September 11th 2004 - You’ve heard about HRT and maybe even natural HRT, but you’re not sure what the difference is, or why you are not told more about the differences. You are not alone. Women have been made to believe that hot flashes are the worse thing a woman can experience during her life. Let's realize that a woman can get through hot flashes. What she may not get through are the side effects of conventional HRT.
History of HRT
In 1938, Charles Dobbs discovered diethylstilbestrol (DES), supposedly the first synthetic estrogen. Dobbs thought DES would solve the problems of menopause but the AMA immediately began to make extravagant predictions that it would prevent miscarriages and solve all problems of pregnancy as well. It was prescribed as a “safe pregnancy” drug to prevent miscarriages. But by 1960, the number of DES daughters having sex organ issues was up to 60 to 90% of all infertility problems, miscarriages, and cervical cancer. Breast cancer in the mothers had increased by 40%.
Next there was Robert Wilson’s “Feminine Forever” thesis that menopause was an estrogen deficient disease. Insufficient estrogen was proposed as the cause of all menopause symptoms. The drug industry immediately donated $1.3 million to set up the Wilson Foundation for the sole purpose of developing and promoting estrogen drugs based upon pregnant horse’s urine. Resulting drug company funded studies were cited as inconclusive, or skewed results were reported. Negatives were swept under the carpet as irrelevant.
In 1975 the New England Journal of Medicine published findings after studying endrometrial cancer. Women who took estrogen had increased their risk of endrometrial cancer by five times, even up to 14 times if they had used the drugs for seven years. However it was found that if synthetic progesterone (called progestins) were added to the estrogens the risk of this cancer would be reduced. This new product was promoted by changing the name from Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) to HRT. In the same year, the American Cancer Society of 240,000 found a close relationship between HRT and cancer. This study was generally ignored.
As the HRT industry gained strength, unsupported claims that it prevented osteoporosis and heart disease arose. But side effects of HRT were beginning to become a bigger problem than the menopause symptoms they were to solve. Now occurring was; migraines, increased clotting, high stroke risk, mood swings, disrupted copper/zinc ratios in the brain, fibroids, endometriosis, and sluggish blood circulation.
As the complex menopausal myths occurred, the natural health movement was gaining strength as the Baby Boomers became educated, and many took a more proactive approach to their health care needs. The natural medicine community followed the estrogen myth developments and warned women of the consequences of HRT. The position was taken that the body is not made for substances that are foreign. How much more foreign can you get than with pregnant horse’s urine?
The traditional method of health care in the United States provided the pharmaceutical industry lucrative markets. The potential market for patentable progestins is vast--contraceptive pills, irregular menses, osteoporosis--literally every woman through the age of puberty on, is a target for a sale.
Ample medical research regarding progesterone was carried on from the 1940's through the 1960's, and amply reported in mainline, recognized medical literature. Since the early 1970's, however, medical research became much more expensive and the grants subsidizing progesterone research, or any unpatentable medicine and treatment technique, dried up. Funds supported synthetic drugs, particularly progestins.
If a pharmaceutical company is selling a product, the final product cannot be a natural substance or they cannot patent it. This means that naturally occurring substances cannot be patented. That is why pharmaceutical companies are not interested in natural progesterone, nor will they sponsor any research to help further prove its effectiveness. Progesterone is an over the counter product, easily produced by companies who are not dependent upon pharmaceutical industry control.
Contemporary physicians now know that estrogen is not the hormone to replace. They are becoming increasingly aware that it is progesterone that is desperately needed. As previously mentioned, synthetic estrogen products are formulated to include synthetic progestins to offset some of the bad side effects of estrogen dominance. This vicious cycle is just now beginning to be understood with the advent of natural progesterone. When some physicians hear of the use of natural progesterone, they wonder why none of their associates know about it or prescribe it. When something is not commonly known, it must in some way be false and/or unapproved. However, perfectly fine physicians have inquired about obtaining natural progesterone for use by their wives or mother-in-law, not for their patients. Fear perpetuates the reluctance to recommend natural progesterone.
Products use terms for estrogen and progestin, such as “similar to natural hormones.” Many drug companies do derive these natural hormones from plants, but then they have to change a molecule, so that it is not a naturally occurring substance, to patent it. This change makes it foreign to our bodies, creating the bad side effects. Be cautious. Physicians unfamiliar with natural health practices and standards will sometimes call these products natural when prescribing them.
If you are experiencing symptoms of menopause, be aware that when doctors do lab tests for hormone levels, they typically find that women are low on estrogen. However, the hormones are even lower in progesterone, which many doctors do not even test for. Raising just the progesterone levels will usually balance out the estrogen levels naturally in the body.
We are now more aware of how the health system works in this country. Natural HRT will most likely never get positive acknowledgement from the allopathic (traditional medicine) community. There is just not enough money to be made by using things as simple as diet, exercise, stress management and bio-identical hormones.
Many women now taking estrogen, or estrogen combined with progestins, are able to discontinue their HRT. It is possible, that if adequate natural progesterone levels are present, the body can produce estrogens. If you are taking HRT and begin applying progesterone cream but do not lower your estrogen dosage, you may experience symptoms of estrogen-dominance cited above. Take a hormone test to see if your hormones are out of balance (this can be done in the privacy of your own home). With your doctor's permission, lower your estrogen dose. If he or she doesn’t agree with this reduction, get another opinion. Replace your HRT with natural progesterone and after awhile you will have discontinued your HRT.
If you have not done so already, read the other articles on hormones available at www.menopause.pms.progesterone.org . At Oasis Advanced Wellness, hormonal levels can be tested with a simple and inexpensive saliva test. With these results, you can determine your need for natural hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
You can find out more about other solutions in my eBook, Balancing Your Hormones Without Drugs…You Can Feel Good Again.
Oasis Advanced Wellness
16770 Imperial Valley Drive Suite 210
Houston, TX 77060