13—Oestrogen & Progesterone

(part 1)

Flunking simple math

It frustrates me enough as a Naturopath, when I hear weight maintenance being reduced to a simple equation. ‘Energy in vs energy out’. Let alone if I consistently ate well and exercised, and the bathroom scales still refused to acknowledge my efforts! To someone struggling to lose weight, you may as well tell them: E=mc2. They will have more chance of understanding this equation, than the one above.

The people that subscribe to the ‘energy in vs energy out’ theory,  are naturally skinny and/or sporty people who have no problems in maintaining a healthy body weight1. These people make the huge assumption that everyone’s body functions properly, like theirs does.

But what if your body doesn’t function as expected?

What if your hormones are ‘out of whack’?2

How will this impact on your weight, and your ability to regulate it?

Three-part blog article

In this three-part article, I’ll be taking you through five hormonal imbalances that could be contributing to your weight loss hell. This week I’ll discuss the effects of having high oestrogen and low progesterone.

For simplicity, and ease of understanding, I’ll be primarily referring to these hormones as they relate to healthy weight maintenance.

Click here for part 02


Oestrogen not only protects our bones and our heart health, but it provides us with our womanliness! Among other things, this hormone is responsible for the distribution of body fat in females.

If you primarily store your fat on your thighs and bum, this can be an indicator that you are oestrogen dominant.

How oestrogen can get out of balance:

  1. Being over-weight...

  2. Persistent organic pollutants

    i.e. xenoestrogens (in cosmetics, personal care, household cleaning chemicals), and oestrogenic & growth hormones in food

  3. Having too little progesterone

  4. Taking ‘The Pill’

  5. Liver or gut issues

‘The Pill’

If you don’t need to be on this hormone replacement therapy then get off it ASAP!

The birth control pill mimics pregnancy, which makes your body want to store fat.

Depending on what ‘pill’ you are on, it can:

—slow the thyroid and disrupt carbohydrate metabolism (which can lead to insulin resistance, sugar cravings, and weight gain)

—cause liver impairment (your liver is your chief fat burner)

Click here for more info about The Pill

What happens when oestrogen is too high?

Potential manifestations are:

  1. PMS (physical symptoms)

    The retention of sodium & water which leads to weight gain, abdominal bloating & discomfort, breast tenderness & congestion and occasional swelling of the face, hands & ankles

  2. Liver impairment

    Difficulty losing weight, trouble digesting fat, intolerance of alcohol, intolerance to strong smells etc.

  3. Inability to lose weight

    Oestrogen promotes tissue growth, and partially blocks the ability of the thyroid to function efficiently

This article is about hormone imbalance.
This article is about hormone imbalance.

Blood testing

Blood testing is important to help determine your sex hormone levels, and any imbalances you may have.

In a cycling woman – plan your Doctor’s visits accordingly:

—Ensure you know where you are at in your menstrual cycle when you go for your blood check.

—Take a note of the time of day the sample is taken.

—Progesterone blood needs to be drawn 7 days post ovulation to most accurately assess.

Your Naturopath will want to know these details when they check your results3.


Progesterone is a hormone primarily involved in the female menstrual cycle, pregnancy (supports gestation) and embryo growth and development. It is also responsible for improving the use of the body’s fat stores for energy, and it assists in thyroid function.

How progesterone can
get out of balance:

  1. Insufficient production of progesterone

  2. Elevated levels of other hormones

    e.g. cortisol, prolactin, oestrogen

  3. Adrenal fatigue/stress

  4. Low thyroid function

  5. Low fat/cholesterol diet

Note: Cholesterol is necessary for making sex hormones. This is something to seriously consider if you are using statin drugs.

What happens when progesterone is too low?

Inability to lose weight

Note: This can also be due to the effect of unopposed oestrogen.

Lisa says:

Weigh in on yourself

When you have something that is really concerning you — like your weight — you tend to not notice other things that are going on with you e.g. mood issues, no libido, poor sleep, low energy, unhealthy stools etc. You get too focused on one thing, and you’re not able to connect the dots to discover the bigger picture.

You may have a fundamental hormonal problem that is the actual cause of your inability to lose weight.

You don’t need hormone medication or diet pills

You need a Naturopath! Naturopaths prescribe natural health measures to correct oestrogen dominance or progesterone insufficiency and thus promote weight loss.

We use blood work, and in some cases salivary hormone testing to establish what your hormones are ‘up to’. We take a case history, and may also ask you to complete a Menstrual Cycle Symptom Diary to provide us with more information about your particular hormonal imbalance4.

From here, it may be necessary to work on a number of different levels, using a small selection of specifically targeted supplements and/or herbs to help you achieve your health objectives.

The following list provides an overview of the areas we may need to address, depending upon  your individual requirements. See your Natural Health Professional so they can recommend the most effective course of treatment for you:

  1. Diet

  2. Lifestyle

  3. Gut health

  4. Balancing oestrogen/progesterone levels

  5. Liver function

    (to metabolise hormones, and process fat)

  6. Thyroid function

    (to increase metabolism)

  7. Adrenal function

    (to reduce stress – more on this in part two of this three-part article series)

Note: Natural health protocols will be not be clinically effective if you are a woman who is taking any source of exogenous hormones i.e. ‘The Pill’, or Bioidentical Hormones. However, we can still work with you to support your body while you take these types of hormone replacement therapy.

Make an appointment with Lisa

Lisa Fitzgibbon is a degree qualified (2006), experienced and registered Naturopath & Medical Herbalist. She runs her own private practice – OOMPH in Grey Lynn, Auckland, New Zealand.

Lisa has been involved in the Natural Health industry for 16 years. She draws on her professional training and experience, as well as her own personal experience to bring you realistic, holistic health advice.

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