progesterone and itching scalp?

by Michele
(Plant City, fl)

Hello,

I have been on and off progesterone for a couple of years. Recently I have tried using a higer dose (400 mg) and using it throughout my cycle. 100 mg for one month after which I increased to 400. When I take progesterone I notice I have an itchy scalp. It is driving me crazy, because I feel like it is going to precede hair loss. When I first increased the dose, it seemed to control things, but it feels particularly bad this cycle. I am 44 and definitely have high estrogen. I did a 24 hr urine test in December and had high estrogen and high cortisol. My naturopath was not sure if the high cortisol was due to conversion from the progesterone. In the past, I have had low cortisol (I got sick about 3 and 1/2 years ago with lyme/chronic fatigue which makes many things screwy in the body). I also have had this itchy scalp feeling when cortisol levels were low, so I can't say it's that. I thought my testosterone would be high, because I've had that in the past, but it was not high. That leads me to believe it is either the progesterone itself or from feeling my high estrogen.

I have lost much hair since getting ill three years ago. I have been having some hair loss recently though I had a period of better hair growth than I've seen in a while about 5 months ago. Thyroid is definitely involved too. Also, my liver struggles and I'm wondering if that's part of the high estrogen equation. Anyway, due to the itchy scalp and fear of further hair loss, I am having a hard time keeping the faith with the progesterone. This is probably my third month with the full month dosing and higher level dosing. I am on many, many nutritive supportive supplements which would take a month to list, but vitamin d is included. I am wondering if you've known other women to have the scalp itch/hair loss problem while taking progesterone, and if so, if it abated after a time. And after how much time? It's difficult for me to tell if I am on the right path with the higher dosing.

Comments for progesterone and itching scalp?

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Feb 11, 2012
progesterone and itching scalp?
by: Wray

Hi Michele I've not heard of progesterone causing an itchy scalp. You say you've been using the higher amount for 3 months now, and you haven't yet had any relief. Have you checked the ingredients in the cream, I'm not sure which one you're using. This could account for it, or course oestrogen dominance, although I've not heard of an itchy scalp being a sign of excess. But hair loss yes, in a round about way. Excess free testosterone causes hair loss. Progesterone does stimulate oestrogen, but before this is produced, testosterone is produced first. The enzyme aromatase initiates the conversion of testosterone to oestrogen. You say your testosterone was normal, but did they check the free testosterone too? Often this is omitted, and it is possible to have a 'normal' total testosterone level, but to have high free testosterone, see here. Testosterone is metabolically active only in the free form, if bound to SHBG, it becomes inactive. Progesterone increases SHBG, so effectively reducing free testosterone, see here. A lack of vitamin B2 can cause an itchy scalp, but you say you're taking many supplements. It's interesting you say you had a period of better hair growth 5 months ago. This would take us back to round about August. Vitamin D is essential for the anagen stage of hair growth, vitamin D levels would have been higher then. Although you say you also take vitamin D have you had a test done to check your levels? Although this paper mentions generalised itch, it does throw some light on vitamin D's involvement, see here. Lyme disease is one of the most debilitating of all diseases. It could be your vitamin D is too low, as there is some evidence it can help the arthritic damage, see here and here. And one paper on progesterone, see here. Thyroid malfunction is often related to low D too, see here, here and here. Continued below.

Feb 11, 2012
progesterone and itching scalp?
by: Wray

Hi Michele The liver is essential for eliminating any toxins, if it's struggling, the skin takes over. But why only the scalp. I'm sure you're taking milk thistle to help, but a nutrient which is always overlooked is taurine. Without taurine the liver cannot make bile, so not only do blood fats back up, which also causes a fatty liver, but so do toxins. Please consider taking at least 2000mg/day, see here, here and here. Take care Wray

Feb 26, 2012
Me To
by: Louise

I had the itching scalp off and on while on progesterone cream. I do have a fatty liver issue and started to take more Milk Thistle to try to help with this. The itching scalp then became extreme - my scalp and my face itched.
Just wondering if the Milk Thistle detoxing my liver would cause the itching to increase.

I has calmed down but is not going away.

Feb 26, 2012
Thyroid connection
by: Anonymous

Well, Louise, I know hypthyroidism can cause an itchy scalp, though no one has ever told me this symptom (Google Dr David Derry and itchy scalp hypothyroid). And poor thyroid function can cause the liver to not work well (Google Dr. John Lowe, who sadly died last month). I definitely do have thyroid problems and am going back to the Dr. Lowe thinkig and trying to find a thyroid dose according to his methods and not bloodwork. When I was on a higher dose of thyroid (t3) a few months ago, the head itching stopped and that's when I had my good bout of hair growth. I was using progesterone then too, only less of it and only during the second half of my cycle. But that has been enough to cause itching before. So, I know the thyroid and reproductive hormones work together and that the liver needs to process hormones. And there's a relationship between the proper amount of thyroid and the liver's processing of steroid hormones. So...I am going to see what kind of results I get slowly increasing my t3 dosage again. I hate to cut down progesterone or cut it out because it has so many benefits that I feel. And I would have too much unopposed estrogen (then again i read recently, though I can't remember where, that low thyroid can be a cause of high estrogen). I am consulting with my naturopath on the subject tomorrow, but I think it's the right route. I can let you know through later postings how things go in time.
For you, I would recommend you read everything you can on Dr. Lowe's website on hypothyroidism and his contention that it can actually cause liver disease. He is(so unfortunately was) a very smart man, and with the liver and head itch, it is absolutely possible you have thyroid issues that bloodwork may or may not pick up.

Feb 26, 2012
Me To
by: Wray

Hi Louise As I said to Michele I've not heard of progesterone causing an itchy scalp, and would ask you to look into the ingredients in the cream. We do have more info on our page How to use progesterone cream. I'm pleased you're taking the milk thistle, please consider taking the taurine too. It's such a vital nutrient. I gave Michele some papers, these are a few more, see here, here and here. Take care Wray

Feb 26, 2012
progesterone type
by: Michele again

Sorry, Wray and Louise, that last anonymous comment was from me again. Just forgot to add the name. And the pogesterone I use is from a compounding phamacy, so I know it's not the type of progesterone. But, there is definitely a connection between the progesterone and scalp itch symptomatically for me. But, as I said, I think it is more related to hormonal interrelationships, like with thyroid.

Feb 27, 2012
progesterone type
by: Wray

Hi Michele Thanks for the info on the thyroid. Interestingly a lack of vitamin D is implicated in thyroid disorders, see here, here and here. And I can't imagine why I forgot to give it to you, but we do have a page on Hair Loss. I can only think I was concentrating on the itching scalp, and overlooked the hair loss. Take care Wray

Mar 11, 2012
Still confused
by: Michele

Well, Wray, I am still so confused. I have been doing 300 to 400 mg of progesterone daily for a few months now. My hair is definitely thinner. Besides the scalp itch, it can sometimes hurt to the touch which I have heard other women complain about. A couple of years ago I did sublingual troches? of 20 mg (two of my dr's at the time told me the sublingual was much stronger than the cream and I would not need much of it) of progesterone from mid cycle to period onset. I felt pretty good as far as having no estrogen dominance symptoms. No breast tenderness and my period would sneak up on me unexpectedly. I did get it early, but otherwise really didn't have pms symptoms. What prompted me to quit that was a saliva test which showed completely high androgens including DHT(I did not wait 12 to 24 hrs after taking the sublingual, and I think I was supposed to, so there could have been some skewing of results), and my hair was indeed terribly thin which I just noticed one day in the mirror. I can not remember now if i had the scalp discomfort then or not.

Mar 11, 2012
still confused part 2
by: Michele

Currently, with the higher doses of cream, I feel almost constant estrogen dominance. I feel very weepy and it is still the first half of my cycle. Normally that is a symptom I experience closer to my period. I feel a bit of weight gain, I feel like my boobs are bigger, I have bags under my eyes.....I am trying to hang in there, but I am tempted to just quit the progesterone. Plus, I do have concerns about the higher cortisol on my last 24 hr urine test. My dr wasn't sure if it was from the progesterone. At that time i was only taking 100 mg, so it could then be higher now. As far as my dr (naturopath) knows, i am taking 200 mg a day. I am sfraid she would freak out and tell me to quit if i told her i was taking more.
I am trying to think long term, though. I know I constantly have high estrogen each time it's tested. I have a history of pcos I guess. My mother had it and I did have multiple cysts on both ovaries on an ustrasound a few years ago. I have had trouble with acne since I was a teen (though now I keep it under control with 100 mg of zinc. The las time I tried to go lower I got some acne back) I recently added iodine back into my supplement regiment for many reasons, but one thing it's supposed to do is help with having the right type of estrogens. Another thing it can do, in the right dosage, which is rather high and I'm not taking a dose that high, is get rid of pcos. I will try to get an actual copy of my hormone results from my dr this week, and if i do, I can share them with you. But, I know my ratio of estroges wasn't favorable, and my estrogen was high and my progesterone was not. I understand the health risks of those situations, but I am not feeling right on the progesterone dose I am taking now and just want to feel good.
Maybe my hair is doomed. I don't know. I think it would do better if I quit the progesterone, because I've done it before. I recently upped the dose of thyroid meds too, but wonder if the progesterone supplementation is interfering with thyroid absorbtion.
I am just depressed.
What I don't understand is exactly how the progesterone makes one so estrogen dominant. I know you say it "stimulates estrogen" and have given explanations, but does that mean it makes the estrogen you already have more potent, or does it make you make more estrogen? I do not need more estrogen, I need less. Also, I thought I read on a post by you, that progesterone causes more problems for women if their estrogen is low? I thought that was what you were saying, but that doesn't make sense to me. I would think it would cause problems if estrogen is high, and maybe that's why I am having so many problems finding relief.
I would also like to go back to following my cycle, but I feel so estrogen dominant all month long, I don't know if I should.

Mar 13, 2012
Still confused
by: Wray

Hi Michelle You are struggling, I wish I could give you a clear cut answer but I can't. Many women have this issue, one I know used it for a year until she began to feel better. She went up to 1000mg/day too. Have you had a vitamin D test done, please do if not. It's important for hair, for the thyroid, for all systems in fact. But a lack of it reduces the benefits of progesterone. Many women have found getting their level up high, the symptoms they were struggling with, even using high amounts of progesterone, go. Please have a look at this comment here. I don't think your cortisol will be higher now. It's one of the stress hormones, and increases with stress. Progesterone is so calming, it reduces the stress response, thereby lowering cortisol. Plus it suppresses excess cortisol. We do have a page on PCOS, it's caused by oxidative stress, and large amounts of antioxidants are needed to reverse it. The link I've given you gives a list of them. We do have a page on Acne too. I'm pleased you're taking such a high amount of zinc, you might be interested to hear it lowers cortisol, see here and here. Progesterone doesn't make more oestrogen if high enough amounts are used. Rather it enhances the effect of the oestrogen already in the system. If there is an excess, which you seem to have, it does require high amounts, and time, to reduce the level. If I did say progesterone causes more problems if oestrogen is low, I must have been asleep! It's the ratio that's critical, so both could be low, but oestrogen slightly higher than progesterone, and you'll get the same adverse effects as if both were much higher. Have a look at our Saliva Tests results. You'll notice how high the progesterone has become, the ratio of 600:1 and over is one to aim for. If you do try following your cycle again, you might find each time you stop, the oestrogen symptoms come back. I feel you should continue as you are for a bit longer. Continued below.

Mar 13, 2012
Still confused Part 2
by: Wray

Hi Michelle Please have a vitamin D test done, it's so important to find your level. For more info on vitamin D 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. 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. One other thing you could try is Calcium D-glucarate. Oestrogen is metabolised in the liver by glucuronic acid, the process is known as glucuronidation. Glucuronidation is one of the major detoxification pathways of the liver. It removes carcinogens, toxins, tumour promoters, the sex hormones ie, the androgens and oestrogens, mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids, aromatic and heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, various nitrosamines, drugs, fungi etc. It's then excreted in the bile, but an enzyme in the intestine called beta-glucuronidase reverses the glucuronidation process. It breaks the glucoronide bond between a toxin and glucuronic acid, and releases carcinogens, toxins and excess steroid hormones back into circulation. There's evidence beta-glucuronidase activity is increased in breast and prostate cancer. Calcium D-glucarate inhibits beta-glucuronidase, see here, here, here and here. Incidentally this enzyme is produced by undesirable gut bacteria, supplementing with probiotics suppresses the bacteria, and subsequently the beta-glucuronidase. Silymarin from milk thistle also inhibits beta-glucuronidase, plus it helps the liver detox. Take care Wray

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