Laura G Owens ~ Writer. Raw. Real. Chronically ambivalent.

Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do, you apologize for the truth. – Benjamin Disrael

Tag: menopause

The Truth About Progesterone For HRT – Bioidentical Progesterone Isn’t The Same As Synthetic Progestin.

Photo - Sally Howard

Photo - Sally Howard

 

The term progesterone has been used to describe the synthetic progestins found in birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, progesterone is not the same as progestin.

Your body knows the answer.

Conventional hormones are synthetic forms of hormones, they’re molecularly altered and as a result they don’t react in the body like your own hormones or their near identical twin,  bioidentical hormones.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for saliva progesterone testing kit

What Is Natural Progesterone?

True progesterone is a steroid hormone made by your ovaries when you ovulate in the middle of your menstrual cycle. A small amount is also made by your adrenal glands and nerve cells. Progesterone is manufactured in the body from a steroid hormone called pregnenolone and it is a pre-cursor to most other steroid hormones.

While estrogen seems to get all the glory and most of the controversy, progesterone deserves some attention.

Progesterone’s most important role is to balance or oppose the effects of estrogen. Most doctors no longer prescribe an estrogen-only oral contraception or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) due to the dangers of estrogen dominance in the body. Progesterone also stimulates bone building and helps protect against osteoporosis (while estrogen helps maintain bone density).

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for saliva progesterone testing kit

Differences Between Natural Progesterone and Synthetic

In order for a hormone to be considered true progesterone it must either:

  • Naturally occur in the body
  • Be bioidentical

Bioidentical simply means the hormone is created in a laboratory to be an exact duplicate of what your body makes. The progesterone used for natural hormone replacement therapy (natural HRT is not the same as bioidentical HRT although bioidentical is often lumped under the term natural HRT) is often derived from plant fats and oils, usually a substance called diosgenin extracted from a wild yam that grows in Mexico, or from soybeans.The other human steroid hormones including estrogen, testosterone, and the cortisones, nearly always come from synthesized diosgenin.

The combination birth control pill or conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have progestin, which is not progesterone. Provera is one of the most commonly used progestins for HRT.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for saliva progesterone testing kit

Two Reasons to Consider Natural Progesterone for HRT

  1. Safety. Consider this: In the 3rd trimester of pregnancy the placenta produces huge amounts, 300-400 mg, of progesterone daily without any risk to the developing baby. Yet even a fraction of that amount of progestin could cause birth defects. The list of side effects and warnings from progestin or “medroxyprogesterone acetate” is eye-opening.
  2. Cost. Synthetic hormones like progestin, or Provera, are not naturally occurring in your body. Drug companies purposely make these medications different so they can patent them. This allows the drug company to sell the medications exclusively for years (until the patent runs out) and therefore charge more money because they have no competition. While natural substances like bioidentical progesterone, cannot be patented so they are less expensive to you.

If you’re considering starting HRT and are concerned about the effectiveness and safety of conventional vs natural or bioidentical hormones,Dr. John Lee, a pioneer in natural women’s health and author of Hormone Balance Made Simple suggests women consider this point first, “Synthetic hormones are not necessarily made, sold, and prescribed because they work better than natural hormones, but because natural hormones can’t be patented.”

Click here for Dr. John Lee’s books on hormones, peri and full menopause and HRT after breast cancer

Risks of Progesterone

The key to effective HRT is to use just the amount you need to alleviate or eliminate symptoms, no more, no less. This fine balancing can take time and require you track your symptoms, adjusting levels as necessary (with the help of a physician who understands natural and bioidentical HRT).

Natural progesterone has few risks or side effects. Initially as your body adjusts or if you use progesterone in excess, the following side effects may occur:

  • Sleepiness/lethargy
  • Edema (water retention)
  • Candida (yeast)
  • Bloating
  • Lowered libido
  • Mild depression
  • Exacerbates symptoms of estrogen deficiency

Most health care professionals prescribe between 10-40mg daily, once or twice a day for 15-25 days of the month. The number of days and dose depends on if you are ovulating, had your ovaries removed or are in peri or full menopause.

In some cases, patients have been prescribed as much as 100 mg per day which is in gross excess. In addition, some doctors prescribe a transdermal patch (on the skin) that includes other bioidentical hormones (estrogen or testosterone). Transdermal patches should include only individual hormones to allow you to regulate the dose and accurately monitor symptoms.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for saliva progesterone testing kit

Be Sure to Get the Real Deal

Ideally you’ll want to buy your progesterone from a compounding pharmacist who will ensure you receive the proper quality and concentration of the hormone through a measured pump container or transdermal patch.

If you do buy progesterone cream at a health or drug store, check to see the amount listed on the label. Be wary of brands that claim to have wild yam but don’t, or have very small amounts of progesterone. If the label doesn’t list the exact amount of progesterone you have no way of knowing what you’re getting unless you call the company. Verify the amount (and the company’s credibility) before you use any progesterone cream.

Be sure to get your hormone levels checked begin any HRT program. A saliva test is ideal for to measure some hormones. If you’re considering bioidentical HRT be sure to consult with a reputable doctor who has vast experience in both conventional and natural hormone replacement therapy.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for saliva progesterone testing kit

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

 

 

How Safe Is Hormone Replacement Therapy? Bioidentical or Conventional?

Photo - Sally Howard

Photo: Sally Howard

After a large hormone study scared women, many now unnecessarily avoid hormone replacement and suffer from menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and poor sleep.

Flip through any newspaper and you might read another alarming article about the dangers of hormone replacement therapy. Dig a little deeper however, to reveal fact vs. fiction.

The uproar began in July 2003 when the The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) during the largest government study on synthetic hormones ever conducted, halted their research after early results indicated that women using conventional hormone replacement therapy (specifically PremPro), had a much higher risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Click here for hormone testing kits
Click here for progesterone testing kit
Click here for testosterone testing kit
Click here for Dr. John Lee’s books on hormones, peri and full menopause and HRT after breast cancer
Click here for DHEA products.

Largest Hormone Replacement Study Criticized

Critics of the study point out that the WHI study wasn’t representative of women in their 40’s and 50’s, women who were likely in the early years of peri or full menopause. In fact the average age of the women involved in the study was 63 with an average time into menopause of 12 years, and therefore more likely to have other risks related to breast cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Estrogen plays an important role in your body. It’s responsible for puberty changes in girls such as menstruation, and the development of breasts and hips. In adult women estrogen contributes to the softness of the skin and to vaginal lubrication, it helps maintain bone density, and plays a crucial role in brain function. In men, estrogen serves to assist the function of testosterone and can also influence bone density and cognitive functioning.

Estrogen however, is a double-edged sword hormone. Too much of it without the balancing effects of its bedfellow progesterone, or the wrong kind of estrogen, and it can indeed, be harmful.

When Estrogen Can Be Dangerous

Dr. John Lee, pioneer in natural women’s health and author of “Hormone Balance Made Simple,” coined the phrase “estrogen dominance” to describe what happens when the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is changed by excess estrogen or inadequate progesterone .

Ten to fifteen years before menopause, a woman may actually produce enough estrogen, but not make enough progesterone, which puts her into estrogen dominance. Over a long period of time too much estrogen may put her health in danger.

Estrogen dominance is known to cause and/or contribute to:

  • Cancer of the breast, ovary, endometrium and prostate (men).
  • PMS, mood changes, anxiety, irritability
  • Menopausal symptoms
  • Weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Mood swings
  • Tender breasts
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibrocystic breasts.

**Dr. Lee advises women to use bioidentical hormones. Synthetic estrogen and progesterone hormones hormones like PremPro (combines Premarin and Provera) do not act the same in your body as bioidentical and can cause unwanted side effects or risks.

Click here for hormone testing kits
Click here for progesterone testing kit
Click here for testosterone testing kit
Click here for Dr. John Lee’s books on hormones, peri and full menopause and HRT after breast cancer
Click here for DHEA products.

Substances that Mimic Estrogen

In addition to estrogen dominance, there is a growing concern regarding Xenoestrogens, substances that have estrogen-like and potentially detrimental affects in the body. These are found in most pesticides, plastics, acetones (e.g. nail polish remover) and in industrial pollutants such as PCBs. They can be very potent and toxic, and unlike natural hormones they don’t efficiently clear from the body.  As a result, xenoestrogens tend to accumulate in the tissue over time. Even coffee can increase estrogen in the body.

Deciding If Hormone Replacement Therapy Is Right For You

Your decision regarding hormone replacement therapy should be based on clear and accurate research information, your age, health history, lifestyle, menopausal symptoms, and your individual concerns.

  • Read Between the Research Lines. Don’t let the WHI study scare you away from considering HRT if you’re suffering from peri or menopausal symptoms. Discuss the implications of the WHI results with your doctor.
  • Get Hormone Levels Checked. If you do decide to try hormone replacement therapy,measure your hormone levels first (saliva tests are more accurate than blood).Click here for hormone testing kits.
  • Only Consult with Experts. Only consult with a physician who is extensively trained in natural and conventional hormone replacement therapy (preferably an Ob & Gyn or endocrinologist), and who is up to date on all the research.
  • Consider bioidentical instead of synthetic HRT.  While bioidentical hormones (BH) are not FDA regulated, a reputable, licensed compounding pharmacist can formulate bioidentical HRT creams to provide regulated, dose-accurate HRT. Dose-regulated transdermal (on the skin) bioidentical estrogen patches are also available.

What Do the Experts Say?

Bioidenticals are not safer or more effective, according Mary M. Gallenberg, M.D, Mayo Clinic gynecologist and obstetrician:

“According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and several medical specialty groups, bioidentical hormones may be riskier than standard hormone therapy, and there’s no evidence they’re any more effective.

Bioidentical hormones have become popular in recent years, partly because of celebrity endorsements and partly in reaction to reports of increased health risks with standard hormone therapy. The term “bioidentical” means the hormones in the product are chemically identical to those your body produces. In fact, they are — but so are the hormones used in many FDA-approved hormone replacement products.”

But, I put my money on Dr. John Lee, author of  numerous books on natural hormone replacement and the primary hormone expert I follow,  and on Dr. B., a former Ob/Gyn I consulted with for three years. Dr. B left her traditional practice so she could work with women and men to naturally balance their hormones and manage their mood issues, tired of trying to treat her patients with synthetic hormones only to see their symptoms remain or get worse, Dr. B moved into natural hormone balancing.

In conversations with her and after reading Dr. Lee’s book, reviewing the research and tracking my symptoms, I gave up synthetic HRT, a regime I’d been on for 20 years (due to a pituitary disorder I have called Empty Sella Syndrome). The first thing Dr. B said to me when she saw I was on Ortho Novum for hormone replacement is “Why in the world do they (decades of doctors) have you on THIS for HRT, a birth control pill and a much too high dosage of estrogen?”

My answer back then, “I don’t know, they just did.”

That was then, this is now. Today I don’t default to doctor’s orders (nor do I ignore them if they make sense to me).

Ultimately you have to decide what makes sense for you. You have to consult with a doctor who is schooled in conventional and natural hormone balancing.

Writes Dr. Lee on his website:

“The message of steroid hormones to target tissue cells requires bonding of the hormone with specific unique receptors in the cells. The bonding of a hormone to its receptor is determined by its molecular configuration, like a key is for a lock. Synthetic hormone molecules and molecules from different species (e.g. Premarin, which is from horses) differ in molecular configuration from endogenous (made in the body) hormones. From studies of petrochemical xenohormones, we learn that substitute synthetic hormones differ in their activity at the receptor level.

In some cases, they will activate the receptor in a manner similar to the natural hormone, but in other cases the synthetic hormone will have no effect or will block the receptor completely. Thus, hormones that are not bioidentical do not provide the same total physiologic activity as the hormones they are intended to replace, and all will provoke undesirable side effects not found with the human hormone. Human insulin, for example, is preferable to pig insulin. Sex hormones identical to human (bioidentical) hormones have been available for over 50 years.

Pharmaceutical companies, however, prefer synthetic hormones. Synthetic hormones (not found in nature) can be patented, whereas real (natural, bioidentical) hormones can not. Patented drugs are more profitable than non-patented drugs. Sex hormone prescription sales have made billions of dollars for pharmaceutical companies Thus is women’s health sacrificed for commercial profit.”

So what if you want to get your hormones tested? For several hormones, saliva is ideal, but for other tests, it depends. Read more: Blood or Saliva Testing for Hormones?

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for progesterone testing kit
Click here for testosterone testing kit
Click here for Dr. John Lee’s books on hormones, peri and full menopause and HRT after breast cancer
Click here for DHEA products.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

 

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