Female problems seem to be on the rise. Between 40% and 60% of all women in the West suffer from PMS. In addition, women suffer from a plethora of symptoms, some menopausal and others not. Something quite serious seems to be happening. There is strong evidence that that the proper hormonal balance necessary for women's bodies to function healthily is being interfered with by a number of factors.
Research has shown that many women in their 30s - some even younger - will occasionally not ovulate during their menstrual
month. Without ovulation, no corpus luteum
results and no progesterone
is made. A progesterone deficiency ensues and several problems can result from this, one being the month-long presence of unopposed estrogen
with all its attendant side-effects.
A second major problem results from the interrelationship between progesterone loss and stress. Stress combined with a bad diet can induce cycles where ovulation does not occur. The consequent lack of progesterone interferes with the production of the stress-combating hormones, worsening stressful conditions that give rise to further anovulatory
cycles and so continues the vicious cycle.
Another major factor contributing to this imbalance between estrogen
and progesterone is the industrialized world now live in, immersed in a rising sea of petrochemical derivatives. They are in the air, food and water and include pesticides and herbicides (such as DDT, dieldrin, heptachlor, etc.) as well as various plastics (polycarbonated plastics found in babies bottles and water jugs) and PCBs. These estrogen-mimics are highly fat-soluble, not biodegradable or well excreted, and accumulate in the fat tissue of animals and humans. These chemicals have an uncanny ability to mimic natural estrogen
and thus are given the name "xeno-estrogens" since, although they are foreign chemicals, they are taken up by the estrogen receptor sites in the body, seriously interfering with natural biochemical activity. Drinking sodas out of plastic bottles is one of the leading causes of estrogen dominance.
Extensive research is now revealing an alarming situation worldwide, created by the inundation of these hormone-mimics. In their book, Our Stolen Future
, authors Theo Colburn of the World Wildlife Fund, Dianne Dumanoski of The Boston Globe, and John Peterson Meyers, a zoologist, have identified 51 hormone mimics, each able to unleash a torrent of effects such as reduced sperm production, cell division and sculpting of the developing brain. These mimics are not only linked to the recent discovery that human sperm counts worldwide have plunged by 50% between 1938 and 1990 but also to genital deformities, breast, prostate
cancer, and neurological disorders.
Causes and Development
Dr. John Lee, MD has discovered a consistent theme running through women's complaints of the distressing and often debilitating symptoms of PMS
, peri-menopause and menopause
: too much estrogen
or, in other words, estrogen dominance. Now, instead of estrogen playing its essential role within the well-balanced symphony of steroid
hormones in a woman's body, it has begun to overshadow the other players, creating biochemical dissonance. Even natural estrogens should not be prescribed unless it is clear that a deficiency exists.
Signs and Symptoms
Female hormone imbalances can manifest in many and diverse symptoms. More specific suggestions regarding individual hormone levels may be made elsewhere in this report.
Diagnosis and Tests
The hormone issue is a complicated one. There are three types of natural estrogen
, and multiple degradation pathways and metabolites. Depending on the area of concern, a skilled natural doctor should be able to recommend those tests which will yield the most information, and guide you into balance. While a therapeutic trial of progesterone
may help a condition of estrogen dominance, specific laboratory testing on a doctor's recommendation should be conducted prior to hormone replacement. Blood, saliva
, or urine measurements may be made. Your doctor should be aware that the timing of specimen collection in relation to your cycle is important in progesterone testing. The best time is day 21 - 24 of your cycle (sooner if cycle is shorter and later if cycle is longer). If progesterone levels are normal, elevated estrogens can be reduced by means other than progesterone use.
The need for testing is seen in the situation of two menopausal
women having similar symptoms but one with elevated estrogens (or an imbalance of estrogens) and the other with low estrogens. Both may have normal or low levels of progesterone. Giving natural estrogen
to a woman in menopause
seems the logical thing to do, but may make the situation worse if her levels are already too high. Giving a women low in estrogen, more progesterone won't solve the underlying deficiency.
Treatment and Prevention
Dr. Lee has been able to balance the estrogen-dominance effect through the use of transdermal natural progesterone
cream.Anti-aging Benefits of Natural Progesterone
- Progesterone is a primary precursor in the biosynthesis of the adrenal corticosteroids. Without adequate progesterone, synthesis of the cortisones is impaired and the body turns to alternate pathways. These alternate pathways have masculine-producing side effects such as long facial hairs and thinning of scalp hair. Further impaired corticosteroid production results in a decrease in the ability to handle stress, e.g., surgery, trauma or emotional stress.
- Many peri- or post-menopausal women with clinical signs of hypothyroidism, such as fatigue, lack of energy, intolerance to cold, are actually suffering from unrecognized estrogen dominance and will benefit from supplementation with natural progesterone.
- Estrogen and most of the synthetic progestins increase intracellular sodium and water uptake. The effect of this is hypertension. Natural progesterone is a natural diuretic and prevents the cell's uptake of sodium and water, thus preventing hypertension.
- Whereas estrogen impairs homeostatic control of glucose levels, natural progesterone stabilizes them. Thus, natural progesterone can be beneficial to both those with diabetes and those with reactive hypoglycemia. Estrogen should be contraindicated in patients with diabetes.
- Thinning and wrinkled skin is a sign of lack of hydration in the skin. It is common in peri- and post-menopausal women and is a sure sign of hormone depletion. Both estrogen and progesterone restores skin hydration.
- Progesterone serves a role in keeping brain cells healthy. A disorder such as premature senility (Alzheimer's disease) may be, at least in part, another example of disease secondary to progesterone deficiency.
- Progesterone is essential for the healthy development of the myelin sheath which protects the nerve cells. Low progesterone levels lead to recurring aches and pains.
- Progesterone creates and promotes an enhanced sense of emotional well being and psychological self-sufficiency.
- Progesterone is responsible for enhancing the libido. [John R. Lee, M.D., Slowing the Aging Process with Natural Progesterone, BLL Publishing, CA, USA, 1994, p.14]
Estrogen's role in osteoporosis
is only a minor one. Estrogen
replacement will reduce bone breakdown, but only progesterone
increases new bone growth or deposition. Progesterone deficiency results in bone loss. In a three year study of 63 post-menopausal women with osteoporosis, women using transdermal progesterone cream experienced an average 7 to 8% bone mass density increase in the first year, 4 to 5% the second year, and 3 to 4% in the third year. Untreated women in this age category typically lose 1.5% bone mass density per year. Dr. Lee believes that the use of natural progesterone in conjunction with dietary and lifestyle change can not only stop osteoporosis
but can actually reverse it - even in women aged over 70.Effects of Estrogen Dominance
- When estrogen is not balanced by progesterone, it can produce weight gain, headaches, bad temper, chronic fatigue and loss of interest in sex - all of which are part of the clinically recognized premenstrual syndrome.
- Not only has it been well established that estrogen dominance encourages the development of breast cancer thanks to estrogen's proliferative actions, it also stimulates breast tissue and can trigger fibrocystic breast disease - a condition which wanes when natural progesterone is introduced to balance the estrogen.
- Excess estrogen implies a progesterone deficiency. This, in turn, leads to a decrease in the rate of new bone formation in a woman's body by the osteoblasts - the cells responsible for doing this job. Although most doctors are not yet aware of it, this is the prime cause of osteoporosis.
- Estrogen dominance increases the risk of fibroids. One of the interesting facts about fibroids is that, regardless of the size, fibroids commonly atrophy once menopause arrives and a woman's ovaries are no longer making estrogen. Doctors who commonly use progesterone with their patients have discovered that giving a woman natural progesterone may cause fibroids to atrophy.
- In estrogen-dominant menstruating women where progesterone is not peaking and falling in a normal way each month, the ordered shedding of the womb lining doesn't take place. Menstruation becomes irregular. This condition can usually be corrected by making lifestyle changes and using a natural progesterone product. It is easy to diagnose by having a doctor measure the level of progesterone in the blood at certain times of the month.
- Endometrial cancer (cancer of the womb) develops only where there is estrogen dominance or unopposed estrogen. This, too, can be prevented by the use of natural progesterone. The use of the synthetic progestins may also help prevent it, which is why a growing number of doctors no longer give non-human estrogens without combining them with progesterone drug during HRT. However, all synthetic progestins have side effects.
- Water logging of the cells and an increase in intercellular sodium, which predispose a woman to high blood pressure or hypertension, frequently occur with estrogen dominance. These can also be side effects of progestins use. A natural progesterone cream often resolves this problem.
- The risk of stroke and heart disease is increased dramatically when a woman is estrogen-dominant. [Leslie Kenton, Passage to Power, Random House, UK, 1995]
References and Further Information
Lee, John R., M.D., Natural Progesterone: The Multiple Role of a Remarkable Hormone, BLL Publishing, California, USA, 1993, p.29.
Kenton, Leslie, Passage to Power, Random House, UK, 1995, pp.19-20.
Lee, John R., M.D., "Osteoporosis Reversal: The Role of Progesterone," International Clinical Nutrition Review (1990), 10: pp.384-391.
You can develop a clearer understanding of the nature of your condition and the interplay of female hormones by reading an informative book such as Natural Hormone Balance
by Uzzi Reiss, MD, or What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause
and What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause
by John Lee, MD.