Understanding Estrogen & Progesterone

Before we dive into the differences in estrogen and progesterone, let’s first talk about when they appear during your cycle.

We have 4 main hormonal shifts during our cycle:

  • Menstruation (hormones are their lowest)
  • Follicular phase (estrogen increases)
  • Ovulation (egg is released)
  • Luteal phase (progesterone increases after ovulation)

These can seem like a lot to keep track of. To simplify hormonal shifts during the cycle, first half of the cycle is primarily estrogen, second half of the cycle is primarily progesterone.


Estrogen helps us ovulate (we get a large surge and that stimulates LH and an egg release), so it’s definitely important, however, estrogen is often easily pushed out of balance. This can be related to poor liver detoxification, digestive issues (we poop out estrogen), and stress. Stress leads to high levels of estrogen.

What it looks like when estrogen is out of balance:

  • Breast stimulation & pain
  • Increases body fat
  • Salt & fluid retention
  • Depression & headaches
  • Reduces thyroid function
  • Impairs blood sugar balance
  • Reduces oxygen available for cells
  • Increases risk of gallbladder issues
  • Can lead to low zinc and high copper
  • Increases blood clotting
  • Reduce sex drive

Stress & Estrogen

Excess stress leads to excess estrogen in a couple of ways. One of these is that excess stress in the body leads to less progesterone. This lower level of progesterone creates an imbalance and will make estrogen appear high even if it is in normal levels.

Excess stress in the body also leads to higher DHEA production. Women are most often going to turn that DHEA into estrogen. Sometimes we turn this into testosterone or other androgen metabolites.

Estrogen also stimulates more insulin release, which leads to more frequent low blood sugars, which leads to stress.


Progesterone helps us maintain a healthy uterine lining, is essential for survival of an embryo, and helps restore sex drive. We make progesterone after ovulation, which is why ovulation is essential for healthy hormones and is really the highlight of the menstrual cycle.

Other Effects of Progesterone on the Body

  • Protects against breast pain
  • Helps us use fat for energy
  • Natural diuretic
  • Calming hormone
  • Supports thyroid hormone action
  • Normalizes blood clotting
  • Supports healthy blood sugar levels
  • Supports healthy zinc and copper levels
  • Restores normal sleep patterns
  • Skin moisturizer

Progesterone also helps regulate our metabolism and how we use energy in the body and is anti-stress (much like glucose aka sugar). You can support healthy progesterone levels by eating balanced meals, avoiding skipping meals, getting sunlight daily, and prioritizing sleep just to name a few!

Dive even deeper into estrogen and progesterone in my podcast episode estrogen waves and the ups & downs of healing and how to boost progesterone levels naturally.

reminder: i’m currently taking on 1:1 clients. if you’d like to explore what it would be like to work together and if we are a good fit, fill out this form to get more details!​

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

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