Dr. Lara Briden is a naturopathic doctor. She currently practices at Sensible-Alternative Hormone Clinic in Sydney, Australia. She is also the author of the popular troubleshooting guide, “Period Repair Manual.” For more on her work go to LaraBriden.com. In today’s post, Dr. Briden tackles the topic of high prolactin levels and the best natural remedy.
Dear Dr. Lara Briden,
My prolactin is slightly high at 438 mIU/L. How can I reduce it?
Great question. Mildly elevated prolactin like yours can cause troublesome symptoms such as breast pain, loss of libido, and irregular periods. Severely elevated prolactin is a more serious medical problem, and can cause periods to stop completely.
What Is Prolactin?
Prolactin is a pituitary hormone, and is best known for its role in promoting lactation. It also regulates ovulation and the production of estrogen and testosterone.
What Causes High Prolactin?
Very high prolactin (greater than 1000 mIU/L or 50 ng/mL) is usually the result of a benign pituitary tumour called a prolactinoma. It requires medical diagnosis and management.
Moderately high prolactin (greater than 480 mIU/L or 23 ng/mL) can be caused by prolactinoma, thyroid disease, heavy alcohol intake, or by medications such as high dose birth control pills, stomach acid tablets, and some types of psychiatric or blood pressure medications. It requires medical diagnosis and management.
Mildly high prolactin (around 480 mIU/L or 23 ng/mL) is common, and cannot be diagnosed by a single result. Why? Because prolactin can be temporarily elevated by any of the following:
- Luteal phase (post-ovulation)
- Mild thyroid disease
- Hormonal birth control
For accuracy, prolactin should be checked again under the following conditions:
- Follicular phase
- Between 8am-12pm
- Not directly after exercise or sex
- Not on hormonal birth control
Natural Treatment of High Prolactin
Both moderately and severely elevated prolactin require medical diagnosis and management.
Mildly elevated prolactin responds well to stress reduction and gentle exercise such as walking and yoga. It’s also helpful to reduce alcohol, especially beer, because barley stimulates prolactin (that’s why beer was traditionally prescribed to increase milk supply). Do not exceed four alcoholic drinks per week.
Mildly elevated prolactin also responds to the herbal medicine Vitex agnus-castus (also called chaste tree or chasteberry). Vitex suppresses prolactin so strongly that it can mask a prolactinoma, and for that reason, it’s advisable to seek medical advice before taking Vitex for prolactin. The dose of Vitex is 200 mg of a standard extract, taken once in the morning. (Different formulations use different doses depending on the preparation of the extract.)
Vitex is a popular medicine for PMS and menstrual regulation, and its main mechanism of action is the reduction of prolactin. For more information about Vitex, please see: The Do’s and Don’ts of Vitex.
By Holly Grigg-Spall – Marketing Consultant and Daysy Blog Editor
When she came off the birth control pill after 10 years in 2009, Holly decided to write a blog about the experience. That blog became a series of articles, and then book, “Sweetening the Pill,” which then inspired a feature documentary, currently in production and executive produced by Ricki Lake. She is a fertility awareness and body literacy advocate and educator, a Daysy enthusiast, and excited to help more women come off the birth control pill and find a natural, effective alternative.