is worth it. Is this just my body adjusting to the cream and symptoms will get better? Should I continue next month?

Thank you so much for your help!

Comments for Estrogen effects?

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Dec 07, 2011
Will period start?
by: Jenna

My other question is: will my period be delayed or prevented if I continue the progesterone cream? I had read to stop using it a day or two before your period starts, but this is right when I have the premenstrual migraine.

Dec 07, 2011
Don't cycle
by: Annette Canada

Hi Jenna I would reccomend you don't cycle the cream for a few months and use it everyday until your symptoms settle down. You are just experiencing estrogen dominance and it can take awhile to settle down. You have to make progesterone the dominant hormone and you will have a bit of a fight to get there. I don't know the brand of cream you are using but Wray recommends 200 milligrams to start. If you need more use more, you will have to find a livable amount. I use mine all day long just to keep my symptoms at bay. It's important to use 5000 iu's of vitamin d a day. I hope this helps until Wray can respond.

Dec 07, 2011
Re: Don't cycle
by: Jenna

Thanks Annette! I really appreciate your help!

The brand I've been using is Progesterall. I have another question for you. Do you use the same amount all month? Since estrogen naturally peaks just before ovulation, I wondered if I would need to increase the amount of progesterone used at that time to counteract it.
Thanks again!

Dec 08, 2011
Estrogen effects?
by: Wray

Hi Jenna I do agree with Annette, consider using the progesterone daily for 2-3 months until things settle down. I don't advise using progesterone in the follicular phase if symptoms are mild, it's best to follow the cycle pattern. But if oestrogen is high, very large amounts of progesterone are needed to suppress it. Plus stopping to take the customary break allows oestrogen to rise again. It's evident you do have excess oestrogen, migraines are one indication, its an inflammatory hormone. And using such a small amount of progesterone would have made matters worse, as this stimulates oestrogen. Progesterone peaks mid luteal phase, this is always, in all women ±7 days before bleeding. Unfortunately oestrogen also peaks then. Normally the amount of progesterone we make counters the rise of oestrogen, so no unpleasant symptoms occur. But if the corpus luteum makes insufficient progesterone, all hell can break loose. The amount of oestrogen you are producing in this phase seems to be high, so you will need more progesterone than the 120mg/day you were using. Once the inflammation process has started, it takes a great deal more progesterone to reduce it. As you found even the 180mg/day didn't help. To save on cost I suggest you use 120mg/day during the follicular phase, as you found this helped. And then increase to at least 200mg/day as Annette suggests, for the remaining 14 days. Possibly increasing further if any sign of a migraine occurs the few days before bleeding. To reassure you, progesterone is helpful for migraines, see here, here, here, here, here and here. Another bit of advice Annette gave which is so good, please take vitamin D. It's best to have a test done first to find your level, most of us have far too little. Vitamin D is also helpful for migraines, see here, here and here. Continued below. Take care Wray

Dec 08, 2011
Estrogen effects?
by: Wray

Hi Jenna For more info on levels, testing etc see the Vitamin D Council, GrassrootsHealth, Birmingham Hospital and Vitamin D Links websites. Blood levels should be 70-100ng/ml or 175-250nmol/L and not the 30ng/ml or 75nmol/L most labs and doctors regard as adequate. And the minimum daily dose should be 5000iu's per day, although the latest research indicates it should be 10,000iu's per day, see here. Vitamin D is a potent anti-inflammatory, as is progesterone. But a lack of vitamin D reduces the benefits of progesterone. Your cycle could become erratic, or continue it's normal path, impossible to tell. But there's no harm in using it while bleeding. finally please read our page on Oestrogen Dominance as this can occur when increasing progesterone. Take care Wray

Dec 08, 2011
Don't cycle
by: Wray

Hi Annette Many thanks! Take care Wray

Dec 09, 2011
Re: Estrogen effects?
by: Jenna

I can't thank you enough for your help! You are truly a lifesaver! I ordered a vitamin D test and am looking forward to those results. I have been taking 4000 iu/day, but I've been feeling like this wasn't enough especially since I haven't spent any time outside lately.

As for the progesterone cream, I've upped it to 200 mg/day and I think I will just continue with this amount straight through for a couple cycles because I'm really afraid of another a week-long migraine (that was brutal!). And then I might try decreasing it to 120 mg during the follicular phase as you suggested. I do have another question, however. I remember reading somewhere that using the cream every day without a break decreases your body's sensitivity to progesterone cream and it will stop working. Is this true? I REALLY don't want that to happen.

Thanks again! And thanks for your entire website!

Dec 10, 2011
Re: Estrogen effects?
by: Wray

Hi Jenna I'm so pleased you've ordered the vitamin D test, I wish everyone would! I have mine done every 6 months or so, levels can fluctuate without us realising. Thousands of studies are coming out now on it's benefits, many believing a lack causes most of our modern diseases including cancer and heart disease. And I'm delighted you've upped the progesterone and will be using the higher amount continuously too. Cost is always a factor for many people, but to my mind worth it in the long run. See how you get on, not forgetting Oestrogen Dominance can come out of the blue, particularly if you experience any stress. This drops progesterone levels causing symptoms to come back. I really need to do a page on the saturation issue, I get asked the question so frequently. I have used it continuously for 15 years, many women I know do, none of us have had to increase the amount because it wasn't working. Or take a break from it to re-sensitise the receptors. I know this wouldn't stand up in a court of law, but it satisfies me, and I won't stop! Although I have only found one paper to date which backs up my argument, see here. It states…" Despite the low serum progesterone levels achieved with the creams, salivary progesterone levels are very high, indicating that progesterone levels in serum do not necessarily reflect those in tissues." If the fatty tissues were indeed saturated, and little progesterone was 'escaping', the study would have found the reverse, i.e. low saliva levels. From Saliva Tests we run, it's evident the progesterone is getting around. The tests are done by a naturopath in the UK, and she does a before and after test for comparison. You'll see levels have risen dramatically, but more to the point the women were feeling well. Bless you for the kind words!! Take care Wray

Dec 12, 2011
Re: Estrogen effects?
by: Jenna

Thank you again for all your help! I've got a couple more questions, but nothing urgent as I know you have a slew of other questions to answer.

First question...as I mentioned before, I'm up to 200mg of cream per day. As I was working my way up to 200 mg from 120 mg (which I did over the course of about a week) I went through a rough period of intense anxiety/panic attacks. I understand this is an estrogen dominance symptom from increasing the dose, but what I'm wondering is: if I feel a migraine coming on and need to increase my dose to stave it off is it likely (based on your experience) that I will experience the anxiety if I only do the increase for one day?

Second question...I was thinking about supplementing with l-theanine as part of a stress reducing program (because I know stress negatively affects progesterone levels) but I wanted to make sure that it was okay to take l-theanine with progesterone. I did an internet search on it and came up with nothing.

Dec 12, 2011
Re: Estrogen effects?
by: Wray

Hi Jenna In a way it's a pity you took time increasing the amount, as it would increase oestrogen dominance. Best if you'd gone straight up to the 200mg, although even doing this is no guarantee! Going to 400mg/day would have in all likelihood prevented any anxiety/panic attacks. I admire your perseverance though. It's best to stay on a very high amount if you feel a migraine coming, don't do it for just one day. I really feel 400mg/day would be the answer for a few days, then reduce gradually down to the 120mg. For instance if you feel any sign of one coming say 2-3 days before you bleed, increase immediately. Then when symptoms ease or have gone, begin reducing slowly. This should bring you back to the ±120mg shortly after you stop bleeding. It's impossible for me to give you exactly what's best, I wish I could. As it's subjective, only you can tell the severity of the attack and how to handle it. Theanine won't affect progesterone adversely, it is very calming too. Principally found in tea, it's not one of the amino acids humans need for healing and repair. But in terms of stress the amino acid which is needed by humans, is tyrosine. Although a non-essential amino acid, tyrosine is one of the most important. It's the precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine, and the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline. It's also the precursor to the two thyroid hormones T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), plus melanin, the pigment found in hair and skin. It's part of the enkephalin peptide involved in regulating and reducing pain, and increasing pleasure. Lack of protein and stress lower tyrosine levels, with a subsequent reduction in dopamine and noradrenaline. A drop in dopamine increases levels of prolactin, the hormone of lactogenesis, but also an inflammatory hormone. Dopamine is essential for a normal sexual response, increased prolactin causes a drop in libido. Tyrosine is essential for any stressful situation, cold, fatigue, emotional trauma, prolonged work, sleep deprivation, it improves memory, cognition and physical performance, and is used for weight loss treatments. Acute, uncontrollable stress depletes noradrenaline, leading to depression and a rise in corticosterone, tyrosine reverses this. The rate limiting step in dopamine synthesis is the enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase. Insufficient levels of vitamin D inhibit tyrosine hydroxylase, resulting in a disturbance in the dopamine pathway. This is essential for motivation and vitality, levels rise when rewarded, resulting in feelings of pleasure. If you should consider taking tyrosine, see our page on Natural Antidepressants for info on how to take it. Do let me know how you get on. Take care Wray

Dec 15, 2011
Update
by: Jenna

Just wanted to give an update. I used the cream at 200mg/day for several days, but the anxiety was just not going away. Yesterday I felt what seemed to be a migraine coming on so I upped my dose to 300mg. (I know you suggested upping it to 400mg if I felt a migraine coming on, but I'm a chicken) The migraine went away/never happened. But today, I feel worse than I ever remember feeling in my life. I'm so sleepy, but the anxiety is still there which makes for an awful combination. I'm also feeling depressed and weepy. I've never before experienced depression in my life. And I also have pretty bad diarrhea. Despite the anxiety, the rest of my symptoms make me think I've used too much progesterone. My plan as of now is to stay with the 300mg/day for a few days to see if the symptoms resolve, but now I'm even more afraid to consider upping the dose to 400mg/day if migraine comes back. It's becoming a challenge not to get frustrated.

Dec 16, 2011
Update
by: Wray

Hi Jenna The early days can be a trial, you've only been using it for about a month now, if I'm correct. It can take 3 months, in Annette's case although she's getting better, she's still battling 11 months later. But she does live in Canada, so her vitamin D level was far too low once she had it checked. This does affect progesterone, reducing it's benefit. You live in NM, so will have plenty of sun, unless you spend much time indoors, or use sunscreen. I'm pleased the 300mg prevented the migraine, this means you won't have to use 400mg to prevent them. I can only give guide lines, I wish I could help by saying x number of mg is all you need. But progesterone doesn't work like that. The symptoms you're experiencing are all caused by excess oestrogen. It's essential to make progesterone the dominant hormone to stop or reduce them. I wish it was an easy road but for some it isn't. You might like to read these comments on other users who had many ups and downs, see here, here, here, here, here and here. The diarrhoea is interesting, oestrogen causes cells to retain water, see here. The water comes from the bowels. Please see this comment here. Continued below.

Dec 16, 2011
Update Part 2
by: Wray

Hi Jenna Progesterone is an excellent diuretic, so good about 1200mg/day is now given via IV transfusion to TBI victims to prevent inflammation and oedema forming, see here, here and here. You're idea of using the 300mg/day is good, you obviously don't need the higher amount to prevent the migraines. But please stay on it for longer than a few days, just see how you feel. Please consider having a vitamin D test done, and taking the tyrosine too. We have more info on our Anxiety page. Take care Wray

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