The Best Years in Life
Articles by Natural Health Author Barbara Minton
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It's Time to Stop Being Afraid of Hormones
by Barbara Minton
(The Best Years in Life) Life) Many women are so confused and frightened about their steroid hormones they have decided to forget about them. This reaction is not surprising because almost daily there is a new scare headline about how hormones causes cancer or some other terrible condition. Women who were once told they could regain their health and lost sexuality by supporting their steroid hormones are now being warned against it. All this confusion is a shame. As a result of it, women are losing out on feeling great during the best years of their lives.
When it comes to steroid hormones, names mean very little
To understand hormone support and replacement requires the patience to look beyond the name. This is because steroid hormones produced naturally by the body, hormone substitution drugs, natural plant hormones, and bioidentical hormones are all referred simply as hormones. Adding to this confusion, the names of the steroid hormones naturally produced by the body (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) have become generic terms. These terms are used freely and without regulation to describe the hormones produced by the body, hormone substitution drugs, natural plant hormones, and bioidentical hormones.
To further confuse matters, all hormone replacement therapy, whether it involves hormone drug products, natural hormones or bioidentical hormones is referred to as HRT in most publications. Few physicians, journalists, and even researchers bother to make the distinction as to whether they are talking about hormone drug products, natural hormones or bioidentical hormones.
There are three kinds of hormone therapies
Hormone substitution drug therapy should always be referred to by that name, but it seldom is. While hormone substitution drugs are able to mimic some of the same effects of the body’s natural hormones, they are drugs and not real hormones. They are unable to confer a full range of benefits, and they have many troublesome side effects. Hormone drug products are not naturally occurring substances and as a result, the body’s immune system mounts an attack on them because it views them as invaders. This action compromises the immune system’s ability to do the job it was meant to do, and may be one reason cancer is highly associated with hormone substitution drugs. Hormone substitution drugs are toxic and must be detoxified by the liver.
The most often prescribed form of the estrogen hormone drug is advertised as a natural product, and technically it is. It is derived from naturally occurring horse urine, but it does not have the same molecular structure as the estrogen naturally made by the human female. The side effects associated with it include endometrial cancer, stroke, and deep vein thrombosis. This product should correctly be referred to as conjugated equine estrogen.
When faced with a patient exhibiting a broad range of symptoms indicating hormone deficiency, some physicians will prescribe conjugated estrogen alone. However, taking conjugated equine estrogen alone is very dangerous because it creates a state of hormonal imbalance in the body that has been associated with huge increases in the risk for breast cancer.
A physician who knows conjugated equine estrogen must be balanced may also prescribe what is generically referred to as progesterone, but is in reality a drug called progestin. Progestins are not progesterone, no matter what the pharmaceutical brochures say. They are an attempt at a patentable synthetic replica of progesterone, with low compatibility in the human body. Progestins are associated with a horrible range of side effects and are the most dangerous of the hormone substitution drugs.
Daily doses of toxic hormone substitution drugs over a period of years can result in the liver being compromised to the point where it is unable to perform its duty of keeping the body detoxified. The wisdom of the body recognizes unnatural compounds and develops resistance to them. Because of this, hormone drug therapy stops working after a few years, and cancer soon follows.
The conjugated equine estrogen plus progestin sub-study of the famous Women’s Health Initiative Study reported highly elevated risks of heart attack, stroke, invasive breast cancer, pulmonary embolism, and deep vein thrombosis associated with the combination. The study also reported increased risks for developing dementia. It is due to results such as these that even mainstream medicine now recommends that women be given hormone substitution drug products for the shortest period of time possible.
In the fully functioning female body, estrogen levels rise in the absence of progesterone for the first two weeks of the cycle. Then estrogen levels taper off and progesterone kicks in to become the dominant hormone of the second two weeks in the cycle. When conjugated equine estrogen is prescribed with progestins, the health benefits that result from the natural rhythms of the body are lost. Since the prescribed pill contains both, a woman receives a constant dose of progestins throughout the whole month.
The hormone substitution drug product that mimics some of the benefits of testosterone is often referred to as simply testosterone. But in reality most hormone substitution drug products that claim to be testosterone are actually methyltestosterone, a patentable unnatural, synthetic creation. Methyltestosterone has been implicated in breast and liver cancers.
Following the one-size-fits all approach of hormone substitution drug therapy, methyltestosterone is included in the same pill as conjugated estrogen. There is no way to adjust the dose to match it to the individual needs of a woman. As a result, many of the side effects of methyltestosterone reflect that the dose is too high. These include acne, high blood pressure, excessive and coarse facial and body hair, deepening voice, polycystic ovary syndrome, weight gain, and unstable blood sugar levels.
Hormones substitution drugs are prescribed by traditional doctors. Since these doctors get most of their product information from drug companies, they were sold on hormone substitution drugs as the solution for their patients complaining of symptoms that reflect declining hormone levels. Following the release of the Women’s Health Initiative, many women refused to continue taking hormone drugs and discontinued all hormone therapy. As pharmaceutical companies began to feel the pinch, they made the shift away from producing hormone drugs to producing hormone blocking drugs, and the effort to turn women against their own hormones has been gaining steam, although many hormone substitution drugs are still widely available and the first choice of doctors who have yet to learn about other hormone therapies.
Natural hormone therapy uses molecules that have many effects similar to those of the body’s own hormones, but do not have the exact same molecular structure as the hormones made by the body. These are naturally occurring substances found in plants, and their effect in the body is mild. Phytoestrogens are the naturally occurring estrogens found in plants, and they fall into this category. Phytoestrogens are not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer or any of the other diseases associated with hormone substitution drug therapy. Several studies have shown them to reduce breast cancer risk and the risk of osteoporosis.
There are several formulations on the market that offer natural hormone therapy. Most are a blend of several plant hormones found in herbs. The use of natural hormone therapy can assist the body in using its own hormones more effectively. Many of the herbs used in such products have a long history of successfully treating premenstrual syndrome (PMS), vaginal dryness, hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. Each has other specialized functions according to Phyllis and James Balch, M.D., authors of the widely read Prescription for Nutritional Healing. For example, Black Cohosh relieves menstrual cramps, back pain and morning sickness. It lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels and treats cardiovascular and circulatory disorders. Dong Quai acts as a blood toner to fight chronic fatigue and skin disorders. Protykin balances mood and promotes health bone density.
Hormone decline begins in the late 20s or early 30s for most women, signaling the beginning of the perimenopausal period. If you are experiencing PMS or early hormone decline, natural hormone therapy is the best place to start reversing those symptoms and getting your life back. Natural hormone therapy is safe and requires no prescription, is effective for most women, and is inexpensive. However, because the effects of natural hormone therapy are mild, it is not often effective in post menopausal women.
Bioidentical hormone therapy uses hormones manufactured from plant oils. These oils are compounded and standardized to the be exact replicas of the hormones made by the human female. The molecular structure of bioidentical hormones is identical to human hormones. Anyone looking at them under a microscope would not be able to tell the difference.
Bioidentical estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are identical to the estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone found in the female body. Bioidentical estradiol (the dominant estrogen found in women), progesterone, and testosterone are FDA approved. Bioidentical estradiol and testosterone are available only by prescription. Bioidentical progesterone is available over the counter in dosage that replicates the levels normally found in the healthy young female.
Some bioidentical hormones are commercially mass produced and are available at local pharmacies in tablet, patch, capsule and gel form. Examples include the Vivelle patch, Climara, Estraderm, Estrace, Prometrium, and Androgel. Being mass produced, these products are standardized to specific doses, making them problematic for many women and physicians. To circumvent this problem, compounding pharmacies make bioidentical hormone products to fit the exact dose prescribed by a doctor who specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement or anti-aging medicine. Compounding pharmacies dispense bioidentical hormones as gels, creams, capsules, pellets, and sublinguals. But don't think that because they come from compounding pharmacies, bioidentical hormones are drugs. Compounding pharmacies once compounded many natural medicines before the greedy tactics of drug companies pushed them out of the way.
The best way to get a prescription for bioidentical hormones is to ask your regular doctor to give you one. If he does not know about them or tries to prescribe hormone substitution drugs, try to educate him. Many doctors are receptive to bioidenticals and just need their consciousness raised. If that does not work, find a doctor who specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement or anti-aging medicine.
Bioidentical hormones have been shown repeatedly to be not only safe, but to be protective of health. When levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are restored to what they were when a woman was at her hormonal prime, bioidentical hormones have been shown to protect against breast cancer, heart attack, stroke, and cognitive impairment. Because bioidenticals are identical in molecular structure to the hormones produced by the body, the body accepts them as such. There is no immune response or development of resistance. When bioidenticals are prescribed in physiologic doses, there are usually no side effects. If side effects develop, it is an indication that dosages need to be adjusted.
Want to learn more about estrogen and other hormones? Many of the leading specialists in anti-aging have highly informative websites. Here are two of the best:
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