Hyperprolactinemia (HI-per-pro-lak-tin-E-me-ah) is an endocrine system disorder that causes the body to produce higher-than-normal levels of prolactin.
Prolactin is the hormone that stimulates breast milk production during pregnancy and induces lactation after giving birth. In the absence of pregnancy, high levels of prolactin may lead to infertility and decreased libido in both women and men. There are, however, gender-specific symptoms…
Symptoms of Hyperprolactinemia
- irregular nipple discharge
- breast milk production in the absence of pregnancy (Galactorrhea)
- irregular menstrual cycles including amenorrhea (absent period) and luteal phase defect
- disrupted ovulation
- painful intercourse due to vaginal dryness
- increased risk of miscarriage
- erectile dysfunction (impotence)
- Gynecomastia or male breast enlargement
- headaches or problems with vision resulting from a pituitary tumor affecting the optic nerve
- decreased muscle mass
- lack of body hair
Causes of Hyperprolactinemia
According to ReproductiveFacts.org from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, Hyperprolactinemia is most commonly caused by a benign or noncancerous prolactin-secreting pituitary tumor (prolactinoma), or diseases that affect the pituitary gland. Other potential causes are:
- hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- injuries or trauma to the thoracic or chest wall which includes the rib cage, diaphragm and upper abdomen (surgical scars and tumors) or health conditions that have affected this area of the body (Herpes zoster also known as shingles)
- chronic liver or kidney disease
- blood pressure and pain medications (specifically the use of opiates for pain), SSRI antidepressants, antipsychotics, medications for ulcers and gastrointestinal reflux, and prescription estrogen for menopause
In some cases, no known cause of hyperprolactinemia can be determined.
Medical Treatment Options
Common medical solutions for hyperprolactinemia are radiation or surgical removal of an existing pituitary tumor, or the prescription medications Bromocriptine and Cabergoline. While we do not suggest taking herbs with prescription medications, natural support can be offered to the endocrine system, pituitary gland, and thyroid gland if medications are not being taken. It is important to determine, with the help of your healthcare provider, the underlying cause of hyperprolactinemia before creating a natural fertility program.
Natural Treatment Options
1. Nourish the Endocrine System & Pituitary Gland
The pituitary gland is one of the many glands of the endocrine system – the body’s message center which coordinates the delivery and communication of hormones throughout the body.
The pituitary gland is the “master gland” responsible for regulating the thyroid, adrenal, and reproductive glands. These glands make hormones that control growth and development of the body, metabolism, stress response, and the reproductive cycle.
The pituitary gland also produces the key female and male reproductive hormones luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), as well as estrogen and progesterone for females and testosterone for males. It is the anterior pituitary gland that secretes prolactin.
Adaptogen Herbs for Endocrine System Support
There are a variety of herbs classified as adaptogens that are known to nourish the endocrine system:
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
- Schizandra (Schisandra chinensis)
- Fo-Ti (Polygonum multiflorum)
- Licorice (Glycyrrhiza spp.)
- American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
- Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
- Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
The adaptogen Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is known to not only nourish the endocrine system, but also to boost the function of an underactive thyroid and to support a healthy stress response within the body, as well as support hormone balance for men and women, energy levels and libido.
2. Vitex – Chaste Tree Berry
Vitex also known as Chaste Berry (Vitex agnus-castus), the #1 female fertility herb, has been clinically studied to determine its ability to influence prolactin levels and results show it has the ability to reduce elevated prolactin levels.
A German study in the journal Phytomedicine of 34 females with hyperprolactinemia showed a marked decrease in elevated prolactin levels in 80% of the participants. These women took 30 to 40mg of Chaste Tree berry per day for one month, which resulted in decreased prolactin levels, as well as a reduction in symptoms of various menstrual disorders.
Vitex is also known to encourage hormone balance and menstrual cycle regulation. Vitex encourages a normal luteal phase by supporting the body’s natural progesterone levels, and promotes regular ovulation.
3. Support Thyroid Health
Hypothyroidism results in increased levels of thyroid-releasing hormone in the body, which may in turn increase secretion of prolactin and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). This increase in secretion of prolactin may cause hyperprolactinemia and galactorrhea.
What to do to support healthy thyroid function…
- Eat a diet rich in food sources of iodine.
- Supplement with select key nutrients – B vitamins, vitamins C, E & A and select minerals like zinc, copper and selenium, and the herbs Ashwagandha, Rhodiola and Maca.
4. Manage Stress
Stress boosts levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, which inhibits the body’s main sex hormone GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone) and subsequently suppresses ovulation, sexual activity, hormone balance and even sperm count. GnRH, produced in the hypothalamus, signals the pituitary gland to release LH and FSH, which then signals the ovaries to release estrogen and progesterone. GnRH is also the hormone responsible for prolactin secretion. When the release of GnRH is inhibited, testosterone, estrogens, and the libido can be suppressed resulting in decreased fertility.
The key – Reduce Stress! Find a practice that can help you let go of stress and most importantly can help you react to stressors differently – in the words of Natural Fertility Info.com Founder Hethir Rodriguez, “… because sisters, stress in the world is not going to disappear, but we do have control over how our bodies react to it.”
Will hyperprolactinemia inhibit pregnancy?
For some, possibly, for others, no. There is no one answer for every case of hyperprolactinemia. Each case presents itself differently. The cause of elevated prolactin levels and the degree to which they are elevated will play a role in whether pregnancy can occur or not. High levels of prolactin in pregnancy have not been found to influence a woman’s ability to carry a baby if pregnancy occurs.
Pinpointing the cause of hyperprolactinemia is key in determining the best treatment options for your needs.
- Barton-Schuster, D. (n.d.). What Your Breast Health Says About Your Fertility. Retrieved from: http://natural-fertility-info.com/breast-health.html
- Chapman, I. M., MBBS, PhD. (n.d.). Galactorrhea – Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders. Retrieved from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/endocrine-and-metabolic-disorders/pituitary-disorders/galactorrhea
- Hyperprolactinemia. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery/centers_clinics/pituitary_center/conditions/hyperprolactinemia.html
- Hyperprolactinemia (high prolactin levels). (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.reproductivefacts.org/news-and-publications/patient-fact-sheets-and-booklets/documents/fact-sheets-and-info-booklets/hyperprolactinemia-high-prolactin-levels/
- Klibanski, A., & Schlechte, J. (Eds.). (2010, January 1). Fact Sheet. Retrieved from: http://www.hormone.org/questions-and-answers/2010/hyperprolactinemia
- Romm, A. (2010). Fertility Challenges. In Botanical medicine for women’s health (pp. 339-340). St. Louis, Missouri: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.
- Thomer, M., & Melmed, S. (Eds.). (2012, April 6). National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service (NEMDIS). Retrieved from: http://www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/prolact/prolact.aspx
- Wuttke, W., Jarry, H., Christoffel, V., Spengler, B., & Seidlová-Wuttke, D. (2003, January 1). Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) – Pharmacology and clinical indications. Retrieved from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0944711304702330