Running on Low Progesterone: An Update

progesterone and runningIn my first post on this topic, I explored how I came to a diagnosis of low progesterone. Since then, I have been to an endocrinologist and an alternative medicine practitioner called a naturopath. As many of you can surely relate, when it comes to my body, I don’t take no for an answer when I know something is wrong. I ask questions, press harder, and explore all avenues to get everything back on track.

Sadly, since my diagnosis I have had to work very hard to find a medical professional to take my diagnosis or concerns seriously. I’m one of many women who’ve struggled for answers about my health. But, like I said, I will not be deterred.

The Endocrinologist

Like with running, we have good races and bad ones. In life, we have positive experiences and negative ones. My experience at the endocrinologist was very disappointing. I didn’t make any progress and gained no more insight into my issues with low progesterone at all.

The endocrinologist said that because I still get a period, even despite it being irregular, there was nothing she was going to do, including prescribing progesterone medication. I was perfectly accepting that she didn’t think medication was the right answer, I only wanted it as a last resort. The problem was … that was the end of the story for the endocrinologist. Because it wasn’t a fertility issue and because I have my period, she did not view my low progesterone as a problem, despite how miserable it makes me feel. I was furious my entire drive home, and later that evening, and booked an appointment with a naturopath.

The Naturopath

Low progesterone runs in my family. This is only one piece of the puzzle though. I was told by my naturopath that I am a very high-functioning person, and from his initial analysis of my life and typical day-to-day routine, I’ve been firing on all cylinders for too long and I’m burned out. This might be the culprit suppressing my progesterone levels.

Another possible cause, albeit similar, is stress โ€” both physical and mental. On the physical front, one of the changes I have made for this round of marathon training is switching from a Pfitzinger plan, which had me training for 18 week and peaking at 70 miles per week, to Hanson’s Marathon Method. I’m running the same number of days per week, however, the mileage volume is quite a bit lower and I’m following the pacing guidelines in the plan, which means I’ve slowed my training paces down a lot more than previous training cycles. Everyone’s body has a different threshold for what is considered too much, and so many people are quick to assume that running is the cause of my low progesterone, but I beg to differ, as does my naturopath.

Marathon training is going well so far, and I definitely don’t feel as tired on my runs, but I don’t feel completely myself yet. I still feel mentally exhausted, and find myself battling exhaustion and insomnia, probably a remnant of life stress and my naturopath said stress causes an increase in cortisol. It makes sense that the connection between progesterone and cortisol is a close one. The way he explained it to me was that when we are stressed, our cortisol levels tend to rise, and this can hinder our body’s ability to produce progesterone.ย I don’t have any races until mid-September, which is when I will be able to test the true improvements in my body and see if I can find that next gear that’s been missing since December.

What’s Next?

I had an initial consultation with the naturopath, and I felt like this is putting me on the right path to getting better. The doctor is digging deep into my medical history, miscarriages and my recent blood work. I am in the process of keeping a food journal, and documenting my sleep, headaches and stress levels. The doctor will analyze this information, and the first step will likely be dietary modifications and possibly supplements. From there, I might also receive acupuncture to help regulate my menstrual cycle, which might also help with some other symptoms.

This course of action is more aligned to the type of treatment I was hoping to receive. Thank you for following along on my journey, and once I have more to share in regards to my treatment, I’ll be sharing it here!

Have you had similar experiences? How do you feel about alternative medicine?

A mother runner chasing big dreams.

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  1. I’ve been struggling with similar issues for several years, and I completely agree with you that it is hard to find a medical professional who will take me seriously. I am a competitive triathlete putting in 12-14 hours a week of training during peak season, along with working full time and finishing a master’s degree. If I had $1 for every doctor or health professional who told me my issues are from “doing too much,” or “getting older,” I could pay a race entry fee. It’s sad that health professionals quickly blame our training for our issues without being willing to look further, but we know when we don’t feel right, and it’s up to us be our own advocates for our health. I’m so glad that you have found someone willing to listen to you and help you. Best wishes to you!

    1. Thanks Beth! It’s frustrating, and also annoying, when running is blamed. In some cases, it might be the cause, but I have listened to my body, adjusted my training, I consume enough calories, and know when too much is too much – It drives me bananas when people are like “so, you don’t feel great, but you’re still running”. Chances are, I’d feel even worse if I wasn’t running. It’s my stress outlet. My me time. Something I do for myself and to make myself happy. I’m very lucky to have a doctor that is willing to listen and work with me to get things back on track. I’ll be sharing more as I go through the process!

  2. I’m sorry it was a frustrating experience at the endocrinologist but glad it was much better with the naturopath. I think that trying other things before instantly jumping to medication is smart- and honestly will probably produce more results/long term success. I’d be curious to see after all your logging food, stress etc, what they say and what recommendations they give you.

    1. Thanks Laura – I definitely push and advocate for myself when I know something isn’t quite right! I have a feeling there will be some good dietary recommendations, and maybe even a supplement or two I can take that will help. I’ve been reading about foods that are known to help boost progesterone levels, so I’m trying to increase my intake of those and see what the naturopath says. I don’t like taking medication if I don’t absolutely have to, so this is a good path to be on.