Does progesterone convert into cortisol?

by Maria

Hello Wray and everybody on this website;

me and my husband have a question about progesterone and cortisol interaction/conversion. I have a rare illness that's not really manageable so far, it's called PRTH-(peripheral resistance to thyroid hormone) which causes me a lot of health issues like high blood pressure, potassium deficiency, constant edema, hair loss, very dry cracking skin, lethargy, vision/hearing loss, and a lot of other things. I'm completely disabled due to it, lost my teeth, can barely walk. I'm 37 and became ill with it when I was in my 20s. I take Cytomel (a thyroid hormone) in large amounts to overcome the resistance, which helps with some of the symptoms but doesn't obviously stop them all. I'm hypothyroid because of the resistance, plus I also have no thyroid gland. I have Estrogen Dominance (at least had it every time I was tested, but I haven't been tested for a year now). I have very high levels of Estrogen and very low levels of Progesterone and Testosterone in my blood. I had one failed pregnancy, if that matters, not sure. Currently, I'm on Progestin contraceptive pill, because combination pill makes all the symptoms worse.

Years ago I got diagnosed with Adrenal Insufficiency and was treated with Hydrocortizone, which caused even worse swelling, and made my thyroid condition worse, so they had to stop it.
We have read in many places that Progesterone can convert into Cortisol, and because of it I'm scared that it can cause the same problems Hydrocortizone did-like extreme swelling. I tried to brave it and have tried using Progesterone cream for two cycles this year. I started on 20 mg per day, and immediately felt great. Next day I felt worse, though, so I had to raise, many times like that, until I was on the highest dose I took, 150 mg a day. It caused such strange and mixed results,some bad, and some good, that it confused both of us, my hubby and me, and that's why we are seeking your advice.

The good things it did were : my hair loss slowed down, my inflamed eyes got much better, as did inflammation everywhere else, my skin wasn't dry as usual, my sinus infection and allergies were gone, my sex drive came back :-)- It was pretty much gone for years now.

The bad thing: I already have edema all over my body, and lymphatic swelling on my face, hands and feet-Progesterone cream made edema so much worse, that I couldn't fit into my clothes or shoes. My stomach was bloated very bad as well, and I had to stop the cream and get back on Heather pill. The extra swelling got a tiny bit better, but now it's back. It feels as if It's there to stay permanently. Swelling was in fact so severe that we found it hard to believe that it had something to do with Estrogen, and thought that Progesterone cream might be just converting to Cortisol, making me worse. Is it possible, or could extreme swelling like that still be a symptom of estrogen dominance? And how much Cortisol can Progesterone convert to? We couldn't find any research explaining this.

Thank you very much ; sorry if it's a confusing question-Maria and Mike

Comments for Does progesterone convert into cortisol?

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Feb 24, 2015
Does progesterone convert into cortisol?
by: Wray

Hi Maria You poor thing, it's such a complicated disease. Symptoms vary so much with the people who have it, you seem to have been landed with a huge amount! I have no experience with using progesterone and PRTH, but the positive effect it had on you doesn't surprise me. Except for the oedema which puzzles me, it's a very good diuretic. So good it's given to people who've suffered from Traumatic Brain Injury to reduce the oedema and inflammation that occurs. The good/bad symptoms are explained on our page about Oestrogen Dominance. The adrenals make progesterone daily, which they then convert it into cortisol. But using large amounts of progesterone suppresses the hormones normally made from it. You might like to see this chart by Genova Diagnostics on the hormone pathway. If cortisol is too high, it can be a case of high oestrogen, or high copper, because the reverse is true. Zinc opposes copper, it also lowers cortisol, but raises progesterone, see here and here. I wish I could be of more help, but please see our pages on Hair Loss, How to use Progesterone Cream and Libido. Take care Wray

Feb 24, 2015
The only way to know
by: davidgmills

Would be to actually have your cortisol levels tested. What I have found is that the body will make cortisol if there is not enough progesterone to combat inflamation. Cortisol is a more potent anti-inflamatory but the body will only use cortisol if progesterone can not handle the inflamation.

To really find out whether progesterone is in fact converting to cortisol you would need to test cortisol levels in two instances: one where you are taking high amounts of progesterone and one where you are not.

The extra edema may have just been a coincidence. As the natural progression of disease, it might have happened no matter what. Hopefully that would not be the case. But I would sure test cortisol levels in any case.

Feb 26, 2015
thank you for response
by: Anonymous

Thank you so much for responding! I have ordered Cortisol Saliva tests before (years ago) and would order them again, unfortunately, the only issue right now is money:-( We were going to try me on Progesterone cream properly, without suddenly stopping, etc.
I am basically afraid that in my situation where hypothyroidism caused by thyroid resistance is unresolved, even normalizing Cortisol levels (if they are low) will cause more body's demand for thyroid hormone and make me swell much worse. Both me and my husband done a bunch of research and it seems like when cortisol goes up, thyroid hormone requirement goes up. Cortisol is an extreme worry for me due to this-now I'm swollen 20 lbs over my normal weight, and it's painful because I'm short and thin.

When you are saying that progesterone supresses cortisol, do you mean it lowers the total amount of cortisol in the system, or just supresses body's own cortisol production?

I'm sorry if it's confusing:-(
Thank you; Maria and Mike

Feb 26, 2015
Missed the second paragraph
by: Anonymous

I'm sorry, I didn't realize there is information about cortisol already. Thank you both very much; we will have to start saving for testing. -Maria

Mar 04, 2015
Found some old labs
by: Maria

Hello Wray and the others on this website, once again, thank you for previous information.I'm reading articles on your website and learning so much.

We looked up Saliva Cortisol and three hormone test from ZRT labs (Estradiol, Progesterone, and Testosterone), like you recommended. I used to do tests through them long time ago. Unfortunately, we simply can't afford this right now-my husband works two minimum wage jobs to keep me alive because my medication is very expensive, we live at his parents' house and I can't work. We can't even afford me a denture :-( I'm not sure but maybe this could help? I know these are very old tests.

These labs I found are from three years ago (the last time I had blood drawn).We did them through Life Extention. I took DHEA at that time, 25 mg dose.

Estradiol:1016.0 pg/mL
Progesterone 0.7 ng/mL
Testosterone Free <0.2 pg/mL(0.0-2.2)
Testosterone , Serum 81 HIGH (8-48)

I was 34 years old at the time of testing, now I'm 37. I don't know if this helps.
After my shenanigans with trying progesterone Cream on and off, the bad swelling I mentioned stayed and would not budge-in fact, after stopping the cream I got a little better, and then got a lot worse with the swelling and lost a lot of hair. I have a few bottles of Progesta-Care in the house that we bought before we knew about your website and Natpro, I wonder if I should just "go for it" and try using it properly and see what happens.


Mar 18, 2015
Please advise if possible
by: Wray

Hi Maria I'm so sorry I missed your question on the page you started here. I see it's the same as your new one here. Are you sure your oestradiol is that high?! The normal range for a pre-menopausal women is 30 - 400 pg/ml, see our page on Hormone Testing, scroll down to oestradiol. I have never seen such a high result. It means your ratio of P:E2 is 0.69:1, we've found a level of 600:1 is optimum, see our page on Saliva Tests. As I said on your other page I know nothing about PRTH, but I feel that all that oestrogen is if not causing it, it's affecting your thyroid severely. I wish I could advise you on how much progesterone you would need, but I can't, it's not a fixed 'dose' for anyone. I do know you will need much higher than most to bring that oestrogen down. And that you will experience Oestrogen Dominance. I can't even say if it will help you, although you say some symptoms have improved which is a good sign. Cost is a factor and yes we do give discounts on larger amounts. Please contact Jules our distributor who now lives in NY, she carries stock. Her email address is I see I have not asked you to have a Vitamin D test done, please have one if you can. It's such a vital nutrient, a lack of it reduces the benefits of progesterone, and adversely affects the thyroid. Take care Wray

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